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March 12, 2018 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Build to Wrestlemania, Bullet Club All In location, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 March 12, 2018



Thumbs up 110 (73.8%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 39 (26.2%)



Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath 71

Brian Ortega vs Frankie Edgar 59



C.B. Dollaway vs. Hector Lombard 61

Andrei Arlovski vs. Stefan Struve 40

John Dodson vs. Pedro Munhoz 17



Thumbs up 87 (100.0%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 0 (00.0%)



Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay 61

Minoru Suzuki vs. Togi Makabe 19



Goto & Ishii & Yano vs. Finlay & Robinson & Henare 29

10 man tag opener 15

Seiya Sanada vs. Yoshi-Hashi 8


Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Wrestling Observer as of Tuesday, 3/6.


With one month to go before WrestleMania, most of the show is in place with the official announcement of Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon & HHH, which, for a number of reasons, looks like it will be the most heavily pushed match on the show.

At this point it feels like the main event. The match order itself almost surely won’t be decided until a few more weeks although out of deference to the fact the show was to be built around Roman Reigns winning the Universal title from Brock Lesnar for more than a year, that was always the choice to be the main event.

For a number of reasons, everything is up in the air. Despite a feeling in many places that Lesnar is UFC-bound, it is being played within WWE like he is very interested in staying and to expect the same photo-finish as three years ago where a decision comes out right before, or after the show.

But WWE is definitely going with the idea he’s leaving and part of the mentality right now is to downplay him on the way out, so it won’t come across as such a big loss. The idea is to create a situation where the fans celebrate his departure rather than think UFC got the person who from a mainstream standpoint was one of the company’s two biggest stars.

There was an angle in place with each step laid out for Mania for this match. Vince McMahon changed things last week based on his reaction to the photo of Lesnar and Dana White being so public and getting so much press.

The idea is to very much portray Lesnar as someone who doesn’t care about WWE, or its fans, and isn’t dedicated to WWE, both to lessen his loss and also, just as importantly, to try and get a babyface reaction for Reigns as the guy who beats him and sends him packing. Three years ago they did everything in their power in the closing weeks to do that, and the result at Mania was that Reigns ended up being, by far, the most hated wrestler on the show, and Lesnar the most popular. The funny part of that is Lesnar going on ESPN and saying he was staying with WWE and not going to UFC shortly before Mania made him a huge babyface at Mania, not that he wouldn’t have been even if that didn’t happen. McMahon realized it and several days before called the audible of Seth Rollins ending up as champion rather than Reigns, to build for the coronation of Reigns at a more opportune date.

After waiting three years, here we are, ready to do what has been planned since 2015. And now there are other concerns. Nobody still knows the fan reaction for Lesnar after the last two weeks, although the 3/12 Raw in Detroit will be the first indicator. And there are still enough questions of whether the match will take place that the hottest wrestler in the company, Braun Strowman, is not in a program nor at this point even scheduled in a match because he’s the designated backup if Lesnar blows up or Reigns becomes a P.R. issue if Johnny Bravo releases his long-teased tape and depending on the media legs of the story, if there is a legitimate story. The concern is enough that rather than put him in a match and change the card if something bad happens, they are not scheduling a few key players until they are sure the issues with the main event is settled.

On 3/2 in Chicago, Lesnar beat Kane in 36 seconds in a house show match. This was probably a first that I can recall, in the sense it was a guy who is thought to be leaving being given a win so quickly with the idea it would get heat on him from the audience in a way that would lead them to want him gone. Lesnar was put over quickly by design with the idea that it would help turn him heel because of the reaction to doing such a quick match at a house show. This may be another example over overvaluing the reaction of a vocal minority of the audience, but perhaps things have changed enough to where it isn’t.

There was at least Internet heat on Lesnar with the idea he wouldn’t do anything, that he must have insisted on doing a short match and he wasn’t worth what he’s earning since it’s well known he’s among the highest paid wrestlers, perhaps as high as No. 2, even though he doesn’t work many dates. The other idea is that people will think he’s saving himself for UFC, and thus, was treating the WWE as if it was secondary, as a way to also get WWE fans to hate him and be happy he’s gone after so long being pushed as one of the two biggest stars.

That was the desired reaction, but whether that is the real fan reaction is unknown. That same type of fan predicted that nobody would care about Ronda Rousey and she’d be booed (I know several in the company were expecting her to be booed heavily based on gauging social media), and it ended up the opposite.

The angle that opened started with Angle being mad at HHH for sucker punching him. Rousey “already saw through” HHH & Stephanie and their manipulative ways. It came out that she was given creative control for WrestleMania in that she could pick her opponent, as long as it wasn’t one of the two champions and it was someone on the active roster. She picked Stephanie, who said that can’t happen because she’s not on the active roster, until Angle said that Stephanie has both an executive contract and a talent contract (which is true). Angle also said that HHH does as well, so as General Manager, he wanted HHH, but asked Rousey if they could do it as a mixed tag team match, which she agreed to.

WWE has done a great job with manipulations when it comes to Rousey. When she comes out, they are looking for members of the audience who react huge like she’s this giant superstar, and do close-ups of them, to make it appear everyone is reacting to her like that. Long shots tell that isn’t the case. But she is popular enough and they were chanting her name and reacting to her at the level of a major star babyface. She’ll be on Raw every week through Mania. After Mania, it will definitely be tricky to keep her as something special if she’s there all the time. She was fine on her promo work. She’s very good with her facial expressions, but it’s only been two needed, the smiling babyface who is nearly moved by the reaction and loves being there, and the intense scowl, which she popularized in UFC, and is getting over already.

The remaining key matches should be finalized next week. There is the John Cena match (Undertaker at last word), the expected A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match for the WWE title, the U.S. title match which looks to be Bobby Roode vs. Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal, whatever Smackdown tag title match there is with the Bludgeon Brothers teased in their first significant match as a team as the challengers, and both women’s title matches.

They are doing soft promotion for Alexa Bliss vs. Rumble winner Asuka, but from television this week, it sure seems like the original plan of Bliss vs. Nia Jax as the Raw title match is the direction. Charlotte Flair faces Ruby Riott at Fast Lane. Until that match is over, if the direction is Flair vs. Asuka for the Smackdown title, they really couldn’t announce it.

Other matches official are an IC title match with The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor and the finals of the current tournament to crown a cruiserweight champion. The semifinal matches are Roderick Strong vs. Cedric Alexander on 3/13 in Indianapolis and Mustafa Ali vs. Drew Gulak on 3/20 in Dallas. Alexander was the guy being pushed the strongest on the brand previously, but Strong is the best wrestler in the tournament.

Right now the plan for the Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt Ultimate Deletion type of match on the Hardy Compound is for it to be on Raw rather than WrestleMania. I think it fits better on Raw. The matches they did on the Hardy Compound in TNA drew a lot of interest and drew TNA’s biggest rating in recent years, although the Hardys were the focal point of TNA and not in a mid-level angle. Plus, Jeff is almost ready to return and if he can return in time, Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Hardys makes sense as a Mania match given the storyline is no team in WWE is around that deserves a title match. However, that is not the plan as of this moment. Right now the plan is for no match with Sheamus & Cesaro at Mania, but for them to be part of the show in an angle of sorts, but they are part of a lot of things on the Raw side that are still in flux.

There was a report from PW Insider that more names could be added to the IC title match. If that is accurate, Samoa Joe fits as a name. Strowman, who was originally to face Miz in an IC title , could also be fit in, although the backup plan for Strowman right now if he’s not moved to the Universal title slot would be some type of non-wrestling gimmick thing.

The only other thing given a strong push on Raw is the Bayley vs. Sasha Banks storyline.

On the Smackdown side, the idea of Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn has been teased, and was strongly teased this week, but nothing has been more teased than Shane McMahon vs. Daniel Bryan. Bryan wasn’t even on the Smackdown show this week nor talked about in any meaningful fashion. If there is anything from that, one would think it would be Shane in the ring with a partner against Owens & Zayn, as Bryan’s representatives, given Shane vs. Bryan would need a clearance of Bryan to happen. However, the current plans have Owens and Zayn in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal.

The final PPV before WrestleMania, Fast Lane, is 3/11 in Columbus, OH with a six-way with Styles defending against Owens, Zayn, Baron Corbin, Cena and Dolph Ziggler as the main event. Other matches are Roode vs Orton for the U.S. title, Usos vs. New Day for the tag titles, Charlotte Flair vs. Riott for the women’s title, Nakamura vs. Rusev and Natalya & Carmella vs. Becky Lynch & Naomi.

At this point, and this is a surprise, none of the WWE events over WrestleMania week are sold out on the primary market, even the Raw after Mania (although that was only 100 tickets shy). WrestleMania and NXT are both close to sold out, close enough that one would think both will end up being sold out. The price of entry for both WrestleMania and NXT on the secondary market has fallen to $30, while Smackdown is $35, Raw is $48 and the Hall of Fame is $50. ROH on the secondary market is $50 for the lowest priced ticket. New Japan in Long Beach at $125 remains the most expensive price of entry for a ticket on the market right now.

NXT Takeover on 4/7 will have Andrade Cien Almas vs. Aleister Black for the NXT title, the finals of the Dusty Rhodes tag team classic which is also for the NXT tag titles with Authors of Pain vs. Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne vs. Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly, Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler for the women’s title, and a six-way ladder match for the newly-created North American title with Ricochet, Ethan Carter III, Killian Dain, Lars Sullivan, Velveteen Dream and Cole (who may be pulled from this match because it was announced first he’s in this match but on the go-home show for Takeover, he and O’Reilly do an angle that leads to them being added to the tag title match) and likely Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa. They did the angle on television this past week that Gargano was done after finishing up at house shows, and did a Gargano farewell at the Indianapolis show on 3/4, but before the 3/7 tapings, WWE employees were passing out Gargano signs for the crowd to hold up so when that appears on TV that aspect was set up. Gargano attacked Ciampa at the tapings.

They also used the TNA old gimmick where they announced that the loudest fans at the tapings will get free merchandise. That could be coming from Jeremy Borash, who worked for TNA and used to pump up the crowd similarly and now works out of Orlando for NXT.

The tag titles were stripped from Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly since Fish will be undergoing knee surgery this week in Birmingham.

Fish and Montez Ford were both injured on the weekend NXT shows. Ford suffered an injury to a tooth in some form on the 3/2 show in Cleveland against Fish & O’Reilly. He missed the next two nights but it was thought not to be serious and he did return at the 3/7 tapings.

Fish suffered a knee injury that first reports were was serious in a match with Heavy Machinery on 3/4. Fish was standing on the middle rope in the corner and O'Reilly was thrown into him. Fish grabbed his knee when falling onto the apron. Ref Drake Wuertz immediately gave the X signal and medical personnel came from the back. Another version is he was hurt doing the double elimination spot. They went a few more minute with O’Reilly working by himself until Adam Cole distracted Tucker Knight and O'Reilly rolled him up.

Dunne & Strong, who replaced Trent Seven & Tyler Bate in the tournament, advanced to the finals of the tournament by first beating Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch and then beating Sanity, who seemed to be groomed for Fish & O’Reilly on the 3/7 show. The Authors of Pain advanced beating the Street Profits in their semifinal match.

The WWE and Saudi General Sports Authority have an agreement in principle for a ten-year multiplatform partnership across WWE Network, digital, social media, television and live events.

The deal, and a second deal, look to be leading to two major stadium events overseas in 2018. One show has at least the stadium seating potential to rival the company’s all-time record attendance set at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, for the 2016 WrestleMania which, according to police sources was 80,709, while building sources list it as 93,770. Using numbers in several different WWE financial documents bring the paid number to the range of 79,000 to 81,000 for that show.

The Saudi Arabian deal is much bigger than the Australian deal, in the sense it’s for multiple major events and for the country to be a major base for the WWE going over ten years.

The Australian deal is just bringing WWE in for a major stadium show in October.

The Melbourne Herald-Sun is reporting on the WWE show that Visit Victoria, the tourism group in the state, is putting together at the 100,000 seat MCG.

WWE pretty much acknowledged this on Raw this week, although are holding off on the major announcement of this and heavy publicity until next month, and it had been reported that the deal for a PPV will be announced at Mania week.

It is notable the names they were pushing were Ronda Rousey, The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio (who is not even signed with the company at press time although the sides are in talks) and John Cena. It didn’t specifically state that any of them would be performing at the show, only that those would be people they would chase. It’s notable both the Undertaker and Mysterio names being listed.

It was reported this would be a PPV show. The push was that it would break the 56,214 fan mark that Rousey drew for her fight with Holly Holm in 2015 to the smaller Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. Rousey vs. Holm did not sell out. WWE did sell out a smaller configuration for a 2002 Melbourne show built around Hulk Hogan’s debut in Australia (Hogan quit the company the week before the show and didn’t appear, with the new main event being HHH vs. The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar), which did more than 55,000 fans.

Visit Victoria is looking to promote the show with the idea of bringing tourists to Melbourne because of the claim that the Rousey fight with Holm brought more than $100 million in local revenue.

More details are to come as far as more specifics of the partnership. Locally it’s being reported that this would include TV tapings and PPVs in Saudi Arabia, with the first major event being “The Greatest Royal Rumble” on 4/27.

It was a big enough deal that both Vince and Paul Levesque flew to Saudi Arabia this past week to close it.

“The Greatest Royal Rumble will be a spectacle of historical proportions,.” said Vince McMahon. “Our partnership with the Saudi General Sports Authority reflects a long-term commitment to present WWE’s world-class entertainment to a global audience on a grander scale than ever before.

Because of the wealth in that part of the world, it’s considered a key strategic partner. Years ago, UFC actually sold 10 percent of its company for a cash influx of $150 million to $175 million to the government of Abu Dhabi. The governments in the middle East routinely bring in major sports and entertainment events. WWE has run in Abu Dhabi annually and even though they don’t draw many people, it’s a paid lucrative paid gig to come in.

The show will take place at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a soccer stadium which holds 62,241 fans. It will feature all the stars of both brands. WWE is advertising a 50 man Royal Rumble as the main event, with John Cena, HHH, Roman Reigns, A.J. Styles, Braun Strowman, The New Day, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt and Shinsuke Nakamura. That list also kind of tells you who they currently value and see as the biggest company stars right now.

WWE said that broadcast information will be available in the upcoming weeks which would indicate this would either be a taped television special or a special on the WWE Network.

This deal is one of the reasons the company has placed such a high priority of scouting and signing talent from the Middle East. The area is such a high priority that there is at least talk that has been reported in the Middle East of WWE opening up a second Performance Center to focus on talent from both the Middle East and India, which is also a priority.

The Bullet Club officially announced that their “All In” show, which is likely to be the biggest true independent show in the U.S. in recent memory, will take place on 9/1 at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, IL, just outside of Chicago.

The show had been reported for a while to be in Chicago, although various different locations were talked about. One of the keys is the proximity to Pro Wrestling Tees, and the ability to bring large amounts of merchandise for an autograph signing fan fest in conjunction with the show. They are also looking at doing something with the major podcast personalities and have them do shows in Chicago that weekend to drum up interest, as well as a convention of sorts and autograph sessions in conjunction with the event.

The idea of the show came from a fan on Twitter asking me last year if I thought ROH could draw 10,000 fans to a live show, and I said “no time soon.” Cody immediately jumped on the idea and wanted to push ROH to do a major arena show. In theory, we have a bet (for $1 the last time we discussed the value of it, since obviously I hope for what is best for wrestling and for them to run a sold out show if at all possible).

There seems to be a ton of interest as far as the Internet goes, but 10,000 is still an elusive number. But it’s hardly as elusive as it was one year ago, given there is little doubt New Japan could draw that figure right now had they booked a big enough arena for the first shows last year in Long Beach as well as the next show on 3/25. ROH has yet to prove they can do it, and the company’s legit all-time record was 3,500 for last year’s WrestleMania show, although this year’s show with Cody vs. Kenny Omega had sold 4,621 tickets as of three weeks ago for 4/7 in New Orleans, and with all the wrestling fans in town, it’s expected to sellout at about 5,580 tickets total. That’s also a special weekend with so many people coming in for WrestleMania, but it’s also going head-to-head with NXT’s biggest event of the year at the Smoothie King Arena. The NXT show isn’t sold out yet, but it’s doing very well and should end up sold out easily given all the fans in town looking for something to do that night. Still, it’s not moving as fast as the instant sellouts in San Jose and Dallas.

That morphed into the idea that Cody and The Young Bucks would self-finance a major show, with help from ROH. Thus far, the only thing announced is that the Bullet Club would be appearing, including Kenny Omega. Stephen Amell, the star of “Arrow,” who is friends with Cody from WWE and Cody has guested on his show and he recently appeared on an ROH show, also agreed to do the show.

Tentatively, the plan is for tickets to go on sale in May. There are ideas regarding streaming the show, but nothing is official on that yet.

The Sears Centre has a listed capacity of 11,218 fans. When TNA ran there with a full stage set-up, the capacity was 8,000 (they drew 4,500 at the time for their first on location television taping during the Hogan/Flair era).

The last time a non-WWE show drew 10,000 paid fans in the U.S. would have been a WCW show more than 18 years ago. The last time a promotion that wasn’t WWE or WCW, without major national television on cable, pulled a number like that would have been AAA in 1994 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena for When World’s Collide. But AAA had strong local and Spanish language television at the time.

ROH doesn’t have a national cable outlet, nor local television in Chicago, and this isn’t technically an ROH show.

Realistically, the idea of a show being promoted without television or being the area’s major league group drawing a card like this would be close to unprecedented in U.S. history, and would have never happened in modern wrestling history.

The closest I can recall would have been Larry Matysik in St. Louis, after breaking away from the St. Louis Wrestling Club, and before he ended up getting television for his short-lived promotion, simply through local promoting and newspaper advertising, drew 6,700 fans to a 1983 show with Bruiser Brody vs. Blackjack Mulligan (who didn’t show up due to pressure from the NWA) as the main event. It’s a completely different business than in 1983, and because of the Internet, you can make yourself into a certain level of star without television (although the Young Bucks and Cody are regulars on ROH and semi-regulars on New Japan on AXS). Still, nobody has ever made themselves into stars capable of pulling those kind of numbers since Bruiser Brody 35 years ago, and no matter what the changes in technology are, to do something that hasn’t been done in that long a period of time is a major accomplishment.

UFC 221 could be viewed in hindsight as the night of the future stars. Names like Cody Stamann, Alexander Hernandez, Ketlen Vieira, Sean O’Malley and Brian Ortega all defeated more experienced and in most cases better known favorites and were among the stars of the show.

But the main event was largely predictable as Cris Cyborg Justino continued a nearly 13 year winning streak and remained, after the weight class is 13 months old, the only actual member of UFC’s women’s featherweight division.

Cyborg defeated yet another bantamweight who was never even in the UFC before, Yana Kunitskaya, but brought in to move up a weight class and be out of their league. Granted, this fight was put together only a few weeks ago, largely to save the show when Max Holloway suffered a broken leg and had to pull out of his featherweight title defense against Frankie Edgar.

After the fight, Dana White talked about putting Cyborg in next with Amanda Nunes, another bantamweight, but at least this time the best in that division. Nunes was talked about as far as defending her title next against Raquel Pennington, but White indicated he favored dumping that fight and going with what would be Cyborg’s most interesting opponent.

Kunitskaya did manage to take Cyborg down and physically control her against the fence, but when it came to striking, it was the expected massacre, ending in 3:25 of the first round.

Ortega became the first fighter ever to finish 36-year-old Frankie Edgar. Ortega has this amazing ability to lose almost every round against top fighters, and then finish them. In the case of Edgar, that didn’t happen because it didn’t even get out of the first round. Edgar was outboxing him with ease until getting caught with an elbow to the jaw and an uppercut and Edgar was done. In beating the top contender for Holloway’s title, Ortega became the top contender and Holloway suggested the fight for International Fight Week in July in Las Vegas.

O’Malley, another young fighter they are pushing, a tall, thin bantamweight, dominated the first two rounds against Andre Soukhamthath. Then, in the third round, something went wrong with his leg. It went numb and he couldn’t feel it. He got up and was hopping on one leg and there was no way the fight could continue. But Soukhamthath took him down. O’Malley could defend on his back. If Soukhamthath let him up, given O’Malley couldn’t stand, it would have to be stopped. It was a strategic blunder of mind-blowing proportions as he took a sure win and ended up with a decision loss.

Hernandez, a lightweight who looked like a ripped bodybuilder, debuted on short notice and destroyed ranked Beneil Dariush in just 42 seconds.

Vieira won a decision over Cat Zingano to make her a top contender at bantamweight for Nunes, with her 10-0 record. But if Nunes if facing Cyborg next, Vieira should face Pennington to determine the next title shot.

But the most talked about fighter on the undercard was Mackenzie Dern. Dern, a world champion in BJJ, has enough of a name that she likely helped the prelims do much better numbers than they should have. There were those, because of her ground skill, who thought she could be the next big women’s star.

And while she defeated Ashley Yoder, it was not without concern. Dern isn’t afraid of throwing punches, and has power, but her technique standing is well below UFC standards. But her ground game is likely as good as anyone in the company. But even more of a problem than her lack of striking technique, is that for a ground specialist, her takedowns weren’t very good. Still, she got a takedown in round three, immediately got Yoder’s back and that was enough to take the deciding round. Still, she is a long way from being ready for top competition.

UFC 222, on 3/3, drew 12,041 fans paying $1,367,672 to the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It was one of the lowest gates for a UFC PPV show in Las Vegas of the modern era. That indicates it was likely heavily papered. It shows first that Holloway vs. Edgar, which most of the tickets were sold for, had little box office pop. It also showed that adding Cyborg to the show wasn’t a great live ticket seller either.

The last time Cyborg headlined a PPV, on 12/30, with Holly Holm, it did shockingly well, in the 350,000 to 380,000 buy range. But many figured this show to do poorly. First, Holm is still one of the company’s top woman stars and best known fighters, and there was real intrigue in Cyborg facing a striker of her level who wouldn’t be that much smaller. On paper, it was the most intriguing test of Cyborg’s career. Here, it was a squash match with a complete unknown and everyone knew it. Plus, the holiday week is a great time for a PPV. And this night featured major boxing matches on both HBO and Showtime, not to mention Duke vs. North Carolina college basketball along with NBA and NHL games, both nationally and in local markets.

Based on very prelim numbers, it looks like 210,000 to 260,000, which is more than most expected. Part of that is because of the increase in streaming buys with Amazon promoting the show for the first time. The percentage of buys streaming was said to be higher than before, and because streaming buys through the UFC itself means no splitting of revenue, each buy is the financial equivalent of two buys. Plus, while the regular price being raised to $64.95 in theory should hurt a marginal show like this, it’s hard to believe this show would have done more with a lower price point.

The prelims did 905,000 viewers, the exact same number as the prelims before UFC 220 (the Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou/Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir show), and just barely below the 914,000 for Cyborg vs. Holm. The peak was 1,076,000 viewers for Dern vs. Yoder. It would appear that Dern being on television led to more viewers watching than normally would for prelims that did that type of a PPV number. Since August, it tied for the third best prelim number, behind only the Cyborg vs. Holm show and the Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping show.

The streaming average of 12,029 viewers during the prelims were the second beat for UFC prelims in history, trailing only the prelims in November before GSP vs. Bisping.

The Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz WBC heavyweight boxing title fight averaged 730,000 viewers on Showtime, with the main event doing 1,055,000 viewers. HBO, with Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin, did 599,000 viewers for its main event.

The prefight show did 431,000 viewers and postfight show did 177,000 viewers.

1. Jordan Johnson (9-0) beat Adam Milstead (8-2) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 27-30 and 29-28 in a heavyweight fight. Media scores were 64/36 split for Johnson. Milstead got the better of the standup in round one, and Johnson couldn’t get a takedown. In round two, Johnson landed from close range and got a takedown. In the third, Johnson was landing more and also got a takedown. Johnson got $28,000 for the win and Milstead got $12,000 for the loss.

2. Cody Stamann (17-1) beat Bryan Caraway (21-8) via split decision on scores of 28-29, 29-28 and 29-28 in a bantamweight fight. Media scores were 73/27 in favor of Caraway. Caraway took the first round, getting the better of the standup, getting a takedown and worked for an armbar. Stamann landed better in the second round and blocked the takedown attempts. In the third round, both had advantages but Caraway was more aggressive and got a guillotine just as the round ended. Stamann got $40,000 for the win and Caraway got $21,000 for the loss.

3. Zak Ottow (16-5) beat Mike Pyle (27-14-1) in 2:34 in a welterweight fight. Pyle, who is 42, said that win or lose, this would be his last fight. Ottow dropped Pyle with a right and landed lots of punches on the ground until it was stopped. Pyle gave a tearful farewell speech saying how much he loved his time in the sport. Ottow got $36,000 for the win and Pyle got $55,000 for the loss.

4. C.B. Dolloway (17-8) beat Hector Lombard (34-9-1, 2 no contests) via DQ at 5:00 in a middleweight fight. Nothing really happened in the first round. Dolloway landed more, and then after the horn sounded, Lombard landed two punches the second of which knocked Dolloway out. It was a clear late shot. Dolloway was knocked completely out and had no idea what happened, and he ended up going out on a stretcher. It was a clear cheap shot. Dolloway got $92,000 for the win and Lombard got $62,000 for the loss.

5. John Dodson (21-9) beat Pedro Munhoz (15-3, 1 no contest) on scores of 28-29, 30-27 and 29-28 in a bantamweight fight. This was the last fight of Dodson’s contract but Dana White indicated wanting to keep him. The media scores were 73/27 in favor of Dodson. However, Munhoz clearly won the second round. First round was kind of slow but Dodson would catch kicks by Munhoz and threw him down, but Dodson didn’t want to go to the ground. In the second round, Munhoz landed and bloodied Dodson’s nose. Munhoz landed a head kick. Dodson got the better of the standup in the third round, but Munhoz got a takedown and got his back. They had a slugfest to end the fight. Dodson got $82,000 for the win and Munhoz got $34,000 for the loss.

6. Alexander Hernandez (9-1) beat Beneil Dariush (14-4-1) in :42 in a lightweight fight. Hernandez came out and ran across the Octagon and threw a kick as Dariush was looking for touching gloves, which was kind of a cheap shot. Hernandez kept landing punches and knocked Dariush out with a left hook and punches on the ground. Hernandez got $76,000 for the win, including a $50,000 performance bonus. Dariush got $48,000 for the loss.

7. Mackenzie Dern (6-0) beat Ashley Yoder (5-4) via split decision on scores of 28-29, 29-28 and 29-28 in a strawweight fight. Media scores were 95/5 in favor of Dern. The judge who scored the fight for Yoder was Adalaide Byrd. Why she is still judging after all these years is a real blight on the Nevada commission. There’s been controversy on her for years, and then she totally botched the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight, and now she’s brought back again for MMA. Both were throwing wild punches in the first round. Dern kept trying for takedowns but couldn’t get them. Dern’s technique wasn’t the best but she landed the best shots in the round. In the second round, Dern was bleeding from the mouth. Yoder dropped her with a left. Yoder was bleeding from the right eye. It seemingly came down to the third round and Yoder was getting the better of the stand up. But Dern got the takedown and got her back and was working for a choke as time ran out. Dern got $50,000 for the win and Yoder got $12,000 for the loss.

8. Ketlen Vieira (10-0) beat Cat Zingano (9-3) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 30-27 in a women’s bantamweight fight. Marcos Rosales scored it for Zingano. 100 percent of media scores were for Vieira and 75 percent didn’t give Zingano a round. Vieira scored with punches until Zingano got a clinch, but couldn’t take Vieira down. Zingano landed a nice right and a few knees but Vieira got a late takedown. The second round saw Vieira take Zingano down with a nice judo throw, got her back and was throwing punches from the top. Both were swinging in the third round. Vieira took Zingano down in the third round and seemed to do enough to win the round. Vieira got $60,000 for the win and Zingano got $35,000 for the loss.

9. Andrei Arlovski (27-15, 1 no contest) beat Stefan Struve (32-10) on scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 in a heavyweight fight. Arlovski won this by mixing in takedowns, something he’s never done during his career. In fact, he got more takedowns in this fight than he had previously in his entire UFC career. Arlovski got three first round takedowns. He got one in the second round, but Struve got his back and was throwing punches. Both were landing in the third round. Arlovski poked Struve in the eye. Arlovski clinched the fight with another takedown to win the round. Arlovski got $275,000 for the win and Struve got $77,000 for the loss.

10. Sean O’Malley (10-0) beat Andre Soukhamthath (12-6) on scores of 29-27, 29-27 and 29-28 in a bantamweight fight. O’Malley was hurting him early with low kicks. He had a nice spin kick and a low kick tripped Soukhamthath down. He kept landing kicks and knocked him down with a right and landed a head kick and a hard right and other punches and seemed close to a stoppage late in the round. O’Malley landed low kicks and a head kick until Soukhamthath took him down. O’Malley worked for a guillotine and got side control and worked for a choke also in round two. O’Malley landed a head kick in the third round but Soukhamthath took him down. O’Malley got up but he couldn’t stand on his foot. He would fall down. Soukhamthath had lost both rounds and just had to stand there and he’d win the fight because it would have to be stopped. So he took O’Malley down. O’Malley got up, which he shouldn’t have done, because it was clear he couldn’t stand, although he still landed a spinning punch. Soukhamthath again took him down and O’Malley survived the round. O’Malley got $94,000 for the win including a $50,000 best fight bonus. Soukhamthath got $69,000 for the loss with his best fight bonus.

11. Brian Ortega (14-0, 1 no contest) beat Frankie Edgar (21-6-1) in 4:44 of a featherweight fight. Edgar came out fast, landing a head kick and punches. Ortega went for a guillotine but Edgar escaped and kept landing. But Ortega landed an elbow to the jaw and followed with a big uppercut for the finish. Ortega got $250,000 for the win, which included a performance bonus. Edgar got $195,000 for the loss.

12. Cris Cyborg (20-1, 1 no contest) beat Yana Kunitskaya (10-4, 1 no contest) in 3:25 to retain the UFC women’s featherweight title. Cyborg landed a right but Kunitskaya took her down and jumped on her back. Cyborg got up but Kunitskaya was able to hold her against the fence. Cyborg broke free and started landing punches. She dropped Kunitskaya with a left and landed a big right. Another right put her down a second time and was pounding on her on the ground when it was stopped. Cyborg got $500,000 for the win and Kunitskaya got $100,000 for the loss.

Rey Mysterio Jr., the highest–paid regularly working free agent on the international scene, suffered what appeared to be a torn left biceps working a 3/2 show in Waterbury, CT, for Northeast Wrestling.

Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez, 43), was working in a tag team match, teaming with Flip Gordon against Joey Mercury & Caleb Konley in the main event before a crowd of 1,900 fans.

Exactly how the injury happened is not clear, but during the match he informed Mercury that he thought he tore his biceps. Mercury was ready to call an audible to finish the match, but Mysterio Jr. said he could do the planned finish, and did a double 619 and then pinned Konley with a splash off the top rope.

Backstage, there was heavy swelling in his left arm and it was still hurting him when he got home. He got it examined early in the week but there is no word at press time on the diagnosis. He was having trouble with moving the arm but was hoping that it was only a partial tear.

Mysterio was in negotiations with WWE for some type of a deal to return, and also was scheduled to appear on the New Japan Strong Style Evolved show on 3/25 in Long Beach against Jushin Liger in a battle of the biggest high flying star of the early 90s against the biggest high flying star of the late 90s. It is unclear whether he will be able to fulfill those commitments. He was also working regularly for 5 Star Wrestling as the wrestler is was building its promotional campaigns around, but he missed this past week’s show, and they are off for two weeks and there are issues going on behind-the-scenes with that promotion. He was also defending his Crash world heavyweight title against Bestia 666 on 3/17 in Tijuana. On the 3/6 New Japan Anniversary show, they played a video promoting his 3/25 appearance, but announcer Kevin Kelly did acknowledge the injury and just said that we don’t know any more than you do about it. As of press time

Mysterio had not yet met with Paul Levesque. Communications have been opened up for negotiations to return but no deal was in place as of early this week.

Kazuchika Okada continued his streak of excellent singles main events on 3/6 at New Japan 46th anniversary show, where the IWGP heavyweight champion defeated the IWGP jr. champion, Chaos stablemate Will Ospreay in the main event.

The company drew an advanced sellout crowd of 3,864 fans to the site of its first show on March 6, 1972, where Karl Gotch pinned Antonio Inoki.

The show was easy to watch, largely one match building on the other, with the only complaint being the abuse of the referees in the Suzuki-gun matches. In particular, the last two matches, Okada vs. Ospreay and Minoru Suzuki’s IC title defense against Togi Makabe, were excellent in very different ways.

Okada vs. Ospreay was different than many would think. Ospreay did some high flying and cool moves, but they did more British style chain wrestling. It was long and flowed well, with the great last few minutes that almost every Okada match has. For those expecting a Best of Okada greatest hits and a Best of Ospreay, it may have been disappointing. But for those wanting to see Okada and Ospreay do a different style match than you normally get for either, and have it be a blow away match, this fit the bill.

There wasn’t much in the way of angles. After Tetsuya Naito beat Taichi, Taka Michinoku, in Taichi’s corner, vowed that Zack Sabre Jr. was coming to tap out Naito for Suzuki-gun revenge.

Okada, after his win, mentioned the other three big stars in the company as possible future opponents, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Naito and Kenny Omega. But his next title defense is likely on 4/1 against the winner of the upcoming New Japan Cup.

Suzuki-gun’s Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru captured the IWGP jr. tag titles in a three-way over champions Sho & Yoh and Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi. The finish saw Bushi blow mist in the eyes of Sho, and then Kanemaru spit alcohol into the eyes of Bushi and Kanemaru pinned Sho with a cradle.

Next up is the New Japan Cup, which starts on 3/9 at Korakuen Hall, with first round matches of Juice Robinson vs. Yujiro Takahashi and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Michael Elgin. 3/10 in Nagoya had Bad Luck Fale vs. Lance Archer and Tanahashi vs. Taichi. 3/11 in Amagasaki has Kota Ibushi vs. Yoshi-Hashi and Naito vs. Sabre. And 3/12 in Takamatsu has Toru Yano vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr. And Seiya Sanada vs. Chucky T. The quarterfinals are 3/14 and 3/15, with one semifinal on 3/16, the other on 3/18, and the finals on 3/21.

On the anniversary show, the Manabu Nakanishi vs. Katsuya Kitamura match was canceled due to Kitamura being out of action with a concussion. Hikuleo, who wasn’t booked on the show, is also out of action with an left ACL injury. It was also noted that Evil has undergone eye surgery due to suffering a broken orbital bone last month. All are off the March tour.

1. Jushin Liger & Kushida & Tiger Mask & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Ryusuke Taguchi beat Ren Narita & Tetsuhiro Yagi & Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino & Yuji Nagata in 7:31. This was an all action hot match. The Young Lions all looked crisp and explosive in their execution. Yagi looked good and Umino, who already has a bad neck, looked great. Oka got a great near fall on Taguchi, but it ended with Kushida beating Umino with an armbar. ***1/4

2. Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano beat Juice Robinson & David Finlay & Toa Henare in 7:40. Another good match. Robinson came out in a 1970s Superstar Billy Graham style outfit. Yano did his undoing the corner padding spot. Henare vs. Ishii was really good. Henare is turning into a top level worker with all his offense and timing looking solid. Goto pinned Henare after an ushigoroshi and GTR. ***

3. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Desperado won the IWGP jr. tag titles over champions Sho & Yoh and Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi in 16:34. The crowd wasn’t as hot early as it was for the prior two matches, but that’s because the first two matches came out fast paced and hard hitting and this was going longer and starting slower. Takahashi beat Yoh’s chest raw until it was beat red. Sho was again selling his back. He has a legit injury that he exaggerates in the ring, such as it giving out when he tries the German suplex. Bushi hit a tope on Kanemaru. Yoh did a flip dive on Takahashi. Bushi blew mist in Sho’s face and then Kanemaru spit whiskey into Bushi’s eyes and Kanemaru pinned Sho after a low blow and cradle. Very good, but it just looks stupid when a guy has mist all over his face and the ref sees it and counts three on him anyway. ***1/4

4. Seiya Sanada beat Yoshi-Hashi in 17:38. This was very good as far as the in-ring went but it’s two guys who are lacking in facial expressions so they don’t make great opponents for each other. Yoshi-Hashi’s right shoulder was all taped up. Sanada did a double leapfrog and then a dropkick knocking Yoshi-Hashi out of the ring and hit him with a pescado, all like it was just this routine spot. Then he hit a missile dropkick with such force that Yoshi-Hashi took it and flew almost to the turnbuckle diagonal from where Sanada leaped. Sanada kept going for the skull end. At one point Yoshi-Hashi got him in the skull end. Sanada flipped over while in that hold and got it on Yoshi-Hashi. After a lot of near falls and submissions, Sanada put him out with the skull end, an then hit the moonsault for the pin. ***½

5. Tetsuya Naito pinned Taichi in 14:07. I don’t know it if was Naito, but Taichi looks much better as a heavyweight. Because he doesn’t fly like a smaller guy, and did so many shortcuts, he kind of ruined matches as a junior heavyweight. Abe Miho, his groupie (Taichi does a gimmick where he pretends he’s a rock star and lip synchs his entrance music), was there, and Don Callis claimed that she graduated from Stanford. Taichi attacked Naito with the mic stand early. He power bombed Naito on the floor and Naito barely beat the 20 count. Taichi then mocked him by doing the tranquillo pose. They went back-and-forth with big moves, with Naito doing a top rope Frankensteiner as well as a reverse Frankensteiner. Taichi used a low blow and Gedo clutch but Naito kicked out. Fans were actually chanting for Taichi because he was doing so well getting near falls on Naito. Taka Michinoku came out to distract the ref and Taichi got the mic stand and went to hit Naito, who ducked. Naito did an enzuigiri, threw Taichi into the ref and both went down. Naito used a low blow and then broke the mic stand on Taichi’s head and threw it in the stands. I wonder if that symbolizes the end of the gimmick. Naito then hit destino for the pin. ***3/4

6. Minoru Suzuki retained the IC title pinning Togi Makabe in 19:03. This was a great hard-hitting match. Suzuki, who is 49, has been incredible so far this year with the Goto match, the Tanahashi match and this match. Suzuki knocked down ref Red Shoes Unno when Unno tried to take a chair from him, and then he hit Makabe in the knee with the chair. So Makabe sold the knee. Unno later took the chair away. Suzuki’s elbows have a pop to them like nobody else. Makabe rammed Suzuki’s head into the post from the German superplex position, and then hit the move, but missed the King Kong kneedrop. Suzuki went with a kneebar and a heel hook on the bad leg. Both were on their knees slapping each other. Makabe blocked Suzuki’s judo throw and hit a German suplex. He went for a dragon suplex but Suzuki kicked the bad knee. Suzuki then did this ridiculous dropkick nailing Makabe on the top of the head. He went for a choke, and then the Gotch piledriver, but Makabe powered out and hit a series of Rikidozan chops. Suzuki came back and delivered hard slaps and then kicked the knee again. Suzuki choked Makabe out and hit the Gotch piledriver for the win. He did a promo after them match insulting the fans. The more he insulted them, the more they cheered him. When he was leaving the ring, he decked Oka at ringside just because he was there. ****1/4

7. IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada pinned jr. champion Will Ospreay in 25:25. This had a 30:00 time limit so they teased the idea of Ospreay holding Okada to a draw. They started on the ground doing basic stuff. Okada seemed like he was having fun doing that style. On the floor, Okada did the move where he does the sprint from one side to the other to dive over the barricade, but Ospreay, on the other side, springboarded off the barricade and nailed Okada forearm and then got in the ring and did a space flying Tiger drop. That was really it for Ospreay’s high flying. Okada blocked the Oscutter and clamped on the cobra clutch. Okada hit his great dropkick and a high Savage elbow. They traded elbows until Ospreay did a standing dropkick, landed on his feet and did an enzuigiri, and then a standing Spanish fly for a near fall. Ospreay also hit the inverted 450 for a near fall. Ospreay went for the Oscutter, but Okada blocked it and turned it into a tombstone piledriver. He went for the rainmaker but Ospreay ducked and flew around him and hit a sit out power bomb for a near fall. He went for another Oscutter but Okada met him with a dropkick, then hit a German suplex. Okada hit two rainmakers, but Ospreay ducked he third and went for the Oscutter, but Okada turned it into a spinning tombstone piledriver and hit the rainmaker. When it was over, Okada offered his hand, but Ospreay hugged him. ****½

Newly-hired WWE announcer Jonathan Coachman, 42, was one of numerous current and former ESPN employees named in an 84page sexual harassment suit against the network.

Coachman himself was not named as a defendant in the suit.

Lawrence worked for ESPN from 2015 to 2017, when her two-year contract wasn’t renewed during extensive network cutbacks. Coachman, an anchor, was also cut at about the same period.

Lawrence filed suit in U.S. District Court in Connecticut against ESPN, as well as executives Margaret Green, Donna Hricisko, Robert Gallo and John Obringer.

Lawrence claimed that ESPN is rife with misogyny and claimed she was fired after she complained about being sexually harassed by anchor John Buccigross. She claimed he went to mentor her, but started making unwelcome advances, sent her shirtless photos of him and commented on her long legs and pretty face. He also claimed Buccigross told her while she was at his house that he was a sexual assault victim, which she claimed was a move to garner sympathy. She then said that Buccigross spread false rumors that Lawrence was sleeping her way to the top. She said she reported this to human resources, and was told to “give him a chance” and get used to it.

Buccigross had admitted to sending the photo but denied starting rumors and said he considered Lawrence her friend and was sorry if he did anything to offend her.

Regarding Coachman, Lawrence claimed that:

“On or around January 18, 2016, SportsCenter anchor Jonathan Coachman emailed Ms. Lawrence offering to provide her with mentorship and providing his cell phone number. When he contacted her via text, he quickly turned a professional conversation into a personal matter, asking her about her musical interests. He was employing the ESPN predators’ playbook. Colleagues then cautioned Ms. Lawrence that Coachman was notorious for sexually harassing female employees. After learning that, Ms. Lawrence made an effort to communicate to Coachman that she had a boyfriend, after which she dd not hear from him again and he made no offers of mentorship.

The lawsuit said that Coachman’s reputation for making unwelcomed sexual advances toward women and engaging in other sexually harassing behavior was not a secret. Cary Chow had warned Ms. Lawrence about him when he gave the short list of men at ESPN who were notorious for sexual harassment. Coachman had sent Walsh inappropriate photos of himself and text messages, falsely telling her colleagues that they were romantically involved and that she `wanted’ him–another common practice of men at ESPN.

At least one young production assistant who joined ESPN just out of college had complained to Ms. Lawrence about Coachman making her fee uncomfortable by complimenting her physical appearance and making passes at her.”

Later in the lawsuit, Coachman’s name came up again.

“When Ms. Lawrence complained by Jack Obringer, Senior Co-ordinating Producer, Studio Production of ESPN Inc., that she was being sexually harassed (by another individual), Obringer guessed that the harassed was `Coachman’ and indicated that his inappropriate behavior toward women was well-known to management. Nevertheless, Coachman continued to appear in ESPN commercials and on SportsCenter without discipline or accountability until he was quietly dismissed on or around April 26, 2017, via layoff.”

ESPN said that they conducted a thorough investigation and that the claims “are entirely without merit.” and said they would defend their position and were confident they would prevail in court.

On Twitter, Coachman wrote, “I will address this only once because I am seething today. In 21 years of being a PROFESSIONAL, have never been more offended in my life.” “To allow someone to spread vicious lies and flat out fabrications is not ok and it’s time someone stood up for themselves. Jemele Hill addressed her lie.” “I am not part of this lawsuit because I have never done anything wrong. My reputation speaks for itself and anyone that has ever worked with me will back that up.”

In the lawsuit, it claimed that Chris Berman, a longtime host had left a threatening and racially disparaging voicemail to Hill. After the lawsuit came out on 3/5, Hill quickly denied the story.

“A few years ago I had a personal conflict with Chris Berman, but the way this conflict has been characterized is dangerously inaccurate. Chris never left any racially disparaging remarks on my voicemail and our conflict was handled swiftly and with the utmost professionalism.”

WWE commented on the case saying, “We take these matters very seriously and are investigating.”

AAA ran one of its major shows of the year, Rey de Reyes, on 3/4 from the Acropolis in Puebla, built around El Hijo del Fantasma beating El Texano Jr. in a mask vs. hair match.

This leads to the main event of this year’s TripleMania on 8/25 at Arena Ciudad in Mexico City, which will be a four way mask vs. mask match with Fantasma, Psycho Clown and two wrestlers yet to be announced. Alberto El Patron was officially announced for the show in a singles match against an international star, plus they announced the Copa TripleMania and Lady Shani vs. Faby Apache in a mask vs. hair match.

At the press conference for TripleMania, Psycho Clown brought up Atlantis, Mr. Niebla and L.A. Park as people he’d like to see fill the open spots. There is no chance of Atlantis or Niebla since they are CMLL fixtures. Park has been in talks of late about returning.

They are jacking up ticket prices for the show, with ringside being 5,124 pesos ($274), up from 4,680 last year, but the high prices last year were done because of the huge payoff Dr. Wagner Jr. was getting for his mask. Perhaps that means another huge name will lose their mask.

Rey de Reyes was a mess, with timing issues with the show starting late and so much time devoted to Vampiro on the Twitch feed. Wagner Jr. had his interview time cut out after his loss to his son. The Fantasma vs. Texano match was rushed and spots were cut out that involved Bengala and El Hijo del Tirantes. They had to rush off the air because they were late, so the fans on Twitch didn’t see Texano get his head shaved bald. Texano, when he found out, flipped out and screamed at Vampiro and had to be pulled away and calmed down.

The show drew 5,000 fans in a building set up for about 9,000.

Rey Escorpion ended up winning the Rey de Reyes match in a four-way over La Parka, El Hijo del Vikingo and Bengala.

The other big news was in the semifinal where El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. pinned his father in an eight-man match, using a German suplex in a bad match. He then challenged his father to either a title match or a retirement match, which could be a TripleMania match.

The show aired live on Twitch and most of the reports on it were pretty bad. Overall, AAA’s wrestling is by far the weakest of any significant sized promotion in the world.

1. Fabi Apache pinned Lady Shani in 5:44 with a German suplex. Estrella Divina interfered, giving Shani a weak looking kick to set up the finish. Actually they were more believable with their strikes than anyone on the show.

2. Rey Escorpion won his semifinal in the Rey de Reyes tournament over Angelikal, Dave the Clown and Pimpinela Escarlata in 7:12 when he pinned Angelikal with a package piledriver. Escorpion and Dave worked together.

3. Bengala won his semifinal in the Rey de Reyes tournament over Dark Scoria, Mascara de Bronce and Argenis in 6:50 with a fire driver on Bronce.

4. El Hijo del Vikingo won his semifinal over Angel Mortal Jr., Dark Cuervo and Pagano in a tournament semifinal in 8:42 with a reverse 450 splash on Mortal Jr.

5. In a weird one La Parka won the other semifinal in a four-way over Dinastia, Venum and Mesias in 7:24 with a low blow and armbar on Mesias. What was weird is that Mesias never tapped, and the ref called for the bell. Mesias rolled out of the ring, waved goodbye to the camera, not selling at all. Parka jumped out of the ring and they started yelling at each other and shoved each other. Mesias then walked off.

6. Carta Brava Jr. & Mocho Cota Jr. & Tito Santana retained the AAA trios titles over Averno & Chessman & Super Fly in a TLC mach in 13:53 when Cota pinned Averno after a Spanish fly through a table. Brava bled heavy. This was a weapons brawl and not a very good one.

7. In the Rey de Reyes finals, Rey Escorpion beat Parka, Vikingo and Bengala in 7:30 with a backstabber on Parka. Parka lost due to interference from Dave the Clown. Vikingo did a shooting star press to the floor.

8. Hernandez & El Hijo del Dr Wagner Jr. & Monsther Clown & Murder Clown beat Dr. Wagner Jr. & Psycho Clown & La Mascara & Maximo in 10:12 when Wagner’s son pinned Wagner with a German suplex in a bad match.

9. El Hijo del Fantasma pinned El Texano Jr. in 12:57 in a mask vs. hair match using the thrill of the hunt. Vampiro came out and made it a no DQ match. Fantasma was in his son’s corner but his son accidentally hit him with a tope ad he was taken out. Fantasma hit the back of his head on the announcing table in taking the move which wasn’t good. El Hijo del Tirantes was in Texano’s corner and he juiced and was taken to the back.

This is an update on how many homes the cable stations that air pro wrestling and MMA updated through 3/1:

AXS (54,000,000); Bein Sports, which is adding a weekly one hour wrestling product shortly, perhaps as early as next month (22,135,000); Big Ten Network (57,138,000), CMT (71,987,000), E! (89,355,000); El Rey (44,679,000); ESPN (86,770,000); Fox Deportes (21,168,000); FS 1 (83,750,000); FS 2 (58,486,000); HBO (36,017,000); NBC Sports Network (84,584,000); Paramount (81,119,000); Pop TV (68,284,000); Showtime (28,051,000); USA (91,465,000).

Smackdown on 3/6 did 2,590,000 viewers, back to normal numbers, down four percent from the big number last week for the John Cena vs. A.J. Styles match.

The show was up to third place for the night on cable. It beat the NBA (1,887,000) head-to-head.

The show did a 0.57 in 12-17 (down 5.0 percent from last week), 0.65 in 18-34 (down 8.5 percent), 0.85 in 35-49 (down 15.8 percent) and 1.06 in 50+ (down 0.9 percent).

The audience was 58.0 percent men in 18-49 and 52.4 percent boys in 12-17. It’s notable how much higher the women’s skew is on Smackdown than Raw, part of which is because the third hour of Raw is usually far more male dominated because women are quicker to turn it off.

The second week of Raw with Ronda Rousey on 3/5 did a 2.10 rating and 3,073,000 viewers (1.60 viewers per home), a drop of 5.4 percent in ratings and 2.8 percent in viewers from the prior week.

It was the lowest rating and least viewers for Raw since football season ended, trailing the previous low on 2/5 which was a 2.13 rating and 3,077,000 viewers. In fact, if you eliminate the comparisons with football season, it was the least-watched episode of Raw since July 24,.

` Raw was second for the night on cable, trailing only Rachel Maddow on MSNBC at 3,380,000 viewers. In the 18-49 demo, it was third among everything on television, trailing only ABC and NBC.

If Rousey and her angle with Kurt Angle, HHH and Stephanie McMahon were going to have any ratings pull, doing the angle to kick off the show would have minimized it. Still, if there was a huge first quarter and people tuned out, the first-to-second hour drop would have been more notable.

It was with women 12-49. But that was offset by a men’s first-to-second hour gain also being larger than usual.

From the MMA standpoint, the reaction we’ve gotten is that while there is curiosity over her, people are not going to watch three hours of Raw because she’s on the show. And the curiosity is more she’s doing pro wrestling, not really caring about seeing her do pro wrestling.

The major take was the second-to-third hour drop of 16.4 percent was the fourth biggest hourly drop in the modern history of Raw.

As far as second-to-third hour drops, which factors out Rousey to a degree since she was in the first segment of the first hour, it was 11 percent in women 18-49, eight percent in men 18-49, 27 percent in girls 12-17 and 24 percent in boys 12-17. Boys 12-17 are usually the audience that stays with the third hour. In the first two hours, the numbers under 50 were actually higher than usual, but then dropped to lower than usual in hour three. The over-50 drop from hour two to hour three was 16.8 percent.

There was no competition that would explain that drop, both in the third hour, and from the past several weeks.

The only thing advertised for the third hour was that Paul Heyman would be there responding to what Roman Reigns said the prior week.

The first hour did 3,302,000 viewers. The second hour did 3,267,000 viewers. The third hour did 2,729,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.78 in 12-17 (up 4.0 percent from last week), 0.88 in 18-34 (up 2.3 percent), 1.30 in 35-49 (up 8.3 percent) and 1.14 in 50+ (down 8.8 percent).

The show did 63.0 percent men in 18-49 and 69.2 percent men in 12-17, so for whatever reason, both weeks that Rousey appeared saw a much higher skew of guys in the teenage demo, although this week that wasn’t the case in hour one, but was the case huge in hour three.

Bellator on 3/2 did 465,000 viewers for a show headlined by Darrion Caldwell retaining the bantamweight title over Leandro Higo. Really, considering the main event, that number was ahead of what I would have expected as there have been shows with far bigger names drawing the same range or less viewers in recent months.

Impact on 3/1, with the talk of the Eddie Edwards vs. Sami Callihan match, was up 39 percent from last week, doing 365,000 viewers. It was the largest audience to see the show since 7/13 and that was the only show in 2017 that did a bigger number. Before that you’d have to go back to September 22, 2016 for a better number, which was the Hardys era.

Smackdown on 2/27 did a 1.80 rating and 2,692,000 viewers (a well above usual 1.64 viewers per home).

This is the second issue of the current set. If you’ve got a (1) on your address label, it means your subscription will expire with next week’s double issue.

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CMLL: So after all the talk, the CMLL and Elite partnership is dead. CMLL said that none of their wrestlers nor their arenas will be part of the promotion, which apparently will have television on the A+ Network in Mexico

Drone, who was suspended after an interview when he was in no condition to talk after a match that he was in no condition to perform in on the Fantastica Mania tour in January, returned on 3/6 at Arena Mexico

The 3/2 show Arena Mexico show drew 5,000 fans, built around the Block A of the tournament to create new CMLL tag team champions. Valiente, who was a late sub for the injured Caristico (he hasn’t been around for a few weeks but there have been no reports of the nature of an injury) teamed with Volador Jr., to first beat Euforia & Kraneo, then Dragon Lee & Mistico and finally beat Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero in the finals. As it always the case, as they try and keep their shows at about two hours and 15 minutes with no intermission, when you do an 11-match show, you are going to be rushing through things. The first tournament match of Lee & Mistico over Forastero & Sanson was great. You really got the gamut of seeing guys like Lee and Volador and the new Dinamitas in one match and then see Mascara Ano 2000, who is almost 60, out there in a championship tournament a few minutes later. Lee & Mistico vs. Sanson & Forastero ended up as the highlight of the show, particularly the finishing sequence. Lee & Mistico vs. Volador Jr. & Valiente only went 2:58 but it was all action. Los Guerreros reached the finals beat Atlantis & Soberano Jr., and then winning via DQ over Rush & Pierroth when El Terrible interfered. They didn’t seem concerned they were taken out of the tournament. The main event saw Angel de Oro & Marco Corleone & Niebla Roja beating Cuatrero & Ephesto & Mephisto when Angel pinned Cuatrero in the third fall. Corleone looked like he hurt his shoulder in landing on the first fall Air Italia

The B block of the tournament is on 3/9 with Corleone & Roja, Cavernario & Mr. Niebla, Stuka Jr. & Diamante Azul (who were actually supposed to win the title two different times last year, the first canceled when Shocker was hurt and the second was on a show canceled by the September earthquake and they never went back to it), Okumura & Sam Adonis, Titan & Triton, Terrible & Rey Bucanero, Blue Panther & Blue Panther Jr. and Mephisto & Ephesto. Since Volador & Valiente are in the finals, you’re looking at a heel team winning. Niebla always gets suspended and brought back so putting titles on him makes no sense, although the heel team could just lose. Mephisto & Ephesto will at least have a good final match. Terrible & Bucanero are a possibility. The main event will be Angel de Oro & Atlantis & Volador Jr. vs. Cuatrero & Negro Casas & Ultimo Guerrer

Matt Taven will return for the El Homenaje a Dos Leyendas show on 3/16

Pierroth has changed his ring name to Bestia del Ring. With the new name, since he’s not masked anymore, and wearing the old Pierroth mask, he won’t have to pay a licensing fee from the earnings to the original Pierroth of the 90s. Bestia is now feuding with Mascara Ano 2000, which sounds hideous

Reports are that the 3/4 match at Arena Mexico with Dragon Lee vs. Cavernario was excellent

Ultimo Guerrero & Volador did a nice fast turn-around, working Friday night in Mexico City, flying to New York for ROH, and then working Sunday afternoon in Mexico City.

Caristico returned to action after an injury on 3/4

The sister of Mistico, Dragon Lee and Rush is scheduled to debut on 4/7

Atlantis retained the Mexican light heavyweight title beating Cavernario on the 3/6 show in Guadalajara

Cavernario also lost the night before in challenging for the NWA historic welterweight title in Puebla against Volador Jr. They did a three fall match in less than 5:00 because Volador was so banged up and worn out from the crazy travel schedule with Cavernario DQ’d in the third fall

These weight classes sure mean a lot when you’re a welterweight on Monday and a light heavyweight on Tuesday

The Arena Coliseo tag team title tournament finals are 3/10 at Arena Coliseo with Triton & Esfinge vs. Disturbio & Virus.

AAA: Vampiro was on Steve Austin’s podcast. He said some crazy stuff,. He said AAA had quadrupled in size in the last eight months and said they are doing 800 shows a year. Don’t take that too seriously. He said they do 9,000 to 14,000 fans at every TV taping. Actually the only time they ever draw 10,000 fans these days is for TripleMania and the upcoming Rey de Reyes is the first show this year in an arena that even holds that many people

The next live show on Twitch will be the 3/17 TV tapings from Cuernavaca. They’ll also have shows on 3/21 in San Luis Potosi and 3/25 in Monterrey. Monterrey is advertising a three-way tag match for the Copa Leyendas with Dr. Wagner Jr. & La Parka vs. Blue Demon Jr. & El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. (evidently already a legend) vs. Hernandez & Vampiro.

DRAGON GATE: Kotoka, real name Kotoka Shiiba, 27, had his retirement match on 3/6 at Korakuen Hall before their usual monthly Tokyo sellout crowd of 1,850. Kotoka, who has been wrestling for more than nine years, was retiring due to injuries. His retirement match was a ten-man talk where Masaaki Mochizuki & Yamato & Yosuke Santa Maria & Don Fujii & Kagetora beat Kotoka & Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Cima & Dragon Kid in 25:00 when Yamato beat Kotoka. There was a retirement ceremony after the match and the Antias group all gave farewell messages to him He then thanked the fans for their support and said that even though he was small, he believed in himself and his dream was to become a pro wrestler and he achieved it. Then, to allow him to win his last match, he did an impromptu match with his younger brother, Oji Shiiba, who just stated out, beating him in 2:40

Also at the Korakuen Hall show, Shingo Takagi beat Ryo Saito to win the comedy-based Open the Owari Gate title. Takagi won the match and then the fans had to vote for him to get the title, which they did. They did an angle on the show to set up a ten man tag for the April Korakuen Hall show with T-Hawk & Eita & Lindaman & Yasushi Kanda & Takagi vs. Kzy & Genki Horiguchi & Susumu Yokosuka & Punch Tominaga & Brother Yasshi

They held Champions Gate on 3/3 and 3/4 in Osaka at the smaller Edion Arena, doing about 950 the first night and a sellout of 1,100 the second night. New Japan had just run the building and sold out on 3/1. The only title change came the first night as Tominaga won the Open the Brave Gate title from Kanda in 8:34 with the Punch clutch. It was pushed like a fluke, as Takagi hit Kanda with a box. Kanda blamed Takagi but Takagi said anyone who loses to Tominga is their own fault. This was Tominaga’s first title win. The main event on that show saw Doi & Yoshino & Jason Lee retain the Open the Triangle Gate titles beating Yamato & Flamita & Santa Maria in 23:14 when Lee pinned Santa Maria after a German suplex

On the second night, the main event saw Mochizuki retain the Open the Dream Gate title over Ben K with a triangle in 23:13 in what was said to have been a fantastic match. Mochizuki after the match said that all Ben K, who has been wrestling about two years, misses is experience. Big R Shimizu came out and issued a title challenge, an it was accepted for 3/21 in Wakayama. Mochizuki said that three weeks is a quick turnaround for a title defense and he’s 48 years old, and didn’t know if it was a mistake, but accepted. Ben K said his time will come the next time he gets a title shot. T-Hawk & Eita retained the Twin Gate tag titles over Yokosuka & Horiguchi in 15:09 when Eita beat Yokosuka thanks to help from Lindaman. Kzy then came out and said how they cheated to win and wanted to team with Horiguchi and go for the title. Eita said he couldn’t understand why Kzy would want to team with an old bald guy and accepted, saying an easy win is a good way to inflate their title defense stats.

ALL JAPAN: Kazuki Ebina, 27, will be making his debut for the promotion on 4/7 in Sendai. Ebina is from Sendai and is 5-foot-9 ½ and 209 pounds, and was a high school basketball player.

NEW JAPAN: The Best of the Super Juniors tournament will run from 5/18 to 6/4. They open with shows on 5/18 and 5/19 at Korakuen Hall, and the finals will also be at Korakuen Hall. That’s actually a cutback because they’ve run bigger arenas for the finals in recent years

At this time, unless something changes, the Young Bucks vs. Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi is the main event for 3/25 in Long Beach, which means no Tetsuya Naito vs. Chris Jericho. It would be overkill to put them on the same show in a 4,700-seat arena that sold out instantly. The Jericho situation is interesting because when asked about New Japan on Twitter, Jericho responded when asked if he was done with New Japan, wrote “Unfortunately yes.” But he hasn’t answered any questions about it past that statement. I do know that New Japan was interested in Jericho for Long Beach and at one point the Tetsuya Naito match was supposed to be there. If Mysterio can’t make the Liger match in Long Beach, Jericho was also talked about in recent days as a potential replacement, but that would be a short notice deal and honestly I don’t think that’s the best use of him to work a match with Liger with no storyline unless he wants to get a big surprise pop that night, do it unannounced, and be there mostly to set up an angle for Dominion or a future U.S. show. Jericho is on tour with Fozzy now, through 3/16, and then goes back for another tour 3/27 through 4/8 and will be back touring later in April for a few shows, then back touring again on 7/12 through August). At one point he was at least considering working the 6/9 Dominion show in Osaka Jo Hall

Because Dominion has to be huge, Okada has to have a top tier star as his opponent on the show and there are not a lot of options, really Tanahashi, Omega, Naito (who would be out of contention if the Jericho match with him takes place here), Ibushi, Suzuki (although they’ve avoided IWGP champ vs. IC champ) or Ishii. The idea of going back to Tanahashi vs. Okada makes sense. It could be on 4/1 since that will be the show where Okada goes to tie Tanahashi’s record of 11 consecutive title defenses, so Tanahashi blocking him from the record makes sense. Okada next title defense will be at one of the two Dontaku shows in early May in Fukuoka, so it could be Tanahashi there after he’s tied, keeping him from breaking the record, unless they hold that off until Dominion. But trying to run two dates in Fukuoka for big shows and not have an IWGP title match seems tough

Kenny Omega’s latest quote when asked about going to WWE this past week was: “Right now the answer is no. I’m just having too much fun doing what I’m doing. It really means a lot to me in my profession to feel like I’m making a difference. I don’t want to be a robot. I don’t want to be controlled. Even though there is a lot of great talent, some of my good friends are still in WWE, I wish them all the best. But to be able to tell the stories, the kind of stories I want to tell with who I believe are the greatest talents in the world, that’s most important to me right now.

The Omega & Kota Ibushi vs. Cody & Marty Scurll match from 2/24 at Korakuen Hall I gave ****1/4

Katsuyori Shibata was named the new Head Coach of the New Japan Dojo that will be opening up on 3/19 in Los Angeles. Also hired to be a coach is Scorpio Sky. “With rehab and training, I’ve seen sensing it’s time to move past the struggle of finding what I am capable of doing,” Shibata said. “These days, I’ve had a burning desire to take on a new challenge. What can I do in my current state? I thought a change of pace was needed, and the next thing I knew, I found myself in Los Angeles.” We had first heard Shibata was going to be used as a coach months ago, but most figured it would be at the dojo in Tokyo. “By some twist of fate, my thoughts happened around the time the new NJPW dojo was being set up in LA. While getting the dojo ready, I had the chance to assemble the Ring with some of the young wrestlers and train with them, and I found myself doing wrestling moves I haven’t been able to do before.” He said he’s both teaching and learning and loves the weather and said this is the best thing he can do for wrestling right now.

. The April schedule for New Japan World is 4/1 Sakura Genesis at Sumo Hall at 3 a.m. Eastern, which is a major show and will air in English. There will be Japanese language only shows on 4/10, a Lion’s Gate show at 6 a.m. Eastern, 4/13, 4/14, 4/23 and 4/24 are all Korakuen Hall dates (talk about overkill, that’s six dates in Tokyo in 24 days) at 5:30 a.m. Kevin Kelly returns for English shows on 4/27 from Hiroshima at 5:30 a.m. and 4/29 in Kumamoto at 2 a.m.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Stardom is attempting its biggest show to date on 4/1 in Nagoya, called Stardom Dream Slam (Dream Slam was the name All Japan Women used for some legendary shows in the 90s). It will be Io Shirai & Tam Nakano vs. Kagetsu & Sumire Natsu in an exploding baseball bat death match. This has been an angle that was laid out last summer and hasn’t veered, starting with Nakano joining the Oedo Tai group, to being forced out of the group, to Nakano challenging Natsu to the exploding baseball bat match and Natsu turning it down. And Kagetsu challenging Shirai to be in the match and Shirai saying that a baseball bat explosive death match isn’t her idea of wrestling and wanting no part of it. This led to the Oedo Tai group attacking Shirai and then attacking Nakano. Toni Storm defending the World of Stardom title against Mayu Iwatani is the other main event. On 9/24, Iwatani was defending against Storm and landed badly on a missed missile dropkick spot 2:00 into the match and was unable to continue. Storm wasn’t supposed to win the title, but for the credibility of the title, there was no choice but to make her champion. So ths is Iwatani’s first rematch. They are doing a Dream Slam series which includes a 3/31 show in Osaka with tag champs Kagetsu & Hana Kimura vs. Mary & Faby Apache and Wonder of Stardom champion Shirai vs. Bea Priestley. There will also be a Dream Slam on 3/28 at Korakuen Hall with SWA champion Storm vs. ICW champion Viper and the debut of Natsumi (the daughter of Mary Apache) against Shirai.

HERE AND THERE: The move of the 3/23 PWG show to the Globe Theater in Los Angeles from its long-time home, the American Legion Hall in Reseda, was described as “an unexpected test.” Essentially they had an issue with overselling the Legion Hall due to a combination of the snafu in tickets and demand to the point tickets were gone in about a minute (because so many fans were flying in already for New Japan two nights later). They had been looking at a few places because of the demand increase. There was talk that last year’s BOLA would be moved to a bigger building but they are profitable and steady the way they are. I haven’t subscribed to this idea but I can tell you that a lot of the talent and fans don’t want them leaving the location because there is a great atmosphere inside even if it is brutally hot in there during the summer. Everyone’s got their regular routine, from the hotel to the restaurants in the area. When they oversold, the choice was to have to cancel orders and refund money to those who had purchased tickets, or move them to the next show or move and the Globe Theater was open on that date

Tammy Sytch was back in jail over the weekend on a number of different charges and being held in Monmouth County, NJ, jail on $6,000 bond after a 2/27 arrest. She was still being held at press time. Sytch, 45, who has been through numerous WWE sponsored rehab stints, was arrested by the Aberdeen, NJ, Police Department on two counts of fugitive from justice and six counts of contempt of court. TMZ reported that Sytch had been charged with two DUI's. She had been on probation for three DUI's in 2015. The first DUI was on 1/23 at 8:53 p.m. She was then involved in an auto accident on 2/2 at 8:52 a.m. and charged with fleeing the scene of the accident and charged with a second DUI. She was also charged with failing to appear in court for either of the two arrests, which led to her being taken in. She also had an outstanding bench warrant for an arrest in Carbon County, Pennsylvania from this past August due to a probation violation. She has a long series of arrests, mostly for repeated DUIs. Her using alcohol violated terms of her probation. She spent five months incarcerated from September 2016 through February 2017 and was let out after agreeing to go through another stint in rehab. She could be facing several years in jail due to the violations of her probation

Blackrock Productions has acquired the rights to develop and produce either a movie or a limited TV series based on the book “Conspiracy - Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker and the Anatomy of Intrigue.” The book, written by Ryan Holiday, which came out last week, apparently had full cooperation of the entire story regarding the sex tapes as well as the lawsuit and trial, with Hogan, Thiel, Nick Denton of Gawker, Charles Harder, Hogan’s attorney, and a mysterious source behind the scenes who was said to have orchestrated everything

The full Crash lineup for 4/6 at the Sugar Mill in New Orleans is Penta 0M vs. Austin Aries, Damian 666 & L.A. Park & Nicho vs. Bestia 666 & Garza Jr. & Mr. 450, Rey Fenix vs. Flamita vs. Rich Swann, Daga vs. Brian Cage vs. Willie Mack vs. Sami Callihan, a three-way with Bandido & Black Boy vs. Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz vs. Dave & Jake Crist, Rey Horus vs. Flip Gordon vs. Laredo Kid, Black Danger & Lacey Lane in a four-way against Oraculo & Chrsti Jaynes vs. Joey Ryan & Barbi Hayden vs. Douglas James & Diamante (of LAX in Impact) and an eight-way scramble match with Aeroboy, Draztick Boy, J Spade, Amarok, Matt Palmer, Jason Cade, Angel Fashion and Curt Stallion

House of Hardcore on 4/7 at the Sugar Mill in New Orleans has Tommy Dreamer, MVP, Billy Gunn, Carlito, Spirit Squad, Austin Aries, Ricky Morton, Robert Gibson, Brian Cage and Rich Swann among the headliners

The Shimmer card over Mania week has Nicole Savoy defending their title against Mercedes Martinez, Shazza McKenzie defends the Heart of Shimmer title against Tessa Blanchard, Toni Storm vs. Nicole Matthews and Cheerleader Melissa vs Ashley Lane (Madison Rayne)

WWN’s Style Battle promotion announced a 4/7 show in New Orleans which will be an eight-man one-night tournament with first round matches of Keith Lee vs. Nick Gage, Matt Riddle vs. Dave Crist, Anthony Henry vs. Jason Kincaid and Darby Allin vs. Tracer X. They are also charging $10 for the show, pushing it as the best show for the price for the weekend

There has been some social media talk this past week regarding the first-ever cage match. History has recorded a Jack Bloomfield vs. Count Petro Rossi match on June 25, 1937, in Atlanta in what was called the first chicken wire fence match. Before the term cage match was used, it was called a chicken wire fence match. I’m not sure where the story came from, and originally the story was that it was July 2, 1937, but searching actual ads in the local newspapers did show this match on June 25 and no such match on July 2. However, a newspaper record was found for two January 9, 1936, matches with Lon Chaney vs. Otto Ludwig and Joe Dillman vs. Charles Sinkey in chicken wire fence matches in Carithersville, MO that drew a capacity crowd. The news story on that show said that promoter Mike Meroney had come up with the idea. So as best we can tell, that was the first

Mark Hitchcock, who was a graphic designer for Highspots, passed away this past week while on a pre-Honeymoon in Kenya. He was 36. Hitchcock was a regular at PWG shows and extremely well liked. He was about to get married in May and was hiking in the woods when he slipped and hit his head on some rocks

Northeast Wrestling drew 1,900 fans on 3/2 for its Wrestlefest XXII show at the Wilby High School Gym in Waterbury, CT. The big draws were The Young Bucks (who didn’t wrestle on the show due to their ROH contract but did an autograph signing and an in-ring angle), Mick Foley and Mysterio Jr. The Young Bucks & Scurll opened the show doing a promo, putting over NEW and plugging their Being the Elite show when The Kingdom came out. They ended up in a quick brawl with the Kingdom being vanquished with a series of superkicks. Local police hit the ring and separated them. Was told the segment was hot. Robbie E & Cam Zagami won their tag titles over Adrenaline Rush (Keith Youngblood & Daniel Evans). Local Brad Hollister beat Matt Riddle in a match that got a great reaction. Foley used Mr. Socko on heel manager Jared Silkerbeit. He also thanked the fans for coming out in such bad weather, as there was rain, sleet and snow and very high winds which saw trees collapse in the area. Both Mark Henry and Tito Santana were advertised to be there but weren’t. Lanny Poffo replaced Santana and recited a poem about his brother, Randy Savage, and threw Frisbees to the crowd. Foley replaced Henry after WWE pulled Henry off the show to make an appearance at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH. Everyone who deals with WWE talent knows ahead of time that WWE can pull the talent off for something else

The first rematch of Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder vs. Michigan’s Matt Coon after Coon’s upset win over Snyder, took place on 3/4 with Snyder scoring a single leg takedown in double overtime, winning 4-2, in the heavyweight finals of the Big 10 championship in East Lansing, MI. The two fought to a 1-1 tie in regular, with both points scored on escapes. They went to a 1-1 tie in the first overtime with each scoring an escape. Snyder scored the first takedown of the match in the second overtime, to avenge Coon’s 3-1 win over Snyder (two time world champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist and many consider the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world) a few weeks ago. Coon’s win was considered one of the biggest upsets in college wrestling history. Considering the Big 10 tournament was held in Michigan’s gym, the heat and intensity was said to have been incredible for this match. Snyder, who wrestles at 213 pounds internationally, was giving up close to 45 pounds against Coon (his college wrestling weight is about 235 and Coon is closer to 280 and agile at that weight) noted that after the upcoming NCAA tournament (3/15 to 3/17 in Cleveland), that he will likely never wrestle someone the size of Coon again. ESPN SportsCenter even covered this match. Ohio State beat Penn State for the team title. Ohio State and Penn State are considered the favorites for the team championshp in the NCAA tournament. While tournaments often don’t go as planned, but the heavyweight tournament will have Snyder and Coon as the two top seeds and they will be bracketed for the finals, which will be one of the bigger finals in recent years. An interesting note since the Snyder vs. Coon match may have been the biggest superstar upset since the 1970 Dan Gable vs. Larry Owings NCAA final that Owings won 13-11, ending Gable’s 181 match winning streak (and Gable never lost another match until his retirement in 1972 after winning the gold medal, although he did lose in an attempted comeback years later). Gable and Owings will be together publicly for the first time in 48 years at the WIN Magazine memorabilia show as part of the NCAA tournament. The two have met and spoken since that match but never in a public forum. Zain Retherford of Penn State, the 149-pound two time defending champion, is the favorite going into the NCAA’s for the Hodge Trophy after winning it last year and being dominant all year in going unbeaten

Mike Chapman of WIN magazine wrote an interesting story about early American wrestling heavyweight champion on pro wrestling Hall of Famer Tom Jenkins, who the guy who Frank Gotch beat for the championship. Jenkins is from the Cleveland area and after retiring as a pro wrestler in 1906, he was appointed by President Teddy Roosevelt as a head wrestling coach at West Point. Among the people he trained in wrestling his stint in that role from 1906 to 1943 were future President Dwight Einsenhower, as well as legendary war generals George Patton and Omar Bradley. He also taught boxing classes. Jenkins, who lost sight in his right eye during a childhood accident, studied wrestling and street fighting techniques and basically established pro wrestling in the Cleveland area when his reputation in town grew and promoters found fans would pay money to see him fight. On November 7, 1897, in Cleveland, he defeated Farmer Burns (who later became the coach of Gotch) to win the American heavyweight title. He and Gotch had eight matches between 1903 and 1906, with Gotch winning five of them. It’s hard to know what was and wasn’t real. Most of the bouts at that time were worked, or fixed, or whatever you’d want to call them. But there is the belief that at least one of the Gotch vs. Jenkins matches was very real. Gotch said that Jenkins was the toughest wrestler he ever encountered

The Go Fund Me campaign to build a statue of The Crusher in South Milwaukee has hit $34,000 of the $40,000 goal. Chris Smith, who is behind the fund raising activities, noted to The Wrestling Estate that what spurred him on was the WWE Network. He said he got the network specifically to watch footage of Crusher, both matches and interviews, because he knew they bought the AWA library. But he said almost nothing was there, and it was all in the 80s when Crusher was old. He claimed that the WWE was controlling history and “Once this older generation of people who were huge fans dies, how are people going to remember who he was?” One of the reasons fund raising was so popular locally is years back a statue in Milwaukee was commissioned to honor Fonzie from Happy Days, the character Henry Winkler played on the “Happy Days” TV show that was based in the 50s in Milwaukee. At the time there was negativity toward it because The Fonz wasn’t a real person, but it has since become a beloved landmark in the city, and Smith said people see having this ten foot statue is a cool thing. There is another fund raiser on 4/6 at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center with a panel discussion and showing of old matches of Crusher and the AWA with Ken Patera, Baron Von Raschke and Jim Brunzell. “My vision is that some day there is a grandfather walking with a grandson and the boy asks who is that? That’s how his legacy will be remembered.

Chris Jericho is working on developing a television show called “Ash the Fish Expert,” about his son Ash. It’s in the process of being pitched. Juan Puerto is listed as the writer an executive producer, and Jericho, Christo Garcia and Juli Rumbaut are also listed as executive producers

One of the oldest promotions in the world, the WWC, down since September, ran on 3/3 in Dorado. The main event saw Mighty Ursus beat Universal champion Ray Gonzalez Sr. via DQ when Ray’s son attacked manager Juan Manuel Ortega with a kendo stick. Ray Sr. then hit Ursus with a chain. They are running the same building on 3/10 with a rematch with Ortega and Rey Jr. handcuffed to each other

Antonio Mesa Casillas, who wrestled as Gran Danton, in the Laguna area of Mexico from the 70s to the 90s, passed away on 3/5

Milena Roucka, 38, best known as Rosa Mendes, who left wrestling and had a baby, is now training for a return at the MCW school in Joppa, MD

Former WWE wrestler Pete Gas (Peter Gasparino), 47, who grew up as one of Shane McMahon’s best friends and a high school football teammate, is now a Senior Sales Representative for WB Mason out of Jacksonville, FL.

EUROPE: After having its best-received show to date on 2/22, the 5 Star show on 3/1 was a disaster. A lot of this was based on the weather, as most events in the Belfast area were canceled due to a bad snowstorm. A lot of the talent was unable to make it to the show, but there are numerous other issues with talent complaining about both money and travel issues. It appears that Jake Hager, its champion, looks to have quit the promotion since they buried him on the air with the line of taking his belt and going home. John Morrison may have quit, as that was the story going around, but he would have had to have missed this week’s show either way due to his contract with Lucha Underground so that isn’t certain. There were complaints about money being late and when you consider this group has to be hemmoraging money, it was probably inevitable this would come up sooner than later. The 3/1 show in Belfast drew 180 fans in an 11,000 seat arena blizzard and the TV show started one hour late. Then they announced the 3/8 show in Aberdeen,Scotland has been postponed, but would take place on 4/12 in the building, blaming the weather. The weather was a disaster for the 3/1 show, but Aberdeen weather was expected to be fine on 3/8 after a storm over the weekend. They didn’t have a show booked for 3/15, so the next show will be 3/22 in Manchster, which gives them a few weeks to get things together. More bad news is that a listing of Freesports ten most watched shows of February didn’t have any of the 5 Star shows listed, meaning that every show that month did less than 16,300 television viewers. There’s no way this economically makes sense, between how much they are spending on talent and renting big arenas, and the lack of interest from television viewers. The biggest star, Rey Mysterio Jr., wasn’t there due to a family emergency, which was legitimate, but there was still very valid criticism that they had advanced warning (as in they knew several days ahead of time he wouldn’t be there, some say more than that) and didn’t announce it until an hour before the show started. Those inside the business noted to us that they couldn’t believe they continued to push him as the focal point of all advertising until an hour before the show. Mysterio Jr. was okay to work the Northeast Wrestling show, but his injury changes things up. The last word we had prior to the injury is that he was going to return, and he’s the focal point of advertising for all the upcomign shows. He was planning on sticking around and the reason he’s not booked on any of the indie shows at Mania was because he had a commitment here on 4/5. That wouldn’t preclude a WrestleMania deal if that was ever in the cards and the injury puts everything into question. Rob Van Dam was also not there but I don’t know if he was advertised, but they did still have Chris Masters and Carlito. They did get Alberto El Patron to take his place. As noted last week, a lot of the American talent was upset with how they were being booked as well as travel arrangements. On 3/8, they are in Aberdeen, but on their Facebook stream, they listed they were in Dundee. Matt Riddle, who is their submission champion, didn’t make the show but that was due to travel issues getting there

One of the biggest events of the year in Europe, the 16 Carat Gold tournament, is part of a series of shows from 3/8 to 3/11 in Germany. The main shows are in Oberhausen from 3/9 to 3/11. The 3/10 and 3/11 show are sold out with more than 800 tickets sold and 3/9 was 70 shy as of a week ago, so the expectation is 800 to 1,000 at every show. It would be the biggest tournament. With all the satellite shows, some are calling it Germany’s version of WrestleMania week, although that’s a tough analogy. The first round matches on 3/9 have Absolute Andy vs. Marius Al-Ani, Matt Sydal vs. Lucky Kid, Jonah Rock vs. Timothy Thatcher, Da Mack vs. Matt Riddle, Chris Brookes vs. Alexander James, Keith Lee vs. Avalanche, Mark Haskins vs. Travis Banks and ? (it was to be Jurn Simmons but he suffered a broken ankle in a match on 3/3) vs. David Starr. The afternoon of 3/10 has the annual Ambition show, where the wrestlers work old UWFI style matches (UWFI was a 90s Japanese promotion that had a run where it was super popular and a lot of wrestlers into a shoot style before MMA became popular like the style). They are headlined by Walter vs. Matt Riddle, plus an eight-man one afternoon tournament with first round matches of Alexander James vs. Timothy Thatcher, Mike Bailey vs. Jonah Rock, Bobby Gunns vs. Rafa and Heddi Karaoui vs. David Starr. The 3/10 show also has John Klinger, the wXw champion, defending against Walter, Toni Storm defending the women’s title against Melanie Gray and Gunns defending the Shotgun title against Bailey

Simmons was injured in a tag match on 3/3 with Alexander James against Jay Skillet & Francis Kaspin. He was pulled from all shows at least through the end of May

Zack Sabre Jr. returns to wXw for shows on 4/21 in Frankfurt, 4/22 in Cologne and 5/18 in Hamburg

The Nasty Boys worked over the weekend in Germany for DWA and IPW. Knobbs was hurting bad and Saggs worked most of the way.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: In what sounds like a desperation scare tactic, this promotion sent out cease and desist letters to at least two reporters (Steve Bryant and Ryan Satin) who wrote stories on things that took place at their TV tapings over the past two weeks. LU makes all fans and performers sign non-disclosure agreements because they don’t want their news getting out, but the idea of threatening reporters with legal action for covering news when it happens is ridiculous and will never hold up. But obviously it’s meant as a threat to see if they can scare them away from not reporting on the news

They taped 3/1 to 3/3 instead of 3/2 to 3/4 as originally scheduled because the Rey de Reyes AAA show was on 3/4

Rich Swann was backstage at the tapings

Tommy Dreamer, Chelsea Green and Sammy Guevara didn’t work this set of tapings

A lot of stuff was apparently filmed out of order

Notes from the 3/1 tapings. They taped two shows. The first show opened with Drago pinning Aerostar. Kobra Moon was out with Drago so they are still together. Drago won clean in a basic match. Matanza Cueto pinned Vinne Massaro in a comedy match. Massaro came to the ring and Antonio Cueto (Luis Fernandez-Gil, playing the father of the deceased Dario Cueto) came out. As great as he was at Dario Cueto, him playing the cartoon character of his father was described as “his awfulness and corniness cannot be overstated.” He said that he should fire Massaro for his performance at Aztec Warfare. But instead, he was getting him a pizza. So a pizza delivery showed up with a pizza and Massaro was happy. Cueto then said he had to make a sacrifice to the Gods. Matanza came out. Massaro did comedy for a minute before being squashed with the tour of the islands. Matanza sacrificed both Massaro and the pizza delivery guy. Antonio Cueto announced there would be a six-man match with the three winners then going on to battle for the Gift of the Gods championshp. It wound up as Dark Cuerno (El Hijo del Fantasma on Impact and in AAA) teaming with Dragon Azteca Jr. (Rey Horus everywhere else) & Dezmond X (Dezmond Xavier) beating Ivelisse & Son of Havoc (Matt Cross) & The Mack (Willie Mack). Good short match ending when Cuerno pinned Havoc. Killshot was watching at ringside. Mil Muertes then attacked and laid out Azteca, X and Cuerno. Killshot tried to make the save but Muertes laid him out as well. After they were all laid out, they had the three-way for the title where Azteca Jr. beat Cuerno and X. This was said to be a **** match that will probably be even better than that by the time it airs on television with all th editing in place. There were a few minor hiccups between the outstanding stuff that will be edited out most likely andmake it better. X did a standing 619 off the ringpost to a standing Azteca outside the ring. He also did a swanton off a structure over the entrance way that was every bit of ten feet off the ground, mabye more. Tons of dives and crazy spots. Azteca pinned X to win it. The crowd was going crazy throughout the match. The second show opened with Azteca Jr. out for a promo. He talked about winning the Gift of the Gods title and would cash it in for a title match at Ultima Lucha 4 in the main event. But since he said it was a long way until then, he would issue an open challenge. Nobody came out, so this may have been taped for a later episode. Daga, who had Kobra Moon in his corner, beat P.J. Black. It went long and the crowd wasn’t into it early but they did get the crowd later. It’ll probably be fine edited down. Daga refused to release his submission move and the rest of the snake people attacked Black. Johnny Mundo and Jack Evans came out for the save with kendo stick shots. There were some brutal shots. Kobra Moon did a promo. She needed multiple takes and would have to start from the beginning each time. This wasn’t goodlive. The idea was to tell a long story to lead to a four on four mach next week. Mundo kept trying to lead her and it wasn’t working. The stipulation seemed to be that if Mundo’s Worldwide Underground team lost than Mundo would have to be Moon’s slave, but if Mundo’s team wins, than Moon will grant Mundo any wish he wants. Killshot & Havoc & Mack retained the trios titles over the Rabbit Tribe when Killshot pinned London. Lucha Underground booking is that every season there is a trios championship team and they don’t get along. And Killshot & Havoc & Mack are those guys this season. Mack had the match won but Killshot tagged himself in to score the pin, an they argued after the match. Main event was supposed t be a tag match where Cage and Pentagon Dark would each pick a partner. Cage picked Cuerno. Pentagon then said that he didn’t’ need a partner and would face both of them by himself. Then he said he would beat them both and take their mothers next. Pentagon got early offense but ended up being beaten down and pinned. Cage destroyed Pentagon with a concerto after. In actuality, Cage never hit Pentagon’s head so it was nothing to be worried about. The show ended with Pentagon laid out and Vampiro looking worried

The biggest angles were show on 3/3, most notably the wedding between Johnny Mundo and Taya, who are engaged in real life. The groomsmen were Joey Wrestling (Joey Mercury, who was Mundo’s first tag team partner in OVW and WWE as M&M) and P.J. Black. The bridesmaids were Cheerleader Melissa, using that name and not Mariposa under a mask, and Brenda, who is the women with Famous B. Famous B presided over the ceremony. Antonio Cueto had catered tacos. Matanza Cueto interrupted and head-butted Taya, who juiced and was thrown into the wedding cake and the table full of tacos was destroyed. Pentagon and Cage had a last man standing match for the Lucha Underground title. This was said to be a crazy match ending when Pentagon did a Canadian Destroyer off the ropes and put Cage through a table. The former Jack Swagger is now going by the name Jack Strong, and he beat Drago

Eli Everfly, a Southern California independent wrestler, debuted in a three-way against Mesias and Marty the Moth Martinez. Martinez won. Everfly won the crowd over big-time. Azteca retained his Gift of the Gods title over Killshot. Matanza beat Joey Wrestling and then offered him as a sacrifice. They turned out the lights and he was gone, although the live crowd would see him roll out of the ring and go to the back. Rick Knox, who suffered a broken clavicle last week, was working, mostly as a referee outside the ring for a few matches.

ROH: The first PPV show of the year is the 16th anniversary show on 3/9 from Sam’s Town in Las Vegas. It’s notable that the actual big show with the biggest match, the Cody vs. Kenny Omega show, is in New Orleans, which makes this PPV very much a secondary show. The lineup is Dalton Castle vs. Jay Lethal for the ROH title, Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley vs. Mark & Jay Briscoe for the ROH tag titles, Young Bucks & Adam Page vs. Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky for the six-man titles, Cody vs. Matt Taven, Punishment Martinez vs. Marty Scurll, Flip Gordon vs. Hiromu Takahashi and a pre-show match of Sumie Sakai vs. Hana Kimura in the Women of Honor tournament

The next U.K. tour will be three shows with a 5/24 show in Edinburgh, Scotland, 5/26 show in London at the Crystal Palace Sports Centre and 5/27 in Doncaster at the Doncaster Dome. There will be New Japan talent on the show

Tomohiro Ishii was added to the 4/7 show in New Orleans. That was pretty obvious since he’d already been announced for Revolution Pro, and other New Japan names announced for other events are all on the show, Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi

The Ringer this past week had a great article on Cody and trying to get out of his father’s shadow, as well as his leaving WWE. It talked extensively about the death of Dusty, which was never explained or gone into in the past. The story said that Cody and his mother, Michelle, said that Dusty died of septic shock. They said Dusty was diagnosed with Hepatitis C eight months before his death, but was responding well to treatment. His blood work was staying strong and he was still working until the day before he collapsed at the house. But that diagnosis didn’t explain his rapid weight loss or his fatigue. The family denied the stomach cancer story. The lower legs had turned black a long time earlier from fluid accumulation

The 5/13 show in Chicago sold about 1,000 tickets right out of the gate, which is great for ROH historically for the market, but well behind the pace of the prior show with Kenny Omega that pretty much sold out in few days

Shane Taylor signed a one-year contract

The only show of the weekend was the 3/3 show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan, which drew a sellout of 1,800 fans. This was great sign being able to sell out when it was not really a major show, since all the pushed matches are for Las Vegas and New Orleans. It was really just Bullet Club in an eight-man tag match with no big title matches or anything pushed specifically and the New York market usually needs something big or they won’t turn out in big numbers. This was the first live show of the new Honor Club streaming service. I signed up early in the day and let’s just say there were problems in signing in. When we tried to get help, several times, we never got a response. As far as the show itself went, it had to be rebooked on the fly because the flight from Los Angeles with Daniels, Kazarian and Scorpio Sky was canceled and they couldn’t get a new flight in. So The Kingdom was moved into the main event spot teaming with Shane Taylor against the Young Bucks & Page & Scurll. Under normal circumstances, the Young Bucks would have been on the same flight, but they were booked the night before for Northeast Wrestling so flew in earlier. In the dark match, One Mean Team, managed by Miss Jasmine, beat Eli Isom & Ryan Nova. Mark & Jay Briscoe won a three-way over The Dawgs (Rhett Titus & Will Ferrara) and Coast to Coast (LSG & Shaheem Ali) when Jay pinned Ferrara after the Jay driller. The Briscoes then vowed to become nine-time champions next week. Tenille Dashwood & Deonna Purrazzo beat Jenny Rose & Sumie Sakai in a good match but the crowd didn’t react to it. Dashwood pinned Sakai after the Spotlight, which is a running knee. Martinez pinned Soberano Jr. Between size and style issues, this was going to be a tough match and it was worse than that. Plus, with travel issues, Soberano just arrived in the building with Volador Jr. and Ultimo Guerrero five minutes before his match started and had to go right into the ring, so they hadn’t worked out a match, which almost everyone does now and in Lucha they’ve done forever. This led to lots of missed moves plus Martinez didn’t sell much since he was playing monster. I’m not sure why you bring in someone who is spectacular from Mexico to be squashed when most fans don’t know them and you could just use an area wrestler for that spot. Bad match with Martinez choke slamming Soberano from the apron into the ring. He power bombed Soberano on he apron after the match. Cody beat Gordon. The fans voted for the stipulation that if Gordon won, he would get a spot on the 9/1 Elite All In show. Good match. Cody had both Brandi and Bury the Bear in his corner. Cody hit Brandi with a disaster kick when Gordon moved. Cody still won with crossroads. Next Caprice Coleman did a talk show segment called Coleman’s Pulpit with Cabana. The Kingdom came out and run down SoCal Uncensored, who weren’t there. The fans chose the Best Friends (Chuckie T & Baretta) to team with Kenny King against Beer City Bruiser & Silas Young & Brian Milonas. But with Baretta out of action for the foreseeable future due to a torn triceps ad torn pectoral muscle, Chuckie noted he needed a new partner and called out Cheeseburger, who is always over as a cult thing. Milonas used a superplex and Bruiser followed with a splash off the top rope on Cheeseburger for the win. Castle & Volador Jr. beat Lethal & Ultimo Guerrero. This was said to be great. Volador pinned Guerrero to win it. Was told that the CMLL wrestlers were the stars of the match over the ROH champion and top contender. The main event was called Ultimate Mayhem, with the Young Bucks & Page & Scurll beating Taven & Vinny Marseglia & TK O’Ryan & Shane Taylor. Also said to be a great match. There was a lot of shtick but the crowd loved it and lots of crazy spots. The rules were like a War Games but with no cage. Taven and Scurll started. The Kingdom & Taylor team won the coin toss s Marseglia was next in. Matt was in after him. Matt did a spot where he did a flip dive off the stairs by entrance way and then ran to the ring and did a dive out of the ring on Marseglia. O’Ryan and Nick followed. Matt did a top rope moonsault and over rotated and landed on the back of his head, which did his neck no favors. He said he’s okay, but said he suffered a stringer. He worked the next night in Costa Rica, where they’d never been and they were treated like they were the Von Erichs in 1983 with women attacking them. Matt has been working with a bad back as well, as the spots where he sells the back, while planned into the matches, do stem from legit injuries. Matt put Marseglia through a table with an elbow off the top rope. Taylor came in and Page was the last person in. Once everyone was in, then there could be a winner. Page did a moonsault off the top to the floor. Page also did a balcony dive. Marseglia put Page through a table. The Young Bucks did a shooting star Indytaker and an Indytaker outside the ring. Nick came off the top rope with a 450 to the floor putting Taylor through a table. Page pinned O’Ryan with the rites of passage. After the match, they did a segment for Being the Elite with Cody coming out. They got the crowd to chant “F*** the Revival.” Scurll was supposed to sing, but said that he couldn’t because his heart was broken from all the fighting going on within Bullet Club. Scurll said announcer Ian Riccobani said he was a better singer than Scurll so challenged him to sing. Riccobani refused until Cabana threw him in the ring and he sang “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. He was good but the crowd booed him anyway. Cody then said that Bullet Club was fine. During the show Jonathan Gresham did a Q&A an noted he was injured in his match with Lethal on Final Battle but is now cleared

They announced a 6/2 return date for New York for TV tapings. The reaction is that it was an okay show with the last two matches being great.

IMPACT: Their 4/6 show at the Sugar Mill in New Orleans will now be promoted as Impact vs. Lucha Underground and air live on their Twitch Channel. Lucha Underground names announced are Pentagon, Fenix (they can use those names since Lucha Underground is part of the show), King Cuerno, Drago, Aerostar, Killshot (Shane Strickland), Matanza Cueto (Jeff Cobb), The Mack (Willie Mack) and Jack Evans along with Austin Aries, Alberto El Patron, Eli Drake, Moose, Eddie Edwards, LAX, OVER (Dave & Jake Crist & Sami Callihan), Trevor Lee, Brian Cage (who works for both groups), Taya (who works for both groups) and Scott Steiner

Edwards has signed a new contract

Dorian Roldan, who runs AAA, has told several people that he’s looking at buying Impact. We don’t know if that’s just talk or something serious

Eli Drake’s deal expires on 5/31. Alberto El Patron’s deal expires in April but they are looking at keeping him. They were talking with both over the weekend but neither was has been signed

They did shows on 3/3 in Windsor and 3/4 in Mississauga, ONT. The Windsor show, in conjunction with Border City Wrestling, sold out the St. Clair College Gym, and they announced they would be taping Impact on 6/1 and 6/2. This show was a One Night Only taped PPV. The 3/4 show was taped for the Impact Twitch Channel and should be on the channel by the end of the week

Allysin Kay (Sienna) can’t wrestle at this point due to blood clots in her lungs

The Eddie Edwards vs. Sami Callihan match with the spot that could have taken out Edwards’ eye aired on 3/1. The match itself was really good. As for the post match, what happened was that Callihan got a baseball bat and put a chair on Edwards and I guess the idea was to swing the bat like a sledgehammer and hit the chair. So he swung the bat hard and just missed the chair and the bat cracked Edwards right in the eye. The cut away immediately, so you couldn’t see the blood or anything and then the show ended. But it looked bad, really one of the worst things I’ve seen in a ring in a long time. Honestly, they are lucky it wasn’t worse as Edwards was just laying on his back and essentially took a full force baseball bat to his face and didn’t block any of it because of trust. It was a stunt that went terribly wrong. Really there are a ton of things done in the ring that could go wrong, but because they are pros, they usually don’t and this was the exception. It led to a Twitter issue with Jim Cornette, who saw the tape and wrote, “OK, I just saw this for the first time. Eddie Edwards should have beaten the shit out of this stupid f***–he set it up shoddy and was careless with his shitty swing and they shouldn’t have been doing it to begin with. Who the f*** trained Sami Callihan? I’m f***ing hot.” Callihan responded saying, “This hurts Jimmy.. I’ll just keep watching my bank account go up.” Kassius Ohno responded, saying, “Really? Really? There is zero correlation between how much money you make and what happened in that ring. You should be embarrassed. Ashamed.” Callihan then went on TMZ in his heel character and cutting a promo where he said, “So from the bottom of my heart, I have to tell each and every single one of you–I’m not sorry for a single thing that happened. Look at me and tell me I am not being serious. I do not feel bad.” He called himself the most dangerous man in pro wrestling and in that interview told Jim Cornette to kiss his ass. While they didn’t put it on television Impact did release footage and several angles of the bat shot so they are promoting it hard and will clearly turn it into an angle. They are looking for any attention and this is pro wrestling. This happened weeks ago and Edwards is okay. Callihan being in character on Twitter is no different from half the WWE performers and using social media to further wrestling angles is part of the future of wrestling. Really, even whatever TMZ is, them running an obvious storyline interview that a character is using is on TMZ for putting it out there, not the wrestling company or the guy doing it, particularly since all this furor and news came for something that actually happened seven weeks earlier

They are pushing the 3/8 show as a major event, called “Crossroads,” with Aries vs. Johnny Impact for the title, plus Taiji Ishimori vs. Matt Sydal for the X title, LAX vs. Trevor Lee & Caleb Konley for the tag titles, Allie vs. Laurel Van Ness for the Knockout title and OVER vs. Eddie Edwards & Bobby Lashley. It is weird watching the TV focused around so many guys who left the company in January

Debuting at the weekend shows was The Desi Hit Squad, the Indian team of Gursinder Singh & Rohit Raju. The Windsor One Night Only taping featuring Triple Crown champion Joe Doering pinning Moose after a lariat, X champion Matt Sydal won a three-way over Petey Williams and Trevor Lee when Williams hit Lee with the Canadian Destroyer but Sydal threw him out of the ring and got the pin, and the main event was Kongo Kong & RJ City over Alberto & Aries. Aries & Alberto didn’t get along and Alberto turned on him and laid him out, and Kong pinned Aries

The Mississauga show had Alberto pinning Moose after his double foot stomp; Allie pinned K.C. Spinelli in a knockouts title match and Aries kept his title in a three-way over Sydal and Kong when Sydal used the shooting star press on Kong but Aries threw Sydal out of the ring and hit a 450 on Kong for the pin.

UFC: Bruce Connal, who was one of the unsung heroes of the company as he lead producer of UFC programming dating back to UFC 17, passed away on 3/1 at the age of 61. The only thing reported was that he passed away after a brief illness. The entire production crew at the show on 3/3 was broken with him not being there. They went above and beyond paying tribute to him as they opened the show, even before the usual open, with Joe Rogan narrating a piece on him. Rogan was in tears and could barely get through it and Daniel Cormier had to console him. Rogan noted that the announcers and Connal were like a family and they had gone all over the world together. At the start of every broadcast, Connal would do the countdown of 10, 9, 8, etc. So for this show, they played a tape of Connal doing that on the air, and everyone was broken up noting it was the last countdown he would give. After the main event, Cormier, Rogan and Jon Anik all talked at length about what he meant to them. It was way above and beyond what you would expect in that situation, although UFC did do similar, not quiet as elaborate but a ton when Adam Geller passed away. Connal was one of the first producers at ESPN dating back to 1979 and produced a ton of different live sports. ESPN, Bellator and the New York Rangers broadcast teams all paid tribute to him over the weekend. The Bellator thing was classy since he was a UFC fixture, but Mike Goldberg, the lead Bellator announcer, worked with him for two decades and was also very much broken up when having to give the news of his death as the two were close personal friends. In addition, two of his children worked on production for Bellator. Connal started with UFC on May 15, 1998, so, with Goldberg and Joe Silva gone and John McCarthy no longer refereeing, he went back further with UFC than anyone in the company.

Conor McGregor recently finalized a lucrative deal with Burger King, and his first TV commercial was released this past week for the new Spicy Crispy Chicken sandwich. The tag line at the end of the commercial is McGregor noting that they have just put Conor Jr. through college

.Dana White confirmed that McGregor did call him about fighting on the 3/3 show, but said it made no sense. He said that they had already signed Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega to a fight, and McGregor wanted to fight Edgar. He said it wasn’t in the weight class. Edgar said McGregor’s offer was to fight to create a new 165 pound championship. One UFC source confirmed Edgar’s story saying McGregor was looking for a legacy of being the first person to hold championships in three divisions, but wasn’t looking at going against Tyron Woodley, the established champion at 170. About the worst thing UFC could have done at this point was create a 165 pound title belt for McGregor and put Edgar, who had been fighting at 145 and was training for a fight at that weight, into the fight. White said it was 24 days before the fight. But it is notable that they didn’t try and negotiate the deal even with McGregor being such a major draw

Luke Rockhold has signed an endorsement deal to be one of the faces of Ralph Lauren cologne. He will be he face of their Polo Blue fragrance. There is some legit talk of Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping in what would be Bisping’s retirement fight going on. Bisping hasn’t accepted the fight but Rockhold has talked about it and those close to the situation say it is a possibility

Georges St-Pierre was on the MMA Hour this past week and said that he will be fine if the Michael Bisping fight is the last one of his career. He said he’d be only interested in a fight that would elevate him or put him in a situation where he has a lot to gain. He said he is still battling ulcerative colitis and is right now hovering between 180 and 185 pounds. He said that he could cut to lightweight or fight at welterweight, but seemed to rule out middleweight. He said he’s not interested in fighting Nate Diaz. He said that beating Diaz doesn’t do anything for his legacy, but if he loses, it will hurt his legacy. He said in the past he’s been interested in facing Tyron Woodley, but he didn’t seem that interested in it. He said Woodley is a great champion but his fights don’t make history and he felt he against Woodley isn’t a special fight. He said it makes no sense to face Nick Diaz since he’s only fought once in the last five year and lost that fight. He said it’s a pain in the ass dealing with Nick and he has nothing to gain, having already beaten him, and he felt it would be stupid for him to fight him. He said if Diaz returned to fighting and did something great, then it would make sense. He said McGregor is the fight where he’d make the most money, but he doesn’t think beating McGregor helps his legacy either. He said if he does come back it’s for legacy more than money. “Money, yes, it’s good, but if I come back, it would be more for a legacy match.” Regarding Ben Askren, GSP said he can’t understand why he’s not in UFC. Askren himself said he’s retired from fighting although has made it clear he’d come back if he was offered a shot at the UFC title or a chance to fight a major name like GSP. GSP said he’d like Askren to have more exposure to the public so his name would mean more, noting he is unbeaten but fighting a guy who is dangerous but that nobody knows or cares about, it’s sad, but that’s the reality and he would want people to be aware of who he is, for him to fight some in UFC first. He said Askren is not a fight that interests him now because nobody knows who Askren is. Really, all of this sounds like GSP isn’t that interested in fighting right now

There is no UFC show this weekend. The next show will be the Fight Pass show on 3/17 from London headlined by Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Volkov and Jimi Manuwa vs. Jan Blachowicz

Werdum told MMA Fighting that he had a meeting scheduled with WWE on 3/8 and wants to work both WWE and UFC at the same time. This doesn’t make sense given Werdum, who is 40, would have to start from scratch. In addition, those in WWE claim there is nothing to that story, and there isn’t. In reality, Werdum was talking about doing pro wrestling in Mexico and got confused thinking all wrestling was WWE. “I think that both (at the same time) is doable. You can do WWE, if I had the opportunity, I’d fight there, no problem. It’s financially great. Fight at WWE, a spectacle that is fun to do, I’d definitely do it. I have a meeting Thursday about it, doing both.” Werdum said that while he was working on a remake of the movie “Kickboxer,” in 2016, he made the connection with Rob Hickman, the producer, and that Hickman set up a meeting with him and WWE (although it wasn’t WWE).

Alistair Overeem vs. Curtis Blaydes is official for the 6/9 show at the United Center in Chicago

Cynthia Cavillo has accepted a six-month suspension for marijuana above the allowable limit of 180 ng/mL (this would be on the day of the fight and that’s a very high threshold) from her fight on 12/30 in Las Vegas. She will be eligible to fight on 7/1

Pay records from the 2/24 show in Orlando were: Manny Bermudez ($20,000); Albert Morales ($15,000); Alex Perez ($21,600–he forfeited $2,400, which was 20 percent of his $12,000 guarantee, for missing weight to opponent Eric Shelton); Eric Shelton ($14,400); Rani Yahya ($92,000); Russell Doane ($22,000); Sam Alvey ($92,000); Marcin Parchnio ($25,000); Alan Jouban ($130,000); Ben Saunders ($73,000); Angela Hill ($42,000); Maryna Moroz ($23,000); Brian Kelleher ($40,000); Renan Barao ($53,000); Max Griffin ($24,000); Mike Perry ($40,000); Ilir Latifi ($116,000); Ovince Saint Preux ($83,000); Jessica Andrade ($96,000); Tecia Torres ($36,000); Jeremy Stephens ($176,000); Josh Emmett ($45,000). These figures include the $50,000 performance bonuses for Jouban vs. Sanders for fight of the night and to Stephens and Latifi

Sage Northcutt said he would be moving to 170 pounds from 155

Azzuna Anywanwu has accepted a one-year suspension after testing positive for Furosemide, a diuretic, on 10/18 in an out of competition test. His suspension will expires on October 17, 2018

New fights added to the 4/21 show in Atlantic City, headlined by Edson Barboza vs. Kevin Lee, are Corey Anderson vs. Patrick Cummins, David Branch vs. Thiago Santos, Ryan LaFlare vs. Alex Garcia, Magomed Bibulatov vs. Ulka Sasaki and Keita Nakamura vs. Tony Martin

Devin Clark vs. Mike Rodriguez, the latter making his UFC debut coming off a win during the Dana White’s Contender Series, has been added for the 4/7 show in Las Vegas. Also added to that show is Zabit Magomedshapirov vs. Kyle Bochniak. Magomedshapirov comes into the fight with a ten-fight winning streak.

BELLATOR: Bellator announced the signings of both Mirko Cro Cop, 43, and Jon Fitch, 40, this past week. This is feeling way too much like TNA. It’s okay to sign one or two legends from the past and they got great ratings out of Kimbo Slice, Royce, Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz the first time out. But nostalgia has a short shelf-life and this is starting to feel like when K-1 got all that buzz and ratings out of Bob Sapp, and the next thing you know, they started bringing in all kinds of giants and freaks and eventually it wore out

. Cro Cop, who first said he was too old to fight in a fight in London in 2007, is coming out of yet another retirement to face Roy Nelson on Bellator 200,on 5/25 at the SSE Wembley Arena , a show that will air on several hours tape delay and also has Rafael Carvalho vs. Gegard Mousasi for the middleweight title, Phil Davis vs. Linton Vassell and Michael Venom Page vs. David Rickels

The Cro Cop situation is tricky because when he was in UFC, he admitted using HGH when he was given a surprise test, and claimed he was using it because his shoulder was so bad he was using it for healing. Realizing the situation, he the abruptly announced his retirement from the sport in November 2015, right before it came out that he was being suspended for two years for usage of HGH. The thing kind of kept quiet was that when he was tested, he didn’t fail a test for HGH, which is difficult to impossible to test for even though the people who administer tests will tell you otherwise. After retiring, he asked for his release, and then signed to fight in Japan, where MMA isn’t regulated. The two years are up, but he really never served his suspension time. But he was never suspended by an athletic commission either

Fitch signed a contract here after leaving PFL and debuts on the 6/12 show in San Jose against Paul Daley. Fitch, who is 40, has won his last four fights and was the welterweight champion of WSOF, but all those titles were vacated when WSOF folded and PFL took its place

There’s also at least talk of trying to do a show at Arena de Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil later this year with Rampage Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva. That’s the same outdoor stadium that drew 45,207 for the UFC show on May 14, 2016 with Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic

They had a show on 3/2 in Thackerville, OK headlined by Darrion Caldwell (12-1) retaining the bantamweight title beating Leandro Higo (18-4) with a guillotine in 2:36. This was the case of a former college wrestler beating a BJJ ace with a submission. Joe Taimanglo (24-8) beat 41-year-old Joe Warren (15-7) via split decision on scores of 30-27, 28-29 and 30-27. Taimanglo had the better of the stand-up. Warren got several takedowns early and scored a third round knockdown but Taimanglo won the rest of the round and had a near submission. Kristina Williams (2-0), who was brought in to be the victim for boxing champ Heather Hardy, and then beat her, won her second in a row over Emily Ducote (6-4) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 27-30 and 29-28. The opener had some of the most one-sided scoring ever in a TV fight as Juan Archuleta (19-1) beat William Joplin (17-15) on scores of 30-26, 30-24 and 30-23, meaning we had a rare 10-7 round and another judge went with three straight 10-8s

The next show is 4/6 from Budapest, Hungary with James Gallagher vs. Adam Borics as the main event. They’ll be doing both an MMA show and taping a kickboxing show for Paramount that night.

OTHER MMA: Damian Janikowski, a bronze medalist in wrestling in the 2012 Olympics for Poland, will have his first main event for KSW on 4/14 in Wroclaw, Poland, his home. Janikowski, who the promotion is trying to push as its one of its top native stars, will face former BAMMA middleweight champion Yannick Bahati (8-3). KSW when it comes to promotion of fights, drawing power and live show production is the most underrated company of its type in the world. For promotion of fights and videos, it is No. 1. The live show production, it would be behind only Rizin or WrestleMania (but well ahead of any other WWE event).

WWE: The Sporting News ran a story regarding Raw being moved to the FOX Network after Erik Shanks, Jacob Ullman and Colin Cowherd were at ringside at the Smackdown tapings in Los Angeles. Cowherd, who for years has ripped wrestling and wrestling fans, did an about-face this past week and even teased that WWE would be “coming to a network near you.” What was notable is that the story ran a quote from an unnamed source saying FOX was willing to pass on UFC to get WWE, which is different from prior stories that had FOX interested in WWE if they lost UFC. But perhaps things have changed, with UFC’s ratings declining this past year and WWE’s staying steady. And with FOX selling its studios and getting a ton of cash, it is not inconceivable they could take both, since UFC is usually Saturday and WWE television is Monday and Tuesday. The most intriguing things are that if Raw moves to FOX, it would have to be cut to two hours, but it’s audience would like rise. Right now USA Network is in 91,465,000 homes. FOX is probably in closer to 115 million, so in theory, if Raw were to average three million viewers on USA, it would increase to 3.77 million just for the added penetration, but there would also be a second increase because far more people watch FOX than USA. So it should get numbers well over 4 million, perhaps significantly more. On the flip side, if Smackdown is on FS 1 instead of USA, the drop in homes should decrease the audience 8.4 percent, plus there would be the added drop of moving to a station with a lower usual viewership, a 2.5 million would probably drop to closer to 2 million. Still, if, and that’s a big if, Raw does end up on FOX, that increase is far bigger than whatever decrease Smackdown should end up with. But if FOX wants both for FS 1, that becomes a problem because you’re looking at double-digit audience drops for both shows. Plus, FS 1, being a sports channel, will have issues if there are major sports events on Monday or Tuesday, such as key playoff games, in leagues far bigger than WWE. Another plus for FS 1 is that NXT could not draw a number strong enough for USA most likely, but as a weekly show, it definitely could draw a number strong enough for FS 1. So that could add to FS 1's overall rating, something that is key to the value of having WWE and meaning they could pay more for that type of programming or other shoulder programming like they do with UFC

Joe Marchese, the ad sales chief at Fox announced at a private industry event their plans to change the philosophy of advertising, and cut it down to two minutes per hour (network is usually 13 minutes and cable is usually 16 minutes) as a way to battle Netflix and Amazon which are ad free

All the talk about the FOX interest, which has been out there for a while but gained steam after the Smackdown show and the execs at ringside, has led to the stock increasing to $38.41 per share on 3/6. It’s the highest the stock has been since it hitting $42 as a gimmick on the first day the stock was traded. The company’s market value is now $2.963 billion

Forbes its annual listings of the richest men in the world has Vince McMahon at No. 1,394 and worth $1.7 billion. Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who sold UFC, were worth $2.2 billion each. Donald Trump was listed at $3.1 billion. Mark Cuban is listed at $3.7 billion

WWE announced Rousey would be appearing on every Raw between now and WrestleMania. Really, given who she’s working with and she’s been fine in her role as well, the real issue is more what to do with her after Mania. She has to be in a major storyline, probably with Stephanie, but the question becomes the matches. In many ways this is similar to Bill Goldberg and his booking, which I consider in hindsight a big success. But Goldberg only did a few matches and he was getting booed some after a few months. Not that Rousey getting booed some but still coming across as a major star, like Goldberg did, is a bad thing, because it’s not. But Goldberg always had a short shelf life. With Rousey, it’s a long-term deal which gets tricky in time on how to keep her special

Some numbers regarding WWE top executive earnings. In 2017, Vince McMahon earned $1.4 million in straight salary, George Barrios earned $783,510, Michelle Wilson earned $791,044, Paul Levesque earned $650,000 and Kevin Dunn earned $909,560. In 2018 the numbers will be McMahon as CEO and Chairman of the Board at $1.4 million, Barrios and Wilson as Co-Presidents at $870,000, Levesque and EVP of Talent, Live Events and Creative at $684,000 and Dunn as EVP of Production at $925,000. McMahon’s actual total pay for 2017 including stock awards, incentive plan compensation was $3,087,537. Barrios was $1,943,808, way down from the $4 million plus the prior two years. Wilson was $1,962,657, also down from $4 million plus the prior two years. Levesque was $3,223,716, which also includes $1,493,640 as talent for his television appearances and for wrestling. Dunn was $2,306,769, also down from over $4 million the two prior years. Stephanie McMahon, between her job as Chief Brand Officer and her role as talent, earned $2.2 million last year while Shane McMahon earned $1.3 million, which was purely as talent. Stephanie McMahon’s personal stock is worth about $73.5 million. Vince McMahon’s personal stock is worth about $1.223 billion. Shane McMahon has no significant personal stock in the company as he sold most of his stock years ago. Linda McMahon’s stock is worth about $2.15 million

Vince McMahon met on 2/28 with Alberto El Patron according to PW Insider at the company offices in Stamford, CT. As noted, his Impact contract is expiring next month and they were negotiating a deal. He has publicly said that wanted to do a farewell tour type of thing with WWE. While he badmouthed HHH like crazy after leaving the last time (Alberto was always considered a Vince guy, but not a HHH guy), he did apologize to HHH several months back to open the door for a return. He is headlining the next Impact PPV on 4/22, challenging Austin Aries for the Impact title. Another person close to the situation told us that while Alberto does want to return to WWE, they denied there being a direct meeting. Alberto worked on 3/1 in Belfast for 5 Star Wrestling and then did weekend shows with Impact, where they were trying to negotiate signing him to a new deal

Ric Flair will make his big screen acting debut at the age of 69, in the comedy-drama “Uncle Steamroller & Champion Rabbit,” a pro wrestling movie. It’s about an Iraqi war veteran who chases the world heavyweight championship while being managed by a failed motivational speaker. Flair will play the President of the World Wrestling Union, the promotion in the movie. Flair and fiancé Wendy Barlow are both listed as Executive Producers

WWE also inked a deal with L’Equipe, France’s top sports channel to start airing a one-hour version of Raw on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and a Saturday night replay

Jim Ross underwent eye surgery on 3/5. Ross said that the surgery was successful but was, after surgery, unable to see out of his right eye. Ross has had eye problems dating back a long time. He had scar tissue and a cataract removed from his right eye and in two weeks is having a second surgery to have a cataract removed from his left eye. He had done his last set of voiceoves for New Japan on 2/28, doing about a month’s worth of shows. Ross also said he would be announcing a new podcast home for his Ross Report show imminently. Ross will be doing a talk show on4/6 at 10 a.m at the Hilton Garden Inn at the New Orleans Airport. Ross’ show will go head-to-head with our show at 9:30 a.m. on 4/6 at the Royal St. Charles Hotel (we hadn’t pushed it because it sold out quickly)

Hillbilly Jim (James Morris, 65) was announced on 3/5 as the newest member of the WWE Hall of Fame. This was not a name I’d heard from any prior lists so it may have been a late decision. Morris is claimed to have started pro wrestling in 1975, but a guy that size, as he was 6-foot-5 and around 300 pounds, would have been a thing immediately in those days. When he debuted in Tennessee as the giant biker Harley Davidson, who was super green, who beat up both members of the Fabulous Ones tag team in a TV angle in late 1983, there was a big deal about who this guy was. He had wrestled for about a week or two earlier with Stampede Wrestling as Jim Morris, which was the first records of any actual major league matches we have for him. He spent about six months working in Tennessee, mostly as part of a tag team with Dirty Rhodes (Roger Smith copying Dusty Rhodes and billed as his cousin). They worked mostly undercard matches against Koko Ware & Norvell Austin and The Moondogs. He then signed with WWF doing the gimmick of being a giant hillbilly fan in the front row at all the TV tapings. He was always shown and talked about on every television show for months, until finally both Hulk Hogan and a heel Roddy Piper wanted to train him to be a pro wrestler. He chose Hogan and was started wrestling as a babyface in 1985. Very early on, he tore up his knee badly when, as a second for Hogan in a Hogan vs. Brutus Beefcake match, he was chasing manager Johnny V (Johnny Valiant/Tom Sullivan) around the ring in San Diego, slipped on a wet spot, and needed surgery. His being unable to wrestle led to the introduction of a number of family members including Uncle Elmer (Stan Frazier, who had wrestled for years in Tennessee and legitimately got married once on an NBC Saturday Night’s Main Event special), Cousin Junior (Lanny Kean) and Cousin Luke (Gene Pettit, who had worked as Gene Lewis, the younger brother of Dale Lewis). The Hillbilly tag teams were usually used low on the cards in non-serious matches. They mostly danced around, with the biggest pops coming for their entrance to the song,“Don’t Go Messing With A Country Boy,” song which was one of the classic ring entrance music of the era. He never got a serious push after the first run and wrestled in undercards through 1990. He was also a character in the CBS Saturday morning cartoon series “Hulk Hogan’s Rock’n’ Wrestling,” which aired during the 1985-86 television season, as one of 16 pro wrestling stars who were characters on the show. He was the only character from that show not already in the WWE Hall of Fame. He worked as a television announcer, and was brought back in 1996 to be the babyface manager of The Godwinns tag team, which was an attempt to reprise the Hillbilly tag team gimmick. That role was dropped when the Godwinns turned heel. After retiring, he worked in public relations for Coliseum video, promoting WWE videotapes from 1990 to 2001. He later did a radio show called “Hillbily Jim’s Moonshine Matinee” on Sirius where he played country music and told WWE stories, and was brought back for the filming of the Legends House show. While he only had a short run on top with Hogan (and later, when John Studd quit the promotion they used him to fill dates for Studd in a main event program against a heel Andre the Giant), he was a memorable character during that period.

They pushed in Indianapolis on 3/4 that it was Gargano’s last match in NXT. Given the match that sounds the biggest for NXT right now is Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa, one would think that would be on the New Orleans Takeover show. Gargano was still being advertised for an NXT show in late April, although the advertising people are often kept out of the loop, as silly as that sounds. Plus, he did a farewell promo at the end of the Indianapolis show and was given a win over Almas with the Gargano escape. Gargano said he didn’t know where he was going next but said that in his heart, NXT was the main roster. The NXT tour of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana was the best in a long time with sellouts every night. Royal Oak, MI, outside of Detroit, sold out in advance and Indianapolis was a small venue. All the shows were pushed around Gargano & LeRae vs. Almas & Vega except the final night which was Gargano vs. Almas, but the women got involved. That is a super hot program that they fell into but it appears because of long-term plans, they are probably done with it

Rousey and her mother, Ann Maria DeMars, were both honored on 3/3 in the International Sports Hall of Fame in Columbus, OH

. Gerald Brisco was also honored on 3/3, being put into the Florida Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. This was more for his work outside the mats as this is the amateur wrestling Hall of Fame and while Gerald wrestled Division I, it was at Oklahoma State (and left school to be a pro wrestler), and he didn’t end up in Florida until the early 70s after his brother Jack had moved there

There are plans now to strengthen 205 Live and once again try touring with it, perhaps around May or June for another set of experimental tapings. Actually the time frame was listed as sometime between May and September. I keep hearing people say Ricochet and Lio Rush are being groomed for 205 Live sooner than later. Even through Rush isn’t getting any kind of a push in NXT, there are people there who are very high on his ability to be a star, well, as much as they’ll let someone that size be. I think Ricochet in 205 Live, even though he could be the face and top star of the brand, is a bad idea because that’s a limiting stigma. Before the big star was Enzo, but now they with augmentation from outside 205 Live talent similar to how the first two shows ended up. They are also planning on doing a cruiserweight tag team championship to be introduced in the spring or summer. Right now there’s more value in a women’s tag title, but the problem is, you’d have to have two of them

AXS, the ticket outlet that is selling tickets to the show, wrote that WWE will be doing a second War Games match on 11/17, which will be the day before Survivor Series on the Takeover show in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. WWE has said that story is not accurate and AXS would be changing the story. One person noted that because of a two-ring set-up and tickets already being on sale, that AXS would know right now because of a different ringside configuration, whether or not there would be War Games on that date. But WWE didn’t want the information out for several months. But if there’s not a War Games, that is a weird mistake to make from the ticket outlet. That said, when it comes to stories like this involving live events, when WWE is correcting them, in the vast majority of cases the WWE story turns out to be the correct one in the end

Usually at this time of the year almost all the Raw shows will sell out. As things look right now, the 3/12 show in Detroit, one of the company’s historically best markets, is looking like 10,000 to 11,000. The 3/19 show in Dallas is expected to sell out with 14,000, even though they are doing both Raw and Smackdown that week in the same building. The 3/26 Raw in Cleveland is unlikely to sell out. That’s notable because one week earlier the NCAA tournament in the same building is expected to sell out six shows in three days. The Raw before Mania on 4/2 in Atlanta is too soon to call

The R&B sister duo of Chloe x Halle will be singing “America the Beautiful” at WrestleMania this year

A correction from last week’s issue on the 2/27 Smackdown dark match in Los Angeles with Orton vs. Mahal, the match actually went ten seconds with an RKO finish, not five minutes. The five minutes included Mahal’s promo

Brian Flinn was promoted from his job as Executive Vice President of Marketing & Communications to Chief Marketing and Communications Officer. He will now oversee all marketing and corporate communication functions including global marketing, WWE network marketing, creative services, special events, publicity, medal relations and corporate communications and report directly to Co-President Michelle Wilson. He has been with WWE since 2012

Don’t expect anything with Walter right now. While interest is definitely there, the description from the WWE side is it wasn’t a direct offer made for right now and that the timing for him to come in has to be right. They feel that there will come a time when they will be needing a big man of his ability, but unless they have direct plans for him, there’s no point in him coming in and getting lost in the system, plus, he’s made it clear that he’s set on continuing what he’s doing

WWE announced they would be taping both Raw and Smackdown in Montreal on 4/30 and 5/1. This has never been done in that market before. The last Raw in Montreal was in 2015 with the Cena vs. Zayn match where Zayn’s shoulder popped out before the match started. The last time Smackdown was in Montreal was 2006

The updated lineup for the 3/16 show in Madison Square Garden is Lesnar vs. Strowman vs. Kane for the Universal title, Reigns & Rollins & Balor vs. Miz & Axel & Dallas, Cena & Nikki Bella vs. Elias & Bayley (notable given Nikki Bella hasn’t been on TV in recent memory and we only have one Raw show for Bayley to turn before this although they are at least in a storyline that could pull the trigger on it next week), Styles & Nakamura vs. Owens & Zayn, Sheamus & Cesaro defending the tag titles against New Day from Smackdown and O’Neil & Apollo and Matt Hardy vs. Wyatt. Rousey hasn’t been announced for the show but that is under consideration

Something happened over the weekend involving Dwayne Johnson’s two-year-old daughter Jasmine. He didn’t specify what happened, just saying, “Things got a lil’ hairy this weekend. Thank you LAFD first responders and UCLA medical team. We’re grateful to you and if you ever need anything, I got your back.” He said to any parents, “I would never want this to happen to any of you guys out there.” Johnson had to call 911 on Saturday and he and his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian, were in the emergency room all night. He also praised the 911 operator for being calm and walking him through what he needed to do

One of the reasons people left in droves during the Alexander vs. TJP match in Los Angeles during 205 Live after Smackdown ended last week is because tickets for Survivor Series weekend were put on sale after the show was over and people left to get in line. But a lot of people also left to go home as the Los Angeles crowd is an early leaving crowd to beat the traffic out. In Green Bay a lot of people left as well, which was visible while watching the show

Renee Young missed TV this weekend due to being sick, but is hopeful of returning at Fast Lane

Ziggler was on Isaac Wenzel’s “All Things Wrestling Radio” show regarding his current angle: “I will say that I really begged and pleaded for a couple months off the television show, because no matter how good I am or what I’m up to, it seems that 99 times out of 100, I would lose. I didn’t think that I deserved to be on the TV show if I was someone that was losing every night, so I asked to be taken off. I was hoping for maybe six months or a year, and it ended up being four weeks.

Drew McIntyre was back training in Orlando this past week, which was about four weeks ahead of schedule after surgery to repair a torn biceps. He is just about ready to return

WWE ratings in the U.K. for 2/19 to 2/25 were: Live Raw had 34,000 viewers, a Raw replay at 9 p.m. Tuesday had 15,000, Live Smackdown had 15,000, a Wednesday at 10 p.m. showing of Smackdown had 16,000 and a Thursday at midnight showing of Raw had 13,000

The top ten most watched shows of the past week on WWE Network were: 1. Elimination Chamber; 2. Mixed Match Challenge week seven; 3. NXT on 2/28; 4. Ride Along with Miz, Maryse, Axel, Dallas and Revival (in the plumb spot right after Raw on 3/5); 5. Royal Rumble; 6. 205 Live from 2/27; 7. Mixed Match Challenge week six; 8. WrestleMania 2017; 9. Ride Along with Anderson, Gallows, Balor and Elias; 10. Photo Shoot: Charlotte Flair

Notes from the 3/5 Raw. Really, the show was all about the first and last promo segment to build Mania’s top two matches. The first segment was a huge success, setting up the Rousey & Angle vs. Stephanie & HHH match. The final segment with Heyman felt weird having him do that long monologue three hours into the show. They drew 10,000 fans. In an interesting note, there was a snafu on all the streaming services that carry Raw, on FuboTV, SlingTV, Hulu Live TV and Pvue, where the Raw USA Network feed cut out in the middle of the Heyman interview, the “Unsolved” show they pushed last week on Smackdown with Josh Duhamel started playing for a few minutes. The glitch was corrected and they went back to the Heyman promo, still in progress, for the rest of the show. Main Event opened with Metalik & Kalisto over Daivari & Nese. Seems the cruiserweights have been taken off Raw since it’s been weeks since they’ve been on. Apollo pinned Hawkins. Raw opened with the big angle on the show to officially announce what at least at this point feels like the biggest match on the show. Angle came out, and he’s clearly getting in shape for a return, and said that HHH sucker punched him last week and he’s calling him out and he doesn’t care if he’s COO of the company. He told him to come out and face him like a man. Stephanie came out and said that HHH isn’t even here yet. Stephanie then said to Angle about how he has five kids including a one-year-old daughter. He noted that Angle may be an Olympic gold medalist and have all kinds of accolades but those things don’t pay his bills today, but being General Manager of Raw pays his bills. She told him to think about it. Then she said it’s not like HHH wasn’t provoked last week, because you almost single-handedly ruined the biggest contract signing in Raw history. HHH was just evening things up, and now that we’re even, let’s let it go and be good managers and put this all behind us. She told Angle not to let his ego get in the way. Rousey came out as a smiling babyface. She got a good reaction, not off the charts, but solid. They are doing all the tricks as they cut to find fans who were going crazy for her and in a 10,000 seat arena there were enough of them to where they could do close-ups and give you the idea she was even more over than she was. Stuff like this is the one thing WWE does better than anyone, which is crowd manipulation and using production to tell the story they want told. Everyone else just follows the action and tries to tell whatever story the action tells. She was shaking hands with fans all around ringside, and got in the ring, still smiling, and hugged Angle and shook Stephanie’s hand. Rousey said that she didn’t know the kind of people she was coming to work for but she said she’s dealt with bully bosses her whole career. Wow. I don’t think Dana White would have liked that scripted line. She said that her WWE contract allows her to choose her opponent at WrestleMania. After all these years they signed another person and gave them creative control. Stephanie said the contract states that it can be anyone but one of the champions and it has to be someone on the active roster. I almost thought she was going to say HHH, but she said Stephanie. Stephanie said that she wasn’t a member of the active roster. HHH then came out. Angle then noted that Stephanie said he wasn’t here. HHH said sheepishly, “Well I’m here.” Angle then said that Stephanie actually has a second contract as a WWE superstar, which, in fact, she does in real life. So Angle said that she would be facing Rousey at WrestleMania. Angle then said HHH also has a contract and he’s the General Manager, so he asked Rousey if it was okay to make it a mixed tag, saying that he told HHH after Survivor Series that if he laid his hands on him one more time, that would be it, and he did last week on Raw. Stephanie started yelling at Angle. She went to slap him but Rousey blocked the slap. HHH then went to sucker punch Angle, but he ducked it and came back. Angle got the ankle lock on him but HHH kicked Angle off. Stephanie blind sided Rousey, who went to a knee, but got right back up, while Stephanie ran off. HHH then set up Angle for the pedigree. The only problem here was the timing as Rousey needed to be selling when the set-up came, because since she wasn’t, she had to just stand there and do nothing. But Angle reversed into the ankle lock until Stephanie pulled him to safety. Rousey then grabbed Stephanie by the hair and pulled her in the ring and laid her out with a Samoan drop. The segment was great. It worked huge to the live crowd. Rousey got her name chanted and they in the end reacted to her like a big star. Asuka beat Jax in 11:05. The crowd was dead for this match. It was mostly Jax dominating agin. She used her power and got a near fall after a Samoan drop and did a press but missed a leg drop. Asuka got Jax in the armbar and Coachman said that Jax may be playing possum. You couldn’t have worse timing for such a remark. Asuka switched to a triangle. Jax power bombed her, but Asuka held on. Jax power bombed Asuka into the turnbuckles, but Asuka still hung onto the triangle. Jax picked her up and bounced her on the ropes and Asuka still held on. When Jax put Asuka on the ropes it should have been a rope break technically. But finally Jax tapped to the armbar. The story of the last minute or so worked out great even if the crowd wasn’t into most of the match, that clearly resonated. They kept the cameras on Jax to turn her face as she did the despondent look at doing your best and still losing. The people were clapping for her so it worked to turn her face, which was the goal. Sheamus & Cesaro beat The Revival in 9:27. The stips were if the Revival won, they would get a title shot. They did a spot where Dawson gave Cesaro a superplex and Wilder followed by a splash off the top for a near fall. For whatever reason, I don’t like guys kicking out of that for a regular match. They set up the shatter machine but Sheamus gave Dawson a brogue kick and Cesaro hit the neutralizer on Wilder for the pin. Sheamus & Cesaro then talked about how there are no teams around ready to face them for the title. Cena did an interview. He said that records are made to be broken, even when the record is something you hold near and dear to your heart. He said he was going to win his 17th world title. Cena said that the past few weeks he’s been criticized for holding people back. He said that he never holds anyone back. He said that people are going to say when he wins the title that he’s robbed Styles of his WrestleMania moment. But he said he’s encouraging Styles to have his WrestleMania moment. He said when he wins the six-way at Fast Lane, he wants Styles to take his rematch at WrestleMania and have it to be a three-way with Cena vs. Styles vs. Nakamura. Goldust came out and he wanted Cena at Mania. Goldust said that he’s never had the perfect ending to a story and sucker punched Cena. This led to a TV match which was said to be the first time the two had ever had a singles match. Cena won with the attitude adjustment in 3:49. Angle was backstage with Elias. Elias wanted Angle to cancel the symphony of destruction match with Strowman because music is a beautiful thing and he doesn’t want to see it ruined for violence. Angle said he’d consider it, and a second later, said it’s still on, but he was changing it to falls count anywhere. Bayley did an interview talking about Banks. Charly Caruso noted that Banks had attacked her twice first before she wouldn’t tag in last week. Bayley said that in the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber it was everyone for themselves, so she basically justified what Banks did. She was going to explain further when Absolution came out. Paige ran Bayley down. This led to a match where Bayley pinned Rose in 8:43. Bayley kept getting distracted by Deville, but Rose could never beat her. The finish saw Deville distract Bayley and Rose cradled her, but Bayley reversed into a gator roll for the pin. After the match, Deville & Rose were beating down Bayley until Banks ran in for the save. After Bayley & Banks ran off Deville & Rose, Banks went for a hug and Bayley shoved her and walked off. Banks looked sad. The funny part of all this is this seems like it’s building a Bayley turn, but Bayley got probably the biggest face reaction coming out this week that she has outside of California in a long time. And here, when Bayley refused the hug, shoved her and walked off, with Banks left in the ring with a sad face, the crowd seemed behind Bayley. Bliss, James and Jax were backstage. Bliss told James to leave. Bliss gave Jax this great mock pep talk. She acted sympathetic while saying it must be embarrassing to have given up in the match. Jax was in tears and Bliss said that even though you’re not in Mania this year you will be next year. She said how your entire life you were bullied and scorned because you were bigger than the other kids and even now at airports people stare at you. This segment seems to clearly lead to Bliss vs. Jax, the match they’ve put off all year. It’s going to be interesting since Bliss is supposed to be the heel and Jax is twice her size. Whether it works or not, this segment was excellent in its attempt to get to the planned direction. Elias came out and played the drums. He played some guitar. He’s coming off like a superstar when he talks and does the music, even if the in-ring as just adequate. He sang, and then ran away and jumped in his car and tried to speed off. Strowman picked up the back end of the car so it wouldn’t move. Then Elias ran out of the car int the arena. The bell rang and they started the match. Elias hit Strowman with a guitar to the back. Strowman was bleeding from the back. Strowman came back and was going to put Elias through a table but once again Elias raked his eyes. Strowman threw Elias around, broke the giant bass guitar over his back and broke the leg of a piano which he was underneath so the piano fell on Elias for the pin at 5:00. Graves was making all sorts of references to lines from Megadeth while commenting the match (whoever wrote the segment was clearly a Megadeth fan since Strowman’s promo had lines as well) and when it was over, Graves said that if he doesn’t get free Megadeth tickets after this, he never will. Wyatt pinned Rhyno with Sister Abigail in :47. Wyatt called out Matt Hardy. Matt Hardy talked about Ultimate Deletion and the great war, and said the match would be at the Hardy compound. They showed video of his property in Cameron, NC (that he wife shot a few days earlier). Next Miz was out for the Mizzie Awards. This segment was just bad. It went too long. Miz was doing mock awards to make fun of Rollins, Balor and Angle. Finally, several minutes too late, Rollins & Balor came out. Miz said that they don’t deserve a title match. He said even if Rollins went 65 minutes in the gauntlet, and even if he was great in the Chamber match, he still lost both. He told Balor that he only held the Universal title for one day. He said Balor keeps telling people how over he is but this isn’t Japan. The how over it is thing stemmed from Balor, a few months back when Vince pulled him from the Rumble match with Lesnar on the guise he wasn’t over enough (which was largely due to how he was booked), him posting a whole bunch of jokes saying he was over. He told Balor that to be over, you need more than a hand sign that isn’t even yours. Wow, that cut too close to home. It was a great line for a face to use on a heel, but not so much the other direction when the face is flat right now. Miz said that last week they had the advantage over him, so this week he wants to reverse things and challenged them to a two-on-three handicap match. They paused to wait for the crowd do “yes” chants, but they were light and not enough fans got the cue. Balor & Rollins beat Miz & Axel & Dallas in 11:01. The story here was problems with Balor and Rollins. Rollins did a tope on Dallas and Axel. He clotheslined Miz over the top and was about to do another dive, but Balor tagged himself in. Balor then did a flip dive on Dallas and Axel. Balor hit the Woo dropkick on Miz and went to the top for the coup de grace. But Rollins tagged himself in and hit the curb stomp on Miz for the pin. Both were mad at each other and then Angle came out and announced Miz wasn’t going to face either one, which Miz smiled about, and then, of course, said he’d face both of them. The final segment saw Heyman come out with the title belt. He did a total heel promo. He laid the belt down on the mat and said if Lesnar chooses to defend the title at SummerSlam, he’ll lay this belt down again and right next to it he’ll lay down the UFC heavyweight title. He said that the biggest win of Reigns’ career was when he beat Undertaker at last year’s Mania. He said that did anyone this whole year bring up that Undertaker only wrestled one match all year. This was meant to counter what Reigns said about Lesnar only showing up when he pleased. He said that if anyone made that statement about Undertaker only wrestling one match a year, it would be bullshit (using that word, which he never would have used without approval). He said next week’s he’s bringing out Lesnar. He then said, “Afa WrestleMania you can sika new title too challenge for,” with the references to Reigns’ uncle Afa and father Sika. He said last week Reigns called Lesnar a bitch, but this belt is Brock’s bitch and Reigns is eyeballing Lesnar’s bitch and you can’t have her. He said it wasn’t a belt, a strap or a prop, it’s a declarative statement that you are No. 1, better than everyone else in the world and the universe. He told Reigns that you don’t want to shoot on the mic with Paul Heyman and you don’t want to shoot in the ring with Brock Lesnar. Reigns came out and said that he said a lot of things last week about Lesnar, some of which were harsh and all of which were true. Things had gone back-and-forth during the week with the idea of keeping Reigns off the show, perhaps as a one-week suspension for “shooting” last week, but the decision was made that based on what happened last week that he should be on the show this week. Reigns said that what did Brock do, instead of coming here, he sent you for the rebuttal, so he really is a bitch. Reigns said all he was asking was for Lesnar to show up, and tell Lesnar not to come here and dress for a promo segment, but to come here dressed to fight. The segment went too long, as it ended 14 minutes after the hour, and it was too late in the show to do such a long monologue. The people were into Heyman early, but it long monologue talking segments in wrestling are tough under the best of circumstances, and far worse after 11 p.m., and coming so quickly after the Miz segment that also went too long. After Raw went off the air, they had a dark match where Reigns pinned Kane with a spear

Notes from the 3/6 TV tapings in Green Bay. There was a lot of good wrestling on the night, between strong 205 Live matches that the crowd didn’t care about, two good matches on Smackdown with Styles and Ziggler and a more entertaining than usual Mixed Match Challenge bout. This was the go-home for Fast Lane show so they filled out the card. The opening dark match saw Big E & Woods beat Benjamin & Gable. Big reaction seeing New Day open, said to be the second biggest of the night behind Styles. A 10:00 standard match ending when Woods pinned Gable after the double-team midnight hour. Smackdown opened with Charlotte out. Riott came out and put Charlotte over saying she was the first woman to win the NXT, Divas, Smackdown and Raw titles. Riott said that she formed the Riott Squad with one purpose, which was to destroy the myth of Charlotte. Riott’s promo was about how Charlotte was tall, athletic, blonde and got all the chances because her father was a two-time Hall of Famer. The verbiage was so fake, as was Charlotte’s response, which was that because of who her father was, she had to work harder, because good wasn’t good enough. Riott said Charlotte would end up as a bleached blonde failure with a famous last name. Morgan & Logan came in and they surrounded Charlotte. Roode then came out for his match. He didn’t do a save but I guess all the women just disappeared because that was all to that segment. Roode was at the announcers desk as Mahal pinned Orton in 10:01. This was match slow, and not in a good way. Orton threw Samil Singh in the air with no care and he crashed onto the table. Orton threw Mahal into Roode at the desk. Roode jumped on the apron. Mahal hit Orton with a knee to the back and Orton fell into Roode, knocking Roode off the apron. Mahal then used the Khallas for the pin. Mahal was bleeding from the mouth. Not sure what it was in the air in Green Bay because there were at least four cases of unplanned bleeding on this show. I guess it’s a sign the hitting is harder when so many guys are bleeding, but the idea should be to hit hard in safe places, and appear to hit hard in unsafe places by using sound effect tricks. Owens and Zayn were backstage. Owens brought up that Zayn said that if they were the final two in the six-way that Zayn would lay down for him so he could be the champion. Zayn said he meant it when he said it and he would do it. They hugged. Corbin did an interview saying he owed Cena because Cena cost him his Money in the Bank briefcase. Cena also did nothing for him in their singles rematch. Corbin said he’d beat Cena’s eyes closed so Cena couldn’t see him. Nakamura did an interview. It was brief. English & Rusev came out. English’s throat was hurt from Nakamura last week so he couldn’t sing. Rusev said it was like breaking the hands of Billy Joel, so he couldn’t play piano and now English can’t sing the Rusev Day song. Rusev challenged Nakamura to a match at Fast Lane. Nakamura then sang that Sunday would be Nakamura Day. This was more entertaining than it had any right to be because Rusev and Nakamura made all the corny lines work. Lynch beat Carmella with the disarmer in 5:13. Natalya and Naomi were backstage. They went back and forth basically with the idea nobody likes Natalya but her cats. It was another lame scripted segment with the idea of building Natalya & Carmella vs. Naomi & Lynch. This writing team clearly has a hard time scripting women to talk like real people. Styles did a promo. He said with six guys and not having to get pinned to lose his title that the odds are stacked against him. When he cut his promo, the fans yelled out “House that A.J. Styles built” with him. He said that sometimes he doesn’t always win, noting Cena beat him fair and square last week. They showed a taped Cena promo from Raw. Styles said he wanted to take the title to Mania. Ziggler came out and said that Styles was desperate. Styles said Ziggler had been there for 13 years and never reached his potential. Ziggler said it took Styles ten years to even get here. Ziggler talked about how he won the Money in the Bank match and cashed it in and how big it was, but the fans didn’t deserve that moment. He said how criminal it is that he has never said a singles match at Mania and told Styles to take his dream match and shove it. This led to Styles vs. Ziggler. They had a very good match. Good stuff from both guys including Ziggler catapulting Styles into the post. The match went 16:36 and ended when Owens and Zayn attacked both guys for a no contest. Styles and Ziggler came back and chased both from the ring. Shane came out, and there was no Bryan at the show nor was he referenced. He ordered a five-way with all four of those guys and Corbin. This was another good match. Styles was bleeding from the cheek under the right eye. It built well with all the big moves. My main take was how strong Corbin looked. His timing was on and all of his stuff looked good. In no way did he appear out of his league and he was in all guys who can work at a top level. The finish saw Zayn pinned Owens clean with the helluva kick in 14:36. So this was to show that Zayn really wasn’t going to lay down for Owens like he said. Zayn said after that he was the best WWE has, nobody comes close and he’s the most overlooked performer on Smackdown and just proved he was the best. Strowman & Bliss beat Jimmy Uso & Naomi in 10:34 of the mixed match challenge. They were again pushing the idea of a romance with Strowman & Bliss. Lots of sight gags with the two of them that worked. Bliss was doing the crazy woman thing at the start wanting to go after Naomi, but Strowman picked her up and held her with one arm. Bliss was on the top rope and Naomi gave her a step up enzuigiri and she flew out of the ring but Strowman caught her before she crashed on the floor. Later Naomi knocked her off the apron onto Strowman, who tried to catch her and fell down with Bliss landing on top of him. The idea is both were acting all awkward about her being in the position. The crowd reacted really big to that spot. Jimmy ran away from Strowman but Strowman caught him and they tried to put over how fast Strowman was that he could outrun Jimmy. The idea is Jimmy never wanted to tag in. Strowman then destroyed Jimmy outside the ring and powerslammed him through the announcers table. Naomi was distracted by this and Bliss cradled her for the pin. The audience was way up this week, as even though the show went on the air with 20,700 viewers, it was already at 60,900 when the bell rang to start the match and peaked for the finish at 88,400. People tuned out in droves after the match ended and they played interviews with Charlotte & Roode and Lana & Rusev, who meet next week. It ended at 49,400. The start of the match was up 42 percent from last week and the finish was up 44 percent, but the tune out was huge so the ending was only up 27 percent. 205 Live opened with Drew Gulak beating Mark Andrews in a tournament quarterfinal. Fans were leaving in droves during the 205 Live show even though the action was strong. Really, this was the best match of the night as far as technical wrestling went, but it’s the same story every week. Gulak used his wrestling and Andrews used escapes and high flying. Andrews, who was bleeding from the mouth early, did a moonsault block off the announcers table as well as a huracanrana off the middle rope taking Gulak off the apron with both crashing to the floor. Gulak tried a suplex and Andrews turned it into a stunner for a good near fall. The finish saw Gulak get his knees up when Andrews went for the shooting star press, and then won via dragon sleeper in 12:08. He refused to break the hold. Drake Maverick was pushing Hideo Itami & Akira Tozawa to form a tag team, perhaps getting ready for the creation of that championship. This was more a gag for Tozawa to say that if this doesn’t work’ “You’re fired.” It’s a gimmick he does where he thinks he’s Vince McMahon and tells everyone they’re fired and then gives a big smile. Itami & Alexander beat enhancement talent called Scott James (Ref Scott Armstrong’s real last name is James) & Nemeth Alexander in 2:54 when Tozawa pinned Alexander with a senton off the top rope. Roderick Strong and Cedric Alexander did promos for their semifinal next week, with Strong noting that he only needs one more win to get a singles match at WrestleMania. Mustafa Ali pinned Buddy Murphy in 11:00. Murphy was down to 197 pounds. For whatever reason, they always show him weighing in. He’s gone from about 220 down and is much more cut, although he looked better at 200-205 and how he’s getting too lean. Ali worked over the left arm after doing a 450 to the arm as it was draped over the rope. Murphy did a running flip dive. Ali was also bleeding from the mouth late in the match. Murphy went for a backslide but his bad arm went out and Ali reversed into a Casita for the pin. Nakamura beat Rusev via DQ in the dark match. It’s notable that Orton vs. Mahal and Nakamura vs. Rusev in dark matches both couldn’t keep the crowd the way Styles’ matches had been able to. However, of the fans who stayed, they were super into both men. English wasn’t able to talk on Smackdown because of vocal cord injuries, but magically healed and sang. The crowd had tons of “Rusev Day” chants. Nakamura sang as well. There were chants for Lana and Rusev called for Lana to come out, but she didn’t. Even though it was a dark match, they did a DQ finish in 5:00 when English ran in. Nakamura laid out English with a Kinshasa to end the show. Before the match started, Rusev brought in the camera guy who was shown during Smackdown slipping on the snow and taking a bump in front of the Vince Lombardi statue and told the fans that this was his day and the fans chanted “Brandon (or whatever his name was) Day.

Notes from the 2/28 NXT TV show. The show opened with a great video package on the Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade Cien Almas match from the week before. It was really well done as the closing shot was of Tomasso Ciampa after having ended Gargano’s career. It was really effective in getting Ciampa over as a main event heel when he’s ready to return. Velveteen Dream pinned Tyler Bate in 10:04. Bate’s opening European style moving in and out of holds was great. The finish saw Dream trip Bate, who ended up crotchd on the top ropes and Dream delivered the elbow off the top rope, the purple rainmaker, for the pin. Match was good, but it really peaked in the first minute. It speaks volumes for how great Aleister Black really is, because Dream is still pretty green but with Black he looked like he was a major promotion main eventer. They pushed in commentary after that Bate has a losing streak. That’s usually a bad idea but they did the same with Gargano, and then when Sullivan was injured, Gargano was put in his spot off the losing streak with no transition or angle out except winning, and ended up as the hottest babyface NXT has had since the big names left. Paul Ellering did an interview with the AOP, pushing winning the Dusty tournament. They did another feature on Gargano. This was also well done. William Regal noted that Gargano would continue to do live events but would be finishing up in a few weeks. Regal reluctantly and sadly signed his termination papers. Referee Drake Weurtz came out and said to Gargano that he blew the call of the match and wanted to say he was sorry. Gargano shook his hand and didn’t blame him. Adam Cole wrestled Cezar Bononi next. Cole brought up Bononi winning NXT Future Star of the Year. That’s the thing about Internet polls is that a group can vote a million times and heavily influence it. Bononi, aside from one win over Almas that was presented as a fluke, hasn’t been pushed at all. Cole told the fans to give Bononi a round of applause for winning. A few did but most didn’t. He then offered Bononi a spot in the Undisputed Era. Kyle O’Reilly threw him a T-shirt. Fans were chanting “Do it,” to accept it. The fans didn’t get their cue they were supposed to be telling him not to do it. So that was funny. Cole then sucker punched him and Bononi was thinking. Cole won quickly with a shining wizard to the back of the head in 2:50. Cole put the boots to him after the match. They did a video package to build the Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane main event. The Street Profits did a video saying they were going to win the Dusty tournament. Baszler beat Sane in 6:53. This was real good. Sane did good stuff including a spear and a great spinning backfist. Baszler used a high kick and won with a superplex into a choke. Baszler then called out Moon. She said Moon was a coward and won’t get in the ring with her because if Moon gives her another shot, she’s either leaving with the title or leaving with a limb. The show ended with Vega and Almas out for an interview. She talked about how Almas went 4-0 over Gargano and in baseball, that’s considered a clean sweep. Fans started chanting “clean sweep.” They love Gargano but chanted the term mocking him. To her credit Vega came across like a major superstar here. Almas made fun of Gargano always losing and called him Johnny Jobless. Black came out first to issue a challenge, but Killian Dain attacked Black. The two of them went at it while Vega started laughing about them fighting each other. Dain laid out Balck with the divide which is he running crossbody block that Wyatt does

Last week’s NXT shows in Peterborough and Barrie which were reported here as 400 and 300 respectively were actually more than 700 paid each night

The first night of the NXT tour was 3/1 in Columbus, OH before a packed house of 1,000 fans. This was in conjunction with the Arnold Classic weekend so it’s become a tradition to run NXT in the city. Street Profits beat Adrian Jaoude & Cezar Bononi with Ford winning with a splash off the top rope. Dakota Kai beat Lacey Evans with a double foot stop off the top rope. Kai was celebrating the win when she was attacked by Shayna Baszler and choked out. It was noted just how muscular Evans has become. Lars Sullivan pinned Christopher Dijak with the freak accident. This was booked more even than you’d think. Sullivan gave him a second freak accident after the match. Fans chanted for one more time, but he left. Adam Cole & Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly beat Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight & Kassius Ohno. Ohno was really popular since he’s from Dayton. Ohno was distracted and Cole rolled him up. Really good match and said to have good comedy as well. Baszler beat Kairi Sane via DQ. This was said to be similar to their TV match. Baszler had it won but would lift Sane up at two. She continued to punish Sane until Kai ran in and attacked Baszler for the DQ. Kai and Sane together beat down Baszler and Sane laid her out with the elbow off the top rope. Baszler was the only heel on the show who actually got real heat. Aleister Black pinned Velveteen Dream in the best match on the show. Dream was over huge. Similar to their Takeover match with Black winning with black mass. Johnny Gargano & Candice LeRae beat Andrade Cien Almas & Zelina Vega with the double Gargano escape submission finish

3/2 in Cleveland drew a sellout of 1,300 fans. Heavy Machinery beat Jaoude & Bononi with the trash compactor. Baszler beat Kai with a choke. Baszler got a mixed response here. Sullivan pinned Ohno with the freak accident in a hard hitting match. Black cut a promo on Dream for later in the show. Cole pinned Dijak in a good back-and-forth match. Fish & O’Reilly retained the tag titles over the Street Profits. The match didn’t get a lot of reaction except the high spots, but Street Profits were really over in their entrance. Dream cut a promo, running down Cleveland. Evans also cut a promo saying the weather in Cleveland was making her sick. Sane pinned Evans with the elbow off the top rope. Black pinned Dream in the best match on the show. Crowd was 50/50 for both guys. Black won with black mass. Gargano & LeRae beat Almas & Vega. It was insane. Gargano, who is from Cleveland, got a “Johnny Wrestling” chant that was timed at 6:58 while Vega tried to talk. It’s too bad they can’t bottle this heat for the main roster as it’s a combination of timing, the angle, and two personalities. Very good match with the heat you’d expect for the Garganos with the same double submission finish. Gargano then did an interview putting over the local AIW promotion. They let him talk for 15 minutes after the match saying that he made sure to team with LeRae in his last independent match in AIW because at the time he never knew if he’d be able to again. He said that now it’s 18 months later and they were back in Cleveland teaming. He thanked his parents, who were there, for buying him WWE tickets when he was a kid. He talked about painting Shawn Michaels on his wall. He also thanked Josh Prohibition, who was also there, for training him and making him a half-decent pro wrestler. He also thanked John Thorne, the promoter of AIW, as well as Chandler Biggins (Chris Bryan), who was the other owner of AIW who passed away last year. The crowd did a “Chandler Biggins” chant and Gargano said that Biggins had the best seat in the house watching over him. He said he didn’t know his future but thanked the fans in Cleveland. Was told this was the best of all the NXT shows in Cleveland

3/3 in Royal Oak, MI, drew a sellout of 1,300. Sullivan pinned Ohno after a diving head-butt. Kai pinned Evans after a double foot stomp off the top rope. Baszler took out Kai after the match and choked her out. Angelo Dawkins pinned Bononi with a spinebuster. Dawkins said that Montez Ford was injured and getting his grill fixed. Cole pinned Dijak after a shining wizard to the back of the head. The crowd heavily cheered Cole. Fish & O’Reilly beat Heavy Machinery when Cole’s distraction led to the pin. Sullivan came and out chased Fish & O’Reilly back in the ring after the match where Heavy Machinery laid them out. Baszler beat Sane via DQ when Kai attacked Baszler. Black pinned Dream with black mass. Gargano & LeRae beat Almas & Vega in the same main event

3/4 in Indianapolis drew a sellout of 500 fans. Sullivan pinned Dijak in 7:00 with the freak accident. LeRae pinned Kai with the wild ride. Ohno beat Jaoude via DQ when Bononi interfered. Crowd was pretty dead for this. Sullivan ran in and made the save and laid them out with freak accidents, and then did the same to Ohno. A video played where they announced Ford wasn’t cleared to wrestle, which saw Dawkins talking and Dream showing up and them getting into a fight. Dream pinned Dawkins in a fun-match. Fans were chanting D-Lo Brown at Dawkins and Dawkins responded doing Brown mannerisms. He got a pop doing Brown’s sky high power bomb. Dawkins did most of the match but Dream won with a roll-up. While the crowd liked Dawkins because he played to them, Dream was by far the more popular of the two. Black pinned Cole. Former Indianapolis Colts star punter Pat McAfee was the guest ring announcer. He is now a personality with Barstool Sports. Barstool Sports had a lot of people there at the show and they were filming, so this was the guy who has a show does pro wrestling themed episode. The entire Barstool Sports crew, which included Bellator’s Matt Mitrione, all left after McAfee had done his thing. McAfee did a promo before the match talking about all the places he had gone earlier in the day in Indianapolis. It was mostly about building tension between McAfee and Cole. They had a really good match. Cole was about to use a chair and McAfee took the chair from him which led to Black nailing Cole with black mass for the pin. Fish & O’Reilly beat Heavy Machinery in the tag title match where Fish was injured. Baszler beat Sane in a good match. Crowd was 70 percent for Sane. The finish saw Sane come off the top rope for the elbow but Baszler caught her with a choke for the finish. Gargano beat Almas with the Gargano escape. Vega said that Gargano was a loser. Gargano attacked Almas and said that this may be his last match in NXT, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to kick his ass. They had a great match with a lot of near falls. Vega did the huracanrana spot sending Gargano into the steps which brought out LeRae. LeRae chased Vega to the back and Gargano won with the Gargano escape

The Florida swing opened on 3/1 in Ocala before 300 fans. No Way Jose pinned Marcel Barthel with a pop up punch. Buddy Murphy came out and issued an open challenge for later in the night. Aliyah pinned Zeda. Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler did an in-ring angle with Dory Funk Jr., who lives in Ocala and comes to the shows very often. Blake was trained by Funk Jr. originally. Blake heeled on him and they teased attacking him when Babatunde Aiyegbusi made the save. Aiyegbusi beat Blake via DQ when Chad Lail interfered. Funk Jr. who just turned 77, ran in with a bullwhip and made the save. Mahabali Shera made his WWE debut and pinned Dan Matha with a roll-up. Interesting to see him using his TNA name. TNA has given everyone the rights to their ring names. WWE has plenty of time to give him a new name since why bother until you’re on TV. Roderick Strong beat Raul Mendoza in what was said to be a great match with the stronghold. Ember Moon pinned Reina Gonzalez with the eclipse. Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. Ricochet pinned Murphy in a great main event

The second Florida show on 3/2 in Gainesville, FL, drew 400 fans. Aiyegbusi pinned Lail. Vanessa Bourne pinned Abbey Laith. Danny Burch pinned Tian Bing. Strong did a promo talking about how his goal is to go to WrestleMania and win the cruiserweight title. Moss & Sabbatelli came out to confront him and challenged him to a match. They told him to find any bum backstage to be his partner. Marcel Barthel pinned Rocky. Moon retained the women’s title in a three-way over Aliyah and Nikki Cross by coming off the top with a double eclipse. Jose pinned Matha with a pop up punch. Murphy pinned Mendoza. Main event saw Ricochet & Strong beat Moss & Sabbatelli

The final Florida show was 3/3 in Orlando, also before 400 fans. Jose pinned Mars, who is one of the recruits from China making his debut. Jose won with the pop up punch. Sage Beckett beat Zeda with a sit out slam. Jessie Elaban did The Jessie Show with Brennan Williams as guest. Moss & Sabbatelli came out and confronted Williams and told him to get a partner for a tag match later in the show. Lail pinned Rocky. Burch beat Tian bing with a crossface. Strong beat Barthel with the Stronghold. Ricochet pinned Mendoza in an excellent match. Williams came out and brought out Aiyegbusi as his partner and they beat Moss & Sabbatelli. Main event saw Dain & Wolfe & Cross as Sanity beat Blake & Cutler & Reina Gonzalez in a wild match

The attendance for the 2/25 Smackdown brand house show in Ontario, CA, which we didn’t have in last week’s issue, was 2,600

The Raw tour opened on 3/2 in Kalamazoo before 1,800 fans. This must not have been doing well as they were doing two-for-one tickets in the market. The first show at the United Center in Chicago in something like 20 years (they used the building because the All-State Arena was booked) drew 13,000 fans, just shy of a sellout and what will probably be one of the largest house show crowds of the year on a show where Cena and Lesnar both appeared. 3/4 in Rockford, IL drew 6,500, which is a great crowd by current standards for a market of that size

Smackdown opened on 3/3 in Moline, IL, before 6,000 fans, which is a great crowd for that market. 3/4 in Cedar Rapids, IA drew 3,700. 3/5 in LaCrosse, WI drew 1,750

Kalamazoo opened with Matt Hardy pinning Wyatt with the twist of fate. Lince Dorado & Ali beat Daivari & Gallagher with Dorado pinning Daivari with a springboard stunner. Good solid match. The Revival beat Slater & Rhyno. Strowman pinned Kane with a powerslam. Rollins pinned Cesaro with the curb stomp. It was originally to be a tag title match but Balor had flight issues and couldn’t get to Kalamazoo. Asuka & Bayley & Banks & James beat Rose & Deville & Jax & Bliss when Asuka made Rose tap to the Asuka lock. Gallows & Anderson beat Axel & Dallas. Main event saw Reigns pin Elias after a spear. Reports here were that a lot of fans were leaving during this match. Reigns was cheered by about 70 percent of the crowd here

Chicago opened with Hardy pinning Wyatt with a twist of fate. Ali won a four-way over Gallagher, Daivari and Dorado. Ali got the win with the inverted 450 on Daivari. Fans were chanting “Rusev Day” during the match, but it got more reaction than most cruiserweight bouts get at live shows because the crowd was behind Ali, who is from Chicago. Elias came out to sing. The audio in the building was bad. He sang something negative to Chicago. Strowman pinned Elias with a powerslam in a quick match. He gave him another powerslam after the match. Slater & Rhyno & Gallows & Anderson beat Axel & Dallas & The Revival when Anderson pinned Dallas after the Magic killer. Then the place went crazy when JoJo announced a Universal title match, meaning Lesnar vs. Kane. Heyman cut a promo, and interestingly, mentioned nothing about Raw. Kane got a good reaction and Lesnar was way over. Heyman announced Lesnar from “The Ultimate corner.” The match lasted 36 seconds. Kane came out throwing punches, Lesnar hit two German suplexes. Kane sat up and grabbed Lesnar by the throat. Lesnar escaped and hit the F-5 for the pin and then rolled out of the ring. The crowd booed heavily when it was over, unhappy because the match went so short. Lesnar always does

short house show matches, but short usually that means three to five minutes. This was a management call and it is about Lesnar going into WrestleMania as the heel for Reigns. Asuka & Banks & Bayley & James beat Rose & Deville & Bliss & Jax. Rose was cheered on the heel team. Fans chanted for Asuka and also cheered heavily for Bayley. James went heel refusing to take a tag to wrestle against Bliss and didn’t work the rest of the way. There were also issues teased during the match with Bayley and Banks. Asuka beat Deville with an armbar. After the match, Banks tried to steal the spotlight from Asuka and Bayley so at least this tease was her going heel. Balor & Rollins beat Sheamus & Cesaro via DQ in a tag title match that was said to be close to ****, really well worked from start-to-finish and a hot crowd. Balor was on the top rope ready to give Cesaro the coup de grace when Sheamus hit him with a chair to save the title. After the match, Balor hit Cesaro with the coup de grace and Rollins laid out Sheamus with the formerly known as the curb stomp. They played Balor’s music and he and Rollins did the Balor pose and it got a big reaction. Reigns pinned Cena after kicking out of the Attitude Adjustment and hitting the spear in the main event. Cena got a mixed reaction while Reigns was booed more than cheered. The crowd was hot, but there were chants of C.M. Punk and Rusev day. Match was said to be fine but nothing special. It was slow early and there were fans who turned on the match. Cena was clearly slower than in the past

Rockford had a few changes with no Lesnar on the show. They split the tag matches up as Gallows & Anderson beat Axel & Dallas and The Revival beat Slater & Rhyno. The women’s match, instead of being four-on-four, I guess because James turned in Chicago and Chicago isn’t that far from Rockford, they did a three-on-four handicap match with the Asuka & Bayley & Banks beat beating Jax & Bliss & Deville & Rose. The match got over real well. Elias sung and Strowman beat him quickly. Strowman then demanded Kane come out for a match and Strowman pinned Kane after a powerslam. They did the same main event where Reigns pinned Cena with a spear. That match got the most reaction and Cena and Reigns got the biggest reactions on the show

Smackdown’s crew once again had almost all multiple-person title matches. The only exception was the U.S. title. It opened with Usos over Gable & Benjamin, Big E & Kingston and Rusev & English in the tag title match. Good opener. Rusev got the biggest reaction but Usos were popular as well. Usos were superkicking everyone and pinned English. Rawley pinned Dillinger by blocking a sunset flip and holding onto the ropes. Crowd didn’t care about this. Harper & Rowan beat Breezango when Harper pinned Breeze with the discus clothesline. Quick match. Mahal beat Sin Cara. Sin Cara went for a tope but Mahal pulled Singh in front of him to take the dive. Mahal then pinned Sin Cara in a short match with the Khallas. Naomi & Lynch won a three-way tag over Carmella & Lana and Morgan & Logan. Lana only worked about ten seconds total. Roode vs. Orton for the U.S. title ended with no winner. Orton was the clear crowd favorite. We had heard hints of an idea of them going longer with this program and turning one. Even though Orton is better as a heel and everyone knows it, the crowd is going to cheer Orton either way. The last time they turned him nobody booed him. The match ended when Mahal attacked both. Roode laid out Mahal with a DDT, but Orton then hit Roode with an RKO and also hit Mahal with an RKO. Charlotte retained her title in a three-way over Natalya and Riott. Charlotte won over Natalya with the figure eight. Most of it was Natalya and Riott working together on Charlotte until they no longer did. Nakamura pinned Ziggler with the Kinshasa. The crowd wasn’t into either guy. Ziggler tried to mock Nakamura by singing his theme while getting heat but the crowd didn’t care much for that. But the match ended up so good that the people were with it at the end. Styles won the four-way main event over Owens, Zayn and Corbin. It was mostly Styles being beaten up by Owens and Zayn. Styles pinned Zayn after the forearm

Cedar Rapids was the same show. Tag title match had lots of comedy. E & Woods worked as the New Day team. Dillinger vs. Rawley had a hard time getting crowd reactions. Mahal got a big star reaction. He beat Sin Cara in 3:00. Sin Cara also got a good reaction. The women’s three-way tag match was the first match to really get the crowd going with Naomi & Lynch being very popular as faces and the college guys making a lot of catcalls toward Lana and Carmella. Nakamura vs. Zayn was the longest match and main event four-way was 12:00

LaCrosse had a few changes. The two women’s matches were merged into one three-way with Charlotte & Lynch & Naomi winning over The Riott Squad and a third team of Natalya & Carmella & Lana. They also merged another two matches with Harper & Rowan & Rawley over Breezango & Dillinger. The Orton vs. Roode U.S. title match was ruled a win for Orton via DQ when Mahal attacked him first, but they did the same finish they did in the other cities. In the four-way for the tag titles, the finish was Benjamin taking the pin after a series of superkicks by the Usos. Woods & Kingston were the New Day team in that match.