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March 14, 2016 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Diaz defeats McGregor, Hayabusa passes away

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 March 14, 2016

 

UFC 196 POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 198 (99.0%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 2 (01.0%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Miesha Tate vs. Holly Holm 117

Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 82

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Ilir Latifi vs. Gian Villante 112

Corey Anderson vs. Tom Lawlor 28

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 3/8.

 

Nate Diaz’s win over Conor McGregor and Miesha Tate’s UFC women’s bantamweight title win over Holly Holm literally changed the direction of UFC.

Going into UFC 196 on 3/5 in Las Vegas, McGregor was the company’s money machine, expected to headline UFC 200 against Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title, or perhaps even Georges St-Pierre. The latter, which would have been the biggest fight in UFC history, was heavily rumored and talked about. It was given credence when St-Pierre showed up at ringside during the show and was coy about why he was there. After McGregor lost, Dana White denied any talk of GSP vs. McGregor, but at that point, with that fight really out the window, it does UFC no good for the story to be that the biggest fight in history got screwed up by an upset. There are those who believe St-Pierre will never return due his having no money issues and concern of the long-term effects of brain trauma from fighting. There were also rumors flying about GSP vs. Lawler for the welterweight title, which would also be a major fight. But right now there is still nothing officially said past rumors that GSP is going to fight again.

The other fight, which wasn’t going to take place at UFC 200, but also would have done unprecedented numbers, was a return or Ronda Rousey, challenging Holly Holm for the women’s bantamweight title. The fight was being talked about for November, although those close to Rousey were skeptical of even that date, given there have been movie delays and she’s contracted to do three new movies before returning. Rousey is scheduled to start filming “Roadhouse,” in late May. There have been people hoping there is a way to get that delayed until late July and have Tate vs. Rousey at UFC 200. But that sounds unlikely.

McGregor vs. Diaz may have been the final confirmation, if that’s even necessary, of what the public wants from big fights in 2016. There was no championship at stake. Diaz came into the fight with a 19-10 record and had lost five of his last ten fights. His main claim to fame is that he was a good fighter, who always lost to great fighters, and he was the younger brother of Nick Diaz. The Diaz brothers are wildly popular due to the attitude they exude of never backing down in fights and beating to their own drums. Still, he figured to be someone who would swear a lot at McGregor, build great heat, and draw a good number to give McGregor a name victim since Diaz was taking the fight on short notice, and stamina was a big part of the brothers’ success in the cage. It being a welterweight fight, something Diaz was able to talk his way into, allowed him to have even more of a size advantage. But it was thought that it would give McGregor credibility in a new weight class.

The combination of the two fights made UFC 196 a huge event. Dana White said after the show that it looked like it was going to break every company record. That’s hyperbole, although it did break some FS 1 records. With tons of mainstream media coverage because of the personalities involved in the main event, as well as Holm’s first title defense after all the publicity she had gotten for beating Rousey, it figured to do well. Internally, after the show, those in UFC were still talking of it as being the biggest PPV in company history.

Preliminary numbers have varied greatly, but appear to be significantly higher than either the November (Rousey vs. Holm) or December (McGregor vs. Aldo) shows, which both topped 1 million buys. There are a wide variety of estimates out there, but if you average them out, it appears to be 12 to 15 percent above both of those shows, which would figure to be more than 1.1 million buys and maybe a lot more than that. At this stage it could vary greatly in either direction because not all numbers are consistently above both. UFC does have instant access to its iPPV numbers and their own estimates at first are based on that. Those numbers are believed to be the highest ever although nobody has outright said that. But one would think when White talked about being the biggest PPV number ever right after the show, it was those numbers that would be his indicator. People are far more apt to buy iPPVs as time goes on as compared to the past, so a number there that blows away UFC 100 isn’t necessarily proof that this will beat UFC 100 numbers. But that hasn’t changed that much since December, so UFC probably does have a good indication already regarding beating November and December.

McGregor was clearly the key, but Diaz was far stronger as an opponent than not only Rafael dos Anjos, but also Aldo. Holm was strong as well, not at the level of Diaz, but not far behind Aldo, as a draw for the show. Holm vs. Tate tracked much higher than the Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold fight in a similar position on UFC 194 as far as support went. It’s hard to say because it’s a McGregor show, but just based on interest, it does appear the women’s fight was very big, and that’s a huge affirmation of the future of women after Rousey is gone.

Diaz and Tate also came off the show, due to the nature of their wins, as people who came in as popular stars but are now bona fide superstars, probably right behind the Rousey, McGregor and Jon Jones big three.

It was enough that both Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White were talking about Lawler vs. Nate Diaz as the next welterweight title fight. On one hand, it makes no sense. Diaz was rag dolled by much younger Rory MacDonald when they fought previously and hasn’t shown a thing against a true top welterweight. He has some good wins at lightweight, including Donald Cerrone, but was beaten handily by dos Anjos. But from a money standpoint, short of GSP, Lawler will draw far more with Nate Diaz than anyone. And if Lawler wins, that just creates a match that would be even bigger with Lawler vs. Nick Diaz, a fight that can’t be justified from the sports standpoint given Nick hasn’t won a fight since 2011, and that was against a much-smaller B.J. Penn. But it’s a fight UFC has talked about anyway when Nick’s suspension is up in August because it would draw more than any of the legitimate welterweight contenders, plus Diaz did beat Lawler in 12 years ago.

At least two records were broken. The weigh-ins did 358,000 viewers, breaking the FS 1 record of 294,000 set for the McGregor vs. Aldo weigh-ins. What’s notable about this is the weigh-ins aired on FS 1 on a three-hour tape delay, and aired live on web sites all over the country, had been covered by ESPN and other sports media. It also aired live on FS 2, where, even with the smaller universe, they did 145,000 viewers, as much as many live fights on the station have done.

The pre-fight show did 767,000 viewers, also an FS 1 record. The McGregor vs Aldo pre-game show did 556,000 viewers, and the prior record was 606,000 for the pre-game show before the Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler II fight on December 6, 2014.

The post-fight show did 377,000 viewers, up from 344,000 for McGregor vs. Diaz. It was the fifth most watched post-fight show in network history.

A Friday night replay of the Countdown show, which had already aired several times during the week, did 320,000 viewers, the most-watched Countdown show ever on FS 1.

The prelims did 1,843,000 viewers headlined by Brandon Thatch vs. Siyar Bahadurzada (which peaked at 2,082,000 viewers), which was the second biggest PPV prelims number ever on FS 1 behind the McGregor vs. Aldo show that did 1,931,000 viewers. But that show had Urijah Faber vs. Frankie Saenz, and Faber is a legit difference maker when it comes to ratings (peaking at 2,380,000 viewers on FS 1). You factor out Faber and really, the UFC 196 number is far more impressive. And even with Faber, the 196 prelims beat the 194 prelims overall in the 18-49 demo. FS 1 was also the most-watched cable network in Saturday night prime time in the 18-49 demo.

UFC 196-related video streams did 60 million viewers that night, up from the prior record of 27 million for UFC 194. In particular, an Ariel Helwani video of McGregor that night done after the fight had 14.8 million views, the most-watched video for something UFC related on Fox Sports.

Part of this may also be a wave building on itself. Because of the fights last year, there is a far larger audience that is aware of UFC big events. They get more coverage and McGregor and Holm were huge personalities, Diaz became one in the buildup, and Tate was already a needle moving star. UFC’s biggest shows seem to doing bigger numbers just based on momentum and star building, witness how Rousey’s fight with Holm did significantly better than her fight with Bethe Correia, even when the Correia fight numbers were considered blow away. Correia promoted the fight much better and it had a better storyline. Similarly, Aldo vs. McGregor had been pushed for a year while McGregor vs. Diaz was pushed for less than two weeks. But even with no title, Diaz had far more drawing potential than Aldo when put into a similar spotlight, and McGregor is a far bigger star now than he was in December.

How much of a factor the momentum issue for UFC is will be determined by the 4/23 show. Jones’ return is big. But nobody believes Cormier can win so that hurts. If they can beat what they did with that super grudge last year even though the first fight wasn’t close and they can’t possibly match the heat, it shows the UFC brand itself has gained a lot and that people now see UFC PPV’s as major events they don’t want to miss, at least if one of the major stars is on it. If the number is down, it would indicate it’s still a boom built on McGregor and Rousey and not so much the brand as a whole.

The live attendance was announced at 14,898 with a gate of $8.1 million. That would be the third biggest in UFC history, trailing the $12,075,000 for GSP vs. Jake Shields in Toronto on April 30, 2011 at Rogers Centre, and the $10,132,000 for McGregor vs. Aldo.

The gate figure itself has an interesting back story. The arena was virtually sold out the first day. But much of that came from ticket brokers and from fans buying tickets to sell them at a considerable markup, figuring tons of people from Ireland would want tickets, it was sold out, and they’d be willing to pay any price to get them. In addition, the expectation is there would be a big demand in the U.S.

That didn’t happen. It was very noticeable the Irish presence, while there, was nothing close to what it was in July for the Mendes fight or December for the Aldo fight. Realistically, it was less than three months and people weren’t ready to take another expensive trip to Las Vegas. The secondary market nearly collapsed.

Then, when dos Anjos pulled out, those who had secondary market tickets could legally get face value by asking for a refund, as Nevada law is that if the main event changes, you can get a refund. So it went from no tickets on the primary market to a ton of tickets. The secondary market was dead, but anyone alert from the secondary market was getting a refund. UFC then cut down prices in many sections (the low price of $200 stayed the same, but I know of friends who purchased $450 tickets who asked for refunds, and with the price change, were able to get better seats for $300). With the lower prices, and the McGregor vs. Diaz build, tickets moved greatly over the last few days. Just a few days before the fight, they were at $7.4 million, so that would indicate $700,000 sold in the last three days, an unheard of pace. People who check on availability had told me tickets were selling great at the end.

Of course, how much does the loss hurt McGregor? It hurts him in the sense he’s not fighting Lawler (which is a good thing for him) or GSP, but he can still talk and he’s still featherweight champion. He most likely will be on UFC 200 defending his featherweight title against either Aldo or Frankie Edgar. He himself thought as much, and said he’d survey the situation and see which opponent the fans would want to see the most. But he had reservations about Aldo, noting Aldo has pulled out of so many fights and that Aldo was the first person approached to fill in when dos Anjos got hurt, and turned it down.

Edgar, with five straight wins, over Charles Oliveira, B.J. Penn, Cub Swanson, Faber and Chad Mendes, is the single most deserving challenger on the roster when it comes to legitimately earning a title fight right now with the exception of Jones. But McGregor vs. Aldo was one of the biggest fights in history, a long-time grudge and it would be the bigger drawing fight of the two. Edgar is less likely to pull out. While purists may complain, time and time again, it has become clear what fans want in 2016, and it’s a grudge and trash talk with larger than life personalities, not a series of wins by people like Edgar or Tyron Woodley leading to title fights. Of course, if you get both, so much the better and you want both in a perfect world. And for those who don’t like it, if the trend changes, hopefully UFC won’t be so set in their ways to not see it. But denying it right now is being to set in your own ways that you’re missing the obvious.

As far as a perfect world goes, even though many didn’t see it this way, the win by Tate was the greatest thing possible. Rousey vs. Tate is a monster fight now, probably the single biggest fight that can be made right now. If Rousey was to win that fight, and she’d be a heavy favorite, Rousey vs. Holm becomes even bigger. However, the Rousey schedule makes that weird.

Will Tate wait until November, or what if it’s early 2016? At some point soon they need a firm date from Rousey or they have to make other plans for Tate. They could also do a Tate vs. Holm rematch at UFC 200 with Rousey facing that winner, which takes care of them having to sit. And while that could go either way, Holm would appear to have the edge because her takedown defense is good, but she had two lapses that cost her the fight. Without that, she jabs her way to a decision that may not be a good fight. If we go with the idea right now there are two monster women fights on the table, that match eliminates one of them. However, Tate facing Amanda Nunes or Cat Zingano in a title fight, risks a loss. Tate is one of the gutsiest and most mentally tough fighters, regardless of sex, on the roster, but she is not one of the best athletes and is a very vulnerable champion. Rousey vs. Tate is the Evert vs. Navratilova of this generation, but Rousey vs. Nunes or Zingano, while it will draw because of Rousey, isn’t nearly as big.

As far as the story of the two big fights, in McGregor vs. Diaz, McGregor was carrying more weight than he had ever carried before. It was muscle, but that still slows you down and changes the conditioning dynamic. Diaz fought the smarter fight, knowing his gas tank was limited, and laid back while McGregor exhausted himself early. McGregor landed shots that would put down a featherweight, but Diaz is much bigger and can take a punch. McGregor’s featherweight knockout power is not welterweight knockout power. He’s just not physically big enough whether he can put on the weight or not. Diaz is not a big puncher, but he’s a volume puncher, and he was hurting McGregor late. McGregor going for the takedown was suicidal, because Diaz has great submissions and it’s clear McGregor has a weakness on the ground.

The same could be said for Holm. Tate vs. Holm was an incredibly dramatic fight. From a purely emotional standpoint in the sense of capturing the live crowd, it was one of the greatest fights in UFC history. McGregor vs Diaz was your classic bloody brawl that had the crowd on its feet. Tate vs. Holm got them far deeper.

Holm was the clear crowd favorite starting out, riding the momentum of being the one who beat Rousey. It was also clear Tate was slower, not as strong, and didn’t hit hard enough to beat her standing. But Holm is a counter fighter so Tate stayed back, got beat up in the first round, and looked for openings for takedowns. But she was either too slow or not strong enough to take advantage of them. In the second round, she surprised Holm and got her down, and gave Holm a one-sided beating, and worked to finish her.

The crowd completely flipped toward Tate here. There’s the natural inclination to root for the upset, particularly when you know the fighter is physically outgunned but you can see they are mentally not going to break. But Holm came back to win rounds three and four. Since the second round was a 10-8, it was 38-37 going into the fourth round.

Every move mattered, but Holm was still beating her on her feet. Tate tried for takedowns and couldn’t come close. She couldn’t beat her standing. It was clear Holm was winning the round and keeping the title. But the crowd was just hoping for Tate to pull it off. Then, suddenly she got behind her and in a desperation move, got Holm off her feet and just held on for dear life as she tried to get a good ground position. Then, she got it, and then it was her world. All of a sudden, instead of a sure loss, Tate was doing enough to win the round, but it was still going to be a draw and Holm would keep the title. Then, she got fought and fought for the choke. Holm was standing, and flipped Tate off her back, but Tate doggedly held onto the choke while falling to the ground, and Holm had to tap at 3:30. The only fight in UFC history somewhat similar was the first Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen fight, which is also generally considered one of the greatest fights in history.

There was some controversy in the fight with Tom Lawlor vs. Corey Anderson. Lawlor hurt Anderson early in the first round, but Anderson did land more. The second round saw Anderson land more, but Lawlor again got the more damaging punches in. It was a very close round and could have gone either way. Anderson clearly won the third. The judges went 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Anderson, with Adelaide Byrd and Chris Lee giving Anderson round one. I had Lawlor 29-28, but the second round could have gone either way, but was shocked at a 30-27 score. In media judging, 15 had Anderson winning, but only one of 22 had him winning the first round, while seven had Lawlor winning. Fan scoring based on the MMA Decisions poll were 67 percent for Lawlor, with 97 percent giving him round one and 67 percent giving him round two.

1. Teruto Ishihara (9-2-2) beat Julian Erosa (15-4) at :34 of the second round in a featherweight fight. Ishihara is a unique character. He was on the Japanese version of TUF and made a name by saying he got into MMA to get women. Here, when he won, talked about how he’s getting some bitches. He put Erosa down with a punch and knee and hurt him with a left later. Erosa got a takedown, but his left leg look horrible from all the low kicks he took. In the second round, Ishihara landed a left counter behind the ear that put Erosa down, and finished him with punches on the ground. Ishihara got $34,000 for the win and Erosa got $12,000 for the loss.

2. Jason Saggo (11-2) beat Justin Salas (12-7) at 4:31 in a lightweight fight. Salas took him down off a kick but Saggo reversed to the top. Saggo got his back and continued to punch him from that position until it was stopped. Saggo got $20,000 for the win and Salas got $16,000 for the loss.

3. Diego Sanchez (28-8) beat Jim Miller (25-8, 1 no contest) via straight 29-28 scores in a lightweight fight. Sanchez took the first round with a takedown, some short slams and punches on the ground. Miller took the second landing low kicks and getting the better of the standup overall. Sanchez was more active in the third round . Both landed but Sanchez had the better shots and also had a brief takedown. Both were swinging wildly at the end and the crowd like this fight a lot. Sanchez got $150,000 for the win and Miller got $59,000 for the loss.

4. Darren Elkins (21-5) beat Chas Skelly (15-2) on straight 30-27 scores in a featherweight fight. Good fight. Elkins was on top punching in the first round while Skelly went for heel hooks. Elkins landed good punches and knees late. In the second round, Elkins slammed him down into side control and got a second takedown into side control and was landing punches from the top. Elkins took Skelly down in the third round, got his back, got a second takedown and was working for a choke. He got a third takedown and landed good punches on the ground. Elkins got $74,000 or the win and Skelly got $21,000 for the loss.

5. Vitor Miranda (13-4) beat Marcel Guimaraes (9-2-1) at 1:09 of the second round in a middleweight fight. Guimaraes was the aggressor in the first round, but started to tire late in the round. In the second round, Guimaraes went for a takedown, and Miranda landed a ton of elbows from that position. When they separated, Miranda landed a head kick, which stunned Guimaraes. After three solid punches standing, ref Chris Tognoni called it. Miranda got $32k000 for the win and Guimaraes got $13,000 for the loss.

6. Nordine Taleb (12-3) beat Erick Silva (18-7-1) at 1:34 of the second round in a welterweight fight. First round was close. Silva was landing kicks but Taleb took him down and landed a few punches. Later in the round when they were standing up, Silva motioned to tough gloves. As Taleb went to do so, Silva landed a hard right. The crowd hated him for that total cheap shot. In the second round, Taleb countered with a right that knocked Silva silly and it was over. The place went nuts for the knockout. On most shows, that would have been a bonus for sure. But not on this one. Taleb got $30,000 for the win and Silva got $34,000 for the loss.

7. Siyar Bahadurzada (22-6-1) beat Brandon Thatch (11-4) at 4:11 of the third round in a welterweight fight. This was Bahadurzada’s first fight since December 28, 2013 First round was pretty wild back-and-forth. Bahadurzada landed more but Thatch took him down. Thatch went for a guillotine but Bahadurzada reversed to the top and landed punches on the ground. Crowd liked it. Bahadurzada got a takedown in the second round and landed punches. John McCarthy stood them up but Bahadurzada got a second takedown. In the third round. Bahadurzada got a takedown and was hurting him with lots of punches on the ground. McCarthy stood them up. I thought Bahadurzada was keeping busy enough. Bahadurzada took Thatch down again, moved to side control and finished Thatch with a head-and-arm choke on the ground. Bahadurzada got $38,000 for the win and Thatch got $22,000 for the loss.

8. Amanda Nunes (12-4) beat Valentina Shevchenko (12-2) on scores of 29-28, 29-27 and 29-27 in a women’s featherweight bout. Nunes landed more, got a takedown and body punches to take the first round. Shevchenko went for a takedown in the second round but Nunes scramble to the top and landed punches and elbows, bloodying Shevchenko up. Nunes worked for a choke but couldn’t get it. She held a body triangle but Shevchenko was able to get on top. The crowd loved the second round, which was the one two judges gave a 10-8 to. Nunes faded in the third as Shevchenko took her down into side control and went for a wristlock. Nunes got up but Shevchenko beat her standing and blocked her takedowns to take the third round. Nunes got $56,000 for the win and Shevchenko got $14,000 for the loss.

9. Corey Anderson (9-1) beat Tom Lawlor (10-6, 1 no contest) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in a light heavyweight fight. Lawlor landed a lot f punches early. Anderson came back and action slowed midway through the round. Both traded late. I thought the round was close but Lawlor won it based on the harder punches. The second round saw Anderson slip and go down early. Both punched from close range. Anderson landed more but Lawlor’s punches were again harder, particularly a good late flurry. This round was even closer. In the third round, Anderson got a takedown into side control but did little on top. John McCarthy stood them up and Anderson landed more in the last minute. The crowd lightly booed the fight. But the fans booed the decision heavily. Anderson got $40,000 for the win and Lawlor got $28,000 for the loss.

10. Ilir Latifi (13-4, 1 no contest) beat Gian Villante (14-7) on straight 30-27 scores in a light heavyweight fight. A slow fight with Latifi clearly winning all three rounds. Latifi landed punches, would get Villante hurt and then would go for a takedown and Villante would block it and recover. In the second round, Latifi landed a German suplex. Latifi went for a takedown and Villante was holding the fence hard while using his body to shield ref Yves Lavigne from seeing it. This was blatant. MMA fans weren’t looking for it so they didn’t see it. The crowd booed because nothing was happening. Latifi slammed him late. In the third round, Latifi hurt him with punches and then went for a takedown he didn’t get. Latifi tried for a belly-to-belly but didn’t get it. Latifi got the better of the standup and had another slam with 20 seconds left. Latifi got $50,000 for the win and Villante got $36,000 for the loss.

11. Miesha Tate (18-5) beat Holly Holm (10-1) to win the UFC women’s bantamweight title at 3:30 of the fifth round. Holm got a bigger reaction at first. The fight had a very intense feel to it. The fans were very into it. It was actually slow early. Fans were chanting for both but Holm got the bigger reaction. Very little happened but Holm landed a flurry of punches and a side kick and won the round. Tate got a takedown in the second round and moved to side control. The place went nuts for her on top. Tate landed punches and elbows to the body. Tate landed more hard elbows to the head and punches. Tate got her back and worked for a choke but didn’t get it. She tried for it again and the crowd was going nuts, but Holm survive the round. The crowd was super invested from here. Tate couldn’t get a takedown in the fourth and Holm landed big shots and body kicks. In the fourth round it was more of the same. Tate couldn’t get takedowns and Holm threw her off. Holm was faster, more skilled standing and stronger. Tate was a step slow in trying to catch Holm’s kicks, and even if she did, she couldn’t take her down. Holm landed punches and an elbow, then more punches, front kick and more punches. In the fifth round, it was Holm landing punches and two side kicks. They were in a clinch and Holm landed an elbow to break it and more punches and a high kick. But Tate got her down and worked for the choke. Holm flipped her over but Tate held on and got the choke tighter and Holm went out without tapping. Tate got $142,000 for the win including a performance bonus and Holm got $500,000 for the loss. As a champion Holm also likely got a PPV bonus off this big show.

12. Nate Diaz (20-10) beat Conor McGregor (19-3) at 4:20 of the second round in a welterweight fight. The place was electric. McGregor started landing punches early and Diaz came back with punches. Both landed hard shots and Diaz was bleeding from the right eye. McGregor was targeting the eye with punches and Diaz tried for a takedown, but McGregor landed on top and was landing punches from the top at the end of the round. McGregor came out with spin kicks in the second round and landed body punches and a hard right. Diaz was now bleeding really badly. McGregor continued to go to work on him and Diaz’s face was a mess. McGregor was breathing heavy and Diaz slapped him in the face and came back. McGregor landed more shots but Diaz came back with punches and started to take over and had McGregor in trouble. Diaz landed left after left but then McGregor came back with rights. But Diaz started another attack and got McGregor in trouble. McGregor went for a takedown, but Diaz landed on top and started punching the hell out of him from the top. McGregor gave up his back and Diaz quickly got a tight choke and McGregor tapped. McGregor got a reported $1,050,000 for the loss, including a best fight bonus. Obviously he took in many more millions than that. Diaz got a reported $600,000, including a best fight and a second performance bonus, but also ended up well into seven figures.

****************************************************************

The WWE has officially broken the company all-time attendance record at WrestleMania 32.

Tickets are almost sold out, and according to sources with access to the direct numbers, the number of tickets out was 84,000 as of 3/8. Unless they open up standing room tickets, the final real number will be very slightly over that amount.

The number breaks the actual real WWE company record of 79,127 tickets out for the August 29, 1992 SummerSlam show headlined by Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith and Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage at Wembley Stadium in London. WrestleMania III was the largest U.S. crowd in history with 78,000 as the legitimate attendance.

The company is guaranteed to announce a number greater than the mythical 93,173 that WrestleMania III from the Pontiac Silverdome was announced at. On Raw on 3/7, there was a brief clip of Vince McMahon on the phone talking about 93,000 and how they were going to break the record this year. Traditionally WWE exaggerates the WrestleMania attendance by 10,000 to 13,000 and it wouldn’t surprise me for the number to be announced as more than 100,000.

Like so many big events these days, so much of that is because ticket brokers when they feel a show will have great demand, scoop up tons of tickets. I don’t know the number but previous WrestleManias had 25,000 or more tickets bought for resale and not to attend, and this show the number was likely higher since that industry is stronger than the past.

There are about 20,000 standing room seats that have been sold for Super Bowls and NBA All-Star games where you get those 100,000 attendance figures that people have been throwing around for this show. Because of the stage, I’m not sure how that affects what they even could sell. With a few weeks to go, one would think if they were going to put those tickets on sale, they would have done that already.

The idea of the record-breaking WrestleMania in Texas was probably the biggest lure to this record, as WrestleMania last year in a bigger tourist market (San Francisco) and with a lineup with far more hooks was far below this number at the same stage of the game. Part of this also is that even in the past year, the ticket brokering business for events like this has skyrocketed, and while ticket brokers were a huge part of the strong advances the past few years, it’s more pronounced now. But the Santa Clara show in a smaller Levi’s Stadium was under 60,000 at the same point. That show ended up doing a record $12.6 million gate (keep in mind that when WWE announces a gate it includes the service charge on the tickets, which nobody else does when announcing a gate) so this show at similar prices should blow that figure away.

Even though it’s WrestleMania season, on television this past week, WWE was pushing Roadblock, its WWE Network special from the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto as the focal point of this week’s show. The top matches on that show are HHH vs. Dean Ambrose for the WWE title, Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt, The New Day vs. Sheamus & King Barrett for the tag team titles and Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady for the NXT tag team titles. A scheduled match with Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus is off because Reigns hasn’t yet recovered from his recent nasal surgery. Sami Zayn is also scheduled for the show. According to those in WWE, the entire card will not air on the network, as there will be some dark matches.

The biggest news revolving WrestleMania is that John Cena said this week that he’s not going to be on the show. Cena’s surgery for a torn rotator cuff would have precluded a normal person from wrestling by Mania but Cena has come back in less time from other surgeries that would have similar time off. Randy Orton, who is said to be recovering nicely, and hasn’t been talked about, was also not expected to be back in time for the show.

As of right now, this is the lineup, and there could be changes based on decisions made this week regarding Roadblock:

1) HHH vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE title. At this point nothing has been announced regarding a guest referee, but that was the original plan.

2) Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose no holds barred street fight

3) Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon in a Hell in a Cell match for the control of Raw. Most figure on a match where Undertaker destroys Shane, but in some form allows Shane to win, sacrificing himself for the good of the company. That is if Shane is going to win. It will be very interesting which match goes on last, because it is very clear this match has the most interest and that the battle for control of the company is a bigger deal than a WWE title match.

4) Kevin Owens defending the IC title in a multiple person match. The original plan was for six people to be in this match but the participants continue to change. The plan was to load the match up with workers. Sami Zayn has been in from the beginning. Dolph Ziggler, Neville and The Miz were also expected in although they were not all planned names at the start.

5) The New Day vs. The League of Nations. This was originally scheduled as a six-man tag with Sheamus & Rusev & Alberto Del Rio as the League team, but Barrett is now fully cleared and back in action. There was also a pitch to make it a tag title match and use Freebird rules for both sides, but haven’t heard that is going to be how it ends up. There is talk that with a New Day vs. League match being in Toronto that this spot may turn into a different match with a multiple team format. If that’s the case, that also changes a lot of other plans built around this match. There are key people pushing now to change the match feeling New Day can have a better or more effective match with a different dynamic and right now it may be in a state of flux.

6) A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho

7) Kalisto vs. Ryback for the U.S. title. This is scheduled right now as a singles match and not a multiple person match.

8) Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for the Divas title

9) Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

10) A second women’s match

There will likely be at least one more match, even if that is a preshow match.

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WrestleMania 33 was officially announced for April 2, 2017 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the same location as in 2008, but with a completely renovated stadium.

The announcement was made on 3/7, before a press conference was held in the city the next day.

Orlando had been expected to get the show for a few months, once word got out that Minneapolis was no longer under consideration.

Orlando actually had a relatively difficult time in 2008 filling the stadium, as the show was the most papered WrestleMania in recent memory with 11,300 free tickets out of the 74,635 in attendance. The WWE didn’t exaggerate the announced attendance for the show that year.

Orlando is almost a home market for WWE and likely to be a regular site for WrestleMania. For one, the Performance Center is located there, and NXT television is taped there. John Saboor, the WWE’s Executive Vice President of Special Events, the point man for WrestleMania, came from Orlando. Saboor negotiated the 2008 deal for the city and did such a good job that he ended up being hired by WWE and put in charge of taking bids from cities.

More than a dozen cities put in bids for the show, which originally was awarded to Minneapolis. It’s not known why the change was made.

Saboor noted that the renovation of the Citrus Bowl was a major factor in getting WrestleMania this year. Officially announced is also the Hall of Fame on April 1, 2017, at the Amway Arena, as well as the live Raw on April 3. It is likely there will be an NXT show on March 31, 2017, perhaps at the arena or at the University of Central Florida Gym, although that hasn’t been announced. Fan Axxess will take place at the Orange County Convention Center.

In addition, while not announced officially, WWE will be opening up a restaurant and physical Hall of Fame in Orlando at Universal Studios in conjunction with next year’s WrestleMania.

WWE officials and those at Universal have negotiated for years on a deal where WWE takes over what used to be the location of NBA City at the Universal City Walk for a museum and Hall of Fame.

Paul Levesque in recent years has gone to older wrestlers and others who have memorabilia connections to get items for the proposed Hall of Fame.

The Observer had reported on these talks for years and Universal Studios sources told Attraction Management the deal had been finalized and the restaurant/museum would open prior to WrestleMania 33.

The new restaurant will be set up similar to “The World,” the Times Square restaurant that WWE ran from 1999 to 2003 before it was shut down after losses of nearly $36 million.

The new complex will be a combined museum and restaurant, with the museum as the physical site of the Hall of Fame. Like “The World,” it will have a merchandise store and video screens that would constantly be playing WWE broadcasts. The idea is to build it to a location both for locals and tourists to hang out and watch Raw, Smackdown and other major events with other fans. The World suffered because unless there was a WWE event playing, the restaurant was fairly empty.

Appearing at the WWE press conference were Florida Governor Rick Scott, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (who flew to Connecticut in December to seal the deal) and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

From most accounts, it was after that December meeting that the decision was made.

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Eiji Ezaki, better known as Hayabusa, one of the great flying wrestlers of the 90s whose pro wrestling career tragically ended when he was paralyzed in an accident in the ring in 2001, passed away on 3/3 at the age of 47.

Hayabusa’s smooth high flying moves, most notably his firebird splash (a 450) and Phoenix splash (currently used by Kota Ibushi and done by Neville as a tribute on Raw this past week) inspired many of the current generation of high flying wrestlers who grew up watching his matches on tape. It was a legacy that he himself regretted, as noted in the 2/15 Observer.

On October 22, 2001, in a match with Mammoth Sasaki, Hayabusa did a simple quebrada, or lionsault. It was a move he did in nearly every match, the same move Chris Jericho does in almost every match. But he slipped on the ropes, landed on his head, and cracked two vertebrae and left him paralyzed. He was the top star of the FMW promotion at the time, and his career ending directly led to the company folding a short time later.

He was thought to be a paraplegic for life. In time he regained some movement in one arm. He took on a new career as a night club singer while being wheelchair bound. It took him nearly 14 years, but eventually he was able to walk a short distance with use of a cane. This led to his emotional televised appearance on August 5, 2015, where he got out of his wheelchair at Korakuen Hall, and with his cane, was able to walk to the ring, and after some help going up the steps and getting in, walk again to the center of the ring before an audience of teary-eyed wrestling legends.

He was singing at a small Tokyo night club and bar last week. He did his show on 3/2 and seemed fine, saying nothing that led anyone to think he was sick. When he didn’t show up for his 3/3 concert, and didn’t answer any phone calls, the owner of the club went to his home and found him dead. The belief is that he passed away in his sleep from a subarachnoid hemorrhage, bleeding on the brain.

We’ll have a complete story on Hayabusa in next week’s issue.

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New Japan Pro Wrestling has made a number of announcements in response to the realization that they are now part of a worldwide wrestling economy and in that world, are right now trailing the market leader.

For years the company had run as the leading promotion in its country. While they struggled badly several years ago, business had tripled in recent years and through Internet streaming and exposure with Ring of Honor, its top stars had become known on a worldwide basis.

The combination of the aging of the key talent base, and then the signing of four top guys at once by WWE, as well as the declining business in recent months was a wake up call. Whether New Japan was stronger than WWE in Japan, which it was (while New Japan World streaming numbers in Japan were very disappointing, WWE’s numbers since opening up the WWE Network were considerably worse), that was immaterial because WWE was signing and endless number of top athletes from other sports as great working indie talent, while New Japan had become lax in recruiting.

Before the start of the 3/3 show at the Ota Ward Gym, the first night of the New Japan Cup tournament, the company made a series of announcements.

First they had Katsuyori Shibata announce that he had signed a new one-year contract. The nature of how this was addressed makes it clear that Shibata, the current Never Open Weight champion, is being groomed to help fill the top spots opened up. While Hiroshi Tanahashi remains the top star, the plan for this year was to give him a physical break until G-1 in a tag team with Michael Elgin. But the departures quickly put Tanahashi into a necessary program with Kenny Omega to keep the IC title strong. Right now it looks like the top positions will be taken by Kazuchika Okada, Tanahashi, Shibata and Tetsuya Naito battling for the Shinsuke Nakamura-level spot, with Omega in the A.J. Styles spot and Elgin in the Karl Anderson position in a sense. It was then announced that Elgin had signed a two-year deal, which had already been reported in the U.S.

The next announcement was the return of the Super J Cup, a one-night 16-man tournament of junior heavyweights that will take place on 8/21 at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo.

The Super J Cup was a creation of New Japan and top star Jushin Liger, held on April 16, 1994, and sold out Sumo Hall, making it the most successful all-Junior heavyweight show up to that point in time. The concept was to take the top junior heavyweights from multiple promotions and put them all together to create match-ups never possible before.

The show was an enormous success. The first tournament, as 14-man tourney, won by Chris Benoit as Wild Pegasus, beating Great Sasuke (Michinoku Pro) in a spectacular finale, also featured Liger, Black Tiger (Eddy Guerrero), Taka Michinoku (Michinoku Pro), Gedo (WAR), Dean Malenko, Shinjiro Otani, Super Delfin (Michinoku Pro), Ricky Fuji (FMW), Negro Casas (CMLL), Hayabusa (FMW), Masayoshi Motegi (W*ING) and El Samurai .

A similar show took place on December 13 , 1995, also at Sumo Hall, also selling out, promoted by Genichiro Tenryu’s WAR promotion. Liger beat Gedo in the finals of a tournament that also included Damian 666 (FMW), Gran Naniwa (Michinoku Pro), Pegasus, Otani, Masaaki Mochizuki (WAR), Shoichi Funaki (Michinoku Pro), Ultimo Dragon (WAR), Gedo, Motegi, Dos Caras (CMLL), Samurai, Chris Jericho (WAR) and Hanzo Nakajima (Michinoku Pro).

Since then, there had been three more Super J Cups, a 2000 tournament produced by Michinoku Pro, a 2004 tournament produced by Osaka Pro and a 2009 tournament produced by New Japan.

Promotions that will supply talent are K-Dojo, Dragon Gate, Zero-One, Okinawa Pro, Suzuki-Gun, CMLL and ROH.

The promotion also announced they would be beefing up their efforts in recruiting new talent, starting a talent finding project and looking for talent not just in Japan, but around the world.

They also announced a new animated revival of Tiger Mask, a comic character and television cartoon that was popular in Japan in the 70s and was the inspiration of the series of Tiger Mask wrestlers. The show will feature Tiger Mask, the current version who now works for the company, interacting with both fictitious characters as well as wrestlers on the New Japan roster, with the attempt to bring back pro wrestling’s popularity to young children like it was in the 70s with Mil Mascaras and 80s with the first Tiger Mask.

Later that night, Kazuchika Okada pointed to the video screen to introduce Will Ospreay as the newest member of the Chaos group, and that Ospreay would debut at Invasion Attack on 4/10 at Sumo Hall in challenging Kushida for the IWGP jr. title.

The tournament itself has come down to the final four, with semifinals of Toru Yano vs. Naito and Elgin vs. Hirooki Goto. The semifinals and finals take place on 3/12 at the Maeda Arena in Aomori, a New Japan World show that airs at 3 a.m. Eastern and midnight Pacific late Friday night.

The full card has Jay White vs. David Finlay, Liger & Juice Robinson vs. Tiger Mask & Captain New Japan, Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Bushi & Evil, Yano vs. Naito, Elgin vs. Goto, Shibata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Okada & Kazushi Sakuraba, Tanahashi & Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs. Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi, and the tournament finals.

On 3/3 at Ota Ward Gym before a non-sellout of 2,938 fans:

1. Yano beat Takahashi via count out in 1:13.

2. Elgin pinned Tenzan in 8:22 with a power bomb.

3. Tama Tonga upset Makabe in 7:40 clean to help set up Tonga for challenging for the IWGP title. Tonga and a mystery partner (expected to be Tevita Fifita, his brother, who was Camacho in WWE and Micah in TNA) face Makabe & Honma most likely at Invasion Attack.

4. Kojima pinned Honma with a lariat in 11:50.

5. Okada & Sakuraba beat Shibata & Kushida in 11:25 when heavyweight champion Okada pinned jr. champion Kushida after a rainmaker.

6. Goto pinned Yuji Nagata with Goto-shiki in 11:28.

7. Naito pinned Yoshi-Hashi in 13:42 after Destino.

8. Ishii pinned Evil in 15:20 after a brainbuster.

9. Fale pinned Tanahashi in 13:55 after a Bad Luck Fall.

Almost everything on the show was said to be good, but nothing out of this world. The quarterfinals were held on 3/4 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo before a sellout of 1,705 paid. This show was headlined by the one-blow away bout so far, a ****½ war where Naito beat Ishii to advance.

1. White beat Finlay with a Boston crab in 5:41. These two do the same technically great opener that always feels too short, but for whatever reason, White is always winning with the same finish.

2. Tanahashi & Robinson beat Takahashi & Hall in 9:58 when Tanahashi beat Hall via submission with the Texas cloverleaf. Hall was injured in this match and missed the house show a few days later. Robinson is now doing the “Moose” chant, except as “Juice.”

3. Makabe & Honma & Shibata & Kushida & Taguchi beat Tenzan& Nagata & Nakanishi & Liger & Tiger Mask when Shibata pinned Nakanishi after a penalty kick in 11:08. The focus on this was Shibata vs. Nagata, and it looks like they will have a match for the Never title on Invasion Attack.

4. Okada & Yoshi-Hashi beat Evil & Bushi in 9:09 when Okada pinned Bushi after the rainmaker.

5. Yano pinned Kojima with the outside cradle out of nowhere for the surprise pin in 5:41.

6. Goto pinned Tonga in 9:24 after a penalty kick. Okada came out after the match and once again tried to recruit Goto to join Chaos. Goto again refused.

7. Elgin pinned Fale in 10:10 after a power bomb.

8. Naito pinned Ishii in 16:21 with the Destino. What was notable is that as a cheating heel, the crowd now loves Naito. But he worked this match as a babyface for the most part in playing to the crowd’s cheers.

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The rest of the class of the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame is now official with the Big Bossman (Ray Traylor) announced on 3/7, and the WrestleMania 32 magazine being out which also listed Jacqueline Moore and Stan Hansen.

Bossman was something of a surprise for a number of reasons. Vince McMahon has had a quota in the past on the number of deceased wrestlers in, because of the paranoia of wrestling’s stigma with young deaths. With Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts both having passed away, Gordy at the age of 40, it didn’t seem likely it would be the year to put in Traylor, who was 41 at the time he passed away from a massive heart attack.

The rest of the 2016 class, already announced, are Sting, The Freebirds (Gordy, Roberts, Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin) and The Godfather.

It was not announced who would induct Traylor. His closest friends were believed to have been Curt Hennig and Rick Rude, who have both passed away. Hennig’s son Joe is in WWE as Curtis Axel. Jim Cornette, who was instrumental in making Traylor a star in Jim Crockett Promotions, is not likely to be asked due to heat with the promotion.

Traylor’s gimmick as the Big Bossman was being a mean prison guard, who turned back-and-forth over the years. Traylor was used as part of the regular jobber crew, working under his real name in 1985 for Jim Crockett Promotions when they began taping television at the TBS Studios in Atlanta.

Booker Dusty Rhodes was impressed with his agility. Traylor at the time looked to be every bit of 6-foot-5 and 360 pounds. He appeared to get shorter over the years due to his hard bumping style. In particular, Rhodes liked how he went up to make the much smaller Tully Blanchard’s slingshot suplex look good, and took him off television for three months for people to forget him.

He showed up in a suit, tie, and hat, as the quiet giant bodyguard for Cornette, Big Bubba Rogers. Rhodes gave him a super push, with the key angle being when Rhodes broke what was supposed to be a gimmicked chair over his head and Rogers just stood there and no sold it. The funny part of the story is that there was a communications breakdown and the wooden chair broken over his head wasn’t gimmicked. What made the angle even more effective was the dumb lock that when the chair broke over Traylor’s head, his hat never caem off.

Traylor was in particular lauded for never breaking the gimmick, which wasn’t easy in certain cases. Cornette was hilarious on promos and Traylor had to stand behind him and never crack a smile or show any emotion. At another point, Cornette, Traylor and the Midnight Express were in a cab taking them from the airport to the arena. They got to the arena parking lot, and the cab driver was getting their baggage when he accidentally slammed the door on Traylor’s hand. Traylor, knowing fans were watching, very calmly said, “Uh, brother, you mind opening this door for me? You closed it on my hand.” The cab driver opened the door and freaked out. Traylor told him, “Nah, I’m fine,” and no sold it all the way until he got in the building because of his gimmick. Then, when no fans could see him, he started screaming loudly in pain and cursing.

The angle worked as a Rhodes vs. Rogers match set the all-time attendance record in Pittsburgh, notable because that was Bruno Sammartino’s home town and was a city with a strong wrestling history. Rogers had a major program with Ronnie Garvin. While very green when he got his push, and not smooth in the ring, he was a tremendous bumper for a guy his size and developed quickly into a solid worker. At his peak, he was one of the best 300 pounders in wrestling.

He was used as a transition champion between One Man Gang, to lose to Steve Williams shortly after Crockett purchased the UWF from Bill Watts.

He signed with WWF in 1988, where he became the Big Bossman. As a heel, managed by Slick (Ken Johnson), he’d beat his opponent with the Bossman slam (now known as Wade Barrett’s winds of change), previously named the Bubba slam by Cornette. He would handcuff his opponent to the ropes and give him a beating with his night stick.

He was put in a tag team with Gang, by that point known as Akeem, doing a gimmick of a fat white guy who pretended to be black (that was actually meant as a cheap shot against Rhodes), known as the Twin Towers. They were the opponents for Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage on the pre-WrestleMania live prime time NBC special in 1988 which led to the Hogan vs. Savage match.

Bossman also had one of the strongest runs of any opponent of Hogan. That was more impressive because Hogan had lost the title, so the matches were non-title bouts, but they significantly outdrew Savage’s title matches and Savage himself was a big draw. The Hogan vs. Bossman feud climaxed in cage matches in most of the key markets that would feature Hogan giving Bossman a superplex off the top of the cage. What was either the last, or among the last of those matches took place on NBC’s Saturday Night’s Main Event.

Bossman turned face and feuded with Ted DiBiase, as well as assorted members of the Bobby Heenan family when Heenan would insult “Bossman’s mother.” His most famous match was a Jailhouse match at the 1991 SummerSlam in Madison Square Garden where he beat The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau Jr.), and Rougeau was taken to jail. He left the company in 1993 for All Japan, where he went back to his original gimmick as Big Bubba. He quickly became a main event foreigner before signing with WCW.

He came in as The Boss, doing his WWF gimmick. WWF threatened legal action. In a very awkward angle, WCW figurehead commissioner Nick Bockwinkel stripped him of his name. His new gimmick was as The Guardian Angel, taken from the street vigilante group of the same name that had a lot of publicity in the 80s and 90s. They had the approval of the actual Guardian Angels for the gimmick, as the group thought it was good publicity. The leader of the group, Curtis Sliwa even appeared in some vignettes with Traylor.

The gimmick fell flat and he turned heel, and once again became Big Bubba Rogers, and later worked as Ray Traylor, before he and WCW parted ways in 1998 and he returned to WWF as the Big Bossman.

Bossman was a key heel, including a run as Vince McMahon’s bodyguard, during the era of The Corporation stable. He also feuded with Al Snow in a tasteless angle where he supposedly kidnapped and killed Snow’s dog and fed it to him. The dog’s name was supposedly Pepper, and Bossman cooked Snow some Pepper steak. The feud included one of the worst matches in WWF PPV history, a Kennel from Hell match. It was a Hell in a Cell match with a cage around ringside and barking dogs between the two fences, with the idea that if Bossman got out, the dogs would maul him as revenge for Pepper. Unfortunately, the dogs didn’t cooperate and were completely passive.

He also was involved in a skit where he stole the casket at the funeral of Big Show’s father. He was phased out in 2002, and after a short run as trainer in developmental, he was released the next year.

In 2004, he worked for the IWA in Japan, a group booked by Steve Williams that became something of a nostalgia promotion for former stars of the 80s and 90s. He also started a storage company called Ray Traylor Enterprises or RWT Enterprises for short, at the time of his death.

Moore, 52, started wrestling in 1988 after meeting veteran manager Skandor Akbar, using the name Sweet Georgia Brown. Her connection besides that they always induct one female performer, is her local ties, growing up in Dallas. She became a regular for the USWA as multi-time women’s champion Miss Texas in 1991. She signed with WWF in 1993, and was going to be Jeff Jarrett’s valet, called Wynonna, but that ended up falling through and she ended up as Sgt. Rock of Cornette’s Militia in Smoky Mountain Wrestling during the dying days of the promotion.

As Jacqueline, she worked in WCW in 1997 and 1998 before debuting with WWF in 1998 as the new girlfriend of Marc Mero, after the WWF booked the Mero/Sable split. She actually was shown bare breasted on a WWF PPV from the U.K. She was also one of the trainers on the first season of Tough Enough. She was released in 2004, and then worked several different runs for TNA as a regular from 2007 to 2009 and occasional appearances after that.

Hansen, 66, is largely considered the biggest foreign star in Japanese history, for his runs as the top foreigner during a big period for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and then jumping to All Japan, where he worked from 1982 until he retired due to back problems in 2001.

Hansen played a Texas cowboy gimmick his entire career, and was one of the biggest stars in the business for a quarter-century, particularly in Japan, but also always a headliner when in the U.S., where the was AWA world heavyweight champion when that title still meant something although the promotion was fading, as well as U.S. champion in WCW.

His entrance music and running around buildings with a bullrope chasing fans made him, along with baseball player Randy Bass, a superstar in the Japanese league, one of the two best known American athletes in Japan of his era.

He was NWF champion in Japan (the predecessor to the IWGP title), and then PWF world champion four times and Triple Crown champion four more times with All Japan, as well as holding the tag team tile with partners Ron Bass, Terry Gordy, Genichiro Tenryu, Dan Spivey, Ted DiBiase and Gary Albright. He headlined Budokan Hall more than any foreign wrestler in history.

Hansen is originally from Knox City, TX, a small town, but was billed early on as “The Bad Man from Borger, TX,” a city he never was from. Interestingly, Hansen was never a major star in Dallas itself, but would be one of the biggest stars ever to come out of the state.

Most of the legendary Texas wrestlers of the modern era: Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Dusty Rhodes, The Funk Brothers and The Von Erichs are already in the WWE Hall of Fame. Hansen, Wahoo McDaniel (who was from Midland, TX) and Bruiser Brody, who grew up in Michigan but lived in Boerne, TX, for most of his career, would have been the biggest Texas based stars not in.

Hansen also won the All Japan year-end tag team tournament when it was one of the biggest events in pro wrestling, in 1983 with Bruiser Brody, 1985 with DiBiase, 1988 with Gordy and 1989 with Tenryu. Brody & Hansen, the Miracle Power Combination, who never lost a match together via pinfall in Japan, are generally regarded as the best foreign tag team in Japanese history.

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Pro Wrestling Guerrilla had two weekend shows in Reseda, CA, before instant sellout crowds on 3/4 and 3/5.

The first night was a show at the level of a 2014 G-1 Climax show, as every match was very good to fantastic and each match brought something different to the table. For a comparison, with the possible exception of the opening match, every match on this show was better than every match on the ROH PPV a week earlier with the exception of the six-man tag. And as great as that six-man tag was, it could not match the match of the year candidate in the battle of tag team champions that headlined the first night with PWG champions The Young Bucks retaining their titles beating IWGP Jr. tag champs Ricochet & Matt Sydal. Another plus was how quickly the show went, as it started at about 8:45 p.m. and was over just before midnight. PWG shows often end after 1 a.m. and while that is usually death as far as people not liking shows to run that long and the audience getting tried after 10 p.m., PWG is just different from any other group as you go there and if it ends at 1:30 a.m., the heat is going to be there and nobody complains because people come from all over the country and nobody is in a rush for it to end.

From a storyline standpoint, the biggest news was Zack Sabre Jr. beating Roderick Strong on the second night to win the PWG title.

The celebrity types were limited this time out, really to the MMA Four Horsewomen, with Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke at the first show and Marina Shafir (who is engaged to Strong), Ronda Rousey and Travis Browne at the second show. In fact, Rousey was at the show instead of watching UFC 196 and found out about Miesha Tate and Nate Diaz’s wins (Rousey is friends with the Diaz Brothers) while at the show.

From the first night, which opened with a tribute to Hayabusa:

1. Chuck Taylor upset Trevor Lee in 9:02 with an inside cradle. Lee worked as the heel and, like every match on the show, it had super heat. ***½

2. Chris Hero pinned Evil Player Uno with an elbow to the back of the head in 16:07. Hero may be the best in the world right now at making you think he’s absolutely killing people with reckless shots while in reality he isn’t hurting them a bit. It was hard because deep down I don’t think people thought Uno could win, but they worked to where they bought his near falls. A spot that would be absolutely stupid on another show, as the two pulled up chairs and sat down in the middle of their match and did a staredown contest. In the middle of it, Uno blew green mist in Hero’s eyes and led to some near falls. ***3/4

3. Trent Baretta pinned Drew Galloway in 15:43. It was interesting that Galloway lost twice this weekend. Galloway worked as the heel here. WWE made such a mistake in how they didn’t use him his last several years and devalued him after they first made a mistake in pushing him too fast before he was ready, and then cut bait. Baretta won clean with the dudebuster, or Omori driver. This featured an insane spot where Baretta hit Galloway with a tope, but Galloway caught him in mid air and gave him a Northern Lights suplex on the floor. ****1/4

4. Roderick Strong pinned Mark Andrews in 16:34. Andrews is another wrestler who is great, but in the confines of TNA you wouldn’t have a clue just how good he is. Strong won clean with the gutbuster. ****

5. Kyle O’Reilly beat Marty Scurll via submission with an ankle lock in 18:50. Everyone at this point knows how good O’Reilly is but his smooth submission game is one of the best in wrestling. Scurll is super underrated. ****1/4

6. Zack Sabre Jr. beat Adam Cole in 18:39. Roderick Strong tried to interfere to cost Sabre the match, but he survived and came back to win via submission with a Boston crab where he went the hell out of Cole, which followed a penalty kick. ****

7. Young Bucks won the champions vs. champions match over Matt Sydal & Ricochet in 18:31. Both came out with their belts and taunted each other playing off Ricochet & Sydal just beating the Bucks last month for the IWGP belts. The Bucks taunted them, calling Sydal “Evan Bourne” and calling Ricochet “Rich Swann.” This match was off the charts fantastic. All kinds of dives including Ricochet doing a Space Flying tiger drop early and a running dive over the post with a flip onto everyone several rows deep in the aisle. There was also a spot where one of the Bucks nailed a fan with a superkick after Sydal moved. There was another spot where Ricochet had Matt on his shoulders and he was standing on the middle rope and Sydal jumped to the top rope and hit a Super Frankensteiner. The crowd was the hottest for this and ended with Matt pinning Sydal after the Meltzer driver. After the match, Ricochet & Sydal offered to put up their belts for a rematch and they started talking about doing a titles vs. titles match, but the Bucks turned it down. They did a post-match angle where the Bucks continued beating on them after until Sabre made the save. This brought out Cole and Strong, who gave Sabre a beating. ****3/4

For the second night, with ratings courtesy of John Carey, here were the results:

1. Taylor pinned Scurll (***½); 2. Andrews pinned Uno (***½); 3. Lee pinned Galloway. Lee was the heel here (***½); 4. Ricochet & Sydal beat Hero & JT Dunn. (***1/4 although the knock was how long it went. Another person said it was the best match of the weekend); 5. Baretta pinned Cole via roll-up. Taylor and Baretta seemed like they were being groomed for a possible title shot (***3/); 6. Young Bucks retained the PWG tag titles over O’Reilly & Bobby Fish (****); 7. Sabre Jr. beat Strong to win the PWG title (****1/4).

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Lord James Blears, an iconic figure in Hawaiian pro wrestling culture who spent more than a half century in the business, passed away on 3/3.

At 92 years old, Blears was the oldest living mainstream pro wrestling personality until his death.

Born James Ranicar Blears in England, Blears served in World War II. He was on a Dutch merchant marine ship, the SS Tjisalak, traveling from Australia to Ceylon in the Indian Ocean, when his ship was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine on March 26, 1944. The Japanese captured the ship and began beheading those on it. Blears, a swimmer of such prowess that he was expected to represent England in that sport in the 1940 Olympics, before the Olympics were canceled due to the war, jumped overboard.

“They were laughing,” Blears told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin when recounting the incident. “They’d just go up and hit a guy on the back and take him up front, and then one of the guys with a sword would cut off his head. Zhunk! One guy, they cut his head halfway and let him flop around on the deck. The others I saw, they just lopped them of with one shot and threw them overboard. They were having fun, and there was a cameraman taking movies of the whole thing,”

Blears was actually tied to another prisoner, Peter Bronger, and two Japanese officers, one with a sword and the other with a sledge hammer came up. He threw a kick at one who came after him, and then jumped overboard. The Japanese fired bullets at him.

“I stayed under water as long as I could, and then I came up with my head just out of the water and, tat-tat-tat, machine gun bullets were going all around. When I came up for my next breath, the submarine was quite a way away. There were two officers in old-fashioned deck chairs firing with rifles. I kept diving until I saw they weren’t firing at us anymore.”

Bronger, who had taken a sword blow before Blears jumped off, died in the water. Blears swam to where the remains of the SS Tjisalak was, and grabbed onto a floating card table that he frequented while on the ship. He held onto the wreckage and found a lifeboat. Three days later, a U.S. ship passed by. Initially the ship took a shot at the lifeboat, thinking it was an enemy submarine. The American ship saved him and when they pulled him on board, after not having eaten for three days, they handed him a can of peaches.

Every year, for the rest of his life, on March 29th, he would start his day by opening and eating a can of peaches as a reminder.

The irony is that starting with his participation in the very first World League tournament, Blears ended up traveling to Japan regularly as a performer and then a figurehead official for more than 40 years.

Blears had done some wrestling in England as early as 1940, and ended up living in New York, where he met his wife in 1944 on Long Beach, through the lifeguard at the beach, Paul Boesch. That was about the same time that Boesch also introduced Stu Hart to future wife Helen. It was ironic that 25 year later they were three of the industry’s major power brokers, with Hart owning Stampede Wrestling, Boesch owning Houston Wrestling and Blears being co-owner of 50th State Wrestling.

He started wrestling in New York in 1945, under the name Jan Blears, pushed as a war hero babyface. Blears was known for having one of the best dropkicks in wrestling at the time, and became a star very quickly. On September 15, 1947, Blears, by this point Lord James Blears, playing the role of an arrogant British nobleman, beat Wild Red Berry in Phoenix to win the National Wrestling Association (the premier sanctioning body since it was the one most of the athletic commissions recognized) world light heavyweight title. In 1948, after wrestling hit it big on network television, he was one of the biggest stars, including having a Topps wrestling card marketed.

When pro wrestling was on the Dumont Network, Blears was a well-known star, first formed a regular tag team with Lord Athol Layton, capturing tag team titles in promotions based in Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1953 and 1954. From 1954 to 1956, Blears & Gene Kiniski were one of the top heel tag teams in the country, holding the NWA world tag team title four times with major programs against The Sharpe Brothers and Enrique Torres with partners like Leo Nomellini and Johnny Barend.

Kiniski & Blears came to Hawaii for promoter Al Karasick in 1955 as a heel team, and Blears fell in love with the island. He bought a home right next to the statue of Duke Kahanamoku on Waikiki Beach. He toured other territories for the next few years but for the most part stopped working full-time in other territories around 1959 and lived full-time in Hawaii. Few in Hawaii even remember that Blears started out as a heel since he’s more remembered as the announcer who was a popular babyface wrestler. Blears, even with his great enunciations as his British accent, was viewed and remembered as every bit as Hawaiian as the former king of the beach turned wrestling star Sammy Steamboat, the son of the surfing legend, or Curtis Iaukea, the high school football star who became the biggest drawing pro wrestler and whose great grandfather was a famous politician and at one point acting Governor of Hawaii, and whose father was the Chief of Police in Honolulu.

During the heyday of 50th State Big Time Wrestling, a company started in 1961 when wrestler Ed Francis bought out Karasick, Blears was the booker and television announcer, as well as a wrestler, by this point a beloved babyface. He was known as Lord “Tally Ho” Blears, because he’d scream “Tally Ho” when he’d make his big comebacks and use the phrase in his interviews.

From 1961 to 1965, Blears & Neff Maiava, pro wrestling’s first major star from Samoa, who settled in Hawaii running a tree trimming business, were the island’s most popular tag team and frequent Hawaiian tag team champions. Blears phased himself down from the top at that point, although he continued to wrestle on occasion as late as a short 1975 tour of the AWA.

Wrestling was so big on television in that era, pulling huge ratings at its peak on Saturday afternoons on Ch. 4 (and starting in 1967, when moving to KGMB, Ch. 9, where the show would do a 70 share), the locals would rush home from the beach on Saturday afternoons to catch the 90 minute wrestling show. It featured matches taped from the big show the previous Wednesday along with locker room interviews conducted by Blears. Blears, Handsome Johnny Barend, Curtis “Da Bull” Iaukea and“Gentleman” Ed Francis, were known by literally everyone. In the late 60s, 50th State Wrestling aired 90 minute shows on Friday at 10:30 p.m., and the bigger television show on Saturday’s from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The Saturday show was later moved to a 3:30 p.m. start time. By all rights one would think Saturday in Honolulu at 3:30 p.m. would be death on television, but wrestling was one of the highest rated shows on the island.

But due to limited population and only one major arena, plus having to fly to the different islands for the other spot shows, it was a tough territory to make a lot of money running. But getting top talent was no problem because everyone wanted to come to Hawaii for long working vacations, or for a short stay on the way to or from Japan or Australia, where wrestlers would want to spend a week on the beach getting a tan so they’d look better when they arrived for their big money bookings.

Still, during most of the 60s, the Honolulu Civic Auditorium was rocking every Wednesday night with 5,000 fans. When the Honolulu International Center Arena (known at the time as “The HIC,” now the Neal Blaisdell Center Arena) was built, Honolulu’s big shows were in a regular competition with the Cow Palace in San Francisco as the largest grossing arena in the U.S. Pacific rim area. The opening of the new building actually led to the biggest promotional war ever in the state. When “The HIC” opened up in 1964, the city opened up the new building and as popular as the local wrestling was, they allowed a bidding war for exclusive rights to run the new 8,700 modern arena.

Roy Shire’s National All Star Wrestling television show from Oakland aired on KONA-TV, Ch. 2, and given the popularity of wrestling at the time, was doing great ratings. Dallas Western and Aloha Promotions outbid Francis for the rights to run the building.

On July 28, 1964, a Tuesday night, National All Star Wrestling ran “The New International Center” for a double main event with Ray Stevens vs. Edouardo Carpentier for the U.S. title and Pepper Gomez & Jose Lothario defending the world tag team titles against Stan Neilson & Karl Von Brock, plus such attractions as Kinji Shibuya, Cowboy Bob Ellis and “Hawaii’s own Charlie Kalani” (who later became Professor Toru Tanaka). Francis countered by running a Battle Royal, bringing in Kiniski as well as his regular crew. National drew a sellout 8,700 and 50th State drew a sellout 5,300. Even more impressive is that Francis still ran his regularly weekly Wednesday television taping the next night in the same building, headlined by Iaukea defending his version of the U.S. title against Luther Lindsay, and drew another sellout.

50th State continued to draw well with weekly shows, and when National All-Star would come to town for monthly shows, Francis would run head-to-head. Through the end of 1964, those head-to-head nights ended with both groups either selling out together, or at least coming close.

But even though they drew big business, Dallas Western folded due to a lawsuit concerning payment to the travel agency they used to fly in the wrestlers. After winning the war, 50th State Big Time Wrestling continued to run weekly at the Civic Auditorium, and also run bigger shows at The HIC, where they’d bring in the top stars who made their name on the island from the rival promotion, which is why the tag team of Stevens & Pat Patterson became fixtures on the company’s big shows. The company’s first show at the HIC, called “Parade of Champions,” was built around the Battle of the Giants with Iaukea vs. Giant Baba, and a WWA world title match with Fred Blassie vs. Leo Nomellini.

Because of the Shire talent now appearing on the monthly big shows, that’s when the Honolulu vs. San Francisco rivalry as the unofficial hot spot for pro wrestling began.

One of the more famous interview lines on San Francisco television came when Barend got married in the ring at the HIC, one of the two most well remembered events from the golden era (the other being the 1961 riot that made front page news in an Iaukea vs. Maiava match). The wedding drew a sellout crowd.

When Patterson & Stevens heard the gross, Stevens, on San Francisco television, brought up the rivalry and jokingly knocked that the Honolulu group had to use a gimmick to draw such a big gate. Stevens was married at the time, but he noted that he could guarantee that his partner, Patterson, would never resort to getting married at the Cow Palace to draw a sellout.

From an historical standpoint, probably the most important night was on December 22, 1965, when Francis and Blears put together another “Texas Battle Royal.” While they had run Battle Royals in the past, this was promoted as something bigger. The concept was that they were presenting the biggest Battle Royal, in wrestling history, with 20 men, all top tier superstars. The story was that wrestlers from all over the world had to send in $250 to enter, that the promotion would pick the 20 best entrants, and they would do a match, with four referees to make sure there was no cheating, and everyone’s $250 would result in a $5,000 winner-take-all jasckpot. The winner would be crowned the World Battle Royal champion and get a trophy. The newspaper ad for that show listed Bearcat Wright (who ended up winning), Shibuya, Karl Gotch, Ron Reed (better known as Buddy Colt), The Alaskan, Iaukea, Gomez, Stevens, Patterson, Ripper Collins and Killer Kowalski as the top stars.

The success of this show in selling out got to Shire, who ran his first Battle Royal a few years later. It was the Shire Battle Royals in San Francisco and their success, that led to not only the annual Los Angeles Battle Royal (the San Francisco and Los Angeles Battle Royals were two of the biggest events in pro wrestling for many years), but was the concept Patterson drew on for the creation of the Royal Rumble.

Because of the wide variety of talent, a combination of a crew that lived on the island who were almost all quality wrestlers because everyone wanted those spots, and the international stars who would spend a week in Hawaii going to or coming back from Japan and Australia, Honolulu got a wider mix of stars than any city in the U.S. They regularly had dream matches and loaded shows compared to anywhere else, with top stars and champions from every organization appearing. In the early 70s, for example, NWA champion Dory Funk Jr., AWA champion Verne Gagne, International champion Giant Baba and WWWF champion Pedro Morales all came and faced different opponents than they would almost anywhere else.

Blears was not the best play-by-play announcer, but he was a master at handling the interviews. Hawaii was noted throughout the 60s for having the best interviews of any territory. Blears, as the booker, set up the programs and because he was loved and revered by the locals, considered a part of Hawaiian culture, he understood how to ingratiate the faces into that culture as well as direct the heels on how to insult the locals.

By this point, Blears was like everyone’s uncle, the legendary storyteller who all the babyfaces would call, “Tally,” in reverence, while the heels would insult him, Hawaii and England. The fans took the insults to Blears personally and it was easy heat for the heels.

The business changed and the golden era was over with the closing of the Honolulu Civic Auditorium after it was sold in early 1972. Similar to how the closing of the Atlanta Civic Auditorium changed the entire economic fortunes of Georgia Championship Wrestling years later, the company wasn’t able to get weekly dates at the HIC, because there were so many other attractions running the only building in town. They were able to get dates once or twice a month. But they didn’t have enough footage to fill two 90 minute shows per week, so they couldn’t run as much television. Without the weekly big shows, they couldn’t afford a crew to run as many smaller shows.

The cards remained strong, with a few veterans like Steamboat, Maiava, Francis and Collins who lived there, guys going to and from Japan, and the AWA’s top talent working with Gagne. That format did big business for a while but the costs of flying so much talent in from Minneapolis once a month made it difficult, and in 1974, when the shows were no longer selling out, that relationship ended and the glory days were over. Francis shut down operations for a few years, and Shire promoted some shows in Honolulu in the interim. Francis and Blears brought back the promotion from 1977 to 1979, before selling to New Zealand promoter Steve Rickard, who then sold the promotional rights to one of his top stars, Peter Maivia. Blears was retained as the television voice of the show during this period. After Maivia’s death, and his widow, Lia Maivia took over, Blears faded from the scene.

Blears became an avid surfer as soon as he arrived in Hawaii in the 50s. The wrestling/surfing connection was big in that era, with the friendship of Lou Thesz, the world champion he regularly came in for big shows, and the original Sammy Steamboat, the King of the Beach and one of the greatest surfers of all-time. The wrestlers, like Thesz, helped train Steamboat’s son, the pro wrestling Sammy Steamboat, in exchange for Big Steamboat teaching the wrestlers the secrets of surfing.

By the early 70s, Blears was known as the patriarch for what was known in some circles as “The First Family of Surfing.” Lord Blears was known as a world class surfer by the late 50s, competing at a high level in the major tournaments for years. He hit Waikiki Beach nearly every morning with his two children, who started surfing as soon as they coudl swim, for the next few decades. Son Jimmy was the 1972 world surfing champion. Daughter Laura was a minor pop culture figure in the 70s as one of the country’s most famous woman athletes, more because of her looks than her sport.

Laura went to high school with Don Muraco and played a part in his meeting her father and his being trained for pro wrestling. She was Hawaii’s best woman surfer in the 70s, a world championship finalist in 1972 and in 1974 won the first professional woman’s surfing event in history, sponsored by Smirnoff Pro. Known as Laura Blears-Ching, she later became a poster girl for Smirnoff Pro Vodka in a white swimsuit that was in bars all over North America. She also appeared on the “Battle of the Sexes” on ABC’s Wide World of Sports for three straight years, as well as in the “Superstars” competition for women, a series of different events where the top athletes in different sports would compete in. She was probably the first professional woman athlete to do a six-page nude spread in “Playboy,” and had articles on her everywhere from People magazine to Sports Illustrated, ironically all the while working as a waitress in a beach-front restaurant.

Lord Blears appeared in the opening scenes of the original movie “the Wrestler,” as the Hawaiian promoter who discovered Billy Taylor (Billy Robinson) wrestling in Japan. He showed up at the office of Ed Asner (who played Verne Gagne the promoter) and suggested to Ed Asner, who played the Minneapolis promoter, that he had found the fastest and best technical wrestler in the world, and the guy who could beat Mike Bullard (who was Gagne playing Gagne the AWA world champion wrestler). It was somewhat accurate in the sense that Gagne himself first came across Robinson when both were wrestling in Honolulu for Blears and Francis.

Blears for a time announced for the AWA in 1985 with Rod Tronguard when the promotion was on ESPN.

But in the modern era, he was best known as the Chairman of the Pacific Wrestling Federation, the so-called governing body of pro wrestling that All Japan Pro Wrestling was a member of. Blears was the figurehead authority figure of All Japan from 1973 until around 2001, when he was replaced by Stan Hansen at the point Blears was getting too old to make the trips to Japan.

Blears would be brought into Budokan Hall and for other major All Japan shows and read the proclamation in the ring before the major championship matches.

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WWE attendance for January was down from recent years, with an average of 4,682 paid per domestic house show, down 16 percent from last year. The prior three years saw an average of 5,563 paid in 2015, 5,178 in 2014 and 5,409 in 2013.

For a breakdown, of the non-TV tapings, shows advertised around Roman Reigns averaged 3,140, shows advertised around John Cena (he wasn’t there due to injuries but the tickets were sold based on him) averaged 4,300 and shows built around Kane vs. Bray Wyatt averaged 2,750.

Last year the Cena and Reigns’ numbers were both in the 5,000 range.

Raw in January averaged a 2.55 rating and 3.60 million viewers. That was a 13.6 percent drop in ratings and a 10.9 percent drop in viewers from a 2.95 rating and 4.04 million viewers. The 2014 numbers were a 3.26 rating and 4.58 million viewers and the 2013 numbers were a 3.26 rating and 4.63 million viewers.

Smackdown, with the move to the USA Network, was very close to last year’s numbers on Syfy. Smackdown in January averaged a 1.84 rating and 2.64 million viewers, down 2.1 percent in ratings and 1.9 percent in audience from the 1.88 rating and 2.69 million viewers in January 2015. The 2014 numbers, on a harder to draw Friday night were a 2.05 rating and 2.92 million viewers, and the 2013 numbers were a 2.02 rating and 2.94 million viewers.

DVD shipments, a category that had declined badly last year, actually doubled this year, with 131,000 DVDs and Blu Rays shipped as compared to 65,000 last year. But it was 272,000 in 2014.

Daily online merchandise offers continue to be at the highest pace ever, averaging 1,290 orders per day this year, up 25 percent from 1,032 last year and from 831 in 2014.

Impact, in moving from Destination America to Pop TV, even though available in considerably more homes, fell from an average of 400,000 viewers on the first show to 301,000, a drop of 24.8 percent. When you factor in the homes, it’s a lot more depressing. The 400,000 in 57 million homes works out to about a 0.046 rating. Forgetting about the first two weeks because Pop TV was in fewer homes, but the last two weeks of January Impact averaged 330,000 viewers in 80 million homes, or about an 0.028 rating.

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Even with the McMahon family soap opera and it being WrestleMania season, Raw ratings fell to what appear to be the normal level for the 3/7 show built around the family and advertised around Shane McMahon’s return.

The show did a 2.58 rating and 3,538,000 viewers on average (1.43 viewers per home), which would be the seventh lowest for a show outside of football season dating back to 1997. That sounds bad but it’s really right at the normal non-hotshot show level since football ended. It was the highest rated show on cable, beating Major Crimes on TBS at 3,493,000 viewers.

It had the normal ratings pattern, with the big third hour drop, doing 3,760,000 viewers for the first hour, 3,614,000 viewers for the second hour and 3,279,000 viewers for the third hour.

The show did 66.0 percent male viewers between 18-49 and 70.0 percent between 12-17. The loss of viewers from hour one to hour three was mostly women, as women 18-49 dropped 13 percent and women 12-17 dropped 21 percent. By contrast, males 18-49 were virtually identical in the third hour as the first, and males 12-17 were actually up in the third hour. There was also a 17 percent drop across the board among viewers over the age of 50 in hour three.

In the demos, the 12-17 demo did a 1.13 (down 1.7 percent from last week), 18-34 did a 1.14 (down 2.6 percent), 35-49 did a 1.38 (down 6.1 percent) and 50+ did a 1.33 (down 3.6 percent).

Bellator on 3/4 remained well above average levels doing 768,000 viewers for the show headlined by Joe Warren vs. Darrion Caldwell. The show peaked at 972,000 viewers. The show was 18 percent above an average “B” show, so for the second straight week they were well above average in the week of the Gracie-Shamrock and Kimbo show. It’s once again evidence that the terrible key fights in front of that large audience looks to have helped Bellator significantly as a brand in the short-term. Long-term is still unknown and more likely it’ll revert to around the same levels it’s been at as I don’t see one big show leaning to permanent growth. However, MMA numbers across the board have been on an upswing even though fewer homes have cable than a year ago. Once again Bellator finished second behind the NBA on ESPN as the most-watched sports event on national television in its time slot. The show did 64.8 male viewers in the 18-49 demo and skewed older overall than UFC, since the rating from 35-49 and 50+ were almost identical and stronger than under 35.

Smackdown on 3/3 did a 1.76 rating and 2,491,000 viewers (1.48 viewers per home), up four percent in overall viewers from the prior week. The rating was once again likely down due to the Republican Presidential Debate, which has hurt Smackdown ratings most weeks they are head-to-head. The debate drew 16,834,000 viewers on Fox News, one of the largest cable audiences for any show in the last year plus. Smackdown was ninth on cable for the night, but the only shows that beat them were debate related news programming.

The skew was 59.5 percent male in 18-49 and 65.5 percent male in 12-17. The show did a 0.76 in 12-17 (up 27 percent from the prior week), 0.60 in 18-34 (down 6.3 percent), 0.94 in 35-49 (up 6.8 percent) and 1.08 in 50+ (up 1.9 percent).

Lucha Underground on 3/2 did 124,000 viewers at 8 p.m. and 63,000 viewers at 9 p.m. The show did 65 percent males, which is more women than usual, but the average viewer age was 57.

Total Divas on 3/1 did 591,000 viewers, by far the lowest number in the history of the show. The prior low was 750,000 on May 11, 2014, and there have been only three episodes in show history to fall below 800,000 viewers, two in the last two weeks.

The show did an 0.25 in 12-17s, 0.31 in 18-34, 0.35 in 35-49 an 0.11 in 50+, with a 68% female skew and it remains the youngest viewing audience for any pro wrestling related show.

Impact on 3/1 did 258,000 viewers for the 9 p.m. show and 68,000 for the midnight show. This was the first show of “Kurt Angle Week,” a show that opened with his match with Bobby Roode and featured EC 3 vs Rockstar Spud. The 9 p.m. show was the third lowest thus far on Pop, but was way ahead of the 210,000 the prior week. The midnight show was the lowest midnight show to date, and the overall 326,000 viewers was the second lowest to date, but ahead of the 297,000 the prior week.

The show had 77% male viewership and the average viewer was 55 years old.

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RESULTS

 

3/2 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Dragon Gate - 1,850 sellout): Genba Hirayanagi & Ryo Saito & Kennichiro Arai b Cima & Takehiro Yamamura & Kaito Ishida, Gamma & Lindaman b Don Fujii & Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa, Dragon Kid & Yosuke Santa Maria b Eita & Takehiro Yamamura, Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy K-Ness b Masaaki Mochizuki & Jimmy Kanda, Naruki Doi & Yamato b Masato Yoshino & Yasshi, Shingo Takagi & Cyber Kong & Naoki Tanizaki & Mondai Ryu & Kotoka b Akira Tozawa & Shachihoko Boy & T-Hawk & Big R Shimizu

3/3 Columbus, OH (WWE NXT - 1,400 sellout): Asuka b Alexa Bliss, Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa b Aiden English & Simon Gotch, Apollo Crews b Tye Dillinger, Eva Maria & Nia Jax b Peyton Royce & Billie Kay, Sami Zayn b Baron Corbin, Tag titles: Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson b Jason Jordan & Chad Gable, Women’s title: Bayley b Emma, NXT title: Finn Balor b Samoa Joe

3/4 Minneapolis (WWE - 4,000): A.J. Styles b The Miz, Darren Young & Jack Swagger b Adam Rose & Curtis Axel, Ryback b Neville, Tag title: Big E & Kofi Kingston b Usos, IC title: Dean Ambrose b Kevin Owens-DQ, Divas title: Charlotte NC Becky Lynch, U.S. title: Kalisto b Sheamus, Street fight: Kane b Bray Wyatt

3/4 Cleveland (WWE NXT - 1,400 sellout): Asuka b Emma, Chad Gable & Jason Jordan b Aiden English & Simon Gotch, Eva Marie & Nia Jax b Billie Kay & Mandy Rose, Sami Zayn b Tye Dillinger, Sami Zayn b Tye Dillinger, Women’s title: Bayley b Alexa Bliss, Tag titles: Chad Dawson & Dash Wilder b Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano, Four-way for NXT title: Finn Balor won over Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin

3/4 Citrus Springs, FL (WWE NXT): Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley b Alexander Wolfe & Sawyer Fulton, Aliyah b Sara Lee, Steve Cutler b Josh Woods, Rich Swann & Patrick Clark & Kenneth Crawford b Angelo Dawkins & Gabriel & Uriel Ealy, Manny Andrade b Elias Samson, Carmella b Daria, Tucker Knight b Alex Riley, Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady b Blake & Murphy

3/4 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 5,000): Cuatrero & Sanson b Hombre Bala Jr. & Super Halcon Jr., Amapola & Dallys & Tiffany b Vaquerita & Marcela & Princesa Sugei, Mephisto & Ephesto & Virus b Esfinge & Titan & Triton, Marco Corleone & Maximo Sexy & Ultimo Guerrero b La Mascara & Rey Escorpion & Rush-DQ, CMLL super lightweight title: Dragon Lee b Kamaitachi to win title, Negro Casas & Cavernario Barbaro & Mr. Niebla b Atlantis & Volador Jr. & Mascara Dorada

3/4 Toluca (AAA TV tapings): Carta Brava Jr. & Super Fly b Ludxor & Venum, Nino Hamburguesa & Goya Kong & Mascarita Sagrada b El Apache & Taya & Mini Psycho Clown, El Hijo de Pirata Morgan & Taurus b Aero Star & DRago, Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria & Zorro b Psycho Circus, Rey de Reyes qualifier: Pentagon Jr. won over Fenix, Octagon Jr. and El Hijo del Fantasma, Bull terrier match: Mesias b Dr. Wagner Jr.

3/4 Newburgh, NY (Northeast Wrestling - 1,742 sellout): Flip Gordon b Damian Adams, TK O’Ryan b Vinny Marseglia, Mandy Leon b Deonna Purrazzo, Brian Anthony b Dan De Man, NEW title: Warbeard Hanson b Dijak, Jerry Lawler b Jake Manning, Hale Collins & Vik Dalishus b Randy Shawn & Keith Youngblood & Daniel Evans, Rey Mysterio Jr. & Matt Hardy b Dalton Castle & Caleb Konley

3/5 Cedar Rapids (WWE - 3,000): A.J. Styles b The Miz, Darren Young & Jack Swagger b Adam Rose & Curtis Axel, U.S. title: Kalisto b King Barrett, Three-way for tag titles: Big E & Xavier Woods won over Usos and Dudleys, Divas title: Charlotte b Becky Lynch, Sheamus b Neville, IC title: Dean Ambrose b Kevin Owens-DQ

3/5 Saginaw (WWE - 4,800): Fandango & Damien Sandow b Tyler Breeze & Stardust, R-Truth b Heath Slater, Rusev b Sin Cara, Big Show & Dolph Ziggler b Luke Harper & Braun Strowman, Paige & Sasha Banks & Alicia Fox b Naomi & Tamina & Cameron, Ryback b Viktor, Street fight: Kane b Bray Wyatt

3/5 Columbus, OH (WWE NXT Arnold Fitness Expo show): Apollo Crews b Dylan Miley, Billie Kay b Mandy Rose, Johnny Gargano b Riddick Moss, Women’s title: Bayley b Emma, Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Aiden English & Simon Gotch, NXT title: Finn Balor b Baron Corbin, Tye Dillinger b Tino Sabbatelli, Eva Marie b Peyton Royce, Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder b King Constantine & Thomas Kingdon, Asuka b Alexa Bliss, Kishin Raftar b Dan Matha, Nia Jax b Billie Kay, Apollo Crews b Riddick Moss, Tye Dillinger b Johnny Gargano, Non-title: Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder-DQ, Peyton Royce b Alexa Bliss, Sami Zayn b Samoa Joe

3/5 Bartow, FL (WWE NXT): Levis Valenzuela b Dallas Harper, Liv Morgan b Aliyah, Elias Samson b Noah Kekoa, Patrick Clark b Steve Cutler, Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley b Sawyer Fulton & Alexander Wolfe, Manny Andrade b Alex Riley, Carmella b Daria, Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady b Blake & Murphy

3/5 Osaka (Dragon Gate - 1,600 sellout): Naruki Doi & Yamato & Mondai Ryu b Gamma & Punch Tominaga & Takehiro Yamamura, Big R Shimizu & Shachihoko Boy b Masaaki Mochizuki & Kaito Ishida, Dragon Kid & Eita b Cima & Kzy, Open the Brave Gate title: Yosuke Santa Maria b Kotoka to win title, Naoki Tanizaki b Sumo Kanda, Shingo Takagi & Cyber Kong b Sumo Susumu & Sumo K-Ness, Open the Triangle Gate title: Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk b Sumo Fuji & Saito Saito & Genki Horiguchi

3/6 Moline, IL (WWE - 3,500): A.J. Styles b The Miz, Jack Swagger & Darren Young b Curtis Axel & Adam Rose, U.S. title: Kalisto b King Barrett, Three-way for tag titles: Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods won three-way over Dudleys and Usos, Divas title: Charlotte b Becky Lynch, Sheamus b Neville, IC title: Dean Ambrose b Kevin Owens-DQ

3/6 Kalamazoo, MI (WWE - 2,800): Fandango & Damien Sandow b Stardust & Tyler Breeze, R-Truth b Bo Dallas, Rusev b Sin Cara, Big Show & Dolph Ziggler b Luke Harper & Braun Strowman, Paige & Sasha Banks & Alicia Fox b Naomi & Tamina & Cameron, Ryback b Konnor, Street fight: Kane b Bray Wyatt

3/6 Columbus, OH (WWE NXT Arnold Fitness Expo show): Apollo Crews b Tino Sabbatelli, Chad Gable b Riddick Moss, Aiden English NC Dan Matha, Dylan Miley & Dan Matha b Aiden English & Simon Gotch, Tye Dillinger b Kishan Raftar, Bayley b Nia Jax, Jason Jordan b Johnny Gargano, Apollo Crews b Riddick Moss, Billie Kay b Alexa Bliss, Chad Gable b Scott Dawson, Asuka & Peyton Royce b Emma & Mandy Rose, NXT title: Finn Balor & Sami Zayn b Samoa Joe & Baron Corbin

3/6 Osaka (Dragon Gate - 1,700 sellout): Lindaman & Kaito Ishida b Jimmy K-Ness & Shachihoko Boy, Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito & Jimmy Kanda b Cyber Kong & Naoki Tanizaki & Mondai Ryu, Dragon Kid b Kotoka, Masaaki Mochizuki & Don Fujii b Gamma & Takehiro Yamamura, Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & Yosuke Santa Maria b Cima & Eita & Punch Tominaga, Open the Twin Gate titles: T-Hawk & Big R Shimizu b Naruki Doi & Yamato to win titles, Open the Dream Gate title: Shingo Takagi b Jimmy Susumu to win title

3/6 Mexico City Arena Coliseo (Lucha Libre Elite - 5,000): Hombre Bala Jr. & Robin b Luzbel & Tangque Infernal, Amapola & Zeuxis b Jarochita & Vaquerita, Dinamic Black & Metaleon & Rocky Lobo b Cancerbero & Okumura & Raziel, Golden Magic b Argos, Marco Corleone & Volador Jr. b Negro Casas & Rush-DQ, Angel de Oro & Caristico & Mistico b La Mascara & Mephisto & Niebla Roja

3/7 Chicago (WWE Raw/Superstars TV tapings - 10,800 sellout): The Miz b Zack Ryder, Usos b The Ascension, Kevin Owens b Neville, Summer Rae b Brie Bella, 1 vs. 3 Elimination match: Sheamus & Rusev & King Barrett b Dolph Ziggler, Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch b Naomi & Tamina, Tag titles: Kofi Kingston & Big E b Chris Jericho & A.J. Styles, Non-title: Kalisto b Tyler Breeze, Ryback b Curtis Axel, Dean Ambrose b Bray Wyatt-DQ

3/8 Milwaukee (WWE Smackdown/Main Event TV tapings): Fandango b Stardust, Zack Ryder b Tyler Breeze, Ryback b Bo Dallas, Naomi & Tamina b Natalya & Paige, Sami Zayn & Neville b Kevin Owens & The Miz, Brie Bella b Summer Rae, King Barrett & Sheamus b Sin Cara & Kalisto, Dean Ambrose & Dolph Ziggler & Usos b Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper & Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman

3/8 Nagano (New Japan - 992): Tiger Mask b Teruaki Kanemitsu, Captain New Japan b Takumi Honjo, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi b Toru Yano & Gedo, Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Bushi b Ryusuke Taguchi & Jay White & David Finlay, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan b Katsuyori Shibata & Juice Robinson, Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi b Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma & Jushin Liger, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hirooki Goto & Michael Elgin b Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi

CMLL: The complete lineup for the 3/18 El Homenaje a Dos Leyendas show, which will honor Salvador Lutteroth (the founder of EMLL who is always honored at this annual show) and Lizmark Sr., is: Oro Jr. & Soberano vs. Cuatrero & Sanson (the two sons of Cien Caras, who are just starting here), Angel de Oro & Rey Cometa & Titan vs. Mephisto & Ephesto & Luciferno (the Mexican national trios champs in a non-title match), Mexico vs. Japan with Dragon Lee & Mascara Dorada & Mistico & Valiente vs. Fujin & Raijin & Kamaitachi & Okumura, Rush vs. Maximo Sexy in a hair vs. hair match, Atlantis & Marco Corleone & Brazo de Plata vs. Cibernetico & Ultimo Guerrero & Mr. Niebla, and a main event of Volador Jr. vs. Negro Casas in a hair vs. hair match

Most speculation has it that the goal of this show is to be Volador and Rush over strong to lead to them facing each other in a hair match later this year

This will be the first major show that Cien Caras’ sons are performing on and they’ve been said to have good potential. They debuted on a Friday night show on 3/4. Sanson was said to have shown more charisma but Cuatrero was said to be the better worker and does the cooler stuff

Soberano, who is 22, is the son of Euforia and is a great flyer who is very over with women, and is 5-foot-11 which is tall for a Mexican wrestler. This is also his debut on a major show. .. Atlantis has beaten Ultimo Guerrero via pinfall on both the 2/27 and 3/5 Arena Coliseo shows to set up Guerrero defending his CMLL middleweight title against Atlantis on 3/12

The 3/4 show at Arena Mexico drew almost 5,000 and featured another Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi classic over the CMLL super lightweight title. I’d once gain go ****½ on this one. You could argue with me higher than that but not lower. The moves were out of this world and the crowd loved it. It’s also good that they are finally drawing extra fans above the average for these matches because usually this type of match will entertain fans but it’s very difficult for guys in their positions to actually increase the gate. But it felt like they were doing high spots for the sake of high spots as opposed it building a match, but that’s also the current Lucha Libre high flyer title match style. But this was still the kind of match that is going to be evolutionary, because my feeling watching it was the same as watching Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid in the early 80s when you could see they were doing a style that people would copy going forward, or watching Chris Benoit and Eddy Guerrero or Rey Mysterio Jr. and Psicosis or Juventud Guerrera where you knew their innovations would be what younger wrestlers would copy and it would be the new style with the unique spots here being things you’ll be seeing lighter wrestlers do years from now. Lee regained the title that he had lost in Japan in January by winning the third fall in 29:37 of total time with a Phoenix plex. The first fall had Kamaitachi did a crossbody off the stage, but as they were cris crossing the ropes, Lee caught him bouncing off the ropes in a standing Spanish fly for the pin in 2:33. The second fall saw Lee did a tope to start the fall. Another spot saw Kamaitachi in the aisle in the crowd, running toward the ringside area jump over the barricade and hit Lee with a dropkick on the floor. Kamaitachi won the second fall in 2:08 with a double kneedrop off the top rope. So they did the long third fall. Lee tried the spot he’s been doing in their matches where he runs in the ring and leaps over the top rope to catch Kamaitachi, standing on the apron, with a huracanrana to the floor. But this time, Kamaitachi blocked it and power bombed him on the apron. Kamaitachi later suplexed him on the entrance ramp. However, Lee recovered and with Kamaitachi in the ring, Lee sprinted down the ramp, springboarded of the middle rope and over the top rope and hit Kamaitachi with a spinning huracanrana that sent him to the floor. Lee then hit a running flip dive over the top. Lee did a suplex into a power bomb for a near fall. Kamaitachi did a spinning huracanrana and Lee flipped over and landed on his feet. Kamaitachi dropkicked him to the floor and came off the to rope to the floor with a senton. He hit the double kneedrop off the top but this time Lee kicked out. Kamaitachi used a suplex into a front slam. Kamaitachi then went out of the ring, ran down the ramp and jumped over the top rope into the ring with a dropkick for a near fall. They traded German suplexes and did a double clothesline spot. Lee kept going back-and-forth from a Fujiwara armbar to a crossface for attempted submissions. They were fighting on the apron and Kamaitachi monkey flipped him off the apron to the floor. Lee came back with a German suplex on the floor. He ran the ramp and leaped over the top into the ring with a huracanrana that sent Kamaitachi to the floor. Lee did the Del Rio style double foot stomp for a near fall. Then they started trading cradles. Kamaitachi used a Canadian Destroyer while flying off the top rope for a near fall. Kamaitachi again ran the ramp and jumped over the top but was caught with a dropkick by Lee for a near fall. Lee went for a power bomb but Kamaitachi countered it into a Canadian Destroyer for another near fall. They cris crossed and Lee hit the Spanish fly to replicate the first fall finish but Kamaitachi kicked out. Lee then used a jumping knee and hit the Phoenix plex and got the pin at 22:08 of the third fall. The crowd erupted at the finish. The other top match was Cavernario Barbaro & Mr. Niebla & Negro Casas beat Atlantis & Mascara Dorada & Volador Jr. when Casas pinned Volador Jr. in the third fall with a low blow. They also pushed Rush vs. Maximo throughout the show. Maximo left flowers and balloons in Rush’s dressing room and when he arrived he got mad. Rush also saw a note that Maximo left him saying that this was the beginning of his celebration for taking Rush’s hair. They were on opposite sides of a trios match and Maximo noted that he’s kissed Rush two straight weeks and that it seems like Rush likes it. .. The top matches on 3/11 have Marco Corleone & Maximo Sexy & Ultimo Guerrero vs. La Mascara & Rey Escorpion & Rush, plus Mascara Dorada & Volador Jr. & Super Parka vs. Cavernario & Kamaitachi & Casas, plus Marcela defends the CMLL womens’ title against Dallys. .. The Chairo promotion ran 3/6 at Arena Naucalpan before a sellout crowd of 2,800 with some interesting results with indie guys going over on top CMLL stars. Caifan beat Atlantis and pulled his mask and pinned him with a roll-up. This led to hair vs. mask challenges. Extreme Tiger (Tiger Uno) from TNA pinned CMLL’s Mascara Dorada in a falls count anywhere match said to be pretty good with the crowd behind Tiger. Pagano pinned Ultimo Guerrero with a low blow and back stabber, and Dragon Lee pinned Rey Horus (Dragon Azteca Jr. from Lucha Underground) in what was said to be an awesome match with fans throwing money into the ring after. Horus was taken to the hospital as he was hurt in the match, but he’s okay now

. That’s weird politically when you’ve got a CMLL guy vs. LU guy. What other major promotion is having its top guys lose via pinfall to indie guys on indie shows in 2016

The LLE show on 3/6 was moved to Arena Coliseo and drew a nearly full house of 5,000, which is quite a bit more than they’ve been doing at Arena Mexico. It was headlined by Mistico & Caristico & Angel de Oro beating La Mascara & Mephisto & Niebla Roja in a good match. Mascara pulled Caristico’s mask off after the match. Volador Jr. & Marco Corleone beat Rush & Negro Casas via DQ when Rush gave Corleone a low blow, then gave Volador a low blow, and followed by giving partner Casas a low blow, and then beat down the ref

Elite announced a 3/20 show for its debut at Arena Naucalpan with jacked up ticket prices and the feeling is they’ll sell out with Mil Mascaras & Caristico & Mascara Dorada vs. Canek & Negro Casas & La Mascara.

AAA: Joaquin Roldan is now booking the company with the new direction of building around legends. They are also looking at pushing a young wrestler, likely Garza Jr., doing the stripper gimmick for women. When Konnan was in creative, he always argued against that feeling that guys like that if they are talented get resented by the male fans, the bulk of the audience, and the former stripper guys had been phased down in recent years. Konnan is still with the company as the lead agent, but has not been brought in for all the TVs. .. Flamita, who was Fireball, was introduced at the TV tapings on 3/4 in Toluca as Octagon Jr. That means he’s going to get a major push since Octagon is a flagship AAA character. They told the fans that the new Octagon Jr. was the wrestler that was Fireball

For a trivia note, Kalisto in WWE was originally to be Octagon Jr., did a few shots and then just decided not to come to Mexico anymore and then ended up with WWE. Octagon, who is no longer with AAA, was not happy about this, saying that he never gave Flamita permission to use the name and that promoters shouldn’t allow it. AAA owns the rights to the Octagon name

Octagon Jr. was the mystery fourth guy in the Rey de Reyes qualifying match on the sold out show. Pentagon Jr. won the four way to qualify over Octagon Jr., Fenix and El Hijo del Fantasma. Fantasma first eliminated Fenix. Octagon Jr. then pinned Fantasma and Pentagon Jr. it won by beating Octagon Jr. Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria & Zorro, who are the current AAA trios champions, are now called Los Xinetez. They beat The Psycho Circus at the tapings. They opened the show with Pentagon Jr. leading people in a tribute to Hayabusa. The main event saw Mesias win a three-way bull terrier (dog collar) match over Dr. Wagner Jr. and El Texano Jr. when Psycho Clown distracted Wagner and Mesias pinned Texano

Pentagon Jr.’s win puts him in the Rey de Reyes final four with Blue Demon Jr., La Parka and Villano IV on 3/24 in San Luis Potosi

The company has inked a deal where they will have event taking place at the Mexican Grand Prix auto race from 10/28 to 10/30.

WRESTLE-1: Hiroshi Yamato was hospitalized after the 3/6 show in Yume due to a possible cervical spine injury. He’s out indefinitely and has vacated his W-1 cruiserweight title

Yuji Hino & Kazma Sakamoto won the company’s tag team titles over Masayuki Kono & Shuji Kondo on the same 3/6 show.

DRAGON GATE:  They had a big week with sold out shows at Korakuen Hall on 3/2 with 1,850 and then selling out the smaller version of the Edion Arena with 1,600 on 3/5 and 1,700 on 3/6 for two Champions Gate shows. On 3/5, Yosuke Santa Maria won the Open the Brave Gate title over Kotoka in 15:42. The main event on that show was the Open the Triangle Gate title, the only one that didn’t change hands at Champions Gate, with Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk beating Sumo Fuji & Saito Saito & Genki Horiguchi in 20:01 when Yoshino made Horiguchi submit

. On 3/6, T-Hawk & Big R Shimizu won the Open the Twin Gate titles over Naruki Doi & Yamato in 29:01 when Shimizu pinned Yamato. Shingo Takagi regained the Open the Dream Gate title pinning Jimmy Susumu in 29:00. Susumu had won the title from Takagi on 2/14 in Fukuoka

This all leads to Memorial Gate on 3/21 in Wakayama with Takagi defending against Ryo Saito, Yoshino & Tozawa & T-Hawk defending against Doi & Yamato & Kotoka, and Santa Maria defending the Brave Gate title against Tanizaki

The 3/5 show opened with a moment of silence for Hayabusa. The PWG show the night before did the same thing. Dragon Kid, who was Hayabusa’s closest friend in the promotion, gave a speech. Hayabusa had ties to the promotion because he sang some songs for Dragon Gate Records, including the song “Curtain Call,” which is played at the end of every Dragon Gate show. Dragon Kid noted that they had met in 1993, when he was only 18. He said Hayabusa was already one of the top stars in FMW and Dragon Kid said that was the wrestler that he emulated. He said that Hayabusa was his mentor, but more like his brother. He said Hayabusa taught him drinking. Dragon Kid said Hayabusa struggled on a daily basis to recover from his terrible injury and noted that the two of them sang duets together, and then said they would have no new memories and started crying. He said he had always dreamed of standing in the ring with Hayabusa, but now that will never happen. When Dragon Kid came out for his match, where he teamed with Eita to beat Cima & Kzy, a large poster of Hayabusa was put on a ringside chair with the idea that Dragon Kid would pin Kzy with the 450 splash, which was Hayabusa’s trademark finisher. After Santa Maria won the title, when doing a promo talking about how his (her) parents didn’t want him to be a pro wrestler, Naoki Tanizaki came out and made fun of his parents and they ended up arguing and agreeing to a title match

They announced the next Korakuen Hall show on 4/7 will have Naruki Doi & Kotoka & Mondai Ryu vs. Dragon Kid & Punch Tominaga & Eita, and it Tominaga loses the fall, he has to retire.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: There are a lot of financial issues with the company because crowds remain low. Lots of cost cutting is going on regarding pay for the native talent and bringing in foreigners for upcoming tours. .. They ran on 3/2 at Differ Ariake in Tokyo to start the new tour and once again drew poorly at what used to be the company home base, with only 354 fans. The show was built around NOAH vs. Suzuki-gun in six singles matches, with NOAH winning four out of six matches, and Suzuki-gun winning the main event when Takashi Sugiura pinned Mohammed Yone with an Olympic slam after Minoru Suzuki interfered and Sugiura then hit Yone with a chair. The two beat down Yone until Katsuhiko Nakajima made the save and he said he’s beating Sugiura for the GHC title in their 3/19 match. TMDK, the tag team of Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste, who are expected to be WWE-bound, beat Akitoshi Saito & Quiet Storm in what is billed as their farewell tour. TMDK has since put over Go Shiozaki & Shuhei Taniguchi and Nakajima & Yone. .. The annual Global Tag League tournament will be from 4/5 to 5/4

Suzuki announced his own show on 3/27 with Jushin Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi and Toru Yano from New Japan appearing. So far announced is Yano vs. Takashi Iizuka (battle of former tag team partners), Taka Michinoku & Taichi vs. Taguchi & Yone, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Desperado vs. Liger & Yoshinari Ogawa and Suzuki & Sugiura against a team to be announced.

NEW JAPAN: Yoshi Tatsu, who has been out of action since late 2014 after suffering a broken neck taking a Styles Clash, is expected to start wrestling again in April. He’s now living in Los Angeles and will also be working U.S. indies.

HERE AND THERE: The Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker lawsuit trial opened on 3/7. Hogan testified on both days. The Gawker lawyers tried to impugn his credibility based on all the lies he’s told over the years, and he tried to claim that it was Hulk Hogan telling lies, but it was Terry Bollea who was filing the suit, that Hogan is an entertainer playing a role and everything he does in public is Hulk Hogan, but he’s not Hulk Hogan, he’s playing the role of Hulk Hogan. Gawker’s side of the story is that Hogan had talked sex and his sex life many times and thus as a public figure his doing so makes it a news story. Hogan tried to act like the video of the sex tape airing has greatly hurt his marriage and his relationship with his kids. Once when it was brought up him talking about the size of his penis on Bubba the Love Sponge’s show, he said that was Hulk Hogan, not Terry Bollea. He pushed that he thought he really didn’t have a lot of friends and Bubba was his closest friend and how broken hearted he was when you found out Bubba had secretly taped him having sex with Bubba’s wife and on the tape you could hear Bubba and Heather basically saying that if they needed it, that’s their retirement with the idea they could blackmail Hogan with the tape later in life. He said he nearly had a heart attack seeing it but was able to get past it when he realized Bubba was never really his friend. He said Bubba had denied to him ever taping it. He claimed he went into the match with Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III not knowing if Andre would be kind enough to let him win because there was no way he could beat him legitimately

More on the Great Khali shows, which were billed as “The Great Khali Returns Series.” The 2/24 show in Haldwani, India drew about 18,000 fans for a card built around Khali, using some imports and his students under the name of Continental Wrestling Entertainment. Outside names brought in were Mike Knox, Justin Gabriel, Jinder Mahal, Ricardo Rodriguez (who is the head trainer at Khali’s school), Crimson, Hernandez, Brian Cage, Apolo from Puerto Rico, Brody Steele, Cowboy Mike Hughes, Chris the Bambikiller Raaber and women Santana Garrett, Katie Forbes, Chelsea Green (who was injured on the show) and Renee Michelle. Steele, Knox and Apolo did an angle where they injured Khali, which was covered by mainstream Indian media like it was real. The second show, on 2/28 in Dehradun aired live on TV in India and drew about 50,000 fans. It’s not known about paid vs. paper on these shows. In India, in most cases, they let fans in free for events that aren’t cricket (the national sport), but there were definitely tickets for both of these shows online, and a crowd of 50,000 will likely be the second biggest pro wrestling crowd this year behind WrestleMania. Khali is a huge mainstream star in India just because of size and he’s done movies there. Most in the country have little idea about pro wrestling or WWE. They also treat it in the media like it’s real. There is more of a question as to whether it’s real among the public, with many believing it is, and others believing that Khali is a big liar when he always claims it is. The main event of the second show coming off the angle was Khali going for revenge beating Brody Steele to win the CWE world title with Knox and Apolo both chained to the ringpost. Khali was all bandaged up and selling. Steele got the key to the chains and freed Apolo and Knox. They hit Khali with a chair shot and he juiced, and then he hit all three over the head with chairs to win the match

Kota Ibushi is officially in for all three WWN iPPVs over WrestleMania weekend. He will be doing autograph sessions before the two Evolve shows. The Evolve shows are at 4 p.m. Central time with Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay and Chris Hero & Tommy End vs. Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams. There is a 4/2 show at Noon with Ricochet vs. Ospreay, Sabre Jr. vs. Matt Riddle and Johnny Gargano & Drew Galloway vs. Gulak & Williams. There is also a WWN Super Show on 4/2 at 8 p.m. with Ibushi wrestling in a six-man tag, teaming with Johnny Gargano & TJ Perkins vs. Tommy End & Ospreay & Marty Scurll. Also on that show is Timothy Thatcher vs. Sami Callihan, Sabre Jr. vs. Hero and Ethan Page vs. Anthony Nese. Terry Funk will be honored at this show

Another Mania weekend show has been added on 4/1 in Benbrook, TX which will be a Lucha Libre show with La Parka, Drago, Pentagon Jr. and Fenix

While in the U.K. doing a three-city Global Force Wrestling tour, Jeff Jarrett had a meeting on 3/3 with BT Sports. Jarrett has been in talks with BT, the home of UFC in the U.K., to carry his television show

There will be a substantial delay if there will ever be a Jimmy Snuka trial, as a hearing regarding Snuka’s mental competence that was scheduled for this month has been moved to 5/30 to give mental health experts sufficient time to complete their evaluations and decide whether he fully understands the charges and if he’s competent to stand trial. Snuka’s attorney claimed he is not competent to stand trial due to dementia and post-concussion related issues

Appearing as guests at WaleMania on the Thursday before WrestleMania are Kevin Sullivan, Chris Hero, Scott Hall, Konnan, MSL, MVP, Alex Greenfield, Me, Ed Ferrara and several others including at least two other major names

Northeast Wrestling drew one of the biggest indie crowds of the year, a sellout of 1,742 fans with more than 300 turned away and only 28 comps for a show on 3/4 in Newburgh, NY. The key draws were pre-show meet and greet guests Jim Ross, Terry Funk, Jerry Lawler, Rey Mysterio Jr., Mick Foley, Jim Cornette and Matt Hardy. Mysterio Jr. & Hardy won the main event over Dalton Castle & Caleb Konley. Lawler was managed by Foley, in a match where he beat Jake Manning, who was managed by Funk. People said it was really cool to see the interaction with Lawler, Foley and Funk. Cornette also did a promo and the NEW title match saw ROH star Warbeard Hanson retain over Donovan Dijak. The group also did a sellout of 400 fans on 3/5 in Bethany, CT with Mike Bennett, Maria Kanellis, Robbie E, Hanson and Castle as the stars

Mysterio Jr. is not wanting to work many singles matches. On 3/6, in Montreal, he was scheduled for a singles match with Mike Bailey, and it was changed to a four-way with Jack Evans and Black Dynamite added. The IWS show drew 600 fans, and some were mad because they had advertised Mysterio vs. Bailey in a singles match for months. But Mysterio said he doesn’t want to work singles matches except for rare occasions

Mysterio and Johnny Mundo are in The Sudan this week for shows

Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling did a three show tour in the U.K. We didn’t hear much from it past the first night, on 3/3 in Exeter, England, drew 211 fans. As noted, Jarrett had meetings this past week with BT Sports regarding television in the U.K. but we don’t know anything more than that. Sonjay Dutt as GFW Nex Gen champion, Pepper Parks, Cherry Bomb, Mickie James, Jeff & Karen Jarrett and Nick “Magnus” Aldis as GFW champion were on the tour

Carlito won the Universal title for the 16th time (Carlos Colon won it 26 times and Ray Gonzalez has had 20 reigns) beating Mr. 450 Hammet on the 3/6 show in Bayamon due to outside interference from Mighty Ursus. It was a surprise to take the title from Hammet since he was the most over babyface the promotion has had in a long time and is now back full-time since AAA has cut back on foreign talent. El Cuervo & Mike Mendoza beat La Revolucion #1 & #2 to win the WWC tag titles on the same show.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: iTunes is pushing the first season pretty hard, putting it on the front page of the movie section. The first week was very successful. From what we’re told, the deal they have, which is about a 40 percent revenue split with iTunes, can make the company some money but it’s not a savior and it’s probably a short-term deal. A deal is very close to selling season one to Netflix, and if that deal happens, it makes the iTunes deal obsolete because why would people pay a few dollars for an episode or a higher figure for the full season when they can just get it for a Netflix subscription? The idea as it stands right now is if the deal happens, the Netflix deal will only be for the first season and iTunes would still get the second season

The third season starts taping on 3/19 and after that, they will move everything out and there won’t be anything more until early 2017. Once again, they will have to either raise money to film a fourth season or get new television deals to help pay for the filming of the fourth season. But this buys them a lot of time to do so, but it also will leave talent with no work for months and give WWE the chance to try and cherry pick the top guys, some of which they are already interested in. There are contracts involved, so that does become tricky

Notes from the 3/2 TV show. The show opened with Mil Muertes mad at Catrina. He wanted to fight both Pentagon Jr. and Prince Puma and saw that they were fighting each other. That’s weird because he still had his arm in a sling. Catrina was holding her magic rock from the earthquake that gives him super powers and told him that if it wasn’t for her, he’d have never survived the earthquake. He said he wanted a match and she said no. He then picked her up to choke her out but she then disappeared into thin air and he was mad again. Think of the mentality to come up with a skit on a wrestling show where a guy tries to choke a woman to death but she disappears into thin air. Opening match was Kobra Moon beating Sexy Star in 2:58. It wasn’t that bad because it was short. Sexy Star, with the big fake boobs and the abs and hair looks exactly like Miesha Tate would with a mask. Sexy Star had the match won with the upside down rocking horse submission, but Marty the Moth came out. Sexy was distracted and dropped the move and Kobra put her in the dragon sleeper and she tapped out. The announcers were putting over big how Sexy never taps out. We had another Famous B vignette. This was entertaining. While he’s shooting this used car commercial type thing, a bunch of masked guys showed up. In Lucha Underground, random masked guys that show up outside the arena itself are the worst street fighters on record. Then they pulled back and we saw that Dragon Azteca Jr. was watching this commercial. Rey Mysterio Jr. was with him and got mad at him for watching TV when they needed to be training. They did more martial arts move sparring and Rey kept catching Dragon with punches to the face basically to show Dragon isn’t ready and needs more training. Rey told him there’s no time to be wasting watching TV. Prince Puma went to a no contest with Pentagon Jr. in 4:51. Any match with Puma is going to have cool moves. He did a Fosbury flop dive right away. Pentagon did a Canadian Destroyer off the ropes, which Matt Striker called the Mexican Destroyer. Puma kicked out of that. Muertes then showed up and destroyed both guys like jobbers. It was one thing when WCW would have their undercard guys have a match and some star would walk in and destroy both and make them look like crap, but at least they would do that with guys they weren’t pushing. These are two of the most marketable guys in the promotion and they were treated like jobbers. Muertes took out Pentagon with a uranage. Puma superkicked Muertes, who then no-sold it and ducked him. Muertes speared both and then gave both downward spirals at the same time. Apparently even though his arm was in a sling earlier in the show, he was fully healed. He’s also awfully muscular for a guy who supposedly had a broken arm. Muertes said that next week he would defend the title against both of them. Based on what we saw here, that would make you think not to waste your time on the match. They announced in three weeks that Aztec Warfare would return, which is their version of the Royal Rumble, except eliminations are via pin instead of over the top rope. Their first one was better than all but the best WWE Rumbles. That’s also the match that both Mysterio Jr. and Matanza Cueto debut on, and will be the return of Dario Cueto. The main event was Fenix vs. King Cuerno for the Gift of the Gods title in a ladder match. This was less of a wrestling match than what these two have had and more of a stunt show. These two can’t have a bad match and if you’re into just the stunt aspect, it was awesome. To me, I’ve liked their other matches more. The crowd here, which is usually really hot, was quiet between stunts, which also hurt the flow. Fenix did an insane twisting dive over the top rope. Cuerno power bombed him on a ladder in the corner. Fenix came off the roof of one of the offices and jumped over the top of the ladder with a flip dive onto Cuerno on the floor, which is pretty much nuts. Cuerno shoved Fenix off the balcony ad Fenix landed on a ladder. Cuerno was climbing and Fenix used a springboard dropkick to knock him off the ladder. At another point, both were climbing. The ladder tipped over and they were both hanging from the cable that the belt was hanging from, and both fell crashing down. The finish saw Fenix do a super Frankensteiner off the top rope that put Cuerno through the table, and then climbed to the top to win the title and become the No. 1 contender for Muertes.

ROH: There is a lot of talk about changes in the power structure when it comes to booking. I’m not sure why as Hunter Johnston (Delirious) is still the guy in charge of creative and those rumored to be part of the new committee, Christopher Daniels, B.J. Whitmer and Kevin Kelly, are in the case of the former two, agents as well as performers, while Kelly also contributes ideas, but the ideas are still to be pitched to Johnston. Truth Martini and ref Todd Sinclair probably also belong in that category. Daniels may be more influential now but several have said the structure isn’t any different and has been this way for more than a year in some cases

Kenny Omega is off the 3/12 show in Philadelphia and may be off for a couple of months due to a visa issue that is being taken care of. With him off Philadelphia, they have added a Kushida vs. ACH match for the IWGP jr. title to the show. The match is scheduled second from the top, underneath the Jay Lethal vs. Matt Sydal ROH title match. The rest of the show has Adam Cole & Roderick Strong vs Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly, Mark & Jay Briscoe & Cheeseburger vs. War Machine & Moose, Young Bucks vs. Daniels & Frankie Kazarian vs. Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin in a three-way, Mandy Leon & Sumie Sakai & Jenny Rose vs. Kyoko Kimura & Veda Scott & Taeler Hendrix, Whitmer & Cedric Alexander vs, Adam Page & Jonathan Gresham and Will Ferrara vs. Joey Daddiego

Joe Koff did an interview with Sports Illustrated and said the company’s goal was to get a nationally distributed show in the same time slot, similar to what they had when they were on Destination America, as well as getting an app. He credited Johnston for the relationship with New Japan which has been a major key to the company’s growth

For the May tour and the Chicago PPV they are bringing in the same crew from New Japan as last week, with Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii and Kushida. The announced shows on a 5/8 PPV from Chicago (this is a Sunday PPV instead of Friday night as they have been doing), 5/9 in Dearborn, MI, 5/11 in Toronto and 5/14 in New York. It is possible that one more date will be added

Both WrestleMania weekend shows in Dallas on 4/1 and 4/2 at the Hyatt Regency are sold out. The only thing announced is that the 4/1 main event would be the Young Bucks vs. Sabin & Shelley, who are being billed once again as The Motor City Machine Guns.

TNA: Just eight days before the shows were to take place, TNA finally announced its next set of tapings as well as got travel itinerary for the tapings to talent. The tapings will be 3/15 to 3/19, with the TV show on 3/15 being taped about two hours before it’ll air. The top matches on that show will be Matt Hardy defending the TNA title against Ethan Carter III and Jeff Hardy returns from his storyline injury for a grudge match against Eric Young

They will be doing evening tapings five straight nights as well as one afternoon taping on 3/17 at 1 p.m. at Universal Studios in Orlando. They will be taping Impact at least through the end of April, as well as taping at least one One Night Only PPV show. The names TNA is advertising as appearing are Matt & Jeff Hardy, Ethan Carter III, Bobby Roode, Bobby Lashley, James Storm, Drew Galloway, Eric Young, Gail Kim and Tigre Uno

Davey Richards did an interview on “The Two Man Power Trip” saying he had his surgery for a torn left ACL on 2/17. The usual recovery from that surgery is six to nine months but he claims that nobody can believe the rate of his recovery. “I laugh when people say I may be out six to nine months and I kind of say, `Yeah, we will see,’ because if you understand the science of it you understand that the body is giving it the fuel to repair itself. I also had a really great orthopedic surgeon and have a great physical therapist.”

UFC: The company has officially announced its first outdoor stadium show in Brazil, taking place as a PPV card, UFC 198, on 5/14 from Curitiba, Brazil at the Arena da Baixada Stadium. The main event will be Fabricio Werdum defending the heavyweight title against Stipe Miocic. The rest of the show at this point has Ronaldo Jacare Souza vs. Vitor Belfort in a fight where the winner is likely to get a middleweight title shot, Patrick Cummins vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Matt Brown vs. Demian Maia, Bryan Barbarena vs. Warlley Ales, Thiago Santos vs. Nate Marquardt, Evan Dunham vs. Leonardo Santos, Yancy Medeiros vs. Francisco Trinaldo and Kamaru Usman vs. Sergio Moraes. UFC officials were saying that 42,000 tickets will be put on sale on 3/30, and with late seats opening up, they could put as many as 48,000 in the building. There is talk of doing 15 fights on the show, with seven Fight Pass fights to open things

UFC 199 will be 6/4 for the company’s debut at The Forum in Los Angeles with Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman for the middleweight title and Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber for the bantamweight title. Shouldn’t a show with Rockhold and Faber headlining be in San Jose or Sacramento

The Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo flyweight title fight will be the No. 2 fight on the 4/23 show in Las Vegas headlined by Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title

The new season of The Ultimate Fighter debuts on 4/20 and the buildup video looked like there were a lot of fireworks involved. What has come out is that the heat with champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and challenger Claudia Gadelha was similar to Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate in 2013. You can never fully predict the public, but there was a feeling that Joanna, who has gotten really popular since her challenging for the title, is the one who comes across the worst. There was also an incident, not on camera, where Joanna threw a water bottle at Gadelha and they got into a legit fight with punches and kicks being thrown. Dana White said that Joanna hit her with a water bottle but Gadelha said Joanna threw the bottle at her and missed, but she kicked Joanna which didn’t miss. White’s description was that it happened just after filming had ended. “Claudia goes, `Shut the f*** up.’ She goes, `I’m so sick of listening to your mouth.’ and they started going at it, and I pulled them apart.” The title fight is scheduled for 7/8 in Las Vegas, as part of three straight nights of shows for International Fight Week. It’s basically the UFC’s attempt to get July to be their version of WrestleMania. The goal includes booking an arena in Las Vegas for a Hall of Fame ceremony, but we’re a few years away from that. But there will be a Hall of Fame ceremony that weekend at the UFC Fan Expo. There will be a 7/7 show (Thursday) which will be for Fight Pass. There will be a 7/8 show on FS 1 with the women’s strawweight title fight, and then the main card on PPV on 7/9

The company also announced a 6/18 card in Ottawa for FS 1, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs. Stephen Thompson in a fight that will likely determine a contender for the welterweight title. This would be the company’s debut in Canada’s capital city

The UFC held a press conference right before weigh-ins on 3/4 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena with all the announced headliners on every show from 4/10 to 7/8 and it was a huge success. One of the things is that it’s clear from the success of McGregor that more and more fighters have seen that building up grudge matches and promos are so important to paychecks. No bigger difference is in Weidman. When Chael Sonnen was big, Weidman got it but could never bring himself to try and emulate him even when it was suggested. But now, Weidman was out there in full force knocking Rockhold and they probably ended with more heat with the crowd than any match except Jones vs. Cormier. The crowd started out more for Jones, and Cormier got a mixed reaction when introduced. Jones then did the humble thing about learning from his mistakes, saying he’s five months sober for the first time in years, how he’s growing up and is a different person, etc., which the crowd was behind him on. Another aspect of this rivalry is that the crowd believes Jones is the rightful champion based on their first fight (Jones won clearly, but then got stripped of his title and suspended for a hit-and-run accident which was after a series of issues), and Cormier is the pretend champion, even though Cormier retained it with such a gutsy performance in pulling out the fifth round against Alexander Gustafsson. The reality is even though Cormier is champion, based on the first fight, and that Cormier will be 37 come fight time and Jones 28, that nobody believes Cormier can win. He said that he’s just concentrating on beating Cormier and it’s not a personal thing. Cormier then went after him, and the crowd itself, noting that Jones was fake, and that Jones had called him a pussy backstage and had nearly gotten into a fight with one of his teammates. Then he acted incredulous at the crowd for booing him, noting he’s been sober for life and never got into legal trouble nor got stripped of the title. Jones came out with one of his old title belts and Cormier knocked him with the idea he didn’t learn because he still came out with a title belt that he was stripped of. Weidman joined in with Jones in knocking Cormier and Rockhold as well as the entire AKA team. Even though it was in Las Vegas and at first the crowd was behind Rockhold when he and Weidman pushed it as East Coast vs. West Coast, when Weidman backed up Jones (and yes, the idea of a tag team was thrown in at one point), the crowd started getting behind Weidman. Weidman showed a quick wit when Rockhold came back at him and he said that Rockhold was veering from the script DC wrote for him. The tension with Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha was less talking but came off as even more legit. They were actually sitting near each other because of a communications issue and quietly security was sent to be close in case something went wrong, which didn’t, although they did in arguing bring up the fight they had just had in the UFC Gym. Cruz and Faber went at it with Faber going after how bad Cruz and Dillashaw looked physically once USADA stepped in. Faber seemed a little forced with his material but Cruz did not seem happy at the insinuation, as Faber talked about how Dillashaw suddenly looks like he hasn’t gone through puberty he was so skinny and that Cruz was skinny with back fat, and also noted that Cruz’s body is too fragile and always gets hurt, and he’s only finished one guy in UFC and always wins by close decision. Cruz of course noted that Faber always loses when he’s going for the championship

Paige VanZant was announced as one of the cast members for the new season of “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC. The series debuts on 3/21, head-to-head with Raw. VanZant, a fighter who became a star more for her looks than her fighting ability, headlined the 12/10 UFC Fight Pass show in Las Vegas, losing to Rose Namajunas in a fight where she was badly outclassed. She had won her first three fights and was noted for having great cardio and a fighting heart to make up for inexperience and lack of all-around skill. This season’s roster will also include football legend Doug Flutie; reporter Geraldo Rivera; actress Mischa Barton; TV personality and former wife of Donald Trump, Marla Maples; actress Jodie Sweetin of “Fuller House;” ABC Good Morning America meteorologist Ginger Zee; Von Miller of the Denver Broncos; Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers; singer Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men; America’s Next Top Model winner Nyle DiMarco; and Kim Fields, an actress known in another generation for the TV series “The Facts of Life,” and is now on “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” VanZant, 21, has a dance background before she became a fighter. .. There was more talk this past week regarding Chael Sonnen returning after his suspension ends in July. Mike Roberts, his manager, outright said that he would take the right fight

An injury to Mauricio Shogun Rua has led to him pulling out of the No. 2 fight on the next FOX show on 4/16 from Tampa. Rua was to face Rashad Evans. Evans will now face Glover Teixeira

Cain Velasquez is tentatively eyeing a July return after back surgery

There is an Invicta show on Fight Pass at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time on 3/11 from the Tropicana in Las Vegas with the top fights of Ayaka Hamasaki vs. Amber Brown for the 105 pound (atomweight) title, Jennifer Maia vs. Vanessa Porto for the interim flyweight title, Stephanie Eggink vs. Angela Hill, Jessamyn Duke (Four Horsewomen) vs. Irene Aldan, Roxanne Modafferi vs. DeAnna Bennett, Jinh Yu Frey vs. Herica Tiburcio and more

Ruslan Magomedov blew out his knee in training and has to cancel his 4/10 fight in Zagreb, Croatia against Gabriel Gonzaga. Magomedov is an AKA fighter who has nine wins in a row and is the closest thing to a legitimate up-and-coming heavyweight on the roster. They are looking for a new opponent for Gonzaga

Two teenagers were arrested and charged with two counts of attempted armed robbery and two counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon in the shooting of former UFC fighter Mikey Burnett and his 18-year-old son Freddy in a Tulsa parking lot. Burnett was shot twice in the stomach and needed emergency surgery.

BELLATOR: Chris Leben, who had just been signed by Bellator, has been forced to retire after doctors diagnosed a heart issue that has left him with just 18 percent of normal blood flow to the heart. Leben was undergoing a physical for a return to fighting when he failed his EKG test and the doctors found a life-threatening abnormality to the left ventricle of his heart, which was oversized, misshapen and not functioning properly. He was immediately prescribed medication in hopes of preventing a heart attack. One doctor believed he should be a candidate for a heart transplant while anther believed that medication and a healthier lifestyle can reverse some of the damage. Leben’s issues are believed to be from years of battling drug addiction, a heavy addiction to opiates as well as alcohol issues. Leben is said to be in dire financial straits and is working on getting a real estate license and hopes to talk with young people and people in the MMA community about the dangers of drug use.

OTHER MMA: Rizin announced they have signed Wanderlei Silva to a multi-year contract, which was expected. Even though Silva had said he was retiring, he’s now got deals with both Bellator and Rizin, who work together. Silva is under suspension until May 2017, so Bellator using him becomes tricky. Japan is unregulated, so unlike Canada and Brazil, the suspensions from the U.S. commissions aren’t honored unless the promotion chooses to. Silva’s first match will be what is being billed as an extreme grappling tag team match on 4/17 in Nagoya. Silva will team with a mystery partner against old rival Kazushi Sakuraba & Hideo Tokoro. The rules will be announced shortly for their new tag team grappling matches. They announced Silva would fight MMA rules after this first match. At the press conference, Sakuraba said that he is up for meeting Silva one last time. Silva has three wins over Sakuraba but that was a legendary rivalry in the heyday of Japanese MMA. Sakuraba should not be doing MMA at this point. Also announced were women fighters Rena Kubota and Kanako Murata. Murata is a big deal because she was one of the best Japanese woman wrestlers, and was an Olympic team prospect although in the same weight class as Saori Yoshida, the best woman wrestler of all-time. The only match announced besides that was Bellator’s Hisaki Kato vs. Yuta Watanabe. Kato is a knockout puncher and Watanabe is a submission expert

Lavar Johnson, a former Strikeforce, UFC and Bellator fighter who was a heavyweight who would either win or lose in the first round of every fight, apparently reached a deal with Fresno county authorities on a domestic abuse charge. Johnson pleaded no contest on charges of causing great bodily harm, a felony

Ken Shamrock is out of his match with Dan Severn on 3/20 for the URShow.TV Internet PPV in Phoenix. This stems from the Royce Gracie fight on 2/19 as he received a medical suspension by the Texas doctors which ends on 3/21. The 57-year-old Severn will now be facing 50-year-old David “Tank” Abbott in a rematch of their 1996 fight, which Severn took Abbott down and beat him on the ground the entire 20 minutes straight in what Abbott used to joke was being prison raped by Freddy Mercury. Roy Jones Jr.’s opponent in the boxing match will not be a fan, but be Vyron Phillips, an MMA fighter with a 5-3 record. The Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. pro wrestling match and Michael Bisping vs. Chael Sonnen grappling match remain on the show. The company is paying a lot of money for talent trying to make a name for the company but aside from UFC, I don’t know of anybody who does more than a few thousand buys for iPPV shows. Jim Ross will be the lead announcer on a broadcast team that will include Rampage Jackson, Sean Wheelock and Jenn Sterger (a college best friend of Catherine Jo Perry aka Lana, who has gained some notoriety for broadcast work and even more for being hit on by Brett Favre, and was recruited a few years back by WWE for its women’s division) as well as Cyrus Fees (who did some announcing for Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling) as a backstage interviewer and social media correspondent and Justin Roberts as ring announcer. .. There is a World Series of Fighting show on NBC Sports on 3/12 from Greeley, CO, headlined by Justin Gaethje vs. Brian Foster for the lightweight title

Combate Americas, the Campbell McLaren promotion in Spanish on NBC Universo, will be starting a trial series of weekly shows on 4/18. It hasn’t been announced yet, but they will be running Monday nights against Raw. NBC Universo wants a two-hour block of one hour of MMA and one hour of repeats of “Walking Dead” in Spanish. The initial commitment is short-term, but if it works out well, they would be a weekly Monday night promotion. The shows will be taped in Southern California and they are looking for mostly Hispanic fighters. No word on whether Konnan will be brought back as an announcer. Combate Americas is one of the promotions (and there are a couple of others) that are also in serious talks to be added to UFC Fight Pass

Kayla Harrison, 25, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2012 in judo and was a teammates, roommate and training partner of Ronda Rousey in Rousey’s judo days, is looking into doing MMA after the 2016 Olympics. The problem with her is a weight issue, because she competes at 171 pounds in judo and there are few female fighters near that size. She said that MMA is one of her top two choices on what she’s doing after the Olympics and said that the beginnings of fame that Rousey got in 2012 drove her and helped give her the drive to win a gold medal. She also said that she considered Rousey her “frenemy,” but that when she was broke, Rousey would buy her groceries and that they stay in touch. Harrison has started boxing and says she likes to hit people but isn’t sure she likes to get hit.

WWE: Exactly how much of this is legit or exaggerated you can make up your own mind, but the Vince McMahon vs. HHH dynamic is something that everyone is talking about internally, even more since Shane McMahon appeared on the scene. The feeling is that if Shane McMahon actually does come back into the company in an executive capacity that it’ll be Vince playing Shane against HHH and Stephanie. The storyline for WrestleMania has changed in the last few days. The original script for the opening segment on Raw on 3/7 was to be Shane responding to everything Stephanie said in her great promo the week before. The key line that was supposed to be said was Shane saying that HHH & Stephanie better make good on their promise to quit the company if he beats Undertaker, because if they don’t, he will fire them on Raw the next night. The entire promo was rewritten just before show time as if Stephanie’s promo the week before never happened. It should be noted that segment one changes almost every week, usually an hour before the show goes on the air because that’s the one Vince is so hands on with, and internally it was also said Shane got lost on his promo. We’re told two weeks ago he got lost and that Vince did a great job of covering for him in that one although to the public, that wasn’t noticeable at all. Really, for months it’s been an underlying theme with the idea that Vince doesn’t like how he’s perceived as this old and out-of-touch guy and how there is a perception the company needs Vince to step away and let HHH run it and things will be great, citing NXT as the example. Vince isn’t going to step aside, but there is a lot of concern about the rigid decision making and limited viewpoint on who can be real top stars.

While publicly HHH will say Vince loves NXT, the internal perception is very different, seeing it as a touring brand filled with so many guys Vince doesn’t believe are money. We do know there was a lot of heat on HHH and complaints for not selling the Reigns beating in public, because he had to get his face on the NXT show in London knowing it would be a super show in front of that crowd and he didn’t want anyone to not know it was his creation and baby. The questions regarding Reigns given how he’s not gotten over with HHH as his adversary for so long has led to plenty of finger pointing, although a lot of people pointed to the crotch chop on Raw as the sign HHH is no longer really behind the cause of getting Reigns over as a face. Perhaps that’s just paranoia and frustration, but the way Reigns was eliminated at the Rumble and the HHH/Reigns interaction with him has been curious to say the least. However, the one point that everyone talks about is the treatment of Breeze on the main roster. It created an issue that a lot of NXT talent, while the goal is the main roster and the money on the main roster, they are loving it in NXT, and they see Breeze as someone who was an NXT star who was ready to be a WWE star and then got treated the way he did. It led to a lot of questions regarding whether people wanted to be brought up. Don’t get me wrong, people do because the money difference is huge, but there’s also the feeling that NXT is really fun and the main roster is the culmination of a lifelong dream but very frustrating. In particular there was the heat because of the timing of the “Breaking Ground” show on the network where they made it such a big deal how Breeze was moving to the main roster, and that by the time that segment aired, he was getting buried like a job guy on the main roster.

From a public standpoint, Vince, on HHH, said in an Orlando Sentinel interview, “He’s done so well. I’m so proud of him, not just the years he’s spent in the ring and I don’t know how many more year that’s going to last. This may be his last WrestleMania. I don’t know. He’s a little long in the tooth as I say to his face and we all laugh about that now because I’m 70 years old. Nevertheless, corporately the growth over the last two years has been exponential and Stephanie’s part has been even more of a meteoric rise. What she does in terms of representing the brand, no one can represent the brand in all aspects, in all facets of our business, and she fits everywhere. Talk about an ambassador. She’s obviously beyond an ambassador and her growth corporately has been great. On Shane: “Whether or not there’s a corporate place, we’ll wait and see. From a performer standpoint, I so enjoy performing with him. And when the three of us are out there, Stephanie and Shane and me, and throw in Paul because that has happened in the past, oh my God. We could say out there and entertain each other, much less the audience, for an hour. It would be easy. It’s just so much fun because we can ad lib and entertain ourselves. I think if you are entertaining yourselves and you’re having fun that projects and the audience is having fun with you.

Regarding WrestleMania, with only a few weeks left, the secondary market is soft. You can get a Mania ticket on Stubhub at press time for as low as $14, while to get into the Hall of Fame (sold out) it would cost $55. The NXT tickets have the highest demand as a $25 NXT ticket goes for $360 minimum. The demand would have been high anyway because of running a 7,000-seat building with tons more than that wanting in. That show’s ticket demand exploded when word got out about Nakamura vs. Zayn being on the card, and all seats had been sold by the time of that announcement. That shows just how much things have changed given Nakamura has never appeared or been pushed on WWE TV, yet he’s meant for more ticket demand for shows than anyone in the company.

Michaels was interviewed by ESPN and teased being a part of Mania, and indicated he would be part of the show. There were at least two suggestions for Michaels that we’ve heard. One was to be the referee in the HHH vs. Reigns title match, as the concept (Batista being the original choice) was to put in a guest referee to stack the deck against Reigns for him to overcome. The other was to do a run-in similar to the DX and NWO deal last year in one of the matches. In that instance, he’d be part of a group scene with legends similar to last year. Michaels said he retired because he wanted to focus on raising his kids and that he felt he needed a clean break from wrestling because wrestling can infiltrate every aspect of your life.

Reigns will still be off the shows this coming weekend and at this point is now scheduled back for a 3/18 house show in Schenectady and the 3/21 Raw in Pittsburgh. It’s possible he could be on Raw this coming week but isn’t advertised. He has been advertised for the house show run this weekend including the Roadblock show in Toronto, but we were told that he is no longer on those shows in recovering from nasal surgery. Reigns was advertised for Raw in Chicago on 3/7 and wasn’t there, and the Montreal lineup was a release made four days before the event that still listed him in the main event. There has been a push for New Day doing a major entrance at Mania. What we are told is that they wanted to fly around the stadium on unicorns, but the company has not approved it and we’re told it’s less than 50 percent that it will be approved.

The company won a $23,387,360.76 default judgment against CTH Limited in a lawsuit against the Thailand television station that owed them back royalties and had stopped paying them. The order was filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut and I’m not sure how that will relate to a company in Thailand being forced to pay. Foley will be returning to WWE to build up what was at least on the books a few weeks ago for a cameo spot at WrestleMania. Foley will be doing the Stone Cold podcast and also is expected on the 3/14 Raw in Pittsburgh. There is a major house show on 3/11 in Montreal, which is advertising Lesnar’s return to Montreal after 12 years, with Reigns vs. Sheamus also advertised but as noted that is no longer expected, plus Lesnar vs. Harper, Owens vs. Ambrose vs. Zayn in a three-way for the IC title and New Day vs. Usos in a tag title match.

WWE is expected to make another round of aggressive talent signings from Japan, Mexico and the U.K. over the next few months. The name we heard they are most interested in is Kazuchika Okada, as apparently the key people in charge just found out that he’s tall. New Japan has offered Okada a five-year contract. We don’t know if the deal has been executed and Okada has publicly said he’s loyal to New Japan. They are said to be looking past New Japan, which was their previous target, and now looking at talent in other Japanese groups. There is a top name from AAA and Lucha Underground they are after as well who has never worked for a mainstream U.S. promotion before and is unhappy with the Lucha Underground creative. Because of the weakness of the peso vs. the dollar, everyone who works Mexico is looking for as much American work as possible. There was a time where if you were a top wrestler in Mexico, you could earn more than in WWE unless you were a pushed guy in WWE, but now any kind of a decent WWE deal is going to pay better than a Mexican deal for just about anyone.

Mauro Ranallo has just been announced as the new host of Inside MMA on AXS TV, the show that airs on Friday nights in the same block as New Japan Pro Wrestling and AXS fights. Ranallo, who debuts on 3/25, will replace Kenny Rice, who has hosted the show since its inception, working alongside Bas Rutten and field correspondent Ron Kruck. The show airs at about 12:30 a.m. late Friday nights after the conclusion of the live fight cards. Shane McMahon has been training of late with Tommy Dreamer to get ready for his match with Undertaker. The Undertaker matches on the post-Mania European tour will be Undertaker & Show vs. Harper & Rowan.

The National Post in Canada, the country’s national newspaper, did a story on Owens this past week. He said that when he was a kid and had the replica title belts, the one he liked the most was the IC title. “Every time that I would beat my pillow in one of our matchers, I would win the Intercontinental title. The coolest part is that the design of the Intercontinental title now...is very close to the design that I had when I was wrestling in my basement against my pillows when I was a kid.” He also noted how it was only two years ago when he paid for a ticket to see WrestleMania in New Orleans and how he’s performing on the show. “It’s an incredible feeling. I remember sitting in the stands at WrestleMania 30 thinking, `I have to be a part of this one day.’ And how it’s only two years later and I’m going to.

Terry “Rhino” Gerin, 40, announced that he was running for the Michigan House of Representatives for his district in Dearborn, MI as a Republican. He did a story with Fox Sports where he said that he is not running as a joke candidate and that he’s not sold on Donald Trump. He’s pushing a platform for more funding for public schools, to raise teachers’ salaries and improve road construction as well as more accountability on the spending of tax dollars. He said he’s going to run a grassroots campaign and be heavily reliant on volunteers, and wouldn’t be surprised if his opponents try to use his being a pro wrestler against him. He said he told Vince McMahon personally about his idea and Vince said to let the company know if there’s anything they can do for him.

Pro Wresting Sheet reported Rollins is back doing limited training in the ring, although heavily icing and protecting his knee. Six months after surgery would be mid-May. Names under consideration for future Austin podcasts include Undertaker, Sting, DDP and Shane McMahon. His next podcast will be with Foley. Cricket Wireless and WWE announced a multi-year sponsorship agreement where Cricket Wireless will be pushed heavily at WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Payback and Royal Rumble, as well as sponsor the WWE Network.

To no surprise, Undertaker has been added to the 3/28 Raw in Brooklyn. One would figure all hands will be on deck for that one, with Shane, Vince, Lesnar and Heyman all scheduled. Dwayne Johnson announced that David Hasselhoff would be part of the new “Baywatch” movie that he’s working on. HHH met with Kurt Angle this past weekend when both were in Columbus, OH for the Arnold Fitness Expo. HHH was producing the NXT show and Angle was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame. AnnMarie DeMars, the mother of Ronda Rousey, who was also inducted, did a killer speech.

During a podcast interview with Ric Flair, Michael Hayes said that Terry Ray Gordy Jr. (the son of Terry Gordy, who previously worked as Jesse of the Jesse & Festus tag team with Doc Gallows) and Buddy Roberts Jr., who did some independent wrestling out of Chicago, would be accepting the Hall of Fame plaques for their respective fathers. He didn’t say Kevin Von Erich would be inducting The Freebirds, but did hint at it. Von Erich said he was coming but has only talked with the WWE twice, and neither time did they tell him he would be inducting Hayes. The Y2AJ shirts were Jericho’s idea to make people think that they weren’t going to split as a team anytime soon because of the new merchandise that was just released.

Kenny Omega was on the Chad Dukes Wrestling show talking about the proposed New Day vs. Bullet Club Elite situation. It’s very clear that both sides want to do it and I can tell you that as much as it would seem to be impossible since New Japan and WWE are not on good terms right now, that both sides do believe somehow they have a chance of pulling this off. After some cute references last week, one on TV and the other with E using a broom for a web site promo (the broom being Omega’s New Japan Cleaner gimmick), the New Day did nothing last week. But The New Day was very aware of the New Day chants last week in Las Vegas during the ROH PPV. Omega said: “I think what people need to focus on, and by people, I mean companies, we need to focus on putting our best foot forward for the sake of pro wrestling. It’s not just about, `It’s my company versus your company and as long as I’m making more dollars and cents than you, we’re better.’ Who cares? If we make pro wrestling better as a whole, everybody’s making more money. So the best thing to do is take the hottest acts, regardless of where they’re from, let them go at it. People want to see these dream matches. Let them see it. That’s why we took it upon ourselves to challenge new Day. Did we have New Japan’s blessing? Of course not. Are we going to get in trouble? Maybe. I don’t know. We haven’t heard yet. But we’re just trying to make a statement. We’re trying to, for lack of a better term, bait these guys out into changing, helping us change pro wrestling. At the end of the day, if this match does happen, I don’t want to be the guy to take credit for it. I just want to be the guy that said, `I was part of something special.’. But myself and the Young Bucks, we’re being the guys to instigate it. We’re the ones that are showing that we first have no fear, we’ll put ourselves out there. We’re not afraid to get in trouble. We're not afraid to take a chance on something that would otherwise be a huge faux pas. So call it a challenge. Call it an extension of an olive branch. It is what it is.

WWE won two awards this past week at the 2016 CableFAX Digital Awards. They won Best Social Good Campaign for their Connor’s Cure campaign and how they used all of their different platforms to promote it and also won Best Digital Marketing campaign for their promotion of WrestleMania 31. ECW Press announced they would be releasing a WWE book, “NXT: The Future is Now,” by Jon Robinson, in conjunction with WrestleMania 33 next year. A second season of “Swerved” has gone into production.

For SummerSlam, they are putting travel packages on sale on 3/14 and besides NXT on 8/20, SummerSlam on 8/21 and Raw on 8/22, all at the Barclays Center, they’ve also announced a Breakfast buffet and autograph session on 8/21, a reception prior to SummerSlam with many stars at the arena, and a guided walking tour to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and th One World Observatory, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The phrase “When the hand goes up, the mouth goes shut,” that Miz uses came from the 1979 movie “Meatballs,” as during a scene in the movie one of the camp counselors wore a T-shirt with that phrase on it.

WWE stock was at press time up to $18.00 per share, giving the company a $1.37 billion market value. The increase is that people, when examining the annual report (which led to a drop when it came out), realized that there was actually more positive than negative in it. The decline in the network led the stock to take a hit, but I guess people realized it’s going to be a cyclical thing with a major spring rise every year and then being steady or dropping from there. There was another tryout camp this weekend. There were no real names there. The biggest name was Teddy Goodz, who used to team with Biff Busick on the New England indie scene. He’s got a good look and is a great athlete, and apparently he stood out athletically among those who were there.

Notes from the 3/7 Raw tapings in Chicago. Better than usual show with strong TV matches with Owens vs. Neville and New Day vs. Jericho & Styles. The crowd was up and down. They drew a legitimate sellout of 10,800, but if they didn’t sell out Chicago a few weeks before Mania for Raw that would be a bad sign. For Superstars, Miz pinned Ryder in a longer match than you’d expect with the Skull crushing finale. The Usos beat The Ascension in another long match with a double superkick on Viktor and a splash off the top by Jimmy as the finisher.

Raw opened with Shane McMahon out. John Layfield put over that Shane has beaten Show in a last man standing match, Michaels in a street fight and Austin in a ladder match. That immediately felt preposterous. But they do have to get him over. Layfield said Shane had a chance to beat Undertaker, but not a good chance. Shane got the big reaction, not like the first night but nothing was going to be like that. He put over that he had the utmost respect for undertaker. He said that his father had taken him out of his will and renounced him as his son. He said he was watching Raw on television with his sons as Vince did the interview. He said was Vince an egomaniacal miserable old bastard. He said Vince has lost touch with his business, lost touch with his fan base and lost touch with reality. It’s so weird to see this on a show with the idea Vince, who hates this criticism, has his son say it to the largest audience possible knowing that the fan base believes it. He said it was his destiny to get in control of Raw. He said when he takes over Raw, it all stops. He said all the backstage politics are choking the life out of the business. Seriously, now they’re scripting it like Vince Russo. He said that there are so many guys with so much talent in the company who never get a break, and all these guys who get all these breaks but don’t have any talent. When he’s in charge, he said that ends. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it but it’s my destiny to beat The Undertaker.” He said it’ll start a new legacy the next night when he comes out in control of Raw. Undertaker’s music played, but instead it was Vince coming out. Vince was great. Fans chanted for C.M. Punk and Vince paused and it died out and Vince made fun of the crowd for not being able to keep the chant going. I figured for sure they’d start back up and scream louder, but they, in fact, didn’t start it up at all. He brought up that in his will, Stephanie will get everything. He also brought out a photo of him with Shane when Shane was five or so and he said it was the first time he took Shane to a WWE show (that would be WWWF) in Worcester. He threw the framed photo on the ground and stomped on it. He said that Shane grew up thinking his father was invincible and said, “I’m Vincent Kennedy McMahon, and you’re just Vince McMahon’s son.” He said how Shane’s three children are going to watch their father fail again, and they will have to watch him put on a Gurney and taken to the hospital. He said that “My greatest creation will put to rest my greatest failure.” He then told security to kick Shane out of the building. Four guys came out. Shane told them he’d go but not to touch him. So one of the guys touched him and Shane acted like he was John Wayne beat up all four guys with punches and knees. The crowd was into it.

Owens pinned Neville in 10:18. This was a great match. Neville missed a Fosbury Flop dive and Owens threw Neville into the steps. He gave Neville a German suplex nearly on the top of his head. Owens went for a cannonball into the corner. JBL then said how it was like Earl Anthony. Earl Anthony was the best bowler in the country about 40 years ago, and I have no idea how doing a cannonball in the corner relates to bowling. Neville did a top rope shooting star press outside the ring to the floor that was spectacular. He did a standing shooting star press in the ring. Owens missed a moonsault. Neville did a Hayabusa style splash (WWE made no reference to the deaths of either Hayabusa or Blears on Raw even though a large number of young wrestlers on the roster including both guys in this match were influenced by watching tapes of Hayabusa) for a near fall, but Owens came back and won holding the tights. Owens attacked Neville after the match and threw him into the post. Zayn came out for the save and they did a hockey fight spot. Neville got up and joined in the brawl. He and Zayn cleaned house on Owens and shook hands.

Ziggler and Ryder were talking backstage when Stephanie came out. It seems Ziggler did a tweet that complained about The Authority and then deleted it. So now their angles are having the talent delete worked tweets. Ziggler then brought up how he single-handedly won Survivor Series in 2014 and put The Authority out of power. Wait a minute, you’re building up WrestleMania with the battle for power match and you bring up that you not only already did that stipulation, but that you screwed the fans in that the faces won, The Authority was supposed to be gone, and then they were back a few weeks later like nothing had happened? Ziggler said history would repeat itself, but when Shane wins, they’ll be out of power this time for good. She said Undertaker would decimate Shane at WrestleMania and then told Ziggler he was in an elimination match. He said fine. Then she said it was against the League of Nations. He said fine. Then she said it was one vs. three. He said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Summer Rae pinned Brie Bella in 2:05 with a rolling reverse cradle after distraction from Lana. This was more just a quick match to plug Total Divas. Lana gave Brie her own move, the X-factor, after the match.

Ambrose did an interview. He threatened to screw up the entire WrestleMania card when he wins the title on 3/12. He said he’s hijacking the title and highjacking WrestleMania whether anybody likes it or not. He told HHH that he’s was winning the title, he was going to appear on Oprah (that would be difficult as the show hasn’t existed in nearly five years), going to be in People magazine, and he and HHH will attend charity functions together and ribbon cuttings and he’ll go to schools and talk to kids. Then he said he was never going to wear a suit and all the extracurricular activities that come with being a champion doesn’t sound too appealing. But he said he was going to be the kind of champion the people deserve. HHH came out and said the reality is the title will stay with him as long as he wants it to. Ambrose said that after he wins, he’s going to stand on the announcers table holding the belt up and he can suck it. HHH said Roadblock was just a clever name that somebody in marketing came up with and that Ambrose isn’t a roadblock to him holding the title, but more like a speed bump or a pot hole. Or maybe a plot hole. HHH said that Ambrose and Reigns both have a never say die attitude, a bad temper and serious problems with authority. He said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That sounds familiar. Ambrose said that HHH sounds like his 10th grade history teacher. Ambrose said that he maybe delusional but that’s better than whatever you are. HHH said he’s driven and that’s what makes me me and you you. Ambrose challenged him to get in the ring but HHH said he doesn’t fight on Ambrose’s time, he fights on his own time and then announced Ambrose would have to face Wyatt later in the show.

Sheamus & Rusev & Barrett won a handicap match over Ziggler. Ziggler won the first fall with a superkick out of nowhere in 5:46, so Barrett was eliminated. The second fall ended quickly as Rusev kicked Ziggler and Sheamus finished him with the Brogue kick in 6:33. Lynch and Banks were backstage. Banks said she had Lynch beat in both matches last week and if it wasn’t for Charlotte and her “Hugh Hefner Dad” it would be her against Charlotte in WrestleMania. Banks & Lynch beat Naomi & Tamina in 1:51 when Banks used the backstabber and bank statement on Naomi. As Naomi tapped, JBL said how “This is what happened to Conor McGregor.” After the match, Charlotte attacked Banks and then laid out Lynch with a reverse powerslam and left both laying. I’m not a fan of a heel laying out two faces with no help at all, unless it’s a heel going for a title and the faces are opening match guys with no credibility.

R-Truth was dressed up like a pizza delivery man. Henry saw him and wanted some pizza. R-Truth told him he wants to give it to Goldust as a present. He offered it to Goldust who said, “Why in the Blue Blazer (yes, that’s what he said) would I want something like that.” He said a true tag team partner would know that he was lactose intolerant. He said if he ate that pizza his butt would explode. R-Truth wasn’t happy. But Henry was happy seeing a pizza box.

New Day did a promo, noting it was 197 straight days as tag team champions and called it the most positive championship reign in WWE history. E then talked about how all three of them got unicorn tattoos on their asses, but Kingston and Woods then said how that was meant as a joke and they didn’t, so E gave this look of how he knew and he was only kidding as well even though it was clear he supposedly had done it. The segment was shorter than the New Day segments have been, so it was much better. The New Day beat Styles & Jericho in 11:30. This was a really good match. This match and the Owens vs. Neville match were two of the better matches on Raw in a long time. Fans were chanting for Styles, which was fortunate given the direction they were going. Jericho & Styles did a double plancha spot. The New Day were stomping the hell out of Jericho in the corner with a spot that is now called The Unicorn Stampede. Styles did his quebrada into a reverse DDT spot that Kingston took perfectly. Styles did a springboard right into a Big Ending but Jericho saved. What made that spot great is Kingston was doing the block right in front of Jericho and E had hit his finisher so it was visually how a real finish looked but Jericho basically had to run over Kingston to make the save. It was a little touch that made it so much more effective. Styles hit Kingston with a springboard 450 but E pulled Kingston out of the ring from underneath at the count of two. Jericho had the Walls of Jericho on Kingston but E threw Styles into the barricade and tagged in when Jericho didn’t see him. Jericho went for the codebreaker on E, but E blocked it with his power and hit the Big Ending on Jericho for the surprising clean pin. After the match, Jericho and Styles were consoling each other for a long time. Jericho then hit a codebreaker on Styles. Then he had two more and stuffed a Y2AJ shirt down his throat. Jericho then did an interview saying how he blamed the fans for always chanting “A.J. Styles,” and not chanting for him. He said he hoped they enjoyed it because they won’t be seeing Styles for a while.

Kalisto pinned Breeze with the Salida del Sol in 2:10. The action was good but the crowd was dead. They announced Big Bossman into the Hall of Fame. Kalisto was doing an interview with Jo Jo. He talked about being a fan since he was a child and mentioned Eddy Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. Ryback showed up. The way they shot this was totally comical. There obviously is a huge size difference between the two. But it was shot to completely exaggerate that to the point of ridiculousness. Kalisto looked like he was maybe four feet tall and a mini. Ryback told Kalisto to break up his team with Sin Cara and go on his own. He said that he’s learned that in WWE, being in a tag team only holds you back. What’s notable is that Ryback wasn’t a heel here, and then worked against the Social Outcasts, who are sort of character heels that people like as comedy geeks, but are still on the heel side.

The Outcasts were given a promo spot. They are supposed to be geeks, but the verbiage given to Dallas for his spot was cringe worthy bad. Ryback pinned Axel with vicious ground and pound and the shell shock in 2:07.

Backstage, Vince was on the phone with someone saying how they were going to break the 93,000 record. Stephanie came up and was all worried about what if Shane wins. Vince said he’s going against The Undertaker at WrestleMania so he’s not going to win. Stephanie then said, “He’s your son,” with the idea he may figure out a way to win and Vince said he wasn’t, but then suddenly Vince got concerned.

Ambrose beat Wyatt via DQ in 11:47. Wyatt said that at Roadblock, he was going to do something Ambrose has continually failed at, and that is conquer the conqueror and slay the beast (Lesnar). With Reigns gone, with the exception of the McMahons who dominated the show, the show was built around Ambrose in the Cena/Reigns role as the top star. Because he’s so much better on promos than Reigns, and also more popular, it felt like he was more effective than Reigns in the role. Then again, I think most have felt that ever since the decision was made to go with Reigns as top singles babyface nearly two years ago. That said, he visually does look skinny out there and Vince and HHH are still body guys at the end when it comes to choosing “the man.” Also, Ambrose threw some bad looking body punches early in this match and the match didn’t have much heat, which really hurt the match. The two worked very hard and tried to do new spots and crossed up old ones. Ambrose did a tope but Wyatt caught him and ended up giving him a uranage into the side of the barricade. That didn’t look fun. After Ambrose did his elbow off the top, all of the Wyatts came out and attacked Ambrose for the DQ. Ambrose gave him Sister Abigail and they left him laying. Obviously HHH’s opponent in a title match in six days is not being left laying by The Wyatt Family. HHH came out. It was notable that they had a staredown with HHH and Wyatt in the ring with Wyatt wanting the belt. I think this is being done so fans think HHH is going to retain and do a program with Wyatt. Wyatt got a big babyface reaction for that spot, and I’m told the belief internally was that HHH would be the face in that spot which is why it was put there. HHH cleared out the announcers table with the idea he was going to destroy Ambrose again. Then HHH got in the ring and Ambrose hit the Dirty Deeds out of nowhere, which HHH took great. And the show ended with Ambrose over HHH. After the show ended, HHH rolled out of the ring. The Wyatts returned and once again attacked Ambrose. Then a weird crew of faces made the save, consisting of Swagger, Sin Cara, the Dudleys, Usos, Goldust, Ziggler, R-Truth (still in his pizza man outfit), Stardust and Henry. Henry was holding two pieces of pizza from the earlier skit with the idea he was devouring the pizza when he saw what was happening and made the save. Henry offered Strowman some pizza. Strowman threw the pizza on the ground. Well, that led to another fight. All the heels left but Stardust was still there. Henry offered Stardust some pizza. Stardust then took almost everyone’s finishing move. The show ended with Ziggler telling the fans that whenever they are coming to Chicago, the wrestlers circle the calendar because they have the best fans. .

Notes from the 3/8 Smackdown tapings in Milwaukee. The show opened with a dark match where Fandango pinned Stardust. Granted that you really shouldn’t read a lot into dark matches, since it’s usually just putting the face over, but still, that result seems to indicate something. Believe it or not, Stardust was pegged for a fairly significant match at WrestleMania this year but given him not being featured on TV, it is likely that has fallen through. For Main Event, Ryder pinned Breeze clean in a very good match. Ryback pinned Dallas with the shell shock. Naomi & Tamina beat Paige & Natalya when Naomi pinned Paige, which does tell you about where Paige stands right now since this was TV. Smackdown opened with Miz TV with Owens and Zayn. Zayn talked about wanting the IC title and Owens. Owens came out and started running Zayn down. Owens went to leave and Neville came in. Miz attacked Zayn and this led to a tag match. Zayn & Neville beat Miz & Owens when Owens walked out of the match when Zayn came after him. This left Miz alone and Zayn pinned him. Brie Bella beat Summer Rae via submission in the 50/50 booking match reversing their prior result. After the match Lana once again attacked Brie and laid her out with the X-factor. Jericho came out and set fire to a Y2AJ T-shirt. Jericho heeled on the crowd for cheering Styles. Styles came out to go after Jericho, but The Ascension came out. Styles then laid out both members of The Ascension. It’s possible that will be edited off television. Barrett & Sheamus beat the Lucha Dragons when Barrett pinned Sin Cara with the bull hammer. After the match, Ryback was on the screen challenging Kalisto. The main event saw Ambrose & Ziggler & Usos beat The Wyatt Family

Notes from the 3/2 NXT show. Just a normal show but with a really strong main event between Finn Balor and Neville. This was the last hour of the taping at the University of Central Florida and the crowd was tired. The Vaudevillains beat Hugo Knox & Tucker Knight in 3:29. Knox if a former pro soccer player who if he learns to wrestle, Vince will love him because he looks like a young Don Muraco with the body of Kerry Von Erich. His trunks look silly, though. Knight is a former college heavyweight from Arizona State who is about 300 pounds and is the new Bull Dempsey when it comes to his body. He also wears polka dots on his trunks. Aiden English pinned Knight with the whirling dervish. Knox & Knight didn’t really get to show much here. Emma and Dana Brooke did an interview talking about Deonna Purrazzo. Enzo & Cass were supposed to do an interview about the parking lot angle. Enzo didn’t talk at all, but they didn’t put over the idea of Enzo not talking in the commentary. There’s a way to get that over and they didn’t at all. It just had Cass talking about getting even. Dash & Dawson did an interview where Dash had his arm in a sling and blamed it on them. They announced their match in Toronto for the titles. Emma beat Santana Garrett in 5:37 with the curb stomp and the Emma lock. Fans were chanting for Garrett. Dana Brooke interfered at one point by pulling hair. Nothing flashy but solid enough. William Regal was backstage with Eva Marie and Nia Jax. He announced that next week they would be facing Bayley & Asuka. They introduced Austin Aries as the big newcomer. Before he could get to the ring Baron Corbin attacked him and gave him the End of Days on the floor and then he left. Regal looked mad and Corbin threw Aries T-shirt that he had torn off at Regal. Elias Samson pinned Steve Cutler in 3:03 with a neckbreaker. Just basic stuff. Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder did an interview. Rawley said that he was happy they lost their last match to the Vaudevillains, saying that it taught them they can’t take things for granted and have to focus better. They talked about a rematch with the Vaudevillains. After they left, they showed the Vaudevillains behind the curtain with the idea they were watching them. They were smiling and then making sinister looking faces. Balor pinned Neville in a non-title match in 15:17. The story here is that Balor is the second longest reigning NXT champion in history and Neville is the longest reigning. Fans were chanting “This is awesome” before they locked up. They had a good match, but the crowd was tired and not into it until the last two-and-a-half minutes. Balor backdropped Neville over the top and he fell face first on the stairs. Neville used the Asai moonsault. Neville got a series of near falls including a delayed German suplex. Balor kicked him off the top rope and Neville fell outside the ring. Balor followed with a running flip dive. That moved picked the crowd up and it was good from there. Neville looked better than Balor here. He used a super Frankensteiner but missed the red arrow. Balor came back with a sling blade. Balor won cleanly with a dropkick, a double foot stomp and the Bloody Sunday DDT. Best match on NXT TV in a while, I’d go ***3/4. Fans then gave Neville a standing ovation and chanted for him. Balor stayed in the ring and clapped for Neville as well. The show ended with Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn doing an interview together. Joe kept bringing up that he saved Zayn’s career, but said next week he’s going to end it

The first NXT show of the weekend was 3/3 in Columbus, OH, which drew a sellout 1,400. Asuka beat Alexa Bliss with the Asuka lock. Both got a good reaction since Bliss is from Columbus. Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa beat The Vaudevillains when Gargano pinned Simon Gotch after a superkick. Apollo Crews pinned Tye Dillinger. It was Dillinger’s first match back after a knee injury. Eva Marie & Nia Jax beat Peyton Royce & Billie Kay when Jax set up Eva to score the pin and infuriate the fans. Sami Zayn pinned Baron Corbin with the Helluva kick. Dash & Dawson beat Jordan & Gable in a tag title match. Dawson pinned Gable when Wilder held Gable’s feet to kick him from kicking out. Bayley pinned Emma to keep the women’s title with the Bayley-to-Belly. Main saw Finn Balor pin Samoa Joe to retain the NXT title. Fans cheered both. Balor won with a running dropkick and the Bloody Sunday DDT. Balor made Bullet Club signals after winning

On 3/4 in Cleveland, before a sellout of 1,400, they opened with Asuka beating Emma after accidentally knocking her out with a kick. Emma was down and couldn’t get up and the ref stopped it as a precautionary measure. Emma apparently didn’t suffer a concussion because she was back working the next day. Jordan & Gable beat the Vaudevillains. Eva & Jax beat Billie Kay & Mandy Rose (Amanda from Tough Enough). The crowd was brutal to Eva, chanting “You can’t wrestle” and “Fire Eva.” Eva worked some with Mandy which must have been something although they kept it basic. Zayn pinned Dillinger twice. He beat him the first time with a roll-up and Dillinger wanted a rematch. They then did a second match with Zayn winning with the Helluva kick. Bayley pinned Bliss to keep the title with the Bayley-to-Belly. Said to be one of Bliss’ best showings. Dash & Dawson beat Ciampa & Gargano. Ciampa seemed to hurt his shoulder taking the finish and needed help to get to the back. The next day he was signing autographs at the Arnold Fitness Expo but didn’t wrestle, nor did he wrestle on the Sunday show. Balor won the four-way title match main event over Corbin, Joe and Crews. The finish saw Joe get Corbin in the choke. Crews using a standing moonsault on both of them. Then Balor used the double foot stomp off the top onto Crews as he was covering both, and then Balor pinned Corbin.

Balor and Crews cleaned house after and shook hands

The NXT B crew worked on 3/4 in Citrus Heights, FL. Ryder & Mojo Rawley beat Sawyer Fulton & Alexander Wolfe. Fulton has a new look with dreadlocks. Aliyah beat Sara Lee, Aliyah worked heel. This wasn’t very good but Lee has only had a few matches. Steve Cutler pinned Josh Woods in a match that wasn’t good. Rich Swann & Patrick Clark & Kenneth Crawford beat Angelo Dawkins & Gabriel & Uriel Ealy, who are two twin brothers that were making their debuts. They have good size. Clark is way ahead of the rest of the newcomers but he should be since he had experience coming in. Manny Andrade pinned Elias Samson in a good match. Andrade came across as a star. Well, the guy was a superstar in Mexico. Carmella beat Daria. Daria is good in spots that are shoot looking stuff but not in doing a match. Levis Valenzuela did an interview talking about how NXT is the place to be with the arrivals of Nakamura and Aries. Tucker Knight pinned Alex Riley. Riley is doing a bitter old man gimmick as a heel. Enzo & Cass won the main event over Blake & Murphy

They also ran on 3/5 in Bartow, FL. Valenzuela pinned Dallas Harper, who is a 6-foot-9 former high school basketball star who had his first pro match. Liv Morgan pinned Aliyah. The crowd go way behind Morgan. Samson pinned Noah Kekoa. Clark pinned Cutler. Rawley & Ryder beat Fulton & Wolfe. Andrade pinned Riley. Sara Lee & ZZ were out for an interview. ZZ has lost weight, which bodes well for him. Sara Lee did a promo as a heel even though she’s a natural babyface. But it’s developmental, so you should try and get experience both ways. Carmella pinned Daria and Enzo & Cass beat Blake & Murphy in the main event

Del Rio and Reigns were off this past week. We’re not sure of the reason for Del Rio, but he wasn’t as television on Raw either

The tour this weekend saw them combine both shows on 3/4 in Minneapolis which due to injuries were Owens vs. Ambrose for the IC title as the main event on one tour and Kane vs. Wyatt in a street fight on the other tour. But Minneapolis had them both and drew 4,000. For Ambrose vs. Owens the 3/5 show in Cedar Rapids, IA drew 3,000 and 3/6 in Moline drew 3,500. For Kane vs. Wyatt, the 3/5 show in Saginaw drew 4,800 and 3/6 in Kalamazoo drew 2,800

Minneapolis opened with Styles pinning Miz after a springboard elbow in 12:50. So even when not using the calf crusher, they aren’t having Styles do his pins with the Styles clash, his most over move. Swagger & Young beat Rose & Axel in 7:20 when Swagger beat Rose with the ankle lock. Ryback as a heel pinned Neville in 8:30 with shell shock. Lots of Goldberg chants. New Day, being Kingston & E, beat Usos clean to keep the tag titles in 8:50 when Woods distracted Jey and Kingston hit Trouble in Paradise. Ambrose beat Owens via DQ in the IC title match in 9:30. Very good match. Owens got a cheap DQ to save the title by refusing to stop kicking Ambrose when he was upside down in the corner. Ambrose laid him out with Dirty Deeds after. Charlotte went to a no contest with Lynch. They were having a good match. Lynch hit Charlotte with a knee to the face and she was bleeding badly so they just stopped the match at 5:32. Charlotte was helped out of the ring but she worked the next two nights. Lynch was freaked out by the accident and seemed like she didn’t know what to do. The injury was a deep scalp cut. The crowd was kind of freaked out seeing a real injury because the atmosphere of pro wrestling is now more fun and games. When Kalisto came out and wrestled Sheamus for the U.S. title, the crowd was out of it because of the Charlotte injury. Kalisto won in 13:00 with the Salida del Sol. Kane pinned Wyatt in the street fight main event in 13:10. The match was fine. Kane kicked out of Sister Abigail. Wyatt kicked out of a choke slam. Kane then choke slammed Wyatt through a table for the pin

Cedar Rapids as the first night of the split crew saw Styles pin Miz with the springboard elbow. Swagger & Young beat Rose & Axel with the same match as the night before. Kalisto pinned Barrett to keep the U.S. title by ducking the bull hammer and hitting the Salida del sol. They did a three-way with New Day, being Woods & E, retaining over the Dudleys and the Usos. Charlotte retained over Lynch with a roll-up holding the tights. Sheamus pinned Neville with the Brogue kick. Crowd wasn’t much into it. Ambrose beat Owens via DQ I the IC title match and Owens wouldn’t stop kicking Ambrose in the corner. Ambrose made a post-match comeback and laid out Owens with Dirty Deeds

Moline was the same show

Saginaw saw Fandango & Sandow beat Stardust & Breeze in the opener. R-Truth pinned Slater. After the match, Slater & Dallas were beating down R-Truth until Goldust made the save. The crowd was chanting “Golden Truth” and then they hugged and danced together. Rusev beat Sin Cara with the Accolade. Show & Ziggler beat Harper & Strowman. Paige & Banks & Fox beat Naomi & Cameron & Tamina with Banks over Cameron with the Bank statement. Ryback pinned Viktor after shell shock with Ryback as a face. Kane pinned Wyatt in the same street fight main event. This match had Harper, Rowan and Strowman all to a run-in, and then Show and Ziggler made the save. Kane choke slammed Wyatt through a table for the pin

Kalamazoo was the same show as Saginaw except that R-Truth pinned Dallas and it was Slater who did the run-in leading to the Goldust save, and Ryback this time pinned Konnor.