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May 16, 2016 Wrestling Observer newsletter: Potential UFC sale, WWE releases, plus tons of news

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228

ISSN10839593

May 16, 2016

 

ROH WAR OF THE WORLDS PPV POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 76 (86.1%)

Thumbs down 11 (10.9%)

In the middle 14 (13.9%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Bullet Club eight-man tag 28

War Machine vs. Briscoes 28

Bobby Fish vs. Tomohiro Ishii 19

Tetsuya Naito vs. Kyle O’Reilly 11

Moose & Okada vs. Tanahashi & Elgin 8

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Liger & Cheeseburger vs. Daniels & Kazarian 34

Bobby Fish vs. Tomohiro Ishii 10

Jay Lethal vs. Colt Cabana 9

Based on phone calls and e-mails to the Observer as of Tuesday, 5/10.

 

ESPN on 5/10 broke a story that UFC is in advanced talks to sell the company, noting at least four major bidders.

The story, written by Darren Rovell, listed William Morris Endeavor/IMG (formerly International Management Group), China Media Capital, The Blackstone Group and the Dalian Wanda Group as having submitted bids and claimed the winning bid should fall between $3.5 billion and $4 billion. We are also aware of at least one other Asian fund that was in the process of placing a bid, although it’s also possible they are going in the China Media Capital bid.

Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta purchased the UFC from Bob Meyrowitz and Semaphore Entertainment Group in 2001 for $2 million. They reportedly invested $44 million between 2001 and 2005 before they were able to get the promotion a deal with Spike TV. Since then, the group’s fortunes turned around and for a time they were the fastest growing sport in the world.

Goldman Sachs had given financial information to those and other companies that UFC’s 2015 EBITDA (profits before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) were between $200 million and $250 million. That would have been significantly higher than any prior year in history. They also represented that after the current FOX deal expires at the end of 2018, that a bidding war for rights could reach an additional $250 million. The current deal had escalators annually but was worth about $110 million in 2014. There are a number of questions regarding sports networks and sports television rights. The UFC TV deal that was brokered in 2011, that seemed huge at the time, given it was triple what Spike was paying them, now seems low compared to other major sports. But with the rapidly changing television and media changes, it’s almost impossible to predict what will be the landscape even two years from now.

The company is owned by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who each own 40.5 percent, along with Flash Entertainment, the Abu Dhabi government’s promotional arm, which owns 10 percent and Dana White owns nine percent.

Flash Entertainment was believed to have spent between $150 million and $200 million to purchase its stake in the company.

White immediately claimed the story wasn’t accurate, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal that, “The UFC is not for sale. The ESPN story is overblown. Darren Rovell is not a fan of facts. His facts could not be further off.”

Later, on the Dan Patrick show, White said, “We’re not up for sale. We’re always working on deals and our expansion globally. I’ve been saying since this thing came out, no, we’re not for sale, but let me tell you, if somebody shows up with $4 billion, we can talk. We can definitely talk.”

When asked if there would be a partial sale as opposed to a full sale, White said he couldn’t answer due to confidentiality.

“Obviously if I’m in the middle of a deal right now, there’s a lot of confidentiality involved in it,” he said. “We’re working on expanding. We’re working on growing the company and moving into other territories like China and Japan, Korea, so yeah, we’re always working on deals. As far as the UFC being for sale, I’ve said this a million times, we get offers on the UFC all the time. It started in 2010. We got our first offer for the company, which was over $1 billion and we turned it down.”

Rovell defended his story noting that the UFC hired Goldman Sachs to give out the company’s financials to attract bids and cited they had five different independent sources for the story.

There had been rumblings about a sale for months, from talks of a full sale to a sale of around 20 percent to a strategic investor which would also be giving the company a high valuation of its worth based on the dollar figure.

But talk of a UFC sale in rumor form has been around for years. But we’ve also had a source with direct information of a company not listed in the ESPN story that had been working on a bid, but details of what the bid entailed were confidential. If a majority interest sale does go through, it would be, by far, the biggest story in the history of MMA as well as well as a story with more far-reaching repercussions than any story since, at the very least, the closing of WCW in 2001.

But in recent weeks, the talk got louder including direct reports of bids and contracts being drawn up for bids from different parts of the world with the money figure being floated always in the near $4 billion range. A sale of UFC will completely change the business because MMA is a unique and volatile business and you need the right people in charge who understand its nature and how to run it. It’s not knowledge easily acquired and a lot of requires business and instincts of what the public will and won’t be interested and the ability to understand what stars draw, what type of matches will and won’t work both from a money and an entertainment standpoint, as well as being able to see the future changes in business in rapidly changing times. This is very different from football which breeds executives from the ground floor up. You can count the number of people who have successfully run MMA promotions long-term on one hand and still have fingers left over.

Dana White when asked about sale rumors would always position is at if they would listen to an offer, but weren’t looking at selling. And they were making a lot of moves in the past year, from breaking ground on a new office complex that is scheduled to open in 2017 with facilities designed to give fighters the best medical care and rehab from injuries, to instituting a drug testing system far more aggressive than what they needed to do from a media and public standpoint, but one that legitimately has changed the sport. They’ve also worked on establishing new weight-cutting guidelines and spending money on expansion into foreign markets, all expenses made now for the future that weren’t going to have a short-term payoff.

They had spent tons of money to get the sport legalized in New York, the last major U.S. political battle. The entire Conor McGregor decision making seemed to be a company making a stand for the long haul because if they were looking at getting out, they’d be looking to get the big money fight on the biggest show and not worried about the long-term. The new drug policy, most notably hiring Jeff Novitzky, was a far more aggressive policy than they needed to do. They could have done a drug policy like most other sports that would look good for the public and the media, but not be as effective as the one they started. They also pushed for the longer penalties, something that felt at the time like a long-term decision that would hurt business in the short run. The Reebok deal, a major morale killer for a lot of fighters, although there were also those show benefitted since outside sponsorship for rank-and-file fighters had declined greatly, was also something that looked like a long-term decision.

But there were no concrete stories until recent weeks when word had gotten around about actual serious proposals being made.

Even those who have had success in sister industries like boxing or pro wrestling, are aging and while they may understand aspects of business, they wouldn’t have that level of understanding of the unique aspects of MMA.

A large corporation in charge may not be able to react as quickly to these changes as UFC could, with Fertitta as owner and on the ground floor, working with White, a long-time best friend, and both being immersed in this at a major level and with 15 years of experience of understanding all the players and all the situations that can occur.

There are so many unanswered questions as to who would stay, who would go, and what kind of changes would be made. White has in many ways been synonymous with the sport itself, and how this would affect his future is only one of the many huge questions.

In the past, White had said that there would come a day when he would walk away and not look back, but never gave an indication of when that would be. Others have said that they could see White staying on with a new regime as a public figure, doing his television shows and promoting the live events. Whether he’d devote his entire life to it as he has for the last 15 years is different. Plus, what kind of a salary could he be paid to stick around when he’d be getting something in the neighborhood of $315 million to $360 million in cash if there is a total sale and he has no more ownership stake? It was noted that White really believed after the incredible growth in the early years that they could build UFC into being one of the biggest sports in the world. It’s possible it could get bigger. All signs of late have shown significant growth. Perhaps some day they could even have a Mayweather-Pacquiao day if the right stars aligned at some point. But as modern boxing has shown, that doesn’t change the fundamental level of popularity of the sport as a whole, an realistically, it would never be soccer or the NFL or the NBA.

Patrick asked White if he would stay with the company if part of the agreement in making the sale was his continued involvement because of how closely he is linked to the sport with the public.

“I don’t know. I don’t know how that would all work out, but I’ll tell you this, the day we decide to sell, I probably don’t want to do this anymore. I love this. I love this business. I love the sport. I jump out of bed every day excited to go to work.”

He said if there was a sale it would be a mutual decision with he and Fertitta.

Fertitta has a casino business that just went public that is looking at major acquisitions and expanding. Red Rock Resorts, after going public, announced on 5/10 that they had acquired The Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in a $312.5 million purchase, a deal scheduled to close in the third quarter of this year. Others have said that Fertitta loves MMA, and the only thing he might like more is to run an NFL team, and that’s unlikely to happen given the NFL’s position on gambling and Fertitta’s business interests. This coincides with talks of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas, and that a suitable stadium would need to be built in Las Vegas to acquire the team.

Since they had hired Goldman Sachs to shop it around, this was not a situation where somebody came in with an incredible offer that they couldn’t turn down. This is a conscious effort, for a reason, to either get a strategic partner or sell points for a high price or to cash out. Looking for a strategic partner to buy a minority percentage is where the different Chinese companies being key players in the story makes sense, because that’s a difficult market to crack for American companies. But they are in talks with a number of companies. In that case, like with the Abu Dhabi deal, nothing substantial changed and the same people were running things.

White had told people in the past about offers the company had gotten in the past that they had turned down offers that he said made no sense to turn down, because they weren’t looking at selling.

Both ESPN and MMA Fighting pointed to the China-based Dalian Wanda Group as the favorite in the bidding and that the sale could take place as early as July.

Its chairman, Wang Jianlin, the richest man in China, is said to be worth nearly $35 billion. Last year the company bought Atletico Madrid for a reported $48 million and in January purchased Legendary Entertainment, a major Hollywood studio, for a reported $3.5 billion. In 2012, they purchased the AMC Theater chain for $2.6 billion.

Many have talked that 2015 was a fluke year with the incredible drawing power of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey propping up the company and greatly expanding the sport’s fan base. But while the overall interest is growing, as noted by rising ratings for television, the PPV business, the key to the business success, is a volatile business based on the attraction.

Rousey’s future remains in question as she’s largely kept a low profile and hasn’t agreed to a fight since her November loss to Holly Holm. Plus there is the question of how she will rebound mentally. White on the Patrick show said that he didn’t know if she’d fight in 2016, saying the decision is up to her. Fertitta had talked of her headlining Madison Square Garden I November. After her first fight back, which will be huge, it’s uncertain what would happen to her drawing power if she doesn’t win, or if she’d even fight again. McGregor is also coming off a loss and has been at odds with the company, although White claimed that was water under the bridge.

The point is that the financials look great because of last year, and there is no indication there is a star on the horizon who can keep the PPV business at the level it is at, nor that Rousey and McGregor would continue to draw at the level they are doing more than one or two fights in the future. If there was a time to sell and look good, this is that time.

Exactly what would happen under new ownership is impossible to say. There are television contracts and a sports infrastructure in place. But as 2014 and 2015 show, its popularity is extremely volatile even though with the television deals, they were able to turn a substantial profit even during a year where they had constant injuries and lost their two top drawing cards. Then they lucked into two charismatic people coming at the same time, but the 2015-16 UFC was very much WWE with Rock and Steve Austin together during the boom period, but as we’ve seen with pro wrestling, that type of popularity is based on luck and timing and in the big picture, is fleeting. The $4 billion price tag is also notable because that’s roughly triple the current market value of the WWE ($1.32 billion with a $17.43 share price) and WWE had larger revenues this past year, and a higher percentage of its revenue were based on more stable business factors. But WWE was nowhere near as profitable but is less dependent on individual stars and less stable streams like PPV going forward. It’s also a stronger television property with a larger worldwide fan base, and has it during an average historical period as opposed to a historical boom period.

It has been confirmed to us that China Media Capital, an investment firm, which partnered with Citic Capital to buy 13 percent on the Manchester United soccer team had also put in a bid and they were listed in the ESPN article. WME/IMG is Ari Emmanuel’s Hollywood talent agency that acquired the sports management firm IMG. Emmanuel is the inspiration for Ari Gold of “Entourage” and represents celebrities and athletes including Rousey and Dwayne Johnson and within WWE is known as someone who often advises Vince McMahon and who McMahon listens to. IMG promotes the Stars on Ice touring show, The Indian Super League, The Pro Bull Riders tour, as well as golf, tennis, surfing, motor sports and triathlon events.

Blackstone Group is a private equity, investment banking asset management company based in New York. They are listed as being worth $31.5 billion and have investments in a number of household known brands like Allied Barton Security, Allied Waste, Luxury Resorts, Hilton Hotels, The Weather Channel, and Busch Entertainment.

Another example of long-term is UFC now attempting to get a new policy on weight-cutting, which is considered inside the sport as one of its most dangerous problems. Starting in July with the three big shows in Las Vegas culminating in UFC 200, all fighters will be told to arrive at the fight location and five days out be within eight percent of their fight weight. A fighter off weight will have their weight monitored daily and vital signs constantly checked, and will also be required to attend a weight management counseling course before their next fight. Fighters will not be pulled from the fight if they are above eight percent, but in the daily checking of vital signs, if they are showing signs of dehydration, they will be pulled from the fight.

UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performances Jeff Novitzky (who also is a key in the drug testing), in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said that since the IV ban, most fighters have shown up within that eight percent.

“It (the IV ban) had a very surprising side effect in that it helped curtail extreme weight cuts,” he said.


From a WWE standpoint, the major news that should have come out regarding the first quarter, the network number, was released right after WrestleMania.

The company had 1,454,000 paid subscribers as of WrestleMania and another 370,000 free subscribers. Regarding the growth from four days earlier, the number at the end of March was 1,357,000 paid subscribers and 112,000 free subscribers, which means 258,000 people signed up for free and 87,000 new subscribers paid (they were likely returning subscribers from the past who couldn’t or didn’t know how to get the free option) in the final few days leading to the event. Since it has now been more than a month since the event, the company has said that of those 370,000 free subscribers, a number consistent with the past from that group has signed up. Since the rate of retention of free subscribers has been 70-75 percent, that would mean there would be between 259,000 and 278,000 new subscribers at this point, although no current number was given. The company has said that they believe they will average 1.5 million paid subscribers in the second quarter, meaning that unlike last year when there was a big post-WrestleMania drop, they are projecting an increase due to the free people not canceling. In this case, the key number isn’t the average for the quarter but the how many will be there at the end of the quarter and stick around.

During the first quarter of the year, there were 498,000 people who were new subscribers and 358,000 who canceled. However, last year, after WrestleMania, during the second quarter, there were 508,000 cancellations and a net 201,000 decrease as of the end of June.

Based on last year, the number at the end of the second quarter will hold relatively steady for the rest of the year. Last year had growth because of opening up international markets, but now virtually every key market except China is opened up so growth from new market opens is insignificant. But for domestic last year’s number on 6/30 was 939,000, 9/30 was 990,000 and 12/31 was 940,000. So the 6/30 number will give the general feeling for the rest of the year.

For the three month period, WWE took in $171,100,000 in revenue and posted a $13,885,000 profit. For the same period last year, the revenue was $176,178,000 and the profits were $9,773,000.

But that is misleading in terms of revenue because WrestleMania came in the first quarter of last year. If you factor our WrestleMania revenue, last year’s number would have been $151,300,000 and profits would have been $10 million, because WrestleMania actually posted a $200,000 loss in the quarter the way they do their accounting. It really doesn’t lose money, but almost all of the expenses came in the quarter while if someone bought the network late, let’s say on 3/29, most of that $9.99 is figured into the second quarter. This year that won’t be the case since WrestleMania on 4/3 means subscriptions purchased would be completely figured into in the second quarter, the same quarter as the expenses for the show are figured into.

However, the profits being up are also misleading. The major factor in the higher profits was the schedule of revenue in the contract of video game royalties which will even out over the year. They also spent less on the network than they projected.

Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios noted that the expectations are that even with WrestleMania in the next quarter, that profits will be down from 2015 in the quarter even though there will be a huge increase in overall revenue. Company projections are that the Mania quarter will finish somewhere between a $3 million profit and a $1 million loss.

The company’s quarterly dividend payout is now at about $9.25 million per quarter.

He expects the first six months of the year to be at the same level of profits as last year, or about $15 million total, which would be well below usual modern historical levels pre-network business. But he expects the last six months of the year to outpace last year, where last year the second half profits and first half were pretty much the same.

Last year’s OIBDA was $69 million and the expectation is this year will be between $70 million and $85 million. It will probably be closer to the higher number. Historically, WWE’s projections are usually very conservative (the exception being network expectations) when it comes to profit margins and they almost always beat those projections. That would lead to 2016 to be roughly as profitable as the company was before launching the network after years of lower profits based on changing to the network format. From there, it’ll be a net positive going forward since the key drivers, television revenue and network numbers, should increase, not at the level they had projected, but still increase, as long as there aren’t major changes in technology which change everything. And to its credit, WWE is more primed and ready to benefit from those changes if there are going to be newer and more lucrative methods of content distribution.

Overall, almost every aspect of the company’s business is either the same or stronger than last year from a profitability standpoint except home video and PPV, the two categories that were going to be hurt by the network.

The network category is also more profitable than expected due to keeping costs down. The company had estimated $120 million in expenses on for the network in 2016, which would work out to $30 million per quarter. But first quarter expenses were $24,571,000. For the quarter, because of that, profits of the network division, more than offset what would have been profits of the divisions hurt or eliminated by the network like 24/7 Classics on Demand, PPV and lower numbers for home video.

Among talent notes, Vince McMahon said that Seth Rollins, John Cena, Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton would all be returning shortly. The Wyatt family members have started tweeting teasing a return to television. Cena and Wyatt are already booked on house shows in June. Rollins is expected back after filming the movie in New Orleans. Cena will be back on 5/30 and Orton will be back at this point in late June or sometime in July. Neville also should be returning shortly.

Vince McMahon, when asked about all the injuries, denied the injury rate is higher than in the past, and just gave the impression there was bad luck in the timing of injuries to WrestleMania. He said the injury rate seems higher because the news gets out more.

“We always have the injuries,” said McMahon. “I think that they are more visible now than ever, and most of the injuries that we have are three months, probably three, maybe four months in terms of coming back after an injury. And again, what we’ve done there is nothing is any more risky or what have you in terms of what we’re doing. We manage concussions and stuff extremely well. We’re way ahead of everybody else. We feel good about that. We feel good about all of these things that we’ve built into our health and Wellness programs and better than ever.”

He noted the injuries to Cena and Orton have given opportunities for new talent coming in. He said the roster when the stars return from injuries mixed in with the stars that have had opportunities to get focused on more due to them being out of action would make it the stronger roster in a long time.

When he was asked about Shane McMahon, Vince noted that his son was doing a great job as talent, but it was made clear that was his only role with the company.

Due to paying management bonuses and other expenses, actual cash on hand was $87,559,000 on 3/31 as compared to $102,376,000 at the end of the year.

The short form is that WWE is a stable, profitable business. The network is growing, and while it takes in far more money than ever before, expenses due to the network are higher than ever before. Even with huge increases in television rights fees around the world, the bottom line has not improved from normal historical levels with strong declines in PPV to the point they’ve eliminated directly referring to it.

WWE is getting less and less detailed with its business information. While the major quarterly reports will continue with the key information in all categories, the business presentation itself only focused on a few categories, the network, television revenue, live events and licensing. Categories such as PPV, home video, digital media, WWE studios and WWE shop were not talked about. The company is no longer going to be releasing PPV numbers by the show, nor breaking them down from domestic buys and international buys.

In addition, they will no longer be publishing monthly business updates. Going forward, live attendance numbers will only be available quarterly, although we do get estimates on most shows and exacts on many to where we should be able to at least give ballpark numbers on a more regular basis. Best selling home video numbers will also no longer be released. WWE will instead focus on numbers such as social media followers and YouTube video viewing numbers, the former a number that will always rise.

What ended up as a main talking point of the call was when Laura Martin noted that when it came to YouTube viewing and social media numbers, those figures are 70 to 80 percent international. A lot of people have brought up increases in YouTube viewing to say that the lower U.S. television ratings aren’t significant because show highlights released can get hundreds of thousands of viewers, and sometimes millions. Adding those numbers up and it would appear that it more than makes up for the decline in ratings. But aside from there being no way to know if those aren’t the same viewers watching over-and-over, or if the same viewers in the U.S. that watch the television shows are watching the videos multiple times. Most of the YouTube viewing comes from countries that don’t get the shows live, or from counties that don’t get the full shows.

Martin noted that the social media and YouTube numbers indicate huge interest outside the U.S., but that actual revenues outside the U.S. don’t indicate the same thing. The contradiction is if 75 percent of social media followers are outside North America, but 76 percent of network subscribers are from the U.S. (and the gimmick of the U.S. number including significant international subscribers is no longer the case). If you include Canada, the North American percentage of network subscribers would be even higher. The obvious conclusions are that social media followers aren’t correlating to the key spending, which is network subscriptions, or any significant new income. Even with ever increasing social media numbers, the new network business really only grows during a three month period each year.

Again, that’s not a knock on social media, which the company should push and use. But the creation of new social media followers and where they come from doesn’t correlate to people buying the network, one of the two key business drivers along with television rights fees.

For the first quarter, total television revenues were $60.7 million, up from $58.2 million in the first quarter last year due to contract escalators as well as an additional episode of Total Divas.

North American live event ticket sales and revenues dropped from $38.3 million to $22.8 million, but that’s misleading because last year’s totals included $15.7 million in revenue from WrestleMania and events surrounding WrestleMania. Factoring that out, and it’s $22.6 million last year or almost identical. The increase of $200,000 is because last year there were 73 events in North America and three internationally (76 in total) while this year there were 72 in North America and six internationally. NXT event figures are not included, nor released.

Factoring out WrestleMania, but including PPV shows, the average attendance per event dropped from 6,700 last year to 6,100 this year, a drop of nine percent. But the average price per ticket, not including WrestleMania, was up six percent, to $47.79. Internationally, the six events averaged 7,700 paid as compared to 1,700 paid last year, because the three events were in Abu Dhabi where most of the tickets were given away.

In looking at OIBDA by sector, this is what we have for the first quarter and comparisons with the same quarter over the prior four years. Keep in mind because of WrestleMania being in the second quarter, a comparison with last year in the live event category in particular is misleading. All numbers are millions.



16 15 14 13 12
Live events/merch 8.1 20.8 5.9 6.3 6.4
Network/PPV 15.8 -1.5 -3.6 6.6 7.9
Television 28.3 25.9 10.9 12.7 12.8
Home video 1.5 2.1 6.3 3.2 5.4
Licensing 14.3 10.8 9.1 20.1 17.9
Digital media -0.1 -0.1 -0.4 1.3 ---
WWE Shop 1.4 1.1 0.7 0.8 ---
WWE Studios -0.4 -0.4 1.6 -5.0 ---


WWE announced the release of eight performers on 5/6, most of which weren’t being used.

Those announced as being let go were King Barrett (Stuart Bennett, 35), Santino Marella (Antony Carelli, 42), Damien Sandow (Aaron Haddad, 34), Cameron (Ariane Andrew, 28), Hornswoggle (Dylan Postl, 28), Alex Riley (Kevin Kiley Jr., 35), Torito, 34, and Zeb Coulter (Wayne “Dutch Mantell” Keown, 66).

Others not announced at press time that were released from their contract include Steve Lombardi, 55 and Christian (William Jason Reso, 42). In the case of Christian, it is more of a technicality of no longer having an active performer contract, and the release did not include his agreement to do the “Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness.” WWE confirmed the details of the Christian story but had yet to respond regarding Garcia.

One person not let go was Adam Rose (Ray Leppan), who is on a 60 day suspension, and was then arrested on 5/11 and put on an indefinite suspension. At press time WWE had not made a statement regarding Leppan. Last week we had gotten several lists of names including internal of those being let go and they were pretty close to the names that came out. The major difference is Cameron wasn’t on any of the lists, and Rose was on them.

So he was on the bubble given everything that had gone down. He was then arrested on charges of a misdemeanor domestic violence battery and felony tampering with a witness in an incident involving his wife at their home in Lutz, FL, at 1:30 a.m. by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department. He was booked at 3:30 a.m and released at 11:08 a.m. His mug shot link listed him at 6-feet tall and 190 pounds.

The police report stated that Leppan and his wife, Cassandra, were in an argument regarding their marriage when he allegedly grabbed her face, pulled her closer to his mouth and started screaming at her. She called 911 but the claim is that Leppan than pulled the phone away from her and didn’t allow her to say anything, which would be where the tampering with a witness charge comes from. Officers were able to trace the location of the call and came to the residence. When officers arrived, they said he admitted taking the phone away from her.

The company stated: “WWE has zero tolerance for matters involving domestic violence, and per our policy, Raymond Leppan has been suspended indefinitely following his arrest.”

Leppan had posted a letter from Dr. Charles DeVine stating he was prescribed Aderall for the past year to combat ADHD. Aderall is banned by the Wellness policy. This left a ton of unanswered questions such as why was he suspended? There are plenty of potential answers, as WWE doctors have to approve the usage of any banned substance, even if the talent gets a prescription from a doctor. If Leppan had not gotten approval, then a suspension would be in order at least based on the wording of the policy. The overseers can always make decisions against the letter of the law, so to speak, if they feel there is a valid reason. WWE gave no response to questions on the subject, but Leppan pulled the doctor’s letter and a tweet regarding the subject shortly after putting it up. He then put it back up and said he wasn’t sure if he would be let go.

Christian hasn’t wrestled since a concussion suffered in March 2014. WWE decided to no longer use him as a wrestler at that point due to a series of concussions. But he had remained under contract.

Christian started wrestling in 1994 and came to WWF in 1998. He remained with the company aside from a three year period from 2005 to 2008, when he signed with TNA and was pushed as one of that company’s major stars.

Barrett had been with WWE since 2006, and on the main roster since 2010. His leaving was his own doing. He had already given notice to the company he wouldn’t be renewing when his current contract expired next month, and apparently wanted out early for whatever he is planning on doing next. There is no word on his plans but he had spoken last year about eventually returning to the U.K. and trying to get a job as a soccer analyst. He could probably get a job in wrestling almost anywhere and do decently well on the indie scene. WWE should have used him better. He debuted on the main roster in one of the great angles of the last several years, as the leader of the Nexus. Since then, it was six years of stop-and-starts. But his leaving, unlike the others, was his own choice.

Marella had retired two years ago from the ring due to neck issues that led to surgery. He had made occasional comedy appearances but has been running a martial arts and pro wrestling gym, the Battlarts Academy, in Mississauga, ONT. He was basically gone.

The most questioned would have been Sandow. Sandow started in developmental as Aaron “Idol” Stevens in 2002, and made the main roster in 2006 as part of a tag team with K.C. James. He was cut in 2007, but rehired in 2010. He was brought to the main roster with a push as Damien Sandow in 2012, the pompous intellectual savior of the masses, named after early century weightlifter Eugene Sandow. He won Money in the Bank in 2013, but lost when cashing it in with John Cena and was pretty well going nowhere. He was given a silly character as Miz’s stunt double, Damien Mizdow. The idea seemed like death, but he hit a home run with it and got very popular. Unfortunately, that character had a shelf life. They weren’t doing much with him until making him Macho Mandow, doing a Randy Savage gimmick in a tag team with Curtis Axel, who was AxelMania doing a Hulk Hogan gimmick. The team was dropped when WWE disassociated themselves with Hogan over racial remarks, and Sandow never did much after that. He was rarely used of late, but people liked him from the Mizdow character and would react big when they saw him. Because he wants to continue wrestling, he has already started booking himself on the indie scene. He’s the best fit long-term for that scene of those let go. He wouldn’t figure to be a good fit with ROH. It’s certainly possible TNA would take him. I don’t think he’d be a fit for New Japan but that’s not impossible either.

Cameron’s break was when she was chosen for the cast of Tough Enough in 2011. She had virtually no knowledge or understanding of wrestling and was an early cut. But because of her looks, she got a developmental deal, and was brought up to the main roster as a dancer for Brodus Clay I January, 2012, making her the fastest to make the main roster. She was a regular on Total Divas, but never developed as a worker. Once she was dropped from the show, there wasn’t much done with her. Her timing of tweeting support to Ryback was the worst for her politically.

Riley is an interesting case. He’s a guy who would have done well during the territorial days because he had the size, the physique, a good look, and could talk. He was also a good athlete, as a former quarterback and later a linebacker at Boston College. He was signed in 2006 and made the main roster in 2010. He was being groomed until an incident with John Cena made him fall out of favor and he lost whatever push he had. He did commentary, where he had promise at first. He ended up announcing in NXT but then came back to wrestle, and then had knee surgery. When he came back, it was clear by how he was used that they had given up on him. It’s possible TNA would take him.

Hornswoggle had been with the company since 2006. Matched up with Finlay, he got off to a strong start as a popular comedy character geared toward young kids. He also had a run as the illegitimate son of Vince McMahon, a role Ken Anderson was to get but Anderson ran into trouble as the angle was going on. He was used as part of the 3MB act, but that act was dropped and he had shoulder surgery, and then a drug suspension last year, and hadn’t been figured into anything.

Torito, 34, worked for AAA from 2000 to 2007 as Mascarita Sagrada, and then 2007-2011 for CMLL as Mascarita Dorada. He was considered the best mini in Mexico when WWE signed him in 2013. With no minis division, he was more a comedy second. He had no opponent on the roster other than Hornswoggle. He lost his spot when they turned Los Matadores heel. It seemed a natural to put him with the Lucha Dragons, but instead he wasn’t used.

Colter had a great act with Jack Swagger, which clicked as a heel to where Swagger was the hottest he’d ever be. They turned them patriotic faces, but a babyface manager is a kiss of death position. He ended up needing hip surgery which ended his run. He was brought back with Alberto Del Rio, which was a disaster of a pairing that was quickly dropped. He has a ton of experience in creative with some periods of great success as a booker in Puerto Rico.

In addition, Steve Lombardi, 55, who has been with the company for more than 30 years, in a backstage capacity, was also let go. Given his tenure, Lombardi was the biggest surprise on the list.

Another person not on the list was Ryback (Ryan Reeves), but all his merchandise was priced down for quick sale, which is what the company does with people who are let go.

Unless something changes, he is not expected to be back, but it’s much easier to just allow his contract to expire in his case.

The decision on him was actually made prior to Payback. There were people aware of it the day before the show but since they were advertising the match, Vince McMahon’s philosophy is that you get the advertised match in the ring if at all possible (except when he decides from a booking standpoint not to, but the guys still appear and are given a storyline reason why it doesn’t happen).

There were a number of issues, and they were pretty far apart on money but Ryback made several other demands that Vince wasn’t going to bend on. One, in regards to being treated like pretty much any other touring pro athlete, were well within reason and some things unique to wrestling (paying road expenses) in WWE dating back to it’s done because it’s how things have always been done.

Other things asked were clearly things Vince wasn’t going for including the contract being guaranteed for its term, meaning if he was released, for any reason, he’d still be paid in full for the duration of the deal. There have been wrestlers such as in WCW who had deals structured that way as well, but WWE has never gone for that type of deal.

Cameron tweeted supporting Ryback, which was seen as a major political mistake, and then she took it down.


Ring of Honor opened its traditional biggest week of the year with all kinds of questions being raised.

On one hand, things look great. All four shows with New Japan talent have sold out, with a Wednesday night television taping in Toronto expected to do the biggest gate and attendance (with standing room tickets being sold, they are hoping for 1,700 fans at the Ted Reeve Arena, as regular tickets are already sold out) the company has ever done after doing a sellout of 1,500 for the 5/8 War of the Worlds PPV in Chicago at the Frontier Fieldhouse and also doing the company’s biggest crowd ever at their building in Dearborn, MI, with 1,000 fans, the next night. New York on 5/14 sold out well in advance, but that was a given as a 1,100-seat building in the New York market is too small. There has been talk of going back to the Manhattan Center or Hammerstein Ballroom (both part of the same complex), which can hold more people but are also far more expensive to run and ROH pulled out after costs were increased.

It’s been noted that merchandise sales are also up generally when they go to new markets. One would think ROH largely draws each time in a market from the same clientele.

But there have been questions raised about too much reliance on New Japan. Without a doubt New Japan has helped raise the company’s profile, and overall attendance at shows without the New Japan talent is up. But with the New Japan talent coming so often, there is the feeling that instead of it feeling special, it’ll be normal. There were even people noting that Toronto and Dearborn didn’t sell out in advance, but in the end, Toronto will be a big success and Dearborn was a Monday show that did sell out.

There is also the issue of so much of ROH booking being controlled by New Japan. While there is give-and-take, in the end, New Japan owns and controls Bullet Club, even though they are positioned as the leading faction in ROH.

New Japan’s booking philosophy, where wins and losses are important and top guys only lose when it’s necessary for storytelling means that certain guys aren’t going to lose singles matches on ROH shows. It was New Japan’s decision have Adam Cole and Adam Page join The Bullet Club on shows they were involved with, and both will be working Japan as part of the club, both starting this summer.

The other members of The Bullet Club were the ones who made the suggestion for Cole. Primarily The Young Bucks asked and pushed for it. Matt Jackson was one of the key people as far as the design and layout of the angle at the end of the PPV. Cole makes sense since Bullet Club lost key people and with Kenny Omega moving to heavyweight, there was a spot open for a singles junior heavyweight. Page was a surprise. ROH has tried to elevate him from being a nobody, but it’s not like he caught on in a big way with the fan base. It was almost like one of those NWO additions that felt like it weakened the concept. But ultimately, Page was a New Japan call and had already been booked as part of the group on an upcoming tour, and it was Gedo who wanted him there.

War of the Worlds ended with a scene where Cole joined The Bullet Club, and the next night in Dearborn, Page also joined, when he looked to be making a save for the team of The Briscoes & Motor City Machine Guns & Colt Cabana against Bullet Club. Earlier in the show, he had come in to help the Briscoes & Machines Guns to even the odds. But when the match started, he wasn’t there, with the story that the Bullet Club had given him a personal superkick party backstage. Cabana, unannounced, then showed up to join the team. Later in the match, with the Bullet Club having an edge, Page showed up with a chair to look like he was going to help, but then laid out Mark Briscoe and joined.

Cole will be going to Japan as a Bullet Club member shortly.

It’s notable Page was chosen and not Roderick Strong, given Strong has the long association with the Bucks as part of Mount Rushmore in PWG, and is the far better wrestler.

Cole hadn’t been booked for any ROH shows this week, but that was all part of the angle where the tease was that he was fed up with ROH and leaving. He’s actually under contract until April, 2017.

But it is true that WWE has a strong interest in him, more than almost anyone on the indie scene. But that’s a story for next year’s Mania season as a lot can happen between now and then.

Unlike others who they were looking at to have on the roster, WWE has seen Cole as an NXT headliner to start out with. Cole had a tryout and did well, a few years ago and it was thought by almost everyone in NXT that he was a lock for a job. But the decision was made to pass on him. There was a lot of second guessing because at roughly the same time Cole and Adam Scherr (Braun Strowman) got tryouts and everyone who saw the tryouts figured Cole was a lock to be signed and Scherr was so awful and blew up so fast and showed nothing and the feeling was he didn’t have a prayer of being signed. But Paul Levesque saw Scherr and his size as a project and he was signed. Cole wasn’t signed, but every indication was that he was almost universally praised.

William Regal did an interview in the U.K. months back talking about someone who was very good and that they had interest in, but passed on, thinking he facially looked too young. He noted one of the key things Paul Levesque wants is that people look like they can beat someone up in a real fight. The idea was that Levesque said the guy was good, but in his case, let him age a few years so he doesn’t look like a teenager and gets a more older, tougher, adult look and looks tougher and gets a little bigger, and let him get experience at the top of the cards on the indies since he was already an indie star. In a few years, he’ll be ready and everyone will be better off in the long run. Then he can come in and be pushed while having already had years of experience as a headliner.

It was never actually said this person was Cole, but the belief in the industry is that is who they were talking about. Also the belief is that they came to the conclusion that person was ready and looked the way they wanted him to and were interested, but he was under contract. But obviously based on booking, New Japan has interest in Cole for the long-term, which puts him in a great position when his deal is up. At that point, who knows where TNA would fit in.

The complaints about New Japan domination becomes an interesting point. The reality is that New Japan’s biggest stars like Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi come across far more like major league stars than anyone on the ROH roster. New Japan also protects its top stars from doing jobs, as they only do them when it’s necessary to get someone else over to their level or in G-1. The fans also take to them as bigger stars on the show. In many ways it’s the same complaint about Rock and Undertaker coming back in main event positions at WrestleMania and then Rock blowing everyone away with charisma and interviews and making the regular guys appear not to be stars on his level.

The exception on the PPV was Tomohiro Ishii, just days after being in the main event and losing in the IWGP title match in Fukuoka, came in and dropped the TV title clean to Bobby Fish in Chicago, doing the Miesha Tate/Holly Holm finish. Michael Elgin, a New Japan star, lost the fall in a tag match instead of ROH wrestler Moose, in a tag match involving Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada. Tanahashi or Okada aren’t going to lose falls unless it’s for a major reason.

There has also been talk of contract questions, with Moose and Roderick Strong’s deal coming due shortly. Neither has committed to a new contract and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if one or both leave, although reports that either are definitely gone appear to be premature.

From an official standpoint, neither’s contract at this point allows them to take outside offers, although this is pro wrestling and those stipulations are constantly violated.

It’s not a secret that Moose is heavily coveted, given his size and athletic ability. WWE, New Japan, ROH and TNA all have interest in him. If he was to go with New Japan, he’d likely work ROH between tours like Matt Sydal and Michael Elgin do now, and like Kenny Omega is expected to do once his visa situation is settled.

The lay of the land is that unless WWE sees you as a major acquisition and proven talent, as they did with Styles, Gallows and Anderson, they usually don’t offer big guaranteed deals. In the case of Moose, most likely his best offer based on what’s being thrown around this month, would come from TNA. The problem with TNA is the uncertainty aspect, as nobody knows who is in charge, the issues with late pay are well known and Bobby Roode and Eric Young, two TNA-lifers who had good contracts, both left, likely for much smaller deals (Roode certainly did) because of frustration regarding being paid. There was WWE interest in Moose last year but they never made a significant money offer and he decided to stay with ROH for another year.

With Moose (Quinn Ojinnaka), people are interested based on potential. He’s an NFL caliber athlete who is a legit 6-foot-5 and close to 300 pounds with super agility and athletic ability, and who loves the business. He’s improved noticeably in the last year, Strong is different. The only drawback is age, at 32, and he’s not the polished level of wrestler that WWE has on its main roster or even at the level of the top tier in NXT.

Strong (Chris Lindsay), 32, is the opposite. He’s a polished worker, really for pure in-ring timing the equal of just about anyone in wrestling. He’s not big, which is probably the only reason I can think of that New Japan hasn’t used him as a regular. If he was 225 pounds, he’d have been one of the superstars killing it in G-1 last year, but instead it was Elgin who got the call and changed his career based on it. Strong hasn’t even worked New Japan major shows, only doing the ROH shows in February, where he tore it up on the ring when he dropped the TV title to Tomohiro Ishii. He’s been in the business for 13 years, and been with ROH most of the time since September 2003.

He’s a guy who can be counted on to always deliver a good match and be effective in a program. He’s also getting married, which also changes one’s priorities. With him, the question becomes what exactly is out there. With NXT’s new position of trying to be the WWE version of ROH as the hardcore darling company, Strong would be a solid acquisition. There was interest in him last year but in the end, there were issues that led him to sign with ROH for another year. The lack of New Japan interest in him has to have been frustrating because of his potential, but size-wise, they still think of smaller guys as junior heavyweights and don’t put them in the main eventers mix. At the PPV he did an angle based on frustration that Dalton Castle won the No. 1 contenders match for the TV title, a match he was on the verge of winning.

But regarding rumors of frustration of talent, those are accurate, as there is a lot of talent and a juggling act when it comes to pushing and keeping them happy. Even though ROH business is up and ROH is spending more on talent than ever before, and there is the New Japan link, the reality is NXT has become the hot promotion. A lot of wrestlers who previously were considered as talented but not people WWE would necessarily want, and types WWE hadn’t pushed in the past, see people like Austin Aries and Johnny Gargano and the feeling is no longer if you don’t have the right size, it’s not worth going there.

The key ROH act, the ones that are considered the biggest draws and are far and away the biggest merchandise sellers, are The Young Bucks, who are under contract until the end of the year.

Both the PPV and Dearborn shows indicate, and we’ve been told, that the plan right now is to push Bullet Club to the moon as the big heel act in ROH, even though the fans are likely to cheer for them anyway. After the PPV was over, they took over the merchandise stand and apparently made a killing with new stuff including stuff for Cole in the club.

The show ended with The Young Bucks, Cole, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa destroying everyone with the biggest superkick party in history. They interrupted the Jay Lethal vs. Colt Cabana title match, threw both men Bullet Club shirts, but then started superkicking everyone. Mr. Wrestling III (Steve Corino) had a superkick counter for the Bucks match earlier on the show, when the Bucks promised the biggest superkick party in history. So they did the entire match without one superkick. The Bullet Club ended up delivering 51 superkicks once they destroyed the main event, including multiple times to Lethal (who was zip-tied to the ropes), Cabana, Taeler Hendrix, Wrestling III, Kevin Kelly, referee Todd Sinclair, countless security guards one after another, and even the father of the Young Bucks.

The spot was designed to be like an NWO Nitro spot, which as history shows, was great short-term but not so great long-term. But there is history to be learned from on what pitfalls to avoid. It was polarizing, in the sense they did a title match main event on PPV without a finish, and the superkicking of the Bucks’ father felt very much like a Vince Russo spot where you do it for “shock value” even though it’s the obvious swerve and borders on making it unrealistic. In this case, after doing a ton of damage, the Bucks’ father hit the ring for them to stop. Cole went to superkick him but his sons told him to stop since it was their father. Then they all superkicked him.

The news continued on 5/9 in Dearborn where, on a house show, War Machine dropped the tag team titles to Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian. Daniels & Kazarian had lost on PPV to Cheeseburger & Jushin Liger in a match where Liger was dropped on his head when they gave him Celebrity Rehab right before the finish. Liger was injured and unable to wrestle (although he did do a run-in) he next night and he’s considered day-to-day regarding the rest of the tour. The next night, War Machine was scheduled against Okada & Gedo in a non-title match. But they agreed to make it a title match and retained. After the match, Daniels & Kazarian, who were not advertised for the show, came out and wanted a title shot. They knocked the champions as frauds, having horrible beards and called them “ZZ Flop,” after bearded rock stars and wrestling fans “ZZ Top.” Daniels & Kazarian said that when they lost the titles in September that they never got a rematch. They claimed to be undefeated in ROH, even though they were pinned the prior night, and said their lawyers were working on them getting a rematch on 5/14 in New York. Hanson said The Addiction were babies who hadn’t won a match in months (their last win was on 3/12 in Philadelphia). Hanson & Rowe said that they would give Daniels & Kazarian the shot, but not in New York, it’s tonight in Dearborn, take it or leave it. The match ended when Daniels hit Hanson with a belt shot, but he kicked out, but then hit him with another foreign object (I believe the metal in a ring jacket) and got the pin. They have a ton of different teams as prospective opponents.

The next PPV is 6/24 in Concord, NC. Jay Lethal vs. Jay Briscoe for the ROH title is the main event. That main event, which was already teased on television shows already taped, seems to come out of nowhere since the Briscoes lost to War Machine on the show here. They’ve also established Colt Cabana (who wasn’t beaten on the show this weekend) and Kyle O’Reilly (who pinned Lethal in a tag match in Dearborn) for future shots. If you watched the PPV, it would appear Lethal would be wanting to get at the Bullet Club and Cole in particular.

As far as the show went, it was interesting because people who were there talked about how the crowd was the hottest at an ROH PPV in a long time. Obviously the crowd was poorly miced, as watching it, it came across dead most of the way which hurt the show a lot. Still, most of the matches were wrestled well, but what was said to be a killer show live was not as good on PPV. The video quality was much improved, and that used to be ROH’s drawback was that you’d get great matches and good sound but terrible lighting.

It was still a heavy majority thumbs up, but the negative that was there regarded the sound and the main negative takes were the polarizing show closing angle. On the angle, like any angle, you have to judge it based on the follow-up and business. It was designed to get heat and make people mad, but of course, whether that’s good or bad depends on the follow-up interest level. Because ROH usually does finishes, not doing one once to shoot a major angle doesn’t bother me and it’s good because it’s different. If you do it regularly, it becomes a strong negative. There were complaints with the idea that ROH is now the highest priced pro wrestling show on television, since TNA PPV has such little interest and WWE has the low network price, and thus more than anyone they have to produce killer shows and give satisfying finishes.

The angle being out of control was good because you don’t want a typical angle in that spot, especially if you’re not doing a main event finish. You could argue that you could have done a finish and still done the angle. It was tough because the Chicago crowd was super into Cabana, and you don’t want to beat him the first big show back. You could then argue you shouldn’t have made the match itself. But the match was hotter than I’d have expected and felt like the right main event on the show, except for the issue with the finish.

The superkicking the announcers was part of it having that out of control feel that didn’t look typical. The superkicking the father took me out of it because I couldn’t buy it at that point, plus it had the overused pro wrestling set-up when you knew it was coming. I think if there was a longstanding TV association with the father I’d have different thoughts because they’d have been established so it would be a shock. But the minute he was in there, you knew he was getting superkicked and the hold back spot was that feel of the swerve for the sake of the swerve that didn’t feel believable. Still, that isn’t going to make or break whether this renewed emphasis and building of Bullet Club to be this big merchandising act and big act in two different promotions at the same time will be a success.

Clearly the strong focus on Bullet Club, and this is more New Japan than ROH, was at least in part a statement by New Japan about who owns the concept. At the same time, WWE is using “The Club” so strongly for Styles, Anderson and Gallows. They had been Bullet Club in ROH and more New Japan as recently as a few months ago. In doing so, WWE did something it almost never does at least so blatantly, copy so closely a concept from another promotion which they all but admit on television with the New Japan references and using the members who helped get the group over. It’s very much like if they had used Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson & J.J. Dillon as the Horsemen, something they never considered at the time.

1. Kelly Klein beat Crazy Mary Dobson in a dark match.

2. Kamaitachi & Juice Robinson won a three-way dark match over Kenny King & Rhett Titus and Silas Young & Beer City Bruiser. I was told this was a *** match.

3. Dalton Castle won a four-way over Roderick Strong, ACH and Adam Page to become the top contender for the TV title in 9:26. Generally good. ACH did an awesome dropkick on Page. Castle showed a ton of charisma and he did his impressive power spots. Strong came off the top rope and Castle caught him and delivered an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Page did a shooting star press off the apron onto Strong and Castle. ACH did a flip dive onto everyone which got a big reaction even with the poorly mic’d crowd. The finish saw Strong use a top rope superplex, gut buster and sick kick on Page. But before he could go for the pin, Castle used the bang a rang and stole the pin on Page. Strong was furious saying he had the match won and he was the best wrestler in the company. ***

4. Jushin Liger & Cheeseburger beat Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian in 6:56. They pushed that this was Cheeseburger’s first match on American PPV. They’ve got him over as the undercard 125 pound comedy guy. He was wearing a shirt that said “Legendary shotei,” which is Liger’s palm thrust move. Mr. Wrestling Corino said that Daniels broke in here in Chicago (true) on the undercard of the Rogers vs. O’Connor show in 1961 (obviously not true). Liger ran wild, including a running Liger bomb on Daniels, but Kazarian saved. Daniels & Kazarian did Celebrity Rehab on Liger, who landed on the top of his head. Liger didn’t do anything the rest of the way and was just selling. Cheeseburger tagged in and hit Kazarian with a shotei. Daniels laid out Cheeseburger with an STO twice, but out of nowhere, Cheeseburger pinned Daniels with a front rolling cradle. After the match, Daniels gave Cheeseburger a low blow and then they used their new move, the Best Meltzer Ever, which is a spoof on the Meltzer driver. It’s Kazarian having Cheeseburger in the position for a tombstone piledriver, and then Daniels coming off the top with a moonsault into a spike, laying him out.

5. Ray Rowe & Hanson (War Machine) retained the ROH tag titles beating Mark & Jay Briscoe in 15:14. This was a very physical match with high impact spots, but was sloppy in spots. Mark sold early. Hanson did a tope. Jay did a double foot stomp off the apron which put Hanson through a table on the floor. Jay and Rowe traded uranage’s and no sell spots. Jay did a tope on Rowe. Mark used a blockbuster off the apron to the floor on Hanson. A lot of this match felt Japanese style. There was a “This is awesome” chant. Jay did a splash off the top and Mark followed with his froggy bow, which is an elbow off the top on Hanson for a near fall. Hanson gave Jay two backbreakers and Rowe followed with a power bomb. Hanson missed a moonsault on Jay and Jay used the Jay driller on Hanson for a near fall. Interesting that Jay used his finisher and Hanson kicked out right before Jay is getting a singles title shot. They set up the doomsday device on Hanson, but Rowe gave Jay a chop block. Rowe hit Mark with a German suplex, Hanson gave Jay a spin kick and they did the double-team fallout which is Rowe holding Mark up and Hanson coming off the top rope with a leg drop for the pin. I think it must have been better live because fans were chanting “Thank you” when they were done. ***1/4

6. Tetsuya Naito pinned Kyle O’Reilly in 12:02 of a non-title match. You can really see the familiarity with New Japan among this fan base. Naito has appeared on some ROH TV, since they aired stuff from February at Korakuen Hall to build up this card. But Naito last year was just a New Japan guy brought over and now he’s a superstar and all his mannerisms were over. O’Reilly is a great wrestler but when the two were in the ring together Naito had the look and feel of a superstar. Naito dropped the IWGP belt on the ground when he came out. The crowd really liked him as a heel, thinking he was cool now. O’Reilly’s wrestling was great but Naito was so popular the crowd went with him and even lightly booed O’Reilly, who is usually a major ROH favorite. O’Reilly did all kinds of submissions including an uma plata and ankle lock combination. Naito used a Frankensteiner off the top rope for a near fall. O’Reilly used kicks and knees and they traded various strikes and then had an elbow change. Naito used an enzuigiri and flying forearm. O’Reilly came back with a bridging back suplex for a near fall. Naito won clean with a spinebuster and destino for the pin. After the match, Naito gave O’Reilly a low blow and then threw the belt in the air once again showing the title no respect. ***½

7. Kazuchika Okada & Moose beat Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin in 14:48. The crowd live was evidently super into Okada vs. Tanahashi. They only did a few spots together. When they squared off, the crowd chanted “Holy shit” before they touched and the announcers put Okada vs. Tanahashi over as one of the greatest feuds in wrestling history. They blocked each other’s moves. Fans were chanting “New Japan.” The crowd booed when Okada tagged in Moose. Elgin and Moose traded power spots and Elgin did a 19 second delayed vertical suplex on Moose, but Moose popped up. The crowd did the “Ace” chants for Tanahashi, which is notable because that’s only a couple of months old. There was a spot where Tanahashi and Elgin were both on the middle rope, and Okada did the high dropkick to Tanahashi, sending him to the floor, and Moose did the same to Okada. Moose then did a plancha off the top rope to the floor onto both of them. They traded big moves and had another “This is awesome” chant. They traded big moves including Elgin using a powerslam on Okada off the middle rope. Tanahashi did a plancha on Moose and Elgin used a buckle bomb. Okada hit the dropkick. Moose speared Elgin and dropkicked Tanahashi, while Okada hit the rainmaker on Elgin for the pin. ***½

8. Bobby Fish beat Tomohiro Ishii in 15:32 to win the ROH TV title. This was your basic Ishii singles match in Japan and Fish did the hard hitting match and stayed right with him. It was just hard hitting back-and-forth. On PPV it was missing heat and it took it down a notch, but live it was probably great. There were dueling chants here as well. It would take a lot from Fish to put Ishii down. Fish at one point tried a head-butt and knocked himself out because of the idea Ishii’s head is so hard. Ishii did a delayed superplex and a power bomb. Fish tried a choke once but Ishii broke it by driving Fish into the turnbuckles. They did a teased count out spot. They traded strikes. Fish tried a choke a second time. Fish let go and hit elbow after elbow on Ishii. Fish jumped on his back for a choke. Ishii flipped Fish over but Fish held on, identical to the Tate/Holm finish, right down to Ishii not tapping and going out. The crowd seemed surprised at first. For one, unless you’re Samoa Joe, chokes don’t ever work in U.S. pro wrestling, and second, they’re so used to the top New Japan guys not losing that I think they weren’t expecting a title change. ***3/4

9. Young Bucks & Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa beat Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley & Kushida & Matt Sydal in 13:17. Great match. All kinds of big moves. They did foreshadow the Jackson’s father spot by the Bucks coming to ringside and hugging their mom and dad in the front row, noting it was Mother’s Day and they evidently brought her to Chicago. They pushed the idea that the Bucks love their parents and bought them a house. Sydal and Sabin did a double tope. Nick did a Jericho style springboard dropkick onto Sabin, knocking him to the floor. Fans clapped the Terminator theme, like they do in Japan, and the Bucks teased a double tope but Sabin and Shelley met them with superkicks. Sabin & Shelley both superkicked Tonga & Loa, who no sold, so they are pushing them like monsters. Nick did a twisting dive onto everyone. The fans popped when Tonga tagged in. Kushida did an O’Connor roll on Matt and a German suplex on Nick at the same time. Sydal did the double knees off th top on Tonga and followed with a high kick and moonsault for a near fall. Sydal did the huracanrana on both Bucks at the same time. They then did all kinds of cool spots including Kushida doing a flip dive off the top rope to the floor onto Tonga and Loa. The finish came a little abruptly, as they did the Meltzer Driver on Shelley for the win. ****

After the match, B.J. Whitmer came out wearing a Masked Superstar mask. Steve Corino was on commentary as Mr. Wrestling III, a spoof on Mr. Wrestling II. During the first national heyday of Georgia Championship Wrestling, one of the big programs was Mr. Wrestling II vs. Masked Superstar. Whitmer took the mask off, revealing himself and handed Wrestling III a flash drive and told him to go to his hotel room and watch what’s on it. Wrestling III didn’t show up for the VOD taping the next night in Dearborn. The storyline was that he rushed hope after watching it. It’s likely related to an angle involving his son, Colby.

10. Jay Lethal no contest Colt Cabana in 15:25 to retain the ROH title. The Chicago crowd was really into Cabana. While the Japanese stars were treated as superstars, Cabana was treated like the home town hero going for the title. It was his first ROH match back in Chicago in five years and the crowd chanted his name for a long time. Lethal missed a tope and crashed into the barricade. Taeler Hendrix at ringside held Cabana allowing Lethal to attack him and get the advantage. Lethal did two topes, and on the second one, flew over the barricade into the front row. Nigel McGuinness was doing commentary. He yelled at Hendrix for interfering and he and ref Todd Sinclair kicked her out. McGuinness left the broadcast position and dragged Hendrix to the back. The two had a nice wrestling match that got very good. There was a triple reverse tombstone piledriver spot. Lethal almost lost him on reversal number three, and then dropped him with the move. Cabana came back and had Lethal in the Billy Goat’s curse, his submission move. Hendrix came from out of the back and pulled Sinclair out of the ring. The Bucks came out like they were trying to help Cabana at first. They went to give Hendrix a double superkick for interfering, but she moved and Sinclair got nailed. Then they superkicked Hendrix and she sold it like she was dead. They pulled out Bullet Club T-shirts and at first teased giving one to Cabana as the new member. But they gave shirts to both Cabana and Lethal. The lights went out. When they came on, Adam Cole was in the ring wearing a Bullet Club shirt. The Bucks gave both Lethal and Cabana double superkicks. The Bucks & Cole started stomping the hell out of Lethal. They were superkicking one security guy after another. The Bucks used the indie-taker on the floor with Nick jumping off the apron onto a security guy. To further the NWO vibe, they spray pained “BC” on a table and power bombed a security guy through the table. They gave Kevin Kelly a double superkick. Then they gave Wrestling III a double superkick. Matt Jackson got on the headset and started mocking Jim Ross, doing some of Ross’ catch phrases, talked about King as if it was Jim Ross talking to Jerry Lawler, and made a reference to Adam Cole’s package with the Ross line “That man’s got a family.” While this was going on, Cole zip tied Lethal to te ropes and gave Lethal one superkick after another. The Bucks kept superkicking people before their father jumped in the ring. Cole went to superkick him, but the Bucks told him to stop, and then they superkicked their father. The show ended with the Bucks, Cole, Tonga and Loa in the ring as the Bullet Club left the place destroyed. ***1/4


UFC debuted in Holland on 5/8 in Rotterdam, for a show where native fighters Alistair Overeem, Stefan Struve and Germaine de Randamie all scored big wins and Europeans won all six main card fights.

The big winner was Overeem, down to 244 pounds and softer, a complete physical transformation from his Japan, Strikeforce and early UFC days. Overeem knocked out Andrei Arlovski, his teammate at the Jackson/Wink Gym, and then asked for a shot at the winner of the Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic heavyweight title fight on 5/14.

Overeem, 35, asked for the fight in Madison Square Garden, and followed by saying he then wanted to make his first title defense next year in Amsterdam, to a big reaction. Overeem and Cain Velasquez (provided Velasquez beats Travis Browne at UFC 200) would be the two logical contenders for the next title shot. Because of timing, with Overeem winning now while Velasquez doesn’t fight until July, Overeem would appear in the drivers’ seat. If UFC can book the next heavyweight title fight relatively quickly, the Velasquez fight wouldn’t have taken place and Overeem would be the logical contender. Overeem also holds a win over Werdum via decision when they were in Strikeforce.

It’s quite the turnaround for Overeem, whose career as a contender seemed over after losing three of four fights in 2013 and 2014, all by knockout. But he’s now won four in a row, over Struve, Roy Nelson, Junior Dos Santos and Arlovski, three via knockout.

Overeem won in the second round when he kicked Arlovski in the chin, knocking his toe out of its socket, with his toe being at a 45 degree angle in the process. Arlovski was stunned and Overeem threw punch after punch until it was stopped.

This followed Struve scoring a 15 second win over Antonio Silva, who at 36 has now been knocked out in four of his last five fights.

The show drew a sellout of 10,421 fans at the Ahoy for a gate of $1,523,320. All tickets were sold out as soon as they were put on sale.

The main card, airing from 2 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., did 656,000 viewers, 24 percent above the average for FS 1 afternoon shows, but down after the afternoon station UFC record of 781,000 viewers set on 4/10 for the Dos Santos vs. Ben Rothwell fight. Overeem vs. Arlovski did 805,000 viewers.

The prelims did 494,000 viewers, an FS 1 record for an afternoon show. FS 1 was the most-watched sports network for the Noon to 4:45 p.m. period of the show. The show also did 188,000 viewers for the prefight show, 230,000 for the postfight show, and 172,000 for the weigh-ins. The April numbers were 119,000, 310,000 and 109,000 respectively.

Performance bonuses of $50,000 went to Overeem, Struve, De Randamie and Gunnar Nelson.

1. Ulka Sasaki (19-3-2) beat Willie Gates (12-7) at 3:30 of the second round in a flyweight match. Sasaki won a close first round. In the second round, Sasaki took him down, got his back and landed elbows and punches until getting the tap with a choke.

2. Leon Edwards (11-3) beat Dominic Waters (9-5) via straight 30-27 decision in a welterweight fight. Edwards got a takedown and mount in the first round. In the second round, Edwards got a knockdown and Waters got a takedown with a suplex. In the third round, Waters took him down but Edwards got up and got the better of the striking.

3. Kyoji Horiguchi (17-2) beat Neil Seery (16-12) via decision on scores of 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 in a flyweight fight. Horiguchi knocked Seery down at the 30 second mark. He got a second knockdown and Seery was bleeding from the under the left eye. He also got two takedowns in the round. Horiguchi cut Seery under the right eye in the second round and got a late takedown. Horiguchi took him down in the third round and landed some hard punches standing. Seery got a late takedown but Horiguchi quickly swept to the top. Horiguchi said he wanted another shot at champion Demetrious Johnson after the win.

4. Reza Madadi (14-4) beat Yan Cabral (12-3) at 1:56 of the third round in a lightweight fight. Cabral won the first round where he got Madadi’s back and worked for a choke. The second round was closer. They started the round doing this delayed hug almost like a pro wrestling hug where you tease a fight and then hug. Both landed punches and Madadi got a late takedown. In the third round, Cabral was tired and Madadi started landing solid punches until ref Leon Roberts stopped it.

5. Josh Emmett (10-0) beat Jon Tuck (9-3) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a lightweight fight. Emmett took the fight on a week’s notice. Emmett got the better of the standup in the first round. The second round, which ended up the deciding round, but Emmett landed hard shots late. The third round saw Emmett suffer a compound fracture of the ring finger in his left hand when he blocked a high kick. The bone was actually sticking out. At that point Emmett figured he was probably up 20-18 and he decided to give up the round but try and stall out the fight where he figured he’d still get the win. He started stalling, and even running away at times to avoid getting hit. He was just trying to stay as far away as possible and avoid getting hit. I actually gave the round 10-8 to Tuck and had it a draw, because of how much Emmett was running. Fans were booing while he continued to avoid any contact.

6. Magnus Cedenblad (14-4) beat Garreth McLellan (13-4) at :47 of the second round of a middleweight fight. Cedenblad got a first round knockdown with a right and dominated. In the second round, Cedenblad landed a right head kick. McLellan got his hand up to block it but the kick was so hard it drove McLelland’s hand into the side of his head and it hurt him. McLellan was stunned and had his hands down. Cedenblad landed ten straight uppercuts and it was stopped.

7. Rustam Khabilov (19-3) beat Chris Wade (11-2) on scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 in a lightweight fight. Fans were chanting for Khabilov. Khabilov got two first round takedowns and did some punching from the top to take the round. In the second round, Wade knocked Khabilov down a left high kick that sounded like a gunshot went off. It was actually amazing because as soon as the kick landed, you figured the fight was over. But Khabilov recovered immediately, took him right down and dominated the rest of the fight. Khabilov got a few takedowns in the second. Even with the knockdown, Khabilov dominated the round except for a few seconds. In the third, Khabilov took him down and worked for a choke. He also got another takedown and landed hard punches until the fight ended.

8. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (9-0) beat Heather Jo Clark (7-5) on scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 in a women’s strawweight fight. Clark came out strong in the first round landing punches. She controlled most of the round but Kowalkiewicz started to take over late. In the second round, Kowalkiewicz took over, and landed more. She got a late takedown and was working to get an armbar when the round ended. In the third round, Kowalkiewicz was much fresher and took control, landing a lot of shots. Clark was taking a beating late and at the time the round ended, it didn’t appear she was going to be able to last much longer.

9. Nikita Krylov (20-4) beat Francimar Barroso (18-5) at 3:11 of the second round in a light heavyweight fight. Here’s an amazing stat. In Krylov’s 24 fights in a four-year career, a stat that by itself is impressive, 19 of his 20 wins and three of his four losses ended in the first round. This was his second time out of the first round, and he’s never gone to a decision. He came out fast landing shots but Barroso tied him up. Krylov started landing good late in the round, but Barroso landed early and the round was close. Krylov landed a high kick and Barroso came back with a knee and got a takedown. Krylov swept to the top and started punching away. Krylov did a head-butt to the body, which was illegal. He was warned, but the ref made a mistake in not standing them up after the infraction. Barroso tried some submissions from the bottom and Krylov got his back and choked out the BJJ black belt.

10. Germaine de Randamie (6-3) beat Anne Elmose (3-1) at 3:46 of a women’s bantamweight fight. De Randamie got a ridiculous crowd reaction. The place just went crazy for her and she said her ring entrance was the highlight of her career. She landed big shots. Elmose was trying to get her down. Once Elmose tried for a takedown but De Randamie ended on top in side control. But she let Elmose back up. She kept landing punches and then hard knees. One of the knees to the body caused Elmose to collapse and it was over.

11. Gunnar Nelson (15-2-1) beat Albert Tumenov (17-3) at 3:15 of the second round in a welterweight fight. Tumenov had been on a tear, but if Nelson gets you on the ground, unless you’re Demian Maia, it’s trouble. Nelson landed a lot of punches. Nelson got the takedown, moved to mount and was landing hard elbows. Tumenov got back up and landed some punches and a side kick late in a good round. In the second round, Nelson took him down into side control, then mount, and then got his back with a body triangle. Nelson then got the neck crank and squeezed until Tumenov tapped.

12. Stefan Struve (31-8) beat Antonio Bigfoot Silva (19-9, 1 no contest) in :15 of a heavyweight fight. Struve dropped Silva with a knee right away and landed elbow after elbow to the head until it was stopped. He landed a right first, then the knee was the key blow, and then he kept throwing elbows as Silva never recovered. Struve was wearing an armband honoring Jordan Parsons and spoke about him after the fight.

13. Alistair Overeem (41-14, 1 no contest) beat Andrei Arlovski (25-12, 1 no contest) in 1:12 of the second round in a heavyweight fight. Arlovski came out fast throwing punches and teeing off on Overeem, who had his hands up trying to block. Later in the round, Overeem started landing knees and took over late, including just physically throwing Arlovski down. In the second round, Overeem landed a front kick, a right and a body kick. Then he landed the kick to the chin and threw a number of punches before it was stopped.


There was an interesting tweet recently by WWE’s Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Michelle Wilson, noting that two-thirds of the viewers of “Total Divas” are new to the brand.

There’s probably something to that, given the audience makeup of “Total Divas” is completely different from every other show because it’s mostly comprised of women under 35 and teenage girls, audiences that have in the past had some affinity for pro wrestling at certain times, but as a general rule, not in large numbers.

The flip side is with that show garnering a new audience, that should, if anything, lead to increases in the other key products, Raw, Smackdown and arena business, which are not increasing at all, and in fact, so far this year, all three are in decline. But there is a change, particularly in Smackdown more than Raw, but it’s there in both, where the percentage of women viewers is increasing. What that indicates is that “Total Divas” is probably making some, not a lot of new female fans for the brand.

But that hides a huge problem that has gone almost completely overlooked. The core audience, the male viewership, has declined far greater than anyone has realized and more than a cursory look at ratings or arena attendance would indicate.

Nearly every long-time follower and people with long histories in the business that we’ve talked with of late has noted just from television and the reactions, combined with revenue that pro wrestling has become more-and-more a hardcore-based entertainment. It’s a smaller audience following wrestling than at any time, perhaps aside from the 1992-95 period when wrestling bottomed out, in the modern era.

The flip side is that audience is more into the product, because there is so much more too the product, because there is so much available. The few big events of the year are bigger than ever before, just because they are “big events” as opposed to in the past when big events were big events based on having the right attraction that clicks with the audience.

But the stuff that isn’t as big doesn’t matter as much. Because of the plethora of product, and also because that product, whether it be angles, storylines or match results, is less meaningful as far as repercussions, it’s harder to get a reaction.

But as far as the numbers watching the two key television shows, here’s the situation.

Smackdown is hard to judge because the numbers should have increased going to the more powerful network, and they did at first. But now they’re slightly below last year even with the network upgrade and the far better announcing. The thing with Smackdown is that the three hour exhaustion factor that hurts Raw at the end doesn’t play into effect as a two-hour show that is more wrestling oriented.

The issue with Smackdown is that it’s so much made into a “B” show (even, weirdly, they have by far the “A” announcing team because Lawler is revitalized and blows away JBL, and Ranallo is far and away the best announcer they’ve had in years). I thought with the move to USA, they’d try and equal it out more. But with Raw, while the women audience isn’t as hardcore (they tune out at a far faster rate than men, particularly for shows that drag), by percentage, they are holding steady while the overall audience is declining double digits. Thus, the actual decline in male viewership is stronger than anyone notices.

If there are also more women attending house shows, and given nobody knows if that’s the case or not, because overall attendance is down, that would also indicate the 16 percent drop in January and 8 percent drop in February would be even more within the male demo.

For example, the April 27, 2015 Raw did 2.6 million male viewers and 1.2 million female viewers. The April 28, 2014 Raw did 3.2 million male viewers and 1.4 million female viewers. But the April 25, 2016 Raw did 1,963,000 male viewers and 1,153,000 female viewers.

So you look and see a 32 percent drop over two years, and a and 17 percent over one year and it does look bad.

But the male audience drop is actually 38 to 39 percent over two years and 24 to 25 percent over the past year.

The other aspect is when they tout so-called gains by percentages of women, that women are still down 18 percent over the past two years (although there is virtually no decline from last year) when it comes to Raw viewership, but the higher percentage of women viewers camouflages those declines because women, by percentage, are higher.

Another interesting ratings notes as it pertains to the idea ratings are going to fall because TV viewing is down relates to the NBA this past year. When it comes to local market ratings, the ratings were overall up, but they told an interesting story. Sports Business Journal got ratings information for 27 out of the 30 teams. Of those, 17 were down and ten were up, which sounds negative. And it is, presented alone. But it also tells an interesting story.

The teams that were up the most (Golden State, Orlando, New York Knicks) were far more up than those down, and overall viewership was up.

In the modern era, since the formation of the local sports networks, there has never seen a season where three NBA teams topped an 8.0 average for their entire season.

But this year, three teams, the Warriors, Cleveland and San Antonio all topped an 8.7 average rating for the season. What’s the obvious conclusion?

If you have larger than life stars and win most of your games, you will do better today than even in the past. Seems obvious. So the key is to create larger than life stars and win most of the time. The NBA overall was strong because they had superstars and dominant teams. But rank-and-file, the .500 teams, they did decline more or less. Below .500 declined even more. Now you don’t need NBA ratings to figure out the obvious lesson. If you want to rely on the brand itself, and this goes for WWE or UFC, you’re probably going to decline. But with WWE, since they’re in control of outcomes, anyone they book at .500 is probably going to struggle to mean anything. And just relying on WWE as a brand will get you consistent but declining numbers. But the mentality that you are doomed to decline and that’s just how it is, well, the dominant teams contradict. In fact, Golden State was NBA champions last year and nearly tripled their average rating, going from a 3.8 average rating last season to a 9.8 this season, largely due to winning most of their games and having Stephen Curry as the larger-than-life star of the team setting three point shooting records and being the MVP.

While that kind of movement in this era is very difficult for anything on television and this isn’t suggesting there’s anything that can be done in UFC or WWE that can approach that. What it does show is when you get something hot, it still can explode. We’ve seen the same thing with UFC on PPV. UFC’s PPVs last year were just under record levels, but a rank and file show is way down from a few years ago, but the big shows with the big names, well, they are bigger than ever. WWE’s big show of the year was also bigger than ever, but they only have one and they don’t have the big name movers.


Billy Wicks, a former carnival wrestler and submission expert from Minnesota whose feud with Sputnik Monroe was a key point historically in Memphis wrestling, passed away on 5/6.

He was 84. His death came five days after suffering a stroke and the day after entering hospice care.

Wicks was only 180 pounds, but learned submission wrestling from Henry Kolin, a protégé of the legendary Farmer Burns. Burns was at one time the top pro wrestler in the country when that position pretty much required being legitimate, After his run at the top was over, Burns was the trainer of Frank Gotch, the wrestler that really put the sport on the map in the U.S. in the early 1900s. Wicks was also trained by noted shooters like Tony Morelli, the master of the double wristlock (now known as the Kimura), Joe Pazandak, one of the most respected wrestlers of the 50s, and Ed “Strangler” Lewis, always considered one of the great shooters in history and one of the few pro wrestlers in history who were legitimate household names in society.

Even though Wicks wasn’t a large man, Wicks was the All-Army heavyweight champion in the 50s (the highest weight class in those days under heavyweight in the army was 175 pounds). While in the army, he also worked with both the Dobson United Shows and United Carnival shows from 1951 to 1956, where he would take on all comers using the wrestling he was taught growing up in St. Paul, MN at the Alder Boys Club, and later the submission skill he learned from the pros.

His training in submissions came in as a teenager. He noted that his wrestling hero was Red Bastien, who himself was a carnival wrestler trained by Kolin, who became a pro star, but was a small pro wrestler so Wicks empathized with him.

He met a woman wrestler who opened the door to the pro wrestlers to him, and in a workout on his first day, easily pinned pro wrestler Billy Carlson.

After learning, he made his money on the carnival circuit where he took on all comers and would use catch wrestling submission techniques to subdue foes. He started pro wrestling in 1954 in Minneapolis for Tony Stecher while still enlisted and did it full-time starting in 1957 after getting discharged from the army. Bastien got him booked first into Oregon for Don Owen and then Texas for Morris Sigel.

Wicks is long remembered in wrestling as the area’s original great babyface of the Nick Gulas and Roy Welch promotional era. His feud with Sputnik Monroe made wrestling an institution on television there. But Wicks was actually only a full-time wrestler for a few years. He said wrestling was fun, and continued to moonlight as a wrestler, working fairly often through 1973, but he took on a full-time job in law enforcement and his actual heyday as Memphis’ top babyface was really only 1959 and 1960.

He became a star first in the Gulf Coast, the Southern part of the Gulas/Welch circuit, where he was a three-time champion in 1958 and 1959. He headlined against Gorgeous George and Buddy Fuller (the son of Roy Welch).

The Gulas/Welch territory was broken into different regions. After Wicks proved he could be a drawing top babyface in the Southern part of the territory first, he was brought to the Memphis area in 1958, the same time as Monroe. He came in as a star. He still held the Gulf Coast championship and was acknowledged as champion on his arrival.

While Memphis had wrestling since the beginning of time, it was the debut of local televised wrestling, along with Wicks and Monroe, that set the stage for it becoming a hotbed, before people like The Fargos, Jackie Fargo, Tojo Yamamoto, Jerry Jarrett, Al & Don Greene, The Von Brauners and later Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Valiant, Austin Idol, The Fabulous Ones and Bill Dundee became household names.

Wicks was a 25-year-old boy-next-door type babyface. He was able to get over as being small, but showed good skill and people bought into his toughness. Even though Wicks had the credentials, it was noted that in the pro rings, he never used them. There were no stories of him straightening out guys who tried to test him, or showing off his real skills in pro matches like a Lou Thesz or a Billy Robinson.

He first big program in Memphis as a headliner was with George. Monroe, who was not a large man, although outweighed Wicks by a considerable amount, would bill himself as “235 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal,” and became a noted historical figure in the community because he hung out with African Americans when whites didn’t do so, drinking with them and getting into trouble at times. He had tremendous heat with the white community that supported wrestling as a “N***** lover,” which they’d shout at him. But the blacks loved him.

At the time, virtually everything in the South was separated racially, known as Jim Crow laws. There were drinking fountains for whites and for blacks. There were “colored sections” in public places, at least the places that allowed blacks in. City buses would only let blacks sit in the back. All sports, entertainment events, restaurants and movie theaters had separate sections. The “colored section” at the old Ellis Auditorium was in the balcony.

Legend had it that Monroe, who was the top star on television because of his ability to talk and because he had a big personality in town, would wrestle and the “colored section” would be packed and black fans would be turned away, but there were plenty of empty seats in the rest of the auditorium. Since he was a headliner and being paid based on the house, he protested and refused to wrestle unless blacks could sit anywhere in the auditorium.

Lance Russell, the announcer at the time, noted that while Monroe was very much important in the city’s history and that was all true, it was really Roy Welch, who ran Memphis, was secretly the catalyst of all this. He hated the idea that they were turning fans away even though the building wasn’t sold out. No place in the city allowed mixed racial seating. Monroe made the stand and Welch was very content to pretend that he didn’t want to give in but would lose his top drawing card if things didn’t change, so Monroe took the heat from the white public.

The weekly wrestling shows became the first public place where African Americans were allowed to sit anywhere they wanted. For a time, Monroe, even though he was actually the top heel, was a beloved figure in almost every African American household in the city because in time, after wrestling started the ball rolling, the Jim Crow separate but unequal period slowly phased away in the city.

For months, Wicks, who had become the most popular wrestler, and Monroe, the biggest star, were kept apart. Monroe worked a lot of gimmick matches, notably a worked boxing match where he was knocked out by Joey Maxim (Guisseppe Berdinelli), a noted boxer who years earlier who had been world light heavyweight champion and fought Ezzard Charles for the heavyweight title. Maxim was the only man to ever stop Sugar Ray Robinson (often considered the most skilled boxer in history) in a 1952 fight in Yankees Stadium, and also had wins over such legends as Floyd Patterson and Jersey Joe Walcott. After Maxim, he worked a match against a wrestling bear, which drew 4,100 fans, the largest crowd for wrestling in Memphis since 1954. Then Monroe beat Maxim in a wrestling match on March 16, 1959.

The first Wicks vs. Monroe matches in Memphis, were on April 6 and April 13. The first drew what was reported as the largest crowd in years, and the second nearly sold out the Ellis Auditorium, which held about 7,500 fans. Monroe won both of those matches.

Next, Memphis was built around a tournament to create the new Tennessee heavyweight championship, with Wicks and Monroe as the two favorites. On May 4, the two went to a 60 minute draw in the tournament. When Wicks and Monroe met on June 22 as part of the round-robin aspect of the tournament, the matches were moved outdoors to Crump Stadium. Wicks defeated Monroe on June 29 to become champion, and Wicks beat him in a few more matches until Monroe won the title on August 3 at Russwood Park, due to outside interference of Treach Phillips, in what was the first known wrestling show in the city to draw more than 10,000 fans, with 10,157 fans.

Wicks won a non-title match the next week, to set up the title rematch on August 17, in what is one of the most remembered and historically significant matches in Memphis history.

The match was billed as not only for the championship, but the winner would get a new 1959 Cadillac. Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated, was brought in as referee.

The listed capacity of the stadium was 13,749 fans and it was sold out with 1,000 fans turned away. However, most accounts have it that, unlike the norm of inflating attendances, that Gulas was known for under reporting by a considerable margin, and then pay taxes and talent off the smaller amount. There were articles at the time that claimed it was filled so far beyond capacity that there were 17,000 to 18,000 fans there. It was given credit for breaking the attendance record set in 1957 by Elvis Presley. Wicks always maintained the real number was 20,000.

Even with all the Lawler sellouts, even though Jerry Lawler vs. Bill Dundee is probably considered the biggest feud in area history due to its longevity, the Wicks vs. Monroe match into the late 80s was usually talked about as the biggest match ever in Memphis.

Officially, it is considered the third largest crowd in the city’s history, as even during the 70s heyday of Lawler they never moved out of the Mid South Coliseum nor tried a baseball stadium for the big shows, and at the time, there wasn’t a large enough arena in the city to break the record.

The record stood for nearly 40 years, until the first Vince McMahon vs. Steve Austin match, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre PPV on February 14, 1999 at the Pyramid, which drew 19,028 fans and 17,977 paid. The only other crowd that may have been larger was a December 30, 1999, WWE house show at the Pyramid, headlined by The Rock vs. HHH, which, with less comps, drew a sellout with a paid attendance of 18,088 fans.

The finish of the match was the two brawling out of control to where Marciano stopped the match and it was ruled a no contest, building to the big spot of Monroe shoving around Marciano, who then threw a knockout punch. Monroe won the title from Wicks the next month. Monroe then became a babyface, teaming with Wicks against Corsica Joe & Corsica Jean. Monroe turned on him and they had another program in 1960, although that feud never reached the level it had the prior summer, and Monroe left the area.

But most trace the popularity of wrestling on television in Memphis to that 1959 program as the kicking off point and nothing even came close to the Wicks vs. Monroe interest level until the Jackie Fargo vs. Al Greene feud in the early 70s.

Wicks got a job in the Memphis Sheriff’s Department in 1960. While he continued to wrestle in the area through 1973, because he wasn’t full-time, they no longer built things around him. He never held a championship in the area after 1960. Wicks came out of retirement to do a few matches with Monroe in 1988, and they also did a confrontation at a Memphis legends show at the Mid South Coliseum in 2005 where both were honored.

When asked about his tenure as a pro wrestler, Wicks, who followed the business closely for decades, was an avid reader of the Observer and would send me hand-written letters from time-to-time, especially when the subject of Monroe and the 1959 feud would come up, said to him it was disappointing.

“I was a competitor,” he said. “Then I found out you didn’t have to compete. You just do your thing. I was a little disappointed. But you got to travel a lot.”

Wicks trained the sheriff’s department in wrestling, submissions and hand-to-hand-combat. He was also the assistant wrestling coach at Southwestern University, and for years used to referee area high school wrestling matches. In 1969, Wicks was made the personal bodyguard for Judge Preston Battle, who presided over the James Earl Ray case where Ray was charged, and eventually pleaded guilty, to killing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in one of the most famous assassination cases in the last 50 years. Because of the intense racial nature of King and the crime, Battle had his life threatened and Wicks was put in charge of protecting him.

After leaving the police force, he settled in North Carolina, where he had been training people in catch wrestling at a local gym until recent years, when he needed a walker to get around. He had trained a number of students in the catch wrestling he learned from the pro wrestlers and that he used in carnivals and the army, but he really didn’t have a major interest in MMA.

Les Thatcher, who never wrestled with him in his heyday, but had met him when Thatcher worked the Tennessee territory and became good friends with him in recent years because his wife was from the same area that Wicks settled, noted that he would always visit with Wicks when in the Asheville, NC, area and the two had become close friends.

“He was a good guy,” said Thatcher. “He told me I want to go with my dignity, and I think he had that opportunity.”

Thatcher said that the day after the stroke, he called him and the nurses said that he couldn’t talk, but when they told Wicks who was on the phone, he wanted the phone so Thatcher talked with him briefly and was told by the nurses that Wicks responded and understood what he had said.

Even though Wicks had a number of legitimate matches in the carnivals, he noted that most of the time his opponents didn’t know any wrestling and would blow up pretty quickly, and he was the type who everyone knew was legit but he never bragged about his accomplishments. In fact, when talking about his accomplishments, it was breaking Presley’s record and the program with Monroe that he was most proud of.

“Most of the carnival stuff was worked,” he told catch wrestling promoter Jake Shannon. “We had to have what you called a `stick’ out in the crowd. We had to have someone in case no one came forward to wrestle. If you didn’t have anybody to start the show off with, you couldn’t make money.”

He noted that the double wristlock, the favorite move of Lou Thesz, was also his favorite move, and he was taught to always attack the weaker left side. He said in real matches he relied on neck cranks, double wrist locks and toe holds.


One of the strangest death stories took place this past weekend, as during the 5/6 show at Arena Mexico, after the third match, they made the announcement and had a moment of applause for the passing of Kato Kung Lee, who they said had passed away earlier in the day.

Brazo de Plata, who worked with Lee for years, most notably during Los Fantasticos vs. Los Brazos matches early in his career, was crying openly in the ring as the announcement was made.

After CMLL made the announcement, AAA quickly followed with its condolences. The problem? Johnny Lezcano Smith, who played Lee, was still alive, although barely. While there have been many instances in recent years of deaths being reported early, this was the only time a promotion actually held a ceremony in such a situation after being misled on the reporting of a death. Later that night, MedioTiempo reported that Lee was still alive and a couple of hours after the ceremony, CMLL reported the same. However, Smith did pass away from a heart attack the next afternoon at 1:47 p.m. at the age of 69.

Smith reportedly fell seriously ill the prior week, underwent surgery on 4/30, but remained in serious condition all week.

Smith was a major star in the early 80s in Mexico as part of a trio called Los Fantasticos, three masked men who were supposed to be Japanese martial arts experts who worked a unique style, with Kato Kung Lee as the star of the trio, along with Kung Fu and Blackman. This was a role of a masked martial artist that later became even bigger in the 90s with Octagon.

But Smith was actually Panamanian, and started wrestling there in 1965, before coming to Mexico in the 70s as Johnny Lezcano (Lezcano was his mother’s maiden name and when he unmasked and throughout his career his real name was always said to be Johnny Lezcano) am before donning the mask and becoming a star in the glory days of pro wrestling at El Toreo in Naucalpan with the UWA promotion.

Born December 9, 1946, in Chiriqui, Panama, he studied martial arts, both judo, tae kwon do and karate, from childhood. He watched some pro wrestling, but said he really got interested when watching a group of wrestlers from Colombia who were touring Panama. He started training under Panamanian wrestler Chamaco Castro, and later Oswaldo Johnson, a promoter as well as a major star in Central America. He also learned weightlifting from Humberto Selvetti, who medaled in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics. Smith wrestled for several years in Panama, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela and El Salvador, as well as got his college degree fro the Thomas Alva Edison Institute, before arriving in Mexico in 1970.

He began his career under the name Valiente. He went to Guatemala as Rayo de Oro and won the Central American welterweight title in El Salvador. He worked in South America as Johnny Brown.

He wrestled in Mexico using names like Kato, Jaguar and Johnny Lezcano in his early years. His first notable match, as Johnny Lezcano, was losing a hair vs. hair match to Villano I on February 18, 1976, in Veracruz.

He was working under the name Kato in Juarez, the name of the Green Hornet’s sidekick. The Green Hornet had gained new popularity in the late 60s due to the television show. But the show didn’t air in Mexico until the 70s. EMLL’s Paco Alonso heard about him getting over strongly in that part of the country and wanted to bring him to Mexico City and EMLL, with the idea of using the name Kato Kung Lee, doing a martial arts gimmick that Kung Fu had developed. The name obviously came from the Green Hornet television show, using the Kato name that Smith had been using, Kung, for Kung Fu, the in vogue martial art from another television show, and Lee, for Bruce Lee, who played Kato in the Green Hornet television show. The main difference is that while spelled alike, the Green Hornet’s side kick was pronounced “Kay-tow,” while the wrestler used the pronunciation of “Ka-tow.”

The timing of this coincided with an increased popularity of martial arts due to the television show “Kung Fu,” which presented Kung Fu as this mystical Japanese martial art that was the most effective system for street fighting, as well as the popularity of Bruce Lee movies. Because there was no UFC at the time, nobody knew better. Lezcano claimed he didn’t like the Kato Kung Lee name because the wrestler Kung Fu (Raymondo Cuesta) felt he was infringing on his gimmick. He asked to just use the name Kato, as he had before, but Paco Alonso told him to go with Kato Kung Lee and if he didn’t like it after trying it out, they’d go back to Kato. Alonso then put him in a tag team with Kung Fu, which he at first was shocked by because the two didn’t get along.

Kato Kung Lee & Kung Fu were a regular undercard tag team in the 70s and the two ended up becoming best friends, and ended up in a 1979 program with Los Jaliscos where they beat them to win their masks.

The first martial arts trio wasn’t Los Fantasticos, but actually Triangulo Oriental in 1979, with Satoru Sayama, who went on to become the original Tiger Mask.

The idea is they were three Japanese martial arts experts. Stories of a young Kato Kung Lee in street fights during that era were legendary in Mexico.

While at first he was billed from Japan, later it became said that he was Japanese-influenced and not Japanese himself.

Kato Kung Lee captured the NWA world welterweight championship, defeating Americo Rocca on January 19, 1980, in Mexico City, but dropped it rather quickly on May 4, 1980, to Supremo, also in Mexico City.

In 1981, Lee & Kung Fu switched to the rival UWA promotion, where trios matches were more heavily focused on, and put with Blackman. They were a popular attraction with kids and this was really the heyday of his career. While UWA and EMLL were rival promotions, wrestlers were more independent contractors then and so the big stars like Los Fantasticos were able to work for both sides. When the UWA created a world trios titles, Los Fantasticos were picked to be the first champions, which says something when you consider all the great trios working for UWA at the time. They defeated the original Los Cadetes del Espacio (The Space Cadets–Solar & Ultraman & Super Astro) in the tournament final on March 18, 1984, at El Toreo in Naucalpan. They lost the titles later that year to Los Misioneros de la Muerte (El Signo & El Texano & Negro Navarro).

The team split up in 1985 when Kung Fu returned to EMLL and Kato Kung Lee became a big enough attraction that he worked as an independent. But as far as working and being a hot act, he never was able to recapture what they had with Los Fantasticos.

In a gutsy move, he turned rudo and agreed to lose his mask for a big payoff on November 28, 1986, in a match with El Hijo del Santo in Tijuana. Two weeks later, appearing unmasked, he lost a hair vs. hair vs. mask three-way match with Perro Aguayo and El Hijo del Santo in a main event at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.

While Smith received by far the biggest payoff of his career to lose his mask to Santo, Lucha Libre experts believe in the long run it was a bad move. As soon as he removed his mask, and people saw that he was a 40 year old man who wasn’t Japanese, and was actually half-American with more white skin than brown, the key to the gimmick was gone. His aura vanished and his drawing power faded greatly. The feeling is fans came to see him without the mask once in most cities, but after that, he was no longer a draw. He was able to keep his career going for years, but within Mexican wrestling, when people talk about risking your drawing power when you take off your mask, the name most talked about is Kato Kung Lee. Even today, with wrestlers who weren’t even born in 1986, they are taught the risks of losing their mask based on the plight of Kato Kung Lee.

Kato returned to CMLL and ended up feuding with Kung Fu. The feud really wasn’t much as both were in their 40s and Kung Fu, in particular, was hurting bad due to injuries. The matches were terrible. They were still big names and a legendary tag team, so the feud did have interest, so the story that he never drew again or was a major star is to a degree overblown, although he was nowhere near the star he was under the mask.

They would battle on opposite sides of trios matches starting in 1987 before Kung Fu beat him in a hair vs. hair match on April 29, 1988 at Arena Mexico. Later, in an even bigger match, when wrestling was booming, he beat Kung Fu in a hair match on March 1, 1991, also at Arena Mexico.

In 1990, when Hisatsune Shinma, the son of Hisashi Shinma (the longtime business head and booker of New Japan Pro Wrestling as well as Antonio Inoki’s business manager) wanted to become a wrestling promoter, he came up with the idea of bringing Lucha Libre to Japan. Shinma was one of a generation of Japanese children who drew up on Mil Mascaras. A lot of stars from Mexico had toured Japan, mostly with New Japan as junior heavyweights during the Tiger Mask era, but nobody had ever brought Lucha Libre shows to the country.

The first tours were built around babyfaces Yoshihiro Asai (later Ultimo Dragon) and Gran Hamada, but Kato Kung Lee with his trademark rope walking spots (similar to Mascara Dorada) was part of the original tours. The fans, many of whom had seen him when he was younger on World Pro Wrestling, a prime time network TV show that was big in Japan in the 80s, liked him, but he was older and nowhere near what he was in his heyday. He was over to a degree because the Japanese liked the idea of a foreigner who made his name being Japanese, even if the wasn’t, and they respected him because they knew he was a big star during a heyday.

While Universal Pro Wrestling didn’t last, it spawned the way for Michinoku Pro Wrestling, and a multitude of other groups like Dragon Gate and Osaka Pro Wrestling that had long runs and Lucha style promotions are now a staple of the Japanese scene. He later worked for SWS and Michinoku Pro in Japan through 1996 and even came in for Big Japan in 1999. In 1995, he and Great Sasuke won a Michinoku Pro tag team tournament beating Super Delfin & Gran Naniwa in the finals. His last major match in Mexico may have been at the year-end spectacular at Arena Mexico, on December 10, 1993, when he headlined, losing his hair after a long feud with Mocho Cota.

His son wrestled as Kato Kung Lee Jr. starting in 1992, and continues to wrestle on independent shows now. After being in CMLL and AAA in the early 90s based on the name, he was never a major star.

His street fighting legend was put to the test way past his prime, as the Deep promotion, doing a gimmick of bringing in older Mexican legends to do real matches, booked him on August 18, 2001, to do an MMA fight with Kazuki Okubo, a full-time but lower level fighter. Of course it was ridiculous, as he was 54 years old at the time and had never competed under such rules. He lost via armbar in 3:05. In 2003, his son came to Japan to avenge the defeat, but Okubo also beat him with an armbar in the first round as well.

Kato continued to wrestle regularly, mostly on independent shows, most notably with the IWRG promotion in Naucalpan, through 2002. He did some wrestling through 2007, when he retired due to suffering from pulmonary thrombosis.

Thanks to Alfredo Esparza of Lucha World and Steve “Dr. Lucha” Sims for a lot of the background history.


After a six-day investigation, Delray Beach traffic homicide investigators arrested 28-year-old Dennis Wright in the death of Bellator fighter Jordan Parsons.

Wright, whose driver’s license has been suspended six times, and was suspended at the time, was driving his mother’s Range Rover and a witness estimated him driving at a speed of between 100 and 120 miles per hour, when he hit Parsons at 12:33 a.m. on 5/1, who was in the crosswalk. Parsons was walking across a crosswalk while wearing headphones and may not have heard the SUV coming.

According to reports, Wright never stopped after the accident, nor did his friends, driving behind in their Mercedes, continuing southbound. Officer Derek Chahine, who had been nearby, was alerted by a witness to the crash. He found Parsons unconscious on the pavement. He used a medical blanket from the trunk of his patrol car to apply pressure to Parsons’s horrible leg injury, which saw the leg severed from the rest of the body, until the Delray Beach Fire Rescue unit arrived and transported him to Delray medical Center. He also had a number of broken bones. He had remained in a coma after the injuries until he family elected to pull life support.

The Delay Beach police report also stated that a friend who was with Wright earlier in the night at the Buddha Sky Bar, begged him not to drive home, because he was intoxicated. Wright got angry and said, “No, I can drive.” He then went to drive home with his friends, in a black 2014 Mercedes-Benz, following behind him. The intersection where Parsons was hit was about three miles from the bar. Neither Wright, nor his friends in the other car, stopped or reported the crash to law enforcement officers.

An anonymous tipster gave investigators Wright’s name on 5/5. Police discovered Wright’s mother owned a grey 2013 Range Rover Sport and were able to determine Wright was driving the vehicle the night of the crash. Wright is believed to have arrived home about ten minutes after the accident and Wright went on Instagram and noted he had hit something. One friend got upset at him for mentioning it on Instagram.

Wright attempted to have the Range Rover repaired at a local body shop, but the owner refused to do the work. The story was major news locally and the body shop owner immediately figured out it was the vehicle police were looking for. Wright rented a spot at a storage facility and attempted to hide the vehicle. Investigators found it on 5/6, missing the drivers’ side mirror that officers had recovered at the scene of the accident.

Wright was charged with a number of offenses including driving with a suspended license, leaving the scene of a crash causing death and tampering with evidence. He has a past criminal history that includes arrests for DUI, disorderly intoxication, marijuana possession and assault on an office or firefighter. His license had been suspended for five years in September and had 12 failures to appear in court on his record.

Wright was being held on $450,000 bond and was still incarcerated at press time.

Parsons, originally from Michigan, had moved to Florida to be part of the Blackzillains camp based on Boca Raton, about a half mile from where the accident took place.


Dragon Gate undercard wrestler Kotoka has to remain bald for one year based on the stipulations from one of the company’s biggest events of the year, the Dead or Alive PPV show on 5/5 at Nagoya Aiichi’s Gym.

The show drew an announced 6,000 fans (we’re told 4,500 was closer to accurate) featuring a cage match with Shingo Takagi, Naruki Doi, Yamato, Naoki Tanizaki, Cyber Kong and Kotoka. The last man left in the cage would either lose his hair, and be not allowed to grow it back for one year, or lose their mask. In addition, each wrestler would have a delegate who also would have their hair or mask at risk unless the wrestler scored a pin during the match. Kotoka’s delegate was Akira Tozawa, but since he pinned Doi during the match, he saved Tozawa’s hair. There were six singles matches on the undercard involving delegates, but in the end, after all that, it never came into play during the ending of the match.

The main event went 46:18, and was described as a great dramatic match. It came down to Kotoka, Yamato and Doi. Tanizaki escaped the age at 18:03. Kong escaped at 23:49. Takagi escaped at 31:58. Doi escaped at 39:09, leaving Yamato to battle Takagi for the last seven minutes.

Complete results were:

1. Lindaman & Kaito Ishida & Takehiro Yamamura beat Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy K-Ness & U-T in 6:01 when Lindaman pinned U-T with a Tiger suplex.

2. Yosuke Santa Maria retained the Open the Brave Gate title over Mondai Ryu in 12:52.

3. In a match to determine Cyber Kong’s delegate, Kzy pinned Masaaki Mochizuki in 7:40.

4. In a match to determine Shingo Takagi’s delegate, Jimmy Kanda pinned Punch Tominaga in 3:27.

5. In a match to determine Yamato’s delegate, Jimmy Susumu pinned Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa in 1:20.

6. In a match to determine Naoki Tanizaki’s delegate, Don Fujii pinned Ryo Saito in 4:20 with the Gedo clutch.

7. In a match to determine Naruki Doi’s delegate, Cima went to a 10:00 draw with Gamma. That meant both of their hair was at stake had Doi lost the cage match and not scored a pin.

8. In a match to determine Kotoka’s delegate, Masato Yoshino pinned Akira Tozawa in 7:43.

9. Kotoka was the last man left in the cage.


Raw on 5/9 did a 2.26 rating and 3,231,000 viewers (1.49 viewers per home), the second lowest number for a non-major holiday show outside of football season since 1997.

The only show that did worse was the 4/25 show that did a 2.19 rating and 3,116,000 viewers.

In this case, the culprit was a weaker than usual audience at the start. What was generally considered a good show didn’t have as much of a major drop as usual as it was going on. The other key is that it was down significantly among viewers 34 and under, in particular 18-34. Viewing was identical to last week once viewers were 35 years old or older.

The most-watched show of the night was Dancing With The Stars featuring UFC’s Paige VanZant at 11,325,000 viewers. Raw was third on cable, trailing two NBA playoff games on TBS, with the head-to-head game doing 4,007,000 viewers.

The 8 p.m. hour did 3,345,000 viewers, the 9 p.m. hour was the highest at 3,356,000 viewers and the 10 p.m. hour fell to 3,013,000 viewers.

In the demos, the show did a 0.94 in 12-17 (down 6.9 percent), 0.96 in 18-34 (down 17.2 percent), 1.30 in 35-49 (identical to last week) and 1.30 in 50+ (identical to last week).

The audience was 62.8 percent male in the 18-49 demo and 64.0 percent male in the 12-17 demo, along the same lines as the previous week.

Smackdown on 5/6 did a 1.65 rating and 2,346,000 viewers (1.49 viewers per home), which is one of the lower numbers of the year, but up from last week’s low for the year due to going against the NFL draft.

The audience was up 11.2 percent overall, and the show was fourth for the night on cable. The major head-to-head sports competition was NBA playoffs with the Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors on ESPN doing 3,496,000 viewers and the Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues on NBC Sports Network doing 1,102,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.64 in 12-17 (up 20.8 percent), 0.62 in 18-34 (up 8.8 percent), 0.81 in 35-49 (up 14.1 percent) and 1.03 in 50+ (up 6.2 percent). The audience was 54.2 percent male in 18-49 and 56.0 percent male in 12-17.

Lucha Underground on 5/4 did 138,000 viewers for the 8 p.m. show and 42,000 for the 9 p.m. replay. The numbers were 107,000 and 52,000 the prior week, so it is up, but the bad news is that the average viewer was 57 years old. The show drew 91 percent male viewers.

Ultimate Fighter on 5/4 did 414,000 viewers and another 228,000 viewers via DVR as of Saturday night. TUF Talk that followed did 156,000 viewers. UFC Tonight did 103,000 viewers.

Impact on 5/3 did 303,000 viewers, down 10 percent from the prior week. The average viewer age was 52 and the audience was 66 percent male.


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RESULTS

 

4/28 Winter Park, FL (WWE NXT TV tapings - 450 sellout): Manny Andrade b Angelo Dawkins, Nia Jax b Tessa Blanchard, Austin Aries b Tye Dillinger, Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder b Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder, No Way Jose b Noah, Non-title: Samoa Joe b Eric Young, Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Corey Hollis & John Skyler, Shinsuke Nakamura b Alex Riley, Alexa Bliss b Rachel Ellering, Finn Balor b Elias Samson, Asuka b Adrian Reese, Austin Aries & Shinsuke Nakamura b Blake & Murphy, Carmella b Peyton Royce, Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa b Danny Birch & Rob Rizin, Nia Jax b Bayley, Non-title: Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder

4/28 Sendai (New Japan - 1,766): Tiger Mask b Hirai Kawato, Jay White b Teruaki Kanemitsu, Yoshi-Hashi & Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta b Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan & Ryusuke Taguchi, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi & Jushin Liger b Katsuyori Shibata & Kushida & David Finlay, Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi b Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin & Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma & Juice Robinson, Tetsuya Naito & Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi b Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto & Gedo

4/29 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL Arena Mexico 60th anniversary show - 7,000): Cancerbero & Raziel b Flyer & Star Jr., Amapola & Dallys & Zeuxis b Marcela & Princesa Sugei & Skadi, Blue Panther & Hombre Bala Jr. & Stuka Jr. b Kraneo & Hechicero & Bobby Z, Rey Cometa b Cavernario, Mascara Dorada & Maximo Sexy & Volador Jr. b Ephesto & Felino & Rey Bucanero, Parejas Increibles tournament final: Mistico & Mephisto b Cibernetico & Caristico

4/29 Xalapa (AAA TV tapings): Fabi & Mari Apache b Lady Shani & Taya, AAA tag titles: Chessman & Averno b Argenis & Australian Suicide-DQ, World Cup qualifier: Pentagon Jr. won three-way over Daga and Joe Lider, World Cup qualifier: El Texano Jr. won three-way over Garza Jr and Taurus, The Psycho Circus b Damian 666 & Nicho & Pagano-COR, Mesias b La Parka

4/30 Cocoa Beach, FL (WWE NXT - 200): No Way Jose b Mojo Rawley, Patrick Clark b Dan Matha, Carmella b Aliyah, Tino Sabbatelli b Christopher Girard, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Veryzer b Sunny Dhinsa & Gzim Selmani, Asuka & Adrienne Reese b Nia Jax & Mandy Rose, Elias Samson b Noah, Finn Balor & Manny Andrade & Tye Dillinger b Samoa Joe & Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder

4/30 West Warwick, RI (ROH - 800 sellout): Taeler Hendrix b Sumie Sakai, Dalton Castle b Kongo, Donovan Dijak b Joey Daddiego, Lio Rush b Christopher Daniels-DQ, Moose & Lio Rush b Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian, ROH title: Jay Lethal b Vinny Marseglia, Veda Scott won three-way over Mandy Leon and Jenny Rose, Silas Young b Cheeseburger, Young Bucks b Rhett Titus Kenny King, ACH b Kamaitachi, Mark & Jay Briscoe won three-way over Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley and Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly

4/30 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 4,000): Acero & Mini Fantasy b Pequeno Violencia & Universito 2000, Cuatrero & Sanson & Nitro b Oro Jr. & Robin & Star Jr., Ephesto & Luciferno & Bobby Z b The Panther & Stigma & Triton, Angel de Oro & Blue Panther & Rey Cometa b Polvora & Rey Escorpion & Vangellys, El Terrible & Euforia & Ultimo Guerrero b Mascara Dorada & Maximo Sexy & Valiente

4/30 Niigata (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,100): Hitoshi Kumano b Shiro Tomoyose, Akitoshi Saito & Genba Hirayanagi & Captain NOAH b Taiji Ishimori & Yoshinari Ogawa & Kaito Kitomiya, Kenou & Hajime Ohara b Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi, GHC jr. tag title: Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge b Taka Michinoku & Desperado, Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm b Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya b Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. b Go Shiozaki & Maybach Taniguchi, Naomichi Marufuji & Toru Yano b Takashi Sugiura & Shelton Benjamin

4/30 Toyama (Dragon Gate - 550): Futa Nakamura d Shun Watanabe, Yamato & Mondai Ryu b Jimmy Kanda & U-T, Yosuke Santa Maria b Jimmy K-Ness, Cyber Kong & Kotoka b Don Fujii & Kaito Ishida, Shingo Takagi & Naruki Doi b Eita & Lindaman, Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk b Cima & Dragon Kid & Takehiro Yamamura

5/1 Oita (New Japan - 1,062 sellout): Teruaki Kanemitsu d Hirai Kawato, Ricochet & Matt Sydal & Ryusuke Taguchi b Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta & Gedo, Kazushi Sakuraba & Yoshi-Hashi b Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi & Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask b Katsuyori Shibata & Kushida & Jay White & David Finlay, Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi b Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin & Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma & Juice Robinson, Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto & Will Ospreay b Tetsuya Naito & Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi

5/1 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 4,000): Artillero & Cholo b Bengala & Sensei, Magnus & Soberano & Stigma b Cuatrero & Espanto Jr. & Sanson-DQ, Cavernario & Euforia & Negro Casas b Rey Cometa & Star Jr. & Titan, Angel de Oro & Mascara Dorada & Valiente b El Terrible & Rey Bucanero & Vangellys-DQ

5/1 Mie (Dragon Gate - 650): Shun Watanabe d U-T, Shingo Takagi & Cyber Kong & Mondai Ryu b Dragon Kid & Eita & Kaito Ishida, Don Fujii b Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa, Ryo Saito & Jimmy K-Ness b Yosuke Santa Maria & Lindaman, Naruki Doi & Yamato b Cima & Takehiro Yamamura, Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk b Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kanda

5/2 St. Louis (WWE Raw/Superstars TV report - 10,000): Darren Young b Damien Sandow, Apollo Crews b Heath Slater, Cesaro b Kevin Owens-DQ, Tyler Breeze b Goldust, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods & Big E & Big Cass b Dudleys & Aiden English & Simon Gotch, Emma b Becky Lynch, Rusev won Battle Royal, A.J. Styles & Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows b Roman Reigns & Usos

5/3 Kansas City (WWE Smackdown/Main Event TV tapings): Tag titles: Big E & Xavier Woods b Dudleys, Titus O’Neil b Damien Sandow, Apollo Crews b Viktor, Baron Corbin b Sin Cara, Dolph Ziggler b Stardust, Non-title: Sami Zayn b The Miz-DQ, Vaudevillains b Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, Natalya & Becky Lynch b Charlotte & Emma, Rusev b Zack Ryder, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson b Usos-DQ, Roman Reigns & Uso b A.J. Styles & Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows

5/3 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,137): Yoshinari Ogawa b Kaito Kiyomiya, Akitoshi Saito & Genba Hirayanagi & Captain NOAH b Taiji Ishimori & Hitoshi Kumano & Shiro Tomoyose, Kenou & Hajime Ohara & Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge b Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi & Desperado & Taka Michinoku, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. b Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm, Takashi Sugiura & Shelton Benjamin b Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya, Go Shiozaki & Maybach Taniguchi b Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima, Naomichi Marufuji & Toru Yano b Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka

5/3 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Acero & Aereo b Nitrito & Universito 2000, Magnus & Robin & Sensei b Akuma & Canelo Casas & Metalico, Soberano & Star Jr. & Stigma b Okumura & Raziel & Virus-DQ, Marcela & Princesa Sugei & Skadi b Amapola & Tiffany & Zeuxis, Brazo de Plata & The Panther & Stuka Jr. b Ephesto & Luciferno & Bobby Z, CMLL welterweight title: Mephisto b Mascara Dorada to win title

5/4 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,469): Shiro Tomoyose d Kaito Kiyomiya, Hitoshi Kumano & Taiji Ishimori & Quiet Storm b Yoshinari Ogawa & Genba Hirayanagi & “Captain NOAH, Kenou & Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge b Taka Michinoku & Desperado & Taichi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima b Mohammed Yone & Akitoshi Saito, Go Shiozaki & Maybach Taniguchi & Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya b Takashi Sugiura & Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka & Shelton Benjamin, Jr. Title: Yoshinobu Kanemaru b Hajime Ohara, Tag tournament final: Naomichi Marufuji & Toru Yano b Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. to win tournament

5/4 Mexico City Arena Mexico (Lucha Libre Elite): Muneca de Plata & Rossy Moreno b Estrellita & Jarochita, El Hijo de Dos Caras & Jinzo & Metaleon b Cuatrero & Sanson & El Hijo del Medico Asesino, Angel de Or & Golden Magic b Argos & Magno, Rush b Negro Casas, Caristico & Mascara Dorada & Mistico b Euforia & Rey Escorpion & Ultimo Guerrero, L.A. Park b Atlantis

5/4 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Wrestle 1 - 1,296): Keiichi Sato b Kohei Fujimura, Daiki Inaba b Koji Doi, Masayuki Kono & Yasshi & Hiroki Murase & Shotaro Ashino b Minoru Tanaka & Tajiri & Ryota Hama & Andy Wu, Kazma Sakamoto & Nosawa & Mazada b Manabu Soya & AKIRA & Kumagoro, Jun Kasai b Jiro Kuroshio, Cruiserweight title: Kotaro Suzuki b Kaz Hayashi, Keiji Muto & Leona & Daichi Hashimoto b Yuji Okabayashi & Yasufumi Nakanoue & Seiki Yoshioka, Wrestle-1 title: Kai b Yuji Hino to win title

5/4 Kyoto (Dragon Gate - 800): Mondai Ryu b U-T, Genki Horiguchi & Yosuke Santa Maria b Dragon Kid & Takehiro Yamamura, T-Hawk & Big R Shimizu b Eita & Lindaman, Kotoka & Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa b Naoki Tanizaki & Don Fujii & Ryo Saito, Cyber Kong & Masaaki Mochizuki & Kzy b Cima & Gamma & Naruki Doi, Shingo Takagi & Jimmy Kanda & Punch Tominaga b Yamato & Jimmy Susumu & Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa, Yamato & Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora b Shingo Takagi & Cyber Kong &Kotoka

5/5 Salina, KS (WWE NXT - 1,200): No Way Jose b Murphy, Manny Andrade b Chris Girard, Austin Aries b Tye Dillinger, Three-way for the women’s title: Asuka won over Bayley and Alexa Bliss, Shinsuke Nakamura b Tyler Breeze, Tag titles: Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Sawyer Fulton & Alexander Wolfe, NXT title: Samoa Joe b Finn Balor

5/5 Matsuyama (New Japan - 1,135 sellout): Yoshi-Hashi b Teruaki Kanemitsu, Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask b Kushida & Ryusuke Taguchi, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma b Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Katsuyori Shibata b Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi, Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto b Seiya Sanada & Bushi, Tetsuya Naito & Evil b Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo

5/6 Bismarck, ND (WWE - 3,500): Dolph Ziggler b Baron Corbin, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson b Mark Henry & Darren Young, Titus O’Neil b Fandango, Sami Zayn b Stardust, IC title: The Miz b Cesaro, Women’s title: Charlotte b Natalya, Big Cass b Diego, Three-way for WWE title: Roman Reigns won over A.J. Styles and Kevin Owens

5/6 Oklahoma City (WWE NXT - 1,200): Bayley b Alexa Bliss, Manny Andrade b Chris Girard, Austin Aries b Murphy, Tag titles: Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Alexander Wolfe & Sawyer Fulton, Tyler Breeze b No Way Jose, Women’s title: Asuka b Eva Marie, Finn Balor & Shinsuke Nakamura b Samoa Joe & Tye Dillinger

5/6 Citrus Springs, FL (WWE NXT - 150): Noah b Kenneth Crawford, Carmella & Aliyah b Peyton Royce & Mandy Rose, Patrick Clark b Kishan Raftaar, Josh Woods b Dan Matha, Mojo Rawley b Elias Samson, Tino Sabbatelli b Angelo Dawkins, Nix Jax b Adrien Reese, Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder b Mikey Nicholls & Shane Veryzer

5/6 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Hombre Bala Jr. & Super Halcon Jr. b Espanto Jr. & El Hijo del Signo, Blue Panther Jr. & Pegasso & The Panther b Fuji & Raijin & Skandalo, Angel de Oro & Fuego & Brazo de Plata b Bobby Z & Hechicero & Vangellys, Rey Bucanero b Titan, Rey Cometa & Valiente & Volador Jr. b Cavernario & Felino & Negro Casas, Marco Corleone & El Terrible & Ultimo Guerrero b La Mascara & Rey Escorpion & Rush

5/7 Rapid City, SD (WWE - 4,500): Dolph Ziggler b Baron Corbin, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson b Mark Henry & Darren Young, Titus O’Neil b Fandango, Sami Zayn b Stardust, A.J. Styles b Kevin Owens, Women’s title: Charlotte b Natalya, Big Cass b Primo, IC title: The Miz b Cesaro, WWE title: Roman Reigns b Sheamus

5/7 Las Cruces, NM (WWE - 6,800): Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks b Emma & Lana, Sin Cara b Fernando, R-Truth referee: Goldust b Viktor, Three-way for tag titles: Big E & Xavier Woods won over Big Show & Kane and Braun Strowman & Erick Rowan, Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley b Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, U.S. title: Kalisto b Alberto Del Rio, Dean Ambrose b Rusev

5/7 Tulsa (WWE NXT - 1,000 sellout): No Way Jose b Murphy, Manny Andrade b Chris Girard, Bayley b Eva Marie, Austin Aries b Tye Dillinger, Women’s title: Asuka b Alexa Bliss, Shinsuke Nakamura b Tyler Breeze, Tag titles: Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Alexander Wolfe & Sawyer Fulton, NXT title: Samoa Joe b Finn Balor

5/7 Orlando (WWE NXT - 300): Nia Jax & Mandy Rose b Daria & Aliyah, Josh Woods b Kishan Raftaar, Elias Samson b Cezar, Tino Sabbatelli b Angelo Dawkins, Patrick Clark b Dan Matha, Adrienne Reese b Peyton Royce, Simon Gotch & Aiden English b Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder

5/7 Los Angeles (Lucha Underground TV tapings - 300 sellout/free): Lucha Underground title/Falls count anywhere: Johnny Mundo b The Mack, Trios title: Kobra Moon & Luchasaurus & Green Reptile b Fenix & Drago & Aerostar to win titles, Killshot b Kevin Kross, Street fight: Prince Puma b Mil Muertes, Gift of the Gods title: Sexy Star b Taya, Fenix b Mariposa, Death match: Matanza Cueto NC Dragon Azteca Jr.

5/7 Niagara Falls, ONT (House of Hardcore - 850): Bull James b Eddie Kingston, Scotty O’Shea & Mike Rollins & CJ Mirror b Ben Ortiz & Beta & Adam Brooks, Colt Cabana b Chris Hero, Magnus (Nick Aldis) b Cody Deaner, Rhino b Moose, Tony Nese won three-way over RJ City and Alex Reynolds, Tommy Dreamer & Mickie James b Pepper Parks & Cherry Bomb, Bobby Roode b Eric Young

5/7 Tsushima (Dragon Gate 500): Shingo Takagi & Naruki Doi & Cyber Kong b Gamma & Eita & Kaito Ishida, Yamato b Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa, Yamato b Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa, Masaaki Mochizuki & Don Fujii b Lindaman & Takehiro Yamamura, Masaaki Mochizuki b Punch Tominaga, BxB Hulk d Jimmy Kagetora, Cima & Dragon Kid b Yosuke Santa Maria & Kzy, Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk & Big R Shimizu b Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito & Jimmy Kanda

5/7 Chiba (All Japan): Ricky Fuji b Sushi, Tank Nagai & Yuma & Ryuichi Sekine & Ryota Nakatsu b Hikaru Sato & Naoya Nomura & Yohei Nakajima & Yuma Aoyagi, Super Tiger b Jake Lee, Jun Akiyama & Shigehiro Irie & Taishi Takizawa b Masa Fuchi & Saburo Inematsu & Hiroshi Fukuda, Ryoji Sai b Takao Omori, Jr. title: Atsushi Aoki b Kaji Tomato, Shuji Ishikawa & Kengo Mashimo b Kento Miyahara & Zeus

5/8 Sioux Falls, SD (WWE - 4,000): Dolph Ziggler b Baron Corbin, Titus O’Neil b Fandango, Women’s title: Charlotte b Natalya, Sami Zayn b Stardust, A.J. Styles b Kevin Owens, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows b Mark Henry & Darren Young, Big Cass b Primo, IC title: The Miz b Cesaro, WWE title: Roman Reigns b Sheamus

5/8 Rio Rancho, NM (WWE - 3,700): Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks b Emma & Lana, Sin Cara b Epico, R-Truth referee: Goldust b Viktor, Three-way for tag titles: Big E & Xavier Woods won over Kane & Big Show and Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman, Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder b Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, U.S. title: Kalisto b Alberto Del Rio, Dean Ambrose b Rusev

5/8 Los Angeles (Lucha Underground TV tapings - 300 sellout/free): P.J. Black b Sexy Star-DQ, Son of Havoc b Son of Madness (Kevin Martenson), The Mack b Mala Suerte, Aerostar b Drago, Kevin Kross won over Black Lotus, Marty the Moth, Mariposa and Mariachi loco, Jeremiah Gray b Dante Fox, Luchasaurus b Paul London, Rey Mysterio Jr. b P.J. Black

5/8 Osaka (Dragon Gate - 1,700 sellout): Mondai Ryu b Kaito Ishida, Dragon Kid & Eita & Takehiro Yamamura b Masaaki Mochizuki & Don Fujii & U-T, Cyber Kong b Ryo Saito, Yamato b Punch Tominaga, Gamma b Naruki Doi, Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kagetora & Jimmy Kanda b Masato Yoshino & T-Hawk & Big R Shimizu & Shachihoko Boy, BxB Hulk & Kzy & Yosuke Santa Maria b Shingo Takagi & Naoki Tanizaki & Kotoka, Cima b Akira Tozawa

5/8 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Bengala & Flyer b Apocalipsis & Cholo, Mini Fantasy & Shockercito & Ultimo Dragoncito b Pequeno Olimpico & Pequeno Violencia & Pierrothito, Esfinge & Oro Jr. & Triton b Cancerbero & Sangre Azteca Jr. & Tiger, Guerrero Maya Jr. & Stuka Jr. & Titan b Misterioso Jr. & Pierroth & Sagrado, Rey Bucanero & Mephisto & Ephesto b Atlantis & Mascara Dorada & Maximo Sexy

5/9 Omaha (WWE Raw - 10,000): Cesaro b Bo Dallas, Apollo Crews b Stardust, Baron Corbin b Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth b Fandango, Non-title: Paige b Charlotte, Non-title: Sami Zayn b The Miz, Sin Cara b Rusev, Elimination match: Roman Reigns & Usos b A.J. Styles & Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows-DQ, Kevin Owens b Zack Ryder, Non-title: Dudleys b Kofi Kingston & Big E

5/9 Dearborn, MI (ROH - 1,000 sellout): Kamaitachi b Will Ferrara, ACH & Matt Sydal b Beer City Bruiser & Silas Young, Roderick Strong b Lio Rush, ROH tag titles: Ray Rowe & Hanson b Kazuchika Okada & Gedo, Non-title: Kushida b Dalton Castle, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin b Rhett Titus & Kenny King, Tomohiro Ishii b Moose, Tag titles: Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian b Ray Rowe & Hanson to win titles, Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly b Jay Lethal & Tetsuya Naito, Young Bucks & Adam Cole & Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa b Mark & Jay Briscoe & Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley & Colt Cabana

5/10 Des Moines, IA (WWE Smackdown/Main Event TV tapings - 4,500): Dolph Ziggler b Viktor, Big Cass b Curtis Axel, Apollo Crews b Stardust, Baron Corbin b Zack Ryder, Rusev b Sin Cara, Dana Brooke b Becky Lynch, Aiden English b Kofi Kingston, Usos b Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows-DQ, R-Truth & Tyler Breeze b Goldust & Fandango, Kevin Owens & The Miz b Sami Zayn & Cesaro

CMLL:

Dragon Lee is out for at least three weeks due to a knee injury. Unfortunately, at 20, this won’t be his last one the way he works.

Mr. Niebla is back next week from his latest suspension. And yes, he does hold the all-time record for suspensions.

The debut show on The Fight Network in Canada was of a Friday night Arena Mexico show six weeks earlier. Jose Manuel Guillen did the announcing. He’s one of the best announcers in Spanish but speaks English well. In fact, I met him at WrestleMania in Santa Clara last year.

The Elite show on 5/4 saw the top three television matches have Rush beat Negro Casas in the tournament, followed by Caristico & Mistico & Mascara Dorada beating Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Escorpion & Euforia and in the main event saw L.A. Park beat Atlantis via Fujiwara armbar submission in the tournament in a short match which saw both guys still do dives even though Park is 50 years old and has to be 280 pounds as his costume is hiding a Dusty Rhodes body. The trios match was an incredible high flying spectacle in the second and third falls, particularly Mistico and Dorada.

The 5/11 show has Caristico vs. Ultimo Guerrero and Volador Jr. vs. Extreme Tiger in tournament bouts. Ultimo Ninja, a member of the Garza family in Monterrey, makes his debut on the show. He recently had a WWE tryout and was being looked at for the cruiserweight tournament.

The 5/6 Arena Mexico show was just a normal show past the Kato Kung Lee celebration midway through the show and then coming back with that he was still alive. Rey Cometa & Valiente & Volador Jr. beat Cavernario & Casas & Felino in the semi and the main event saw Marco Corleone & El Terrible & Ultimo Guerrero beat La Mascara & Rey Escorpion & Rush. The main event story is that Escorpion didn’t get along with Rush & Mascara which caused their team to lose.

The 5/13 show has Rush & Pierroth & Mascara vs. Rey Bucanero & Shocker & Terrible, and Mistico & Valiente & Volador Jr. vs. Euforia & Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero.

After beating him in the final fall of the main event on 5/8 at Arena Mexico, Rey Escorpion challenged Atlantis for his Mexican national light heavyweight title, which headlines the 5/15 show.

There was a scary moment at the 5/7 show at Arena Coliseo as Tiger was bouncing off the ropes when the top rope snapped and he took a nasty fall, hitting his head on the apron, and had to be carried out on a stretcher.

There was a huge car accident on the road from Mexico City to Puebla on 5/9. The wrestlers who took the CMLL bus got to the show before the accident but production people didn’t get to Puebla until the second match and some wrestlers who drove themselves arrived late. They stalled in the early matches. Shocker arrived just as the main event was to start and had to rush right from his car straight to the ring without warming up.

Mano Negra Jr., who is the legit son of Mano Negra, debuts on 5/15 at Arena Mexico. There was a Mano Negra Jr. who wrestled from 1996 to 2004, who was also a legit son.

AAA:

The Lucha World Cup on PPV has already fallen through and is now likely to be an iPPV show. Court Bauer was the person involved in striking the deal for two PPVs this year, the World Cup and TripleMania, and he did a podcast with John Pollock and noted that he was leaving AAA as of the end of this month and didn’t believe the PPV would take place. Bauer had been working with AAA to expand the brand into the U.S. and Canada, which was difficult since Factory Made (the parent company of Lucha Underground) has a deal with AAA where the U.S. is their market, which is why the only English language TV deal thus far is for Canada, and the systems in the U.S. that have The Fight Network are not allowed to broadcast the show.

Bauer was also a consultant to Lucha Underground and he is also no longer with that company. This appears to be the result of the Konnan fallout with both, as Bauer’s MLW network has Konnan’s show and he was the entree into both groups. Konnan was also pushing ticket sales this week for the MMA group Combate Americas that Bauer is working with. Lucha Underground went to Bauer and wanted him to sign a deal where he would have nothing to do with Konnan and that Konnan would no longer be part of his podcast network. Evidently he didn’t do that since he’s still doing shows with Konnan and is no longer doing anything with Lucha Underground. Konnan questioned the obvious booking problems and the reaction was never to use him again and consider him the enemy. That was before the AAA issues got to the boiling point.

Konnan has a new Spanish language YouTube show and he’s been ripping on AAA since the split. He said that AAA keeps its talent through lying, intimidation and fear. Konnan is looking at doing something, but it’s going to be very difficult. Most of the guys in Lucha Underground, such as Jack Evans, Fenix, Pentagon Jr., Drago, Angelico and others were people Konnan brought to the promotion and under normal circumstances, may have gone with him to a new project, similar to how the people closest with Antonio Pena in 1992 quit CMLL to go with Pena. But the difference here is that it was made clear to everyone in Lucha Underground, that if they work in Mexico for anyone other than AAA, they would lose their LU jobs.

In the case of Fenix and Pentagon Jr., they’re doing very well on U.S. indie shows, particularly when it comes to merchandise, and know that it’s the Lucha Underground involvement that is the key and not that they are big names on their own. Konnan claimed that they told Octagon he could keep his name on indies and that Flamita, who became Octagon Jr., was originally to be called Myzteziz Jr., but Flamita turned that down. Konnan said that AAA thinks they’re a big deal, but all the international attention their talent is getting is not due to AAA, but due to Lucha Underground. He was also very critical regarding AAA’s handling of a bus crash last year where one of the long-time employees was killed and was critical of how the company didn’t take care of the family.

The World Cup tournament is now expected to be 12 teams, with the first round on 6/3 in Puebla and the remainder on 6/5 at Los Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City. Announced so far are Team NOAH of Taiji Ishimori & Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi; Team Zero-One of Akebono & Ikuto Hidaka & Masato Tanaka; a Japanese women’s team of Aja Kong & Yuki Miyazaki & Sumirse Natsu; A Mexican women’s team of Fabi Apache & Mari Apache & Lady Apache; The AAA team of El Texano Jr., Pentagon Jr., and the winner of a Ricky Marvin vs. Nicho vs. El Hijo del Pirata Morgan match on 5/14 in Orizaba; a Mexican legends team of Canek & La Parka and a third person and an International team captained by Rey Mysterio Jr. Announced as judges are Black Terry, Cien Caras, Mascara Ano 2000, Universo 2000 and Villano V. They will pick winners if matches go to the time limit.

Because AAA owns the name Electroshock, the former Electroshock is now working indies as Mr. Elektro. Mini Charly Manson has also left and is using the name Tiago on indies.

The 5/14 TV taping in Orizaba has one of the weakest TV main events I can remember with Pagano, a backyard brawler type wrestler facing Psycho Clown, plus they will pick the final member of the AAA World Cup team in a trios match with Ricky Marvin vs. Nicho vs El Hijo de Pirata Morgan. This is believed to be the first time Marvin and Nicho have been in he ring together in two years, since they got into a backstage fist fight that led to Nicho being fired.

DRAGON GATE:

The King of Gate tournament opened on 5/8 in Osaka before a sellout of 1,700 fans. The first three matches were all relatively quick as Cyber Kong pinned Ryo Saito in 6:28; Yamato beat Punch Tominaga in 6:55 and Gamma beat Naruki Doi in 7:54. The other tournament match had Cima beating Akira Tozawa in 16:03. BxB Hulk also returned on that show teaming with Kzy & Yosuke Santa Maria to beat Shingo Takagi & Naoki Tanizaki & Kotoka.

ALL JAPAN:

Atsushi Aoki retained the jr. title over Kaji Tomato of the K-Dojo promotion on 5/7 in Chiba. Aoki next defends against Masashi Takeda on 5/25 at Korakuen Hall, which is the show that also includes Zeus vs. Yuji Okabayashi and the Kento Miyahara vs. Daisuke Sekimoto Triple Crown title match.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH:

The 5/4 finals of the tag team tournament drew 1,469 to Korakuen Hall, or almost full, which for NOAH, is a good crowd in that building these days.

The new tour opens on 5/14, building to the big show on 5/28 at the smaller Edion Arena in Osaka with the Takashi Sugiura vs. Go Shiozaki GHC title match, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. defending the tag titles against Naomichi Marufuji & Toru Yano, Daisuke Harda & Atsushi Kotoge defending the jr. tag titles against Kenou & Hajime Ohara, plus Maybach Taniguchi vs. Shelton Benjamin and Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya vs. Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka. Really notable how Suzuki, who basically carried the promotion all of 2015, is fifth from the top on the big show.

Minoru Suzuki will be promoting a show on 6/18 at Korakuen Hall. The last time Suzuki did a show, it aired live on New Japan World. The announced main event is Suzuki & Sugiura & Iizuka vs. Marufuji & Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba.

NEW JAPAN:

The top three matches for the 6/19 show at Osaka Jo Hall are, as expected, Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP heavyweight title, Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi in a ladder match for the IC title and Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuyori Shibata for the Never title.

The next two New Japan World shows are 5/19 and 5/21 in Tokyo.

The 5/19 show starts at 6 a.m. Eastern time as a Lion’s Gate special event at Shinjuku Face with a New Japan vs. NOAH them. It’s Hirai Kawato (NJPW) vs. Kaito Kiyomiya (NOAH), Teruaki Kanemitsu (NJPW) vs. Shiro Tomoyose (NOAH), Asako Yoshida (K-Dojo) vs. Hitoshi Kumano (NOAH), David Finlay (NJPW) vs. Yoshinari Ogawa (NOAH), Ryusuke Taguchi (NJPW) & Mohammed Yone (NOAH) vs. Genba Hirayanagi & Captain NOAH (NOAH), Jay White (NJPW) vs. Naomichi Marufuji (NOAH), Juice Robinson (NJPW) vs. Go Shiozaki (NOAH) and a main event of Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi (NJPW) vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima & Maybach Taniguchi & Masa Kitamiya & Quiet Storm (NOAH).

Opening night of the Super Juniors is 5/21 at Korakuen Hall at 5:30 a.m. with Kojima & Volador Jr. & Bobby Fish vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Trent Baretta & Will Ospreay, Nagata & Nakanishi & Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Robinson & White & Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan & Ricochet vs. Omega & Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Nick Jackson, Okada & Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Naito & Seiya Sanada & Evil, and then in the Super Juniors matches it’s Gedo vs. Bushi, Rocky Romero vs. Matt Jackson, Taguchi vs Matt Sydal and Kushida vs. Kyle O’Reilly.

The 5/27 show at Korakuen Hall, also at 5:30 a.m., has Sydal & Michael Elgin vs. Yoshi-Hash & Romero, Nagata & Nakanishi & Finlay & O’Reilly vs. Shibata & Kushida & Robinson & Jay White.

They have another Korakuen Hall show on 6/3 at 5:30 a.m. with Ricochet & White & Volador Jr. vs. Ishii & Baretta & Ospreay; Nagata & Nakanishi & Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Robinson & Finlay & Fish, Romero vs. Gedo, O’Reilly vs. Matt Jackson, Tanahashi & Elgin & Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan vs. Omega & Fale & Nick Jackson & Tanahashi and tournament matches like Gedo vs. Matt Jackson, Bushi vs. Romero, Tanahashi & Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan & Ricochet vs. Omega & Fale & Takahashi & Nick Jackson, Okada & Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Naito & Sanada & Evil, O’Reilly vs. Sydal and Taguchi vs. Kushida.

The show which will determine who goes to the finals is 6/6 in Sendai at the Sun Plaza Hall. They are running the final night of the round-robin and the tournament finals in the same building. They usually run the finals in Tokyo in a smaller arena. So, the singles matches on 6/6 are going to determine the finals and the line-up is listed as Ricochet vs. Nick Jackson, Tiger Mask vs. Fish, Liger vs. Baretta, Sydal vs. Matt Jackson, Kushida vs. Bushi, Taguchi vs. Gedo and Ospreay vs. Volador Jr., plus a main event of Okada & Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Naito & Sanada & Evil. All of the New Japan World shows on the tour are 5:30 a.m. Eastern time starts.

It looks like Matt Sydal is signing a deal to be a full-timer here.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES:

The Keiji Muto vs. Jun Akiyama singles match that we wrote about last week takes place on 8/11 at the Yokohama Gym. The match was set up on the 5/4 Wrestle-1 show at Korakuen Hall. Muto teamed up with the sons of two legends, Leona (Fujinami) & Daichi Hashimoto to beat Big Japan Strong champion Yuji Okabayashi & Yasufumi Nakanoue & Seiki Yoshioka with Muto using the figure four on Yoshioka. Akiyama came down and issued a challenge to Muto for a singles match. Muto will also be working as Great Muta on 6/8 at Korakuen Hall in a singles match with Jiro Kuroshio. The Korakuen Hall main event saw Kai win the Wrestle-1 title from Yuji Hino in 20:00 via submission.

Kenta Kobashi will be promoting a show on 6/14 at Korakuen Hall, built around he and Kensuke Sasaki doing an in-ring interview talking about their careers. Main events are interpromotional matches with Go Shiozaki (NOAH) & Yuji Okabayashi (Big Japan) vs. Daisuke Sekimoto (Big Japan) & Yuji Hino (K-Dojo) and Shuji Ishikawa (Big Japan) & Katsuhiko Nakajima (NOAH) vs. Kohei Sato (Zero-One) & Maybach Taniguchi (NOAH).

HERE AND THERE:

Dennis Hilgart, best known as the promoter for the AWA during its glory years in cities like Milwaukee and Green Bay, passed away on 5/3 at the age of 77. Hilgart was an Observer reader probably from near the inception of this publication and was considered one of the best local promoters in the country. In particular, from 1969 to 1975, Milwaukee was one of the hottest wrestling cities in the country, legitimately selling out almost every month with The Crusher as its big attraction when the cultural thing on Sundays was to go to church and rush home to watch Crusher on television. Milwaukee was on fire again in the 1981-84 period, in particular when Hulk Hogan headlined. Hilgart later left the AWA and went to work for the WWE as the local promoter in the market.

In the 80s, Hilgart expanded his work to running shows in Las Vegas and San Francisco/Oakland (Leo Nomellini was always billed as the promoter because he was a local sports hero, but Hilgart did the work of the promoter–whenever I’d talk to people it was Hilgart as promoter but getting no credit and when asked about Leo, it was “he brings the beer”). Nicknamed “Hildegarde,” he had a role as one of the promoters in Verne Gagne’s 1974 movie “The Wrestler.” Hilgart also promoted country music acts and worked in real estate. Gary Juster, who got his start in the business from Gagne, was sent to Milwaukee by Gagne to learn promoting from Hilgart. It’s an old story but Hilgart always told me his big regret was when things were really hot and Crusher was on fire (Hilgart and Crusher were good friends and traveling partners, they’d take Crusher’s van, Crusher’s son Larry, who was a referee, would drive and they’d be watching the Packers games on Sundays long before most had TV set ups in their vans).

Hilgart wanted to book Milwaukee County Stadium for Gagne vs. Crusher in a face vs. face match, and promised Gagne that he would break the all-time attendance record (at the time the record, whether true or not, was recognized as 38,622 for a 1961 match in Chicago with Buddy Rogers vs. Pat O’Connor). But he felt for the good of the city, since Crusher was the big draw, that Crusher should win the title, hold it for a short period of time and then either lose to a heel in a different city, who could then lose it to Gagne, or even lose directly to Gagne in a different city. He couldn’t convince Gagne to drop the title to another babyface and they never did the show.

Marc Mero, 55, was diagnosed this past week with heart problems that will require surgery on 6/16 in Cleveland. He’s battled heart issues for the past decade. Mero had heart valve replacement surgery in 2007. In late 2014, he was preparing for heart surgery but before having it done, his enlarged heart had shrunk and he was told he didn’t need surgery at that time, but in time, he would most likely need the surgery. Mero has done a lot of public speaking to kids at schools about drug use and his own drug problems and steroid use during his days as a wrestler, as well as for anti-bullying campaigns. He’s quite charismatic as a speaker.

Lion Forge Comics and producers Scott Steindorff and Dylan Russell are developing a feature film on the life of Andre the Giant. The movie will be an adaptation of the graphic novel, “Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven.” The former Robin Christensen, who now goes by the name Robin Christensen-Roussimoff, Andre’s only child, will be a consultant and be behind the project. The movie will start with Andre’s life working on a family farm in France and go through his wrestling career in Europe and New Zealand as Giant Jean Ferre, before debuting in Japan and eventually going to Montreal, before making a deal with Vince McMahon Sr., who booked him as the global attraction with the name Andre the Giant and being billed as 7-foot-4 and 424 pounds. In 1976 before his wrestler vs. boxer worked fight with Chuck Wepner, reporters looking at the face-off wrote that he was really 6-foot-9 and 375 pounds. He was measured at 6-foot-9 3/4 (208 centimeters) and billed at 6-foot-11 in the U.K. at the age of 24.

Speaking of Andre vs Wepner, MMA writer Josh Gross has a book coming out shortly on the Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki match (Andre vs. Wepner was the semifinal) in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the event. The book will heavily talk about the pro wrestling scene as it was in 1976 in the U.S. and Japan, and build the match, which in Japan is considered the forerunner to MMA and one of the first big MMA matches (although I’d hesitate to call it an MMA fight) as well as one of the most famous pro wrestling matches of all-time. The name of the book is “Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment.” Gross talked to all the principals involved who would talk, and it’ll be interesting because so many of them came from pro wrestling, and that was a real carny era, plus it’s memories of older people of something 40 years ago. I haven’t seen the book but it’s gotten good reviews.

Kurt Angle was announced for ICW’s biggest show in its history on 11/30 in Glasgow at the SSE Hydro. This would be their attempt to draw the biggest crowd for a U.K. based promotion in the U.K. since the early 80s. .. Bobby Heenan had another fall during the week. He was rushed to the hospital and due to having very low blood pressure, was kept for a few days before being released.

Among the things found in Prince’s Vault after his death was a Morris-Day narrated documentary on Koko B. Ware.

Mack York, who wrestled from the 1950s to the 1970s for Nick Gulas in Tennessee and the Gulf Coast, passed away this past week at the age of 90 from natural causes. York’s real name was Mack Morton, and he was the younger brother of famous Tennessee referee Paul Morton, which makes him the uncle of Ricky Morton of the Rock & Roll Express.

Tammy Sytch is scheduled to be sentenced on her DUI charges on 5/17.

An indie show expected to draw 2,000 fans and pack the National Civic Center in San Jose on 5/14 (down the street from the Bellator live show at the HP Pavilion) called Lucha Libre Mexicana features Mil Mascaras, Blue Demon Jr., Canek, El Hijo de Rey Misterio, El Hijo de L.A. Park, Solar, Negro Navarro and minis.

Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore promotion ran 5/7 in Niagara Falls, ONT, before 850 fans built around Bobby Roode beating Eric Young with Jimmy Korderas as referee in an all-Ontario match. The two did a basic technical match with both as babyfaces and raising each others’ arms when it was over. Dreamer, in an interview on television building the show, said that he knows factually both are headed to WWE. I’m of the impression since Dreamer knows both well that Dreamer was actually consulted by both when they were deciding whether or not to leave TNA due to the money issues. Dreamer & Mickie James beat Pepper Parks & Cherry Bomb when Dreamer used a piledriver on Cherry Bomb leading to James pinning her. They also had Rhino pinning Moose with a gore after Moose had kicked out of the first gore. Magnus (Nick Aldis) showed up as a mystery opponent beating Cody Deaner and Chris Hero lost to sometimes tag partner Colt Cabana.

Pierre-Carl Ouellet, 48, a major favorite in Quebec from his days with Jacques Rougeau Jr. as the Quebecers in WWF, returns to the ring for the first time since his 2011 retirement on a show on 5/21 in Valleyfield, Quebec. Since his retirement, he opened a bar, but has recently been training hard and decided to return.

Reg Grundy, a television pioneer in Australia who produced numerous game shows and television shows like soap operas in that country for years, passed away this past week at the age of 92. His connection to pro wrestling is that he got his start in the media as a radio announcer of both pro wrestling and pro boxing matches in 1947, calling the matches held at Sydney Stadium, calling matches of people like Chief Little Wolf, Dirty Dick Rains, Sandor Szabo, Fred Atkins and possibly Lou Thesz and Gorgeous George. He came up with the idea for the “Wheel of Fortune” game show, which started as a radio show in Australia and then moved to television, before it broke into the U.S. market.

Flamita is in demand for indie dates in Mexico and is also looking at breaking into working regularly in the U.S. He hasn’t had the exposure the Lucha Underground guys have had, but he’s as good as any of them.

Octagon’s personal Octagon Jr., that he introduced as his son is actually a wrestler who used to wrestle as Marabunta Jr. He is no relation to Octagon past claiming Octagon is his godfather.

Bryant Rogowski, 45, who wrestled as Bryant Anderson in the 90s and is the son of Ole Anderson (real name Alan Rogowski), was inducted on 5/7 into the Cherokee County (Georgia) Sports Hall of Fame. Rogowski said that he knew nothing about amateur wrestling when he got to Etowah High School in Woodstock, GA in 1985, the same time his father was one of the top stars in the country with the Four Horsemen about to be born. He said he went out for wrestling because his father was an amateur wrestler before going into pro wrestling and he had never actually seen an actual wrestling match (real wrestling) when he tried out. He won Most Improved as JV wrestler his first year, and then quit football to concentrate on wrestling.

He went 80-8-1 as a varsity wrestler, went to the state meet three times and as a senior was Georgia high school state champion at 171 pounds as well as named Atlanta’s North Metro Wrestler of the Year. He went to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga on a wrestling scholarship and wrestled there four years as a heavyweight, finishing third in the Southern Conference as a junior. After college, he started pro wrestling and was trained by WCW at the Power Plant and worked prelims in that promotion before getting a push in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling. He only wrestled from 1993 to 1995. He said it was fun, but by 1995, could see the future of the business and didn’t think it was for him, and he went to law school instead. He’s working in family and children’s services since getting out of law school and the Director of Childrens Services for Franklin and Hart counties in Eastern Georgia.

As Charro who worked last week is apparently not the 70s and 80s star, but an indie guy who uses the name as the original is said to be confined to a wheelchair due to back problems from decades working on those cement like rings they used to have in Mexico.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND:

They are taping through June, and the idea is to finish 100 episodes, which is a number that foreign distributors like to sell. One of the reasons there is a hold up on house shows is the feeling from the people running the company that Lucha Underground has to run in a venue that looks like the Temple, which rules out major arenas, or at least have a traveling that would look similar. At least that was the idea a few months ago. Right now there are no plans for live shows. It’s not a lock they would be a success, as NXT is hot by today’s standards and hot means doing 1,000 to 2,000 people at big shows and 150 to 450 at small shows.

They taped over the weekend but it wasn’t very newsworthy. They were already pushing Ultima Lucha. At the tapings this week, they talked of Ultima Lucha in four weeks and people at the tapings figured that it would be taped on 5/15. Originally Ultima Lucha was being taped on 5/15. Of late, we’ve heard the last taping of this season, which presumably is Ultima Lucha, would be taped 6/25 and 6/26. It may be clearer next week. What they were pushing for Ultima Lucha was Johnny Mundo vs. Rey Mysterio for the title and the finals of the Cueto Cup tournament, which will determine the No. 1 contender. I thought the Gift of the Gods title determined the top contender. Most of the matches this past weekend were early round matches in that tournament.

Notes on the 5/4 TV show. The show opened with Dario Cueto and Catrina in the office as they continued to build their angle over who will run things. Both argued over who was about to destroy who in the Matanza Cueto vs. Mil Muertes match for the title last week. Catrina said that “You fear Mil,” and Dario laughed at her, saying that Mil is scary but his brother fears nothing and that the power of the rock is nothing compared to the power of the key. Dario, to show he had no fear, suggested a grave consequences match (casket) for next week and she accepted. She said to raise the stakes let’s have four coffins instead of one, and call it graver consequences. She said that next week’s match will answer all questions regarding who destroyed who. Much of the show was built around the winnings of Aztec Medallions. It was a real easy show to watch.

The Mack beat Marty the Moth in 3:46 to win a medallion. Marty is still creeping out poor Melissa Santos. Mack did a flip dive right way and won with a fireman’s carry into a stunner. This was really like a squash. Catrina was talking with King Cuerno. It’s always surprising when you hear how well Cuerno talks English. She said that Siniestro de la Muerte, who is the only survivor of the Disciples of Death, as well as a double murderer, also wants that title from Fenix. Cuerno said he was going to win the title, and if Muertes gets the Lucha Underground title, then he’s coming after him and won’t make the same mistake as the last time. He said Mil’s rotting carcass will be the most prized possession in his trophy room.

Sexy Star came to Cueto’s office. She was still all despondent. Cueto said that she probably doesn’t know it, but he respects her and he knows something very bad happened to her because he can see the change in her eyes. He said he went through the same thing. He said that his mother was an evil bitch who did cruel things to him and his brother and the only way they could stop their mother from torturing them was to stand up and say no more. He said that whatever Mariposa did to her, tonight he wants her to make Mariposa say, “no more,” so they are having a “No Mas” match, which is a new name for an I Quit match. The winner was to get a medallion. He told her to make Mariposa pay dearly and she accepted. He also told her, once the match is over, don’t stop. He told Sexy that if you want that look in your eyes to go away, you have to put that same look of terror into Mariposa’s eyes. Sexy Star said, in English, “I understand.”

Siniestro de la Muerte beat King Cuerno in 1:44 when Catrina hit Cuerno with the rock and Siniestro used a leg drop to the back of the head. Watching this, it’s almost as if they knew months ahead that WWE was going to try and get Cuerno and he’d try to leave, so this was almost like a burial. Then, in a silly spot, they showed Mascarita Sagrada sitting on a bench doing barbell curls with 45s on each side. He was doing them like it was nothing. I mean, there’s fake weights used in wrestling but this was preposterous. Famous B showed up and said that he found a guy who already has an Aztec Medallion and was willing to defend it against him.

Chavo Guerrero came into Cueto’s office and complained that he wasn’t in a match for a Medallion. Cueto acted like he didn’t even care about him, basically doing work and not even looking at him and said that he didn’t think Chavo deserved to be put in that position and that every time he’d put Chavo in the position that Chavo lost. Chavo said he was going to seize the opportunity. Cage just destroyed Mascarita Sagrada in :50 with an F-5. Mascarita was billed as being from “Little Hollywood.” This was just stupid. Mascarita can be an attraction if you book him with guys his own size and let him do his thing. Just sending him out there to get squashed for comedy that isn’t funny is stupid. You should get any masked job guy and it’s not like there’s heat to it given the Cage is a face to begin with. The idea was it was part of the story of Famous B abusing people, but it negates the Mascarita Sagrada name and value. After Cage won, Chavo ran in and stole the medallions and ran away with Cage chasing him. Striker talked about how the Guerreros lie, cheat and steal, playing off WWE vignettes from a dozen years ago.

Sexy Star beat Mariposa in 15:24 of the No Mas match to win a medallion. This was super-heated and dramatic. They traded submissions and escapes for several minutes. A funny spot was Mariposa had Sexy in an Indian deathlock and Sexy made the ropes. Striker talked about how there are no rope breaks in a No Mas match, and just then, Mariposa broke on the ropes. Given these shows are taped months in advance, the least you can do is clean that up and not make your announcer look bad. Sexy put a chair sideways against Mariposa’s crotch and then used another chair like a baseball bat to drive the first chair into the crotch while Striker yelled out “Steely Dan.” Both fought on a scaffold and Mariposa teased throwing Sexy off it but she wouldn’t quit. Sexy was bleeding under her mask. Marty the Moth came out and kicked Sexy and rubbed her face into the rusty guard railing. He also hit her in the face with a guard rail. The Mack attacked Marty. Sexy used a garbage can and hit Mariposa in the head with it and put the can on Mariposa’s head and kicked and stomped the can. Right before the finish, Mariposa had Sexy in another submission and the ref asked if she quit and she screamed, “F*** you” really loud. It wasn’t censored at all.

Vampiro gets a lot of swear words in on commentary but I was surprised they drop a screaming F bomb like and uncensored on a taped show. The crowd went crazy, like hearing a swear word made it cool. You can do that if you have no sponsors. The problem is, they are doing a product that a lot of sponsors would run from, which, as a TV property, makes no sense. Sexy used a low blow and jumped on her back and started choking, but Marty broke up the choke. The finish saw Marty go to punch Sexy, but she ducked and Mack hit Marty with another stunner while Sexy used a flying armbar and Mariposa said, “No Mas.” After the match, Sexy gave her a judo hiptoss and put the armbar again and Mariposa was screaming.

Notes from the 5/7 TV tapings. We don’t have complete results from the taping but one of the matches not listed was Cage beating someone to advance to the next round of the Cueto Cup. In a rematch from the last taping after the draw in the Iron Man match, Mundo beat The Mack in a falls count anywhere match for the title. Cueto came out here and announced Mundo vs. Mysterio for the title as the Ultima Lucha main event plus the Cueto Cup, a single elimination tournament to become the top contender for the title and the winner gets a gold cup. The impression given was that whoever won between Mundo and Mysterio would then face the winner of the Cueto Cup right away on the card, but that wasn’t exactly clear. Cueto also mentioned that Matanza would not be in the Cueto Cup because he was embarrassed that Mysterio pinned Matanza.

Then he ordered a trios title match. Kobra Moon teamed with the Luchasaurus & the masked Green Reptile (Bestia 666 & Steve Pain) to win the titles from Aerostar & Drago & Fenix. The match was nothing special. When Drago tagged in, he turned on his partners and gave Aerostar a splash and pinned him. Somehow that meant that the Kobra Moon trio won the titles. After the match, Kobra Moon tied Drago around the neck with a leash and took him to the back like he was the pet dog. In a dark match, Killshot pinned Kevin Kross. Famous B came out and tried to become Kross’ agent, and promised to make him famous. Kross then decked Famous B. Some cheered and some booed him for that. Prince Puma beat Mil Muertes in a street fight. I think this result pretty much would guarantee Puma is staying. Puma did a coast-to-coast dropkick into a garbage can like Rob Van Dam. The finish saw Vampiro had Puma a brick and he hit Muertes and then pinned him after the 630 senton.

Sexy Star retained the Gift of the Gods title beating Taya. Mundo, P.J. Black and Jack Evans all were helping Taya until Aerostar, Fenix and Drago helped Sexy Star. Obviously this was taped out of order and will air before Drago turns on his partners. Fenix beat Mariposa in a first round match in the Cueto Cup. Matanza Cueto went to a no contest with Dragon Azteca Jr. in a death match. This was a retape of the match from two weeks ago when they had to stop it early because Matanza put his fist through the glass window and got it all sliced up. So he’s already back in the ring. They did pretty much the same first few minutes they did two weeks ago. Matanza choke slammed Azteca through the wooden bleachers. Mysterio came out and Matanza beat him down as well. Matanza was about to spear Mysterio into the barricade but Mysterio flipped him over like a backdrop and Matanza crashed through a platform. So the weird ending of the show was Dario hanging on the door to where his brother crashed through yelling “The show is over. Go the f*** home.” As noted, the new philosophy is more swearing and more men vs. women, thinking the edgier content will drive the ratings.

Notes from the 5/8 tapings. Muertes won his first round match in the Cueto Cup. Black beat Sexy Star via DQ in a Cueto Cup match. Why would Sexy be in a tournament to get a title shot when she’s already Gift of the Gods champion, unless she loses it in a match that hasn’t been taped but will air before the tournament. A chair ended up in the ring and Sexy hit Black with it for the DQ. Mundo and Evans had interfered. Evans’ jaw was all wrapped up. In another tournament first round match, Son of Havoc beat Son of Madness, who was Kevin Martenson. He was doing a complete Doppleganger of Havoc, including being billed from “The Open Road.” In a tournament match, The Mack beat Mala Suerte, who was one of the guys who has teamed with Paul London. He wore a T-shirt that read “I do it like a rabbit.”

Puma beat Ricky Mandel in the tournament. Mandel was one of the Disciples of Death. Now his gimmick is he’s Mundo’s body double, where he talks and dresses like Mundo. It’s the Miz/Mizdow gimmick. He was billed as “Currently interning for Worldwide Underground Inc.” Puma wore a hoodie the entire match. He was darker and didn’t play to the crowd, almost like he did a heel turn. In another tournament match, Aerostar beat Drago. Drago worked as a heel. In a dark match, Kross beat Black Lotus, Marty the Moth Martinez, Mariposa and Mariachi Loco. In a tournament match, Jeremiah Gray (Sami Callihan) beat Dante Fox (AR Fox). Best match on the show. They went more than 15:00 and the crowd was on its feet for most of it. There was a “Fight forever” chant. Somebody then got on the mic in the rafters, who may have been Marty the Moth, and said “Dante, remember what happened,” and distracted him which allowed Gray to get him from behind for the pin. The Luchasaurus pinned London in a tournament match. In a second round of the tournament match, Mysterio beat Black. That’s weird that Mysterio is in the tournament since he’s already getting a title shot. Mysterio then said he was winning the title at Ultima Lucha. Mundo came out and they went at it. The show ended with Mysterio doing a double 619 on Black and Mundo.

ROH:

Notes from the 5/9 house show in Dearborn, MI, which featured the surprise title change. The show drew 1,000 fans, which was a sellout and the largest crowd they’ve drawn in that building. The 5/11 TV tapings in Toronto are also sold out and they are expecting, due to selling standing room, to have their biggest Toronto crowd ever as well.

Dearborn opened with Kamaitachi pinning Will Ferrara with the Air Raid crash. Kamaitachi got over in a good match that will be released as a web exclusive (***–ratings by John Carey). Even though they did a title change and angles, and had a ton of talent, this was not taped for TV, since they are doing the taping in Toronto. It was a VOD and DVD taping (as are all the shows). The Bullet Club of Adam Cole & Young Bucks & Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa came out and Cole talked about superkicking everyone, and brought up superkicking the Bucks’ dad. He said that they aren’t worried about the Briscoes, the Motor City Machine Guns or Colt Cabana or Jay Lethal. They went after ring announcer Bobby Cruise when the Briscoes hit the ring. Jay Briscoe talked about how everyone loves The Bullet Club because they sell a lot of merchandise, but people also like the Briscoes, but the Briscoes don’t have to go on-line and tweet everything and called them dick riding bitches.

The Machine guns were out next and Alex Shelley said the NWO DX wannabees forgot what city they were in. Chris Sabin said that the main event is scheduled to be Briscoes vs. Machine Guns but said he doesn’t think people would be unhappy if they instead formed a tag team to face the Bullet Club. Cole called them stupid saying that’s five-on-four. Adam Page came out and said that he put B.J. Whitmer in the hospital and said he’d team with the Machine Guns and Briscoes. They challenged the Bullet Club to a match right now. The Bullet Club accepted but The Young Bucks said they aren’t jerking the curtain and said they would only see them in the main event. Matt Sydal & ACH beat Silas Young & Beer City Bruiser (***1/4). Whitmer was out on commentary.

No Mr. Wrestling III as that was an extension as the story is he flew home after seeing whatever it was on his flash drive. ACH pinned Bruiser with a 450. ACH then grabbed the mic and talked about how he and Sydal had teamed for the past year and Sydal had taught him so much. He said Sydal had his back but he wanted to go on his own and hugged Sydal, so the impression was he would be getting a singles push. Roderick Strong pinned Lio Rush (***½) with a suplex into a backbreaker for the pin. Rush replaced the injured Jushin Liger. Strong gave Rush a lot of offense and there were times people thought Rush was going to score the upset. Strong worked a total heel style. Strong cut a promo about Jushin Liger. Liger was held off the show because he was dropped on his head the night before, but he came out, punched Strong and Strong left. So they had Liger appear before the crowd even though he wasn’t wrestling, and he did commentary for the next few matches. Hanson & Ray Rowe retained the tag titles over Kazuchika Okada & Gedo (***½).

Okada got a huge reaction, as the New Japan guys got bigger reactions than the Americans. This was advertised as a non-title match, but Rowe came out and said they are fighting champions and would put the titles up here. The match was very good and fans were buying some of Gedo’s near falls even though deep down everyone knew there was no way Okada & Gedo were winning the ROH belts. Hanson pinned Gedo with a leg lariat right after Okada hit Rowe with the rainmaker. Then Daniels & Kazarian, who weren’t advertised on the show, came out and they did the angle that led to the match later in the show where the titles changed hands. Kushida beat Dalton Castle (***). Was told this match had its spots but wasn’t as good as most Kushida matches. Crowd was heavily into both. There were some spots where they teased Kushida wanting The Boys to go with him. At this point somebody cut a promo about how could anyone vote for a pro wrestler for office.

Rhino is running for the state House of Representatives in Dearborn, and I guess that led to him coming out and giving the guy a gore. Not sure that if I was running for office I’d be part of a pro wrestling angle about it. Rhino then did a promo about how he’s running for the house and that he approves of workplace violence, and then gave the guy a second gore. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin beat Rhett Titus & Kenny King (**½). Tanahashi & Elgin looked good but the All Night Express weren’t in their league. King missed some spots and the crowd was on him over it. Elgin powerslammed Titus off the middle rope and then power bombed King into Titus and Tanahashi did the high fly flow on Titus and Elgin did it on King for a double pin.

Tomohiro Ishii pinned Moose (***3/4) in a hard hitting match. It was described that Moose was twice his size but Ishii looked so much better and Ishii did all his regular superplex and brainbuster spots. Crowd loved the match. Most of the crowd was really into Moose but he had people catcalling him. Ishii got the pin with a brainbuster. During the mach, Todd Sinclair came out and talked to Nigel McGuinness, who was doing commentary, and he ran to the back. This may have been the spot where the Bucks laid out Page. Daniels & Kazarian beat War Machine for the tag titles (**). Crowd was more into Daniels & Kazarian even though they were the heels. The crowd was shocked seeing a title change at a house show. Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly beat Tetsuya Naito & Jay Lethal (***3/4), billed as the two world champions. The story here is that even though Lethal was made a part of Los Ingobernables en Japon while in Japan in February, Naito did the deal where he couldn’t care at all about Lethal. Lethal did three straight tope’s. Lethal accidentally hit Naito and Naito then turned on Lethal and walked off. The finish saw Fish and Naito fighting on the floor and O’Reilly pinned Lethal after Chasing the Dragon. That would indicate that O’Reilly is in line for an ROH title shot. After the match, Naito ran in with a chair, but instead of using it on Fish or O’Reilly, he just sat in the chair and blamed Lethal for losing.

The main event saw The Bullet Club of Cole & Young Bucks & Tonga & Loa over Sabin & Shelley & Colt Cabana (***½) & Briscoes. Page never came out. The Young Bucks said Page showed up to an early superkick party and wouldn’t be in the match. Cabana, who wasn’t advertised for the show, then came out to join the Briscoes and Machine Guns. Sabin in particular was moving great, probably the best he’s looked in years. The Bucks were superkicking everyone, including the referee. Page then ran in with a chair and the Bucks backed off. Then Page hit Jay Briscoe with the chair. Everyone superkicked Mark and pinned him to take the match. The Bullet Club continued to destroy everyone including hanging Sabin over the ropes with a bullrope. After it was over, Cabana cut a promo and talked about how he knows the people like The Bucks and Cole and he came back to ROH because the Bucks told him this was the place to be when you’re in the U.S. Cabana said he doesn’t respect what they are doing and he’d be back and make sure that they would turn this back into the ROH that everyone loved with the best wrestling in the world.

TNA:

Add Jessie Godderz and Eli Drake to the list of people having signed new deals. The things to watch out for are if/when they get the key guys like Ethan Carter III, The Hardys, Drew Galloway and Bobby Lashley signed. As noted, TNA is trying to get everyone onto deals where they control all of their bookings, and given the Hardys ability to draw and make a lot of money on indies, particularly with merch money, it’s a tough deal, and Lashley has his MMA career and is currently doing pro wrestling all over the world and not sure what they would ask of him.

UFC:

Just days before UFC 198, Anderson Silva had to pull out of his fight with Uriah Hall. According to a story by Kevin Iole, Silva had started experiencing abdominal pains and underwent surgery on 5/11, which was a success. “Anderson developed abdominal discomfort and further evaluation today is consistent with acute cholecystitis,” said Dr. Jeff Davidson, a UFC medical consultant on 5/10.

There were talks with Hall about new opponents but all the talks fell through and Hall is off the show.

It’ll be very interesting how the 5/14 show in Curitiba, Brazil, does on PPV. Losing Silva is a major blow to the card, since he was the biggest draw, even though he was third from the top. It’s still a deep show, but deep doesn’t draw on PPV and Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic as a main event would not be expected to do well on its own, and the key was the strong undercard with Silva and big Brazilian names. There is the debut of Cris Cyborg Justino in UFC, but with Leslie Smith as the opponent, I haven’t sensed any buzz for that. Vitor Belfort vs. Ronaldo Jacare Souza is a major match when it comes to title implications, and I think people will be watching how Belfort looks against someone other than Dan Henderson post-USADA. At one point the idea that UFC is doing a show in Brazil before 45,000 people at a sold out Arena da Baixada stadium, where the local soccer team plays, would have helped in the past to a degree as a novelty, but I don’t feel that’s the case.

The show is expected to set a record the day before, as they are setting up the weigh-ins to accommodate 20,000 people. The largest crowd ever for a UFC weigh-in was 11,500 set for last July’s Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes fight. They are claiming that if they draw 20,000, it would be the largest crowd for a weigh-in in combat sports history. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time with three Fight Pass bouts. Renato Moicano (7-0-1) vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (17-3), Luan Chagas (8-1) vs. Sergio Moraes (8-2) and Patrick Cummins (8-3) vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (21-7). The FS 1 fights at 8 p.m. are Yancy Medeiros (9-2) vs. Francisco Trinaldo (19-4), Rob Font (13-1) vs. John Lineker (26-7), Nate Marquardt (33-15-2)_ vs. Thiago Santos (9-2), and Matt Brown (20-13) vs. Demian Maia (22-6). The PPV card features Warlley Avles (10-0) vs. Bryan Barbarena (11-3), Corey Anderson (8-1) vs. Mauricio Shogun Rua (23-10), Cyborg Justino (12-1) vs. Smith (8-6-1) at 140 pounds, Belfort (25-11) vs. Souza (22-4) which will likely determine the next middleweight title contender, and headlined by Werdum (20-5-1) vs. Miocic (14-2) for the heavyweight title.

The latest Conor McGregor story was an article in The Sun claiming that McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were going to do a boxing match. The obvious hold-up is that McGregor’s UFC contract specifically prohibits this. Plus, McGregor would have no chance except the fluke of all fluke chances in such an encounter since, while he has trained in boxing, a guy like Mayweather in that sport is so completely beyond him from a skill level. I don’t think it serves McGregor’s longtime goals to be made a fool out of in a boxing match for a one-time payoff unless the payoff is like $60 million and he’s just cashing out, and that feels way too early in his career for that. Of course the other issue is timing, as Mayweather isn’t going to be fighting much longer and there’s nobody else as big that McGregor could fight, but it’s still something UFC would have to approve and the last thing they would want is one of their stars looking like he was out of his league in a fight with a top boxer. Dana White said there was nothing to the story. Others noted that The Sun story about the purse split where Mayweather would get 14 times what McGregor would get made no sense.

When Dana White was on the Dan Patrick show, he said that he and McGregor had been talking every day, called the incident where McGregor was pulled from UFC 200 a “little speed bump,” and said their relationship was great. He said the two were going to meet last week and agree on when he will fight again, and indicated it would be against Nate Diaz, so that would indicate a monster PPV number later in the summer. Patrick brought up UFC 202 in August and White said it sounded like a good idea, but made it clear that was not official.

Given that nothing has been announced regarding C.M. Punk, here is what we know. They originally wanted to debut on the 6/4 show in Los Angeles, but he underwent back surgery, the same surgery Cain Velasquez underwent a few weeks earlier and Velasquez is fighting at UFC 200. Numerous accounts have it that while Punk has been a hard worker, that he has not progressed well as a fighter. He has done live sparring in the gym, and there are all kinds of rumors about it, but what is consistent is that he hasn’t fared well. He’s had his training delayed by both shoulder and back injuries, the back injury being more based on wear and tear from pro wrestling. Originally the hope was for him to debut around the summer of 2015, or fall at the latest, but the injuries and his adaptation to the sport led to delays. We’ve heard nothing new about an FS 1 reality show that would lead into his first fight past the fact they have been shooting and I expect it will be part of the package of building it. The general belief is Mikey Gall, his scheduled first opponent, will probably run through him. While nobody ever said so, even had he adapted well to fighting, he was at best going to be a Herschel Walker like attraction, and given his age maybe do a few fights. We figured he may transition into an announcing role. But UFC hasn’t been talking about him at all and he’s kept a low profile of late, completely away from the media. The entire reason of taking the risk on signing a novice fighter was the media attention it would receive. Of course when a date is announced, the interest will ramp up. But if too much more time goes by without a date announced, that will be telling. Punk was so adamant about proving critics wrong and now may have to face a situation where he may not be able to pull that off. This makes his next moves very interesting.

Belfort didn’t make friends among the brass this week by saying about the Reebok deal, “MMA is a lot closer to entertainment than sport these days. I’m not satisfied with the way the company is handling sponsorships. We are pretty much living in slavery. We can’t use our own sponsors.” Because of his popularity as a mainstream celebrity in Brazil, Belfort made a ton on sponsorships so he was among the people hit the hardest by the Reebok deal.

Just after the decision was made that B.J. Penn vs. Dennis Siver would be the FS 1 main event on UFC 199 rather than be on PPV, Silver was injured and pulled out of the fight. They are looking for a new opponent for Penn.

For 7/9 in Las Vegas, they have added T.J. Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assuncao. Assuncao beat Dillashaw via close decision in 2013, right before Dillashaw then beat Renan Barao for the bantamweight title. The winner of this fight is likely to face the Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber winner from 6/4. The fight is expected not to be on PPV, but used as the FS 1 main event.

For 7/23 in Chicago, the top two fights are Anthony “Rumble” Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira and Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko for FOX, with the latter being the main event. That’s notable because Johnson vs. Teixeira is to me more of a main event fight, since they are No. 3 and No. 4 at light heavyweight and the winner is pretty much a lock for the Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones winner. But Holm is the biggest name of the four and would both likely be a bigger draw to casual viewers, and also Johnson vs. Teixeira has a good show at a quick ending while Holm vs. Shevchenko will probably last several rounds, meaning it has more time to build a main event rating. But Holm vs. Shevchenko doesn’t seem to make any sense. Shevchenko is a champion kickboxer who is 58-2-1 in that sport, but is coming off a loss to Amanda Nunes, who was able to take her down. Now it really makes no sense that they didn’t put Holm against Miesha Tate. While Tate probably can beat Nunes in the stamina department and Holm probably can outstrike Shevchenko, they are risking huge fights for Ronda Rousey’s return. Rousey will draw against Nunes, but not anywhere close to what she’d draw against Holm or Tate. Tate vs. Holm would be much bigger at UFC 200 than Tate vs. Nunes, and that show needed a big draw after losing McGregor. A Tate vs. Holm winner is going to draw huge vs. Rousey. In this case, they are risking hurting Rousey’s return, and in doing so, also weakening UFC 200. It’s notable because UFC previously had told Holm to sit and wait for a match with Rousey, and not to defend against Tate. But they insisted. Tate recounted that Dana White told her that he went to Albuquerque and told Holm to wait for Rousey, that’s the biggest money fight possible and you should wait for it. Tate said that Holm’s management insisted of her fighting Tate first, figuring her contract as champion meant it would be a big payday. White told Tate that he specifically told them not to take the fight and that the UFC didn’t want Holm fighting first, but Holm’s management insisted on the Tate fight and treated it like it would be a tune-up fight prior to the Rousey fight.

Michael Chiesa vs. Tony Ferguson was announced as the main event on 7/13 in Sioux Falls, SD in a very intriguing match.

Also announced was that UFC 201 would take place on 7/30 at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, with the current plan being Robbie Lawler defending the welterweight title against Tyron Woodley although that fight has not yet been officially announced.

Also announced this week is a 9/3 show in Hamburg, Germany, which will be the first show in Germany since UFC got its new television deal in the market which started in August. That will be a Fight Night show.

Paige VanZant scored a 28 and a 29 on her two routines on “Dancing With The Stars” on 5/9. With the season winding up, she’s got 258 points, putting her in second place, one point behind the 259 by Nyle DiMarco, a deaf model. There will be two eliminations on 5/16, and it’s possible if she doesn’t get fan votes she could be out, and then the final three battle it out on 5/23.

Invicta ran on 5/7 in Costa Mesa, CA headlined by Tonya Evinger (18-5) winning a one-sided decision over Colleen Schneider (10-7) to retain the bantamweight title. This fight ended up getting a lot of headlines because after winning, Evinger, who is gay, in her post match interview, after puking in a bucket, grabbed Laura Sanko, the woman who was doing the post-fight in-ring interview for Fight Pass, and kissed her in a way that if a guy did it, he’d be fined and suspended. Sanko sort of pulled back, but when it was over, laughed it off. The incident got a measure of national publicity. Sanko later wrote on Twitter, “Intention IS 100 percent of the equation. If a male I knew was trying to be funny and did that, I would still laugh it off.” Evinger wrote, “Me and Laura are friends and not everyone is as fragile flowers as you guys. Some people have a sense of humor.” Schneider, a protégé of Josh Barnett, recently did an independent wrestling match in Gilroy, CA, against training partner Shayna Baszler for Premier. The other match saw recently cut UFC strawweight Angela Hill (5-2) beat Livia Renata Souza (9-1) via split decision on scores of 48-47, 47-48 and 48-47 to win the Invicta title in that weight class.

Tate was on Joe Rogan’s podcast and told a story about an encounter between Ronda Rousey and Paige VanZant, which VanZant later confirmed was accurate. VanZant and Rousey were both at a Reebok function and VanZant wanted to get a picture with Rousey. She asked some people where Rousey was, and she was told in no uncertain terms, “Don’t ask Ronda for a picture.” She asked why, and they said, “Just don’t. Just stay away from Ronda. Don’t ask her for a picture.” So she didn’t, but later they crossed paths. They’d never really had a conversation but had said “Hi” and stuff to each other at events. Apparently Ronda saw her and started cussing her out about being a fair weather bitch and when VanZant asked why she was so mad, evidently it was because VanZant had congratulated Holly Holm on beating Rousey. VanZant, when asked, described the incident as “very shocking and totally unnecessary.

Evan Dunham pulled out of the 6/4 show in Los Angeles so his opponent, James Vick, will now face Beneil Dariush.

BELLATOR:

After the death of Jordan Parsons and injury to Josh Thomson, eliminating his bout with Michael Chandler, the 5/14 show in San Jose. The show has been moved to an 8 p.m. start time so it will end about the time the UFC 198 PPV starts and will more go head-to-head with the FS 1 fights. The TV fights are Andre Fialho (6-0) vs. Rick Reger (7-1), Saad Awad (18-7) vs. Evangelista Cyborg Santos (21-16), Adam Piccolotti (7-0) vs. Ray Wood (6-1), and the main event of Phil Davis (15-3, 1 no contest) vs. King Mo (19-4, 1 no contest) for the top contender for Liam McGeary’s light heavyweight title. Spike even ran a TV special building up the card. Sergei Kharitonov, who was a late addition, ended up pulling out four days ahead of time. .. Julia Budd, who was scheduled to face Marloes Coenen on the 5/20 show in Boise to crown the first Bellator women’s featherweight champion, pulled out due to injury. Alexis Dufrense (5-2) will now face Coenen (23-6) in the five round title match, taking it on ten days notice. Dufrense was cut by UFC after going 0-2 with losses to Sarah Moras and Marion Reneau at 135, and is now in a title match at 145 here. Coenen was being groomed to be Bellator’s star woman fighter since they couldn’t get Cris Cyborg to jump. If, at 35, she doesn’t win handily, it would seem to indicate age has caught up with her.

Blas Avena, who fought for both WEC and Bellator, was found dead at the age of 32 in a hotel room in Las Vegas on 5/4 at 11:36 a.m. Avena fought from 2005 to 2013 and compiled an 8-7 record with one no contest as a welterweight, with his final fight being a loss to War Machine on a Bellator show.

OTHER MMA:

Josh Hill, who is the nephew of 60s and 70s pro wrestling star John Hill, better known under names like Gentleman Jerry Valiant and Stomper Guy Mitchell, will be getting his second shot at the World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes soon. Ray Sefo made that announcement over the weekend. They fought last year with Moraes winning a one-sided decision, but Hill has won four in a row since. Hill, who has done some pro wrestling in Ontario and is friends with Scotty O’Shea, an area regular, was on Ultimate Fighter season 18 (Ronda Rousey & Miesha Tate coaching). While little or none of this made the air, someone involved in the show told us that Hill, Shayna Baszler and one or two others were up late night frequently talking old time pro wrestling.

WWE:

They created a ton of new buzzwords this week including constant mentions of The New Era, pushed heavily throughout Raw, as well as Reigns & The Usos as “The Family,” (a name taken from Dusty Rhodes & Blackjack Mulligan & Barry Windham in Florida in the 80s) and Styles & Anderson & Gallows as “The Club,” which is notable because now WWE, New Japan and ROH all have top factions called Clubs. It’s interesting because they had pushed Balor Club for some time, but they gave them a name without bringing Balor up.

The update on the 5/22 Extreme Rules show from Newark, NJ, doesn’t have anything different from last week. It’s Reigns vs. Styles for the title in an extreme rules match, Jericho vs. Ambrose (no special stips announced but they used a straitjacket as a prop in an angle on Smackdown), Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Zayn vs. Owens for the IC title, Charlotte vs. Natalya in a submissions match with Ric Flair banned, New Day vs. Vaudevillains for the tag titles and Kalisto vs. Rusev for the U.S. title. They started an Emma & Dana Brooke vs. Lynch program and have R-Truth & Goldust vs. Fandango & Breeze set up, and Usos vs. Anderson & Gallows continues as active programs. Corbin may need something new as his TV match on Raw with Ziggler felt like a program ender.

Regarding Shane McMahon, the original plan was for him to be involved only through WrestleMania, but the reaction he got and the way tickets moved once his match was announced led to the idea of keeping him as a weekly television character and this post-Mania feud with Stephanie. The reason McMahon is being interviewed by Foley instead of Austin for the WWE podcast on 5/26 is because Austin is recovering from shoulder surgery and his arm will be in a sling for another month. He had extensive shoulder surgery, which included issues with his rotator cuff, a torn labrum, cleaning up the AC joint as well as re-attaching the right biceps. He was told he needed to rest the arm to be healed up in time for the new season of Broken Skull Challenge. He said that he can probably start doing some cardio work this week.

Adam Rose deleted everything from his twitter, the doctor’s note and anything else said related to it, less than a day after posting it. WWE didn’t respond to any questions regarding it either. Obviously the company wasn’t happy about how it was portrayed publicly and it’s clear there was a lot more to the story that they wanted to keep private.

Joe Belcastro is the new head writer for NXT working under Paul Levesque, and is also working with him on the Cruiserweight Classic and was also involved in the pilot of the NXT Kids show. He replaced Ryan Ward, who did a great job with the show. Ward is now exclusive to Raw and Smackdown. Belcastro, 35, did some writing for the Tampa Tribune and grew up as a wrestling fan. He approached WWE for a writing job after college in 2008 and was turned down. He wrote for the local newspaper and did movie reviews for online entertainment websites and a friend with a WWE connection got him another interview in 2013. He was hired, even though he had never written a script in his life. Evidently during his interview they liked how he discussed storylines and building layers to them.

The Global cruiserweight series has been renamed the Cruiserweight Classic. There may be some changes in how the tournament is done. Originally they were going to tape the entire tournament over a week at Full Sail University. Now there is talk of doing matches both on the separate Global cruiserweight show that will air on the network, and maybe air some matches on NXT and tape them as part of the NXT tapings. Levesque and Belcastro are expected to be the people largely in charge of writing the cruiserweight show.

Wrestlers in the cruiserweight tournament were given dates of 6/20 to 6/25 for taping dates to at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. Most, if not the entire ten week season, is scheduled to be filmed. There is also an NXT TV taping on 6/24 when they are there, so if there’s a taping that they’ll all be at and some would be on, that would be the one.

Bret Hart, when asked to do Payback, said he didn’t want to be there if Natalya was going to lose so was told not to worry that “the ending would be positive.” The plan was to do the Montreal finish and then Flair and Charlotte would try and run off, Bret would block the aisle and they’d end up back in the ring where Natalya would bounce them around. Bret came up with the double sharpshooter idea which Vince McMahon was surprised he’d physically do that much coming off the cancer surgery and the bad wrist. He did an interview saying how much he enjoyed doing it and getting the big reaction, and remembering that was where one of his most famous matches, the WrestleMania 13 match with Austin, took place, as well as a house show cage match he remembers with Michaels. He noted that he talked with HHH and Stephanie at the show, more joking around. He said HHH was cordial and treated him great and Stephanie seemed very concerned when talking to him about his cancer scare. He said Shane was also very nice and noted that Shane brought up how Bret was protective of him when he first started in wrestling and told Bret he helped keep him away from a lot of vices and evils. But Hart also thought doing the Montreal finish was flat and uncreative. Well, join the club on that one, because it took the edge off what had been a strong match.

Lesnar is currently scheduled to return to television in August, presumably to build for a major match at SummerSlam. Wyatt and Strowman were the names originally talked about for his next match, but that was before they decided to cool their jets on Strowman and he was pulled from winning the Andre Battle Royal and being pushed as a monster all summer. .. After the NXT tapings on 4/28, they introduced Sean Hayes as the new strength and conditioning coach. Hayes, a Harvard graduate with a degree in economics, had been the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Houston Texans. He was put over strong at the post taping speech. While a lot of people took this story as they finally fired Matt Wichlinski, which is what happened, it was more they found a guy with stronger qualifications and replaced Wichlinski as much as fired Wichlinski and found a replacement. Still, there was a preponderance of shoulder injuries to NXT and WWE talent doing Wichlinski’s techniques which included heavy Olympic lifts, which are tough on the shoulders. Wichlinski’s name came up when a lot of the former talent was complaining about the coaching, the situation that ended up getting Bill DeMott fired. Hayes was best known for appearing in an episode of the HBO Series “Hard Knocks” last season where he did a spot-on impression of Randy Savage as well as another one on Ric Flair, so he’s a life-long fan. Hayes is from Florida but traveled all over the world as a football strength coach for the NFL, college football and international teams dating back to 1999.

Levesque signed an amendment to his contract as a performer on 5/9. The new deal is a three-year extension of his performers contract at the same terms, which would be a $1 million downside, a number he’s earned significantly more than every year of his current deal even though he doesn’t work a full schedule as a performer, but he is on most Raws and does several major shows per year as a wrestler in key spots. Last year he earned $1,713,360 as a performer. That is a separate deal from his executive contract which earned him $573,261. His total earnings between corporate bonuses, corporate incentive plans and his salaries was $3,112,624.

A book on the 100 Greatest Matches in WWE History was released on 5/10.

TMZ went up to Stephanie McMahon on 5/7 and asked her of Chyna would be put into the Hall of Fame and she said, “I’m sure that we will see Chyna in the Hall of Fame at some point in the future. I’m not sure exactly what year that will be, but there’s no denying her contributions to WWE.” She’s part of that era and was pushed as a major star. Some will get mad that WWE didn’t honor her when she was still alive, since it was clearly important to her, but I don’t think they could trust her and didn’t want all the WWE Hall of Famer gets arrested or whatever stuff that would embarrass them. Now it’s a different deal. It’s notable though that they never put Elizabeth in, who was really their first female superstar, likely due to the circumstances of her death.

There was also a report this past week that back in November, police were called on her. The story didn’t get out at the time. They got a report of a woman lying unconscious at 7 a.m. on the ground outside an apartment building in Redondo Beach, and when they arrived, it was Joanie Laurer, who smelled of booze. She said she lived in the complex, had been drinking wine and decided to sleep outside because she was struggling with her keys. She also had $20,000 in cash on hand which she said she just got for doing an autograph session. Paramedics came and said she was too drunk to take her of herself and she was booked for public intoxication.

Evolve did an interesting angle that sort of involved WWE on the 5/8 show in Queens, NY, on a show that also included two Cruiserweight classic tournament qualifying matches. In those matches, TJP (who was Manik in TNA) beat Fred Yehi and Drew Gulak beat Tracy Williams. The angle came during the grudge match main event with Johnny Gargano, who is under a WWE contract, against Drew Galloway, under a TNA contract and the TNA champion. This stemmed from an angle over WrestleMania weekend where the two broke up their tag team when Galloway went heel essentially claiming he helped build Evolve and the indie scene only for Evolve to be getting into bed with WWE. Gargano had Galloway in a crossface when Ethan Carter III ran in for the DQ. EC 3 then cut a long and very good anti-WWE promo basically saying that when Gargano made the remark about how Galloway blew it and that’s why he’s not in WWE, EC 3 said that Galloway became a world champion and he’s become a world champion, so it was the 203 (Stamford area code) and “King of Kings” (Paul Levesque), who blew it. WWE and HHH were never mentioned in the promo.

TNA was also never mentioned in the promo. Galloway is never mentioned as TNA champion in Evolve, but there is the implication as EC 3 mentioned both have been world champions. He then mockingly talked about how WWE (without mentioning it by name) is supposed to be the place to be and talked about the old version of NXT (the one on Syfy) where he talked about being in obstacle courses and wheelbarrow races. He also talked about being on NXT and doing six minute matches where you’re not allowed to do your cool moves. He also said how they weren’t former models, failed football players, bodybuilders or sons of wrestlers but they were two guys who loved wrestling. Galloway & EC 3 destroyed a few people including TJP and tons of security until Ethan Page made the save. Gargano and Page called EC 3 “Derrick Bateman” (his WWE name). This all led to a 6/10 show in Ybor City with Galloway & EC 3 vs. Gargano & TJP as well as Galloway vs. Page on 6/11 in Orlando on an Evolve show. The angle is not meant to be TNA vs. WWE cruiserweight tournament guys, although some will take it that way. Neither TNA nor WWE are ever mentioned. The idea that Galloway & EC 3 were guys screwed in their minds by the WWE and now they’re mad that Evolve is aligned with WWE. Obviously they are careful and everyone involved doesn’t want to do anything that would cause WWE to get mad or nix the angle.

From a TNA standpoint, Galloway and EC 3 have the contracts where they are in control of their indie bookings so they can do this without approval. TNA is trying to sign everyone to new deals where they’d book all their indie dates, which could be a problem down the line as TNA may ask for a lot more money since really Galloway likes doing Evolve because he likes the hardcore reaction and he has a lot of freedom in what he can do. Where EC 3 came in was that he suggested to Galloway that he’d like to do a show, it all worked out. EC 3 did make a reference to Bill DeMott (he was one of the trainees who had problems with DeMott) and talked about an “obese sociopath,” and then said, “Hey Bill, I won.

Kenneth Crawford, a 25-year-old former marine who was signed last year, was injured on the 5/6 show in Citrus Springs, FL. Crawford was wrestling Noah (Noah Pang-Potjes) in the opener when he went to the top rope, slipped, and fell straight down. He couldn’t move. Noah just put his arm over Crawford and the ref counted to three. They immediately stopped the show to work on him and he was knocked out cold and motionless. He still wasn’t moving when they put him on a stretcher and took him to the back. He was checked out and all the X-rays came back negative as did his concussion testing, so he’s okay. He’ll be held out of action as a precautionary measure.

This past week on the Edge & Christian show on the WWE Network, there was a comedy reference on the show. They do a segment where they actually make fun of the weirdness in WWE, like “Will WWE ever do this,” like they brought in A.J. Styles and asked if WWE would let them mention where he spent most of his career, and it came out they wouldn’t. So this week they asked if WWE would let them talk about Kurt Angle going into the Hall of Fame, and the answer was that they would, but only the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.

We don’t have the official WrestleMania numbers as far as exact gate goes, but the Hall of Fame ceremony on 4/2 at the American Airlines Center drew 9,074 paying $679,875, and the Raw after Mania on 4/4 drew 12,735 paying $836,325. What’s interesting is that even though both shows sold out well in advance, due to late tickets put on sale after production moved in, there was actually nearly 2,000 seats that could have been sold for the Hall of Fame and 1,100 for Raw that went unsold. The actual go-home Raw at the Barclays Center on 3/23 drew 14,414, a complete sellout, for $823,305. Actuals for a house show on 3/27 in Washington, DC, was 6,141 paying $311,475.

The 6/29 return to Honolulu after seven years is already sold out. Just to clarify rumors that had been going around, to the point even talent believed they were true, WWE has confirmed that this show will not be a network special. Also, the reports claiming that this show will feature Lesnar are also incorrect. Lesnar was never even asked about working the date and WWE is not advertising him for the show.

Regarding talk of a Charlotte vs. Asuka match that week, they may be facing off but it is not official. Charlotte, Asuka and Natalya are all booked for the Honolulu show and given Asuka will be a babyface in Honolulu, it could be a three-way or a tag in some form. Right now only Asuka and Paige are advertised for the Japan shows on the same tour. It would be logical that the talent used in Honolulu would go on to Japan.

Nakamura’s first main roster matches will be that week. It’ll be interesting to see who he’s booked against. Historically when it comes to matches like this in Japan, they go with Jericho as the utility man. As of this week, the Japan cards hasn’t been booked. Last year’s Japan tour saw them do a network special that was the most-watched non-PPV show up to that point in time in network history. There has been at least talk of something at Sumo Hall like last year, but nothing confirmed.

Team BAD is now both on the shelf. Tamina had knee surgery and Naomi is out of action with a torn tendon in her ankle.

A correction from last week regarding the Zayn vs. Owens start. The first time they ever wrestled each other was a three-way match in October 2003 with Pierre-Carl Ouellet and the first singles match was November 2003. We had them as November and December last week. Both were for the International Wrestling Syndicate promotion out of Quebec. Both would have been 19 at the time.

On June house shows, the planned Reigns vs. Styles vs. Sheamus three-ways have been changed to just Reigns vs. Sheamus, although that could change next week.

There is interest in Melissa Santos but the question is what her contract situation with Lucha Underground is. One idea mentioned was having Del Rio repackaged with her as his personal ring announcer. .. Wesley Blake of the Blake & Murphy tag team is out of action with an ACL injury, so that’s why Murphy has been working singles matches.

Dana Brooke debuted on Raw this week, reforming her alliance with Emma, and they’ll be feuding with Lynch and a to be determined babyface, perhaps Banks or Paige. The decision has been made to keep Bayley in NXT longer because they don’t have another female babyface star who can take her place. The problem is that Bayley’s character as it is, appealing to little girls in the big sister role, has a shelf life, because she can only play it when he looks young, and the longer she’s in NXT, the more they’ll have less time with it and will have to evolve it, and who knows if they can evolve it into something that clicks as well. I haven’t even been confident they could bring it up now without finding a way to screw it up.

On the Amore knockout, we’ve heard different reports regarding the knockout itself, and whether or not he was stunned from a knee, or he was fine until his head hit the middle rope and he got the whiplash effect that ended with his head hitting the apron. .. Heyman is doing the one man show circuit in the U.K. from 7/10 to 7/15 with events in London, Manchester and Glasgow.

Plans for Mexico this year are shows on 8/27 in Puebla and 8/28 in Leon, and then shows on 12/2 in Merida, 12/3 in Mexico City and 12/4 in Monterrey.

Dwayne Johnson’s Seven Bucks Entertainment is launching a YouTube channel this summer.

WWE is pushing a local angle for its NXT show on 5/14 in Portland, OR at the Moda Center, putting Tino Sabbattelli and Tucker Knight on the road tour which neither usually works. Sabbatelli, better known as Sabby Piscitelli, played safety at Oregon State University from 2004 to 2007 and was All-Pac 10 the final year. His opponent, Knight, real name Levi Cooper, went to North Marion High School in Portland and wrestled first at Portland State before transferring to Arizona State, where he placed at nationals as a heavyweight. Piscitelli said he played football at 225 pounds but he’s now 235-240.

Notes from the 5/9 Raw show. This was the hottest Raw crowd in a while, at least when it came to the wrestling, in particular the post-match confrontation with Styles and Reigns. The show drew 10,000 fans, which wasn’t sold out but a solid crowd for a mid-level market. Not much for Superstars as Cesaro beat Dallas with the giant swing and sharpshooter. Crews pinned Stardust after the spinning power bomb.

Raw opened with Jericho out for the Highlight Reel. Jericho said his guest was supposed to be Ambrose, but he’s not here, which Jericho took credit for. He said that last week he assaulted Ambrose, caused blunt force trauma, whiplash, vertigo and bulging discs and said that because of him, Ambrose may not be around for a long time. Ambrose had headlined the house shows over the weekend. Jericho then started talking about the potted plant that he broke over Ambrose’s head. They gave the plant the name “Mitch” and fans were chanting its name. Jericho said Mitch was more interesting, had more charisma and had more value to WWE than Ambrose. He said the fans can relate to Ambrose because he’s like them, while Jericho said that he was like Halley’s Comet, in that someone with is talent comes along once every 76 years.

Cass came out and fans were chanting “How you doin?” It was clear they want to push him as a new top star. He and Jericho had words. Jericho told him to go to the hospital and check on his friend, Enzo Annoying. He joked that Enzo and Ambrose are in the same hospital. Cass said that in the new era we stand and fight. Jericho got face-to-belly with him and he said, “I’m seven feet tall and you can’t teach that.” Jericho teased he was going to fight him from there. But of course he backed off. He left the ring and told Cass to fight himself. Then Jericho ran back t the ring to try and jump him but got kicked in the face.

Jericho was backstage with Stephanie complaining about how all the guys from the new era have no respect. He told Stephanie that Shane is fostering this new attitude. He called Stephanie “the smart McMahon,” and said that together they can stop this new era and Shane. Stephanie said that she thought Shane was doing the right thing and what Jericho can do about it is compete in the main event tonight against Cass. She then dressed him down (which wouldn’t be the last time on this show she did that) saying not to ever try and drive a wedge between she and her brother. She said Jericho can prove he’s not SAWFT, spelling it out and trying to talk with a Brooklyn accent.

Corbin pinned Ziggler in 8:32. Corbin said that he wasn’t part of the new era, but it’s the Baron Corbin era. That would, in fact, be a new era. He won clean with the End of Days. Corbin looked better than he did in NXT.

Shane was backstage with Charlotte and Ric Flair. They wanted Shane to reverse Stephanie’s decision about banning Ric from ringside in the Charlotte vs. Natalya title match at Extreme Rules. They told him to put his sister in her place. Shane said that not only will Stephanie’s decision stand, but he thinks Charlotte needs to stand on her own two feet and that Ric is also banned from ringside in her match tonight.

JoJo interviewed Anderson & Gallows & Styles. Styles said that last week he had the chance to obliterate Reigns with a chair but he took the high road but he saw the road Reigns took. He said now he would not hesitate to take Reigns out. He talked about how The Club is back together.

They were pushing a Goldust & Fandango vs. Breeze & R-Truth feud as Gondango vs. Gorgeous Truth. R-Truth pinned Fandango in a singles match in 2:11. Fandango threw a nice dropkick but otherwise just seems like a warm body put in as the fourth guy. R-Truth knocked Breeze off the apron and then used the downward spiral for the pin. This was done to build a tag match for Smackdown. They did more stuff on Raw to promote Smackdown than in the past, which is something they should be doing. R-Truth now has blond tips on his hair.

The next segment saw Cesaro, Miz and Owens with Shane and Stephanie talking about a three-way for the IC title. Miz wasn’t happy about that. Zayn came in and wanted to be added to the match. Owens said that makes no sense since he destroyed Zayn at Payback. Shane said that he isn’t going to hand him the spot and he’s going to have to earn it. Zayn challenged Miz to a match where if he won, he’d get added to the Extreme Rules PPV match. But if he lost, he’d go to the back of the line. Stephanie and Shane agreed to it. Miz again complained that only made it worse. Owens complained as well. Stephanie & Shane then told everyone they were excused, and Owens in particular was made to look like a complaining child who the adults sent to the room as opposed to a main event heel.

Paige pinned Charlotte in the first of three matches where the champions lost. This one made sense in storyline since the idea is building that Charlotte is off her game, there was distraction with Ric Flair being banned and that Natalya is primed to win the title. It also gets Paige, who has been forgotten, back into the game, perhaps as the next challenger since they need someone between Natalya now and Banks, who is the big challenger, but want to save her for later. They talked about how Paige came in with Charlotte although Paige was actually in well before Charlotte. At one point Paige kicked Charlotte off the apron and did a Ric Flair strut. Natalya was on commentary and kept talking about how Charlotte was hiding behind her father. She kept saying how Charlotte has no respect and lacks integrity and when asked about what happens if she doesn’t beat Charlotte, kept answering by talking about the weather in Omaha. Paige got the PTO on and Charlotte made the ropes. Charlotte went for a pin using the ropes and Natalya jumped out of the announcers chair and that distracted Charlotte. Paige used a fall away slam but Charlotte kicked out. Ric Flair came out to counter Natalya, and took off his watch like he was going to fight. They argued. Shane McMahon and a ton of refs came out to eject Ric and Charlotte was distracted. Paige kicked her and used a schoolgirl for the pin, which is the new pinning move of choice on Raw.

Zayn pinned Miz in a non-title match. This was a really good match. It wasn’t just Zayn either, as it was Miz’s best TV performance in a long time. Zayn wanted to do a dive but Maryse pulled Miz out of the way. Zayn used a moonsault block off the barricade. Zayn got out of the skull crushing finale. Lots of near falls back and forth. Miz used the figure four. Miz tried to get the pin using the ropes but ref John Cone saw it. They did the exact same spot in the previous match. Zayn won clean with the exploder into the corner and the Helluva kick.

Lynch did an interview. She claimed Emma’s eye poke was intentional last week on Raw. The story is that Lynch suffered an eye injury at WrestleMania. Emma confronted her and said that Lynch needed eyes in the back of her head. At that point Dana Brooke attacked Lynch from behind. Brooke laid her out and then tapped her on the head, which was the deal she would do to announcers in NXT.

They replayed the Backlund/Darren Young segment from Smackdown. Not sure where this is going past Backlund will be Young’s life coach, not wrestling coach, but Backlund said that wrestling is life. Really it felt like just a way to play off Donald Trump with the tag line “Make Darren Young Great Again.”

Backstage, they did a product placement ad with The New Day, Banks and Ziggler. Woods was promoting his video game channel where he uses the name Austin Creed (his original wrestling name on the indies). Ziggler showed up with pizza and they all took slices to where there was none left for Ziggler.

Shane was backstage with Ryder. Ryder talked about winning the IC title at Mania. He wanted into the match. Owens came out. Owens said how the “New Era” is about handing title matches to whiny undeserving people who beg for them in your office. The idea is that Owens always complains about people being whiny when the idea is he whines more than anyone. Owens again complained that the way he beat Zayn at Payback that he shouldn’t be in his title match. Ryder told Owens that he beat him at Mania. Owens said he never beat him, it was a ladder match and he stole the title. He asked Ryder why he was even here and if he was pushing an Internet show. Shane then made the ruling that Ryder would face Owens, and if Ryder won, he’d take Owens’ place in the IC title match. Then Shane kicked Owens out, so Owens got the boot for a second time.

Backstage they had a Reigns promo with the Usos talking about how they are family. Fans booed them, which is notable because by the end of the match, Reigns was cheered a lot.

Sin Cara pinned Rusev in 3:46. The ref was distracted and Kalisto used an enzuigiri on Rusev, allowing Sin Cara to win using a schoolboy. I think they are trying to make things unpredictable on finishes where guys on the PPV who would usually win now lose. There has been talk of Sin Cara feuding with Kalisto and breaking up the team, so if they do go in that direction, they could have Sin Cara say that he beat Rusev and claim it as a win and that Kalisto couldn’t beat Rusev (presuming in fact that Rusev wins the title, because losing here before the title match makes no sense unless he’s winning the title, although making sense isn’t often a high priority).

They did another vignette of the Colons from Puerto Rico. The name of the team will be the Shining Stars, Primo & Epico. They’re good workers but they’ve been repackaged so many times. The vignettes at least are trying to make them something, seemingly as heels everywhere but super babyfaces for Puerto Rico.

Reigns & Usos beat Styles & Anderson & Gallows via DQ in an elimination match. This ended up super-heated and was a good match. They booed Reigns like crazy at the start, and the Usos were booed because of their connection with Reigns. But it was pretty clear that The Club was working as the heels. The first fall to establish that saw Gallows punch Jey from outside the ring and Anderson pinned him with a schoolboy holding the tights in 2:38. Jimmy pinned Anderson with an inside cradle out of nowhere in 4:44. Styles pinned Jimmy in 7:00 with a springboard elbow. This pin took place during the commercial break, which is very much unlike WWE policy for television. They came back and showed the replay, and Reigns was left with Styles & Gallows. Reigns pinned Gallows in 9:18 after a Superman punch. The stuff with Styles vs. Reigns from that point on was great, and had some of the best in-ring heat in a long time. Among the highlights were Styles doing a springboard elbow outside the ring. Reigns threw Styles completely over the announcers table and onto the chairs. It ended when Anderson hit Reigns with a chair for the DQ in 11:39. Anderson and Styles were beating up Reigns. Gallows and the Usos all ended up into it.

In the ring, Gallows kicked a chair into Jey’s face while Anderson threw out Jimmy. Reigns then speared Gallows and Anderson. Styles hit the enzuigiri on Reigns. Styles went for the Styles Clash but Reigns backdropped him over the to rope. Styles came back onto the apron while Reigns had a chair. The crowd was really into this, with Reigns clearly portrayed as the face although Styles wasn’t full-fledged heel, just subtle. Reigns gave Styles the chair. Styles then kicked the chair to Reigns. He told Reigns to pick up the chair, and when he did, Styles went for the springboard forearm, but Reigns moved. Styles landed on his feet. Styles then bailed out of the ring like a heel and told Reigns, “I told you that you need it (the chair).” There were dueling chants for the two of them and both were cheered far more than booed. I wouldn’t read a lot into that because there have been weeks they’ve been able to get crowds to cheer Reigns, but then the next week it’s back to normal. But Styles vs. Reigns felt like a strong PPV main event the way the crowd was reacting and we already know they can deliver the goods.

Owens pinned Ryder to keep his spot in the IC title match in 4:03. Ryder did an elbow off the top which they are calling the el-bro drop. He went for the Rough Ryder but Owens turned it into a hotshot, then superkicked and pinned him after a pop up power bomb. Renee Young interviewed Cass. Cass said his match with Jericho was the biggest of his career. Well, I guess he’ll have to wait for it a little longer. He said he was dedicating the match to Enzo. He then said “How you doin” with the idea he’s a stud and she was smitten by it. Cass is really tall (6-foot-8 legit) and people like him a lot because of the act. He has a good voice and catch phrases, but he’s a little mechanical handling back-and-forth promos. It was real clear that aside from Shane & Stephanie’s angle, the main focus of this show was to get him over as a star and he was positioned strongly.

New Day came out. The Vaudevillains did an inset promo. The New Day had the last giant cereal kernel from WrestleMania with them, as this comedy “Power of the extreme booty-o” gimmick. It’s the deal of getting fans to react to things like the cereal kernel and the potted plant because that’s the easy crowd reactions they can control at will. When the Vaudevillains talked about being from the past, the New Day said that their era wasn’t too kind to them, making a motion like lynching and prejudice against blacks. But they made it a joke saying that era had no smart phones, not that it was racist, and without their GPS’s in their smart phone, they’d get lost and made more smart phone jokes. Dudleys beat Big E & Kingston in 5:09. With all the champs losing and upsets, this didn’t seem to serve any purpose unless it’s a way to get the Dudleys in a three-way program. Originally the Dudleys were supposed to go with Enzo & Cass, but who knows how Cass will be positioned now, or when Enzo will be back, so they needed something. The match had no reactions until Woods started playing the trombone. The Vaudevillains came out and attacked Woods. Big E tried to help Woods. In the ring, Devon pinned Kingston with a lariat. After the match, the Vaudevillains beat down the New Day, ending with English doing the whirling dervish on Kingston.

Cass vs. Jericho never happened. The lights went out for Jericho’s jacket and then he was attacked and the lights stayed out. When they lights finally came on, Jericho was beaten up in the entrance area and Ambrose was in the ring wearing Jericho’s jacket. Ambrose started tearing up the jacket. Jericho was screaming that it was a $15,000 jacket. This was very clearly the modernized version of an angle where a babyface tore up one of Ric Flair’s robe. Jericho hit the ring and Ambrose beat him down and continued to ruin the jacket, with all the electrical stuff that made it light up falling out. Jericho managed to eye rake Ambrose and grab his ruined jacket. Cass confronted Jericho. Jericho told Cass to get out of his way. Cass just stood there in front of Jericho with them really playing up the height difference. Jericho slapped Cass in the face. Cass threw him into the ring and Ambrose laid out Jericho with Dirty deeds. Ambrose then started stomping the electrical stuff and grabbed scissors and continued to cut up the jacket.

The show ended with Shane & Stephanie together, proud of their show. In many ways this show had the feel of Lucha Underground, where the wrestling was the backdrop and the show was about Shane & Stephanie running a wrestling show, in a sense Camp WWE with adults and some wrestling matches. Shane said that they ended up coexisting pretty well. Stephanie thanked Shane for giving her a chance to prove herself and they talked about how they can work together next week. Stephanie joked that maybe they can do a Ride Along episode on the WWE Network but Shane said that’s getting ahead of ourselves. After Shane left, Stephanie looked at the photo of Vince & Shane when Shane was a little kid and got that look where you know that the whole smiley babyface act is fake and she’s trying to lull Shane’s guard down and double cross him. No doubt that will be the theme of the show for months.

After Raw went off the air, Jericho, with the remnants of his destroyed jacket, started yelling at the crowd and called the fans idiots and yelled at them for cheering as his jacket was destroyed. He yelled that the most iconic ring jacket in wrestling was destroyed by a barbarian. Jericho was yelling at the fans and ripped on Omaha. Ambrose then came down and Jericho told him he was in trouble for destroying a jacket that was going to end up in the Smithsonian. Jericho then called the fans idiots who don’t know what the Smithsonian even is and told them to Google it. Jericho started talking about getting Ambrose arrested and going to jail. Jericho said that if Ambrose didn’t apologize, he would beat him up right there. Ambrose apologized, said he would get the jacket fixed and extended his hand. Jericho said he owed him $15,000 and wanted a check. They shook hands, and then Ambrose of course gave Jericho the Dirty Deeds to end the show.

Notes from the 5/10 tapings in Des Moines. The rating here will be interesting because the show had more of a push and more things advertised from Raw than usual. One thing notable is they pushed Reigns vs. Gallows on Raw, and ended up changing plans. The show drew 4,500. Ziggler pinned Viktor in a dark match. Cass pinned Dallas, which was a surprise after making him such a main character on Raw. Crews pinned Stardust with his power bomb. Corbin pinned Ryder with the End of Days. Smackdown opened with an Ambrose promo. He said that they were now even. Jericho destroyed his potted plant. He destroyed Jericho’s jacket. But he said he was going to take the biggest thing away from Jericho, which is his ego. The lights went out. When they came on, Jericho was standing in the middle of the ring over a fallen Ambrose. He then put Ambrose in a straitjacket and destroyed Ambrose when he couldn’t defend himself. Ambrose threw some kicks but for the most part was at Jericho’s mercy and was laid out with a codebreaker. Jericho was pulled off but got in one last sucker punch. Jericho stood on the table and talked about giving the Gift of Jericho.

Rusev beat Sin Cara with the Accolade to reverse the result from Raw. Renee Young interviewed Emma & Dana Brooke. Brooke talked about being a fitness champion and cut a promo on Lynch. Brooke pinned Lynch. The Club was backstage with Styles telling Anderson & Gallows to take out the Usos, so the advertised Reigns vs. Gallows idea was changed to Usos vs. Anderson & Gallows. New Day did a promo on how The Vaudevillains attacked them on Raw. They said that The Vaudevillains came out in a match that didn’t involve them. The Vaudevillains came out and again said they were real men from a bygone era. English started singing about being WWE tag team champions. English then pinned Kingston. The Family was backstage and Reigns told the Usos that if Styles shows his face, he’ll be out there ASAP. Usos beat Anderson & Gallows via DQ when Gallows hit one of them with a chair shot. There were dueling chants of “Let’s Go Usos/Usos suck,” so Reigns had half turned them heel even though Anderson & Gallows worked as the heels. They did another Backlund & Darren Young segment. Backlund was giving him advice on managing time, saying they he needed to learn how to use a watch, a calendar, the mail and other things. Young said he could do all of that on his phone. Backlund was very upset, so I guess the gimmick will be that Backlund hates new technology.

R-Truth & Breeze beat Goldust & Fandango. Fandango turned on Goldust and Breeze pinned him. Then Breeze turned on R-Truth and he and Fandango left Goldust & R-Truth laying, so it looks like this will be a new program. All that build to get to Goldust & R-Truth and it’s for a program with Fandango & Breeze. But at least it gives Fandango & Breeze something. They pushed that the Shining Stars will debut, at least under the new tag team name, on the 5/16 Raw in Greensboro. Renee interviewed Charlotte and Ric Flair. They complained about what happened on Raw with Ric being banned from ringside. Ric complained about how the McMahons have been treating him and he said he was the dirtiest player in the game and he’s taught Charlotte everything he knows. Owens & Miz beat Cesaro & Zayn when Owens pinned Cesaro after a frog splash after Zayn went to give Owens the helluva kick, but he moved and the kick nailed Cesaro. After the taping finished, Cesaro & Zayn laid out Miz & Owens using the Helluva kick and the giant swing. The show ended with Saxton, Ranallo, JoJo, Cesar and Zayn all dancing in the ring together.

Notes from the 5/4 NXT show. Samoa Joe did a promo to open the show saying that as champion, he runs things and if anyone has a problem with that, he’d be glad to beat them down and choke them out. New music played and out came Eric Young. He didn’t get nearly the reaction James Storm got when he debuted, but it was still a very good reaction with “EY” chants. Young said that “You know me and I know you, acknowledging TNA without violating the policy that you can never say “TNA,” pointed to Joe’s belt and said “I collect those.” Joe then walked out of the ring, saying that “You don’t even belong in the same ring as me.” They ended up setting up a match later in the show, although it wasn’t for the title. Nia Jax pinned Tessa Blanchard in 1:08 with a Samoan drop and leg drop. You really couldn’t get much out of something that short past Blanchard is a pretty girl.

Austin Aries pinned Tye Dillinger in 4:36 with a spinning elbow and a 450. It was good for what it was. Aries is one of those guys who is in full control of the situation and everything he does has “pro” written all over it. Still funny that he tried out for “Tough Enough” the year Big Andy Leavine won, and made it to the final cuts and then was in the final cut before picking the guys for the show. I guess that tells you how much the mentality about what talent looks like has changed here in just a few years. Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder beat Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder in 4:13 with the shatter machine on Rawley. This wasn’t as long nor as competitive as you’d think. It was designed with the sole purpose of getting Dash & Dawson over as a superior team, and getting Rawley & Ryder were there to get them over and sacrifice themselves in the process. You’d think the setup is for Dash & Dawson to challenge Jason Jordan & Chad Gable at the next Takeover show but they didn’t directly say that.

Alex Riley did an interview about his match next week with Shinsuke Nakamura. You can really see the absence of Dusty Rhodes as promo coach in this one, although Riley should have learned from Rhodes. He said that he doesn’t know what strong style means, but that Nakamura is half his size, one-tenth as strong and has zero athletic coordination. The rule of thumb is never to say your opponent is a bad athlete or uncoordinated, because if you lose, you lost to a bad athlete, and if you won, you beat nobody. You can insult almost everything about a guy but because wrestling is a work, the illusion is they are all good athletes or they wouldn’t be there. No Way Jose pinned Noah Potts in 2:16 with a full nelson slam. They said Jose was 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. He’s tall, but that sounded kind of ridiculous. Plus, Potts is really tall as well. Potts had been called Noah Kekoa previously and has been working house shows as just plain Noah. Aries did a promo. He said Dillinger was an A level talent, but that’s not as good as a AA level talent, and called himself a perfect 20 (since Dillinger’s gimmick is the “perfect 10.” Aries said that when he arrived, it was seen as a great acquisition, but now he’s flying under the radar and it may take some extra initiative to get to the top.

Main event saw Samoa Joe beat Eric Young in 11:04 with the muscle buster and choke. Solid match. Young was given enough offense to be credible. But his role was clearly to come in and put Joe over strong and be laid out in the process. It’s not the kind of debut you’d give to a guy you have big plans for. We haven’t heard that he’s signed a contract. Overall, he didn’t get over at the level Storm did as noted, and Storm got a lowball offer, but he’s a solid worker and a good veteran who can work with the younger talent who has a name to where people know who he is.

The first NXT show of the weekend was 5/6 in Salina, KS, before 1,200 fans. No Way Jose pinned Murphy with the half nelson slam. Lots of stalling and dancing. The crowd was into Jose. Manny Andrade beat Chris Girard. The crowd didn’t know either guy but the work got fans into the match. Andrade’s double moonsault spot got over big. He won with the running knees into the corner. Aries pinned Dillinger with the rolling elbow. Crowd cheered for both guys. Asuka retained the women’s title in a three-way over Bayley and Alexa Bliss. Bayley used the Bayley-to-belly on Asuka, but Bliss threw Bayley out of the ring to try and steal the pin. But instead Asuka put Bliss in the Asuka lock for the submission. Nakamura beat Breeze. A lot of comedy and Nakamura sold most of the way. Jason Jordan & Chad Gable beat Alexander Wolfe & Sawyer Fulton (who worked this tour instead of Dawson & Wilder, who were used to headline the Florida shows). Crowd was flat here as they were so into Nakamura. Joe beat Balor to keep the NXT title with the muscle buster. The crowd was split between the two. Good match. Joe worked as the heel.

The 5/6 show in Oklahoma City drew 1,200 with Bayley pinning Bliss. Of course Bayley got one of the best reactions on the show. Andrade beat Girard. Fans chanted “Let’s go rookies” at these two at first but were into Andrade by the end. Aries beat Murphy with the last chancery via submission. Jordan & Gable beat Wolfe & Fulton again. They used the double-team back suplex as the finisher. Wolfe & Fulton’s offense evidently didn’t look good but fans were into Jordan & Gable. Breeze pinned No Way Jose. That’s weird because the No Way Jose guy is like a modern Jimmy Valiant, and those are the kind of guys who you don’t beat at house shows. Breeze got a real big reaction, so it’s the old NXT deal where fans pop huge for a guy on the main roster no matter who it is. Breeze did an interview and claimed to be one of the guys who put NXT on the map. The crowd reacted to both as faces even though Breeze was the heel. Breeze won with the super model kick after distracting the ref. Asuka beat Eva Marie with the Asuka lock. Nakamura & Balor beat Joe & Dillinger in the main event. Dillinger came out and cut an anti-Oklahoma City Thunder promo for easy heat. Dillinger worked most of the way with the idea Joe didn’t want to tag in against either guy. Whenever Joe and Nakamura would square off, the place would go nuts. Then Joe would tag out. The finish saw Balor pin Dillinger after the Blood Sunday DDT while at the same time Nakamura hit the Kinshasa on Joe.

The final show on 5/7 in Tulsa before a sellout 1,000 fans saw Jose in Murphy. The crowd was super into Jose. There were also a ton of kids at the show with Balor and Bayley merchandise. Andrade beat Girard with the double knees. Again, nobody knew who they were but both got over through their work. Bayley pinned Eva Marie with the Bayley-to-belly. There was nothing wrong with the match. While Eva was booed more than anyone on the show, she had about 25 percent cheers and when people would chant “You can’t wrestle” at her, they’d come back with “Yes she can.” Aries pinned Dillinger with a roll-up. Dillinger got a big reaction, and people even cheered him when he ripped on Tulsa. Same type of match they had on TV. Crowd was split between the two. Asuka beat Bliss with the Asuka lock. Asuka sold a lot for Bliss and once again that took the crowd out of the match, because they just feel Asuka should run through her. Bliss was bleeding all over from the face and needed medical attention after. Nakamura pinned Breeze with the Kinshasa. Crowd cheered Breeze a ton, with dueling chants. As much as Breeze is going nowhere on the main roster, when he appeared in NXT he’s a babyface just because people saw him on the big TV show. After he lost, even though he was the heel, the place was chanting “Thank you Tyler.” Jordan & Gable beat Sawyer & Wolfe once again to keep the tag titles in a very good match. Joe beat Balor in the main event to retain the NXT title. Also a very good match, lots of near falls and Joe won clean with the muscle buster and choke. Balor ended the show singing all kinds of songs after the show including “Freebird,” “Danny Boy,” “Lemonade,” and finished with “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” which got the biggest reaction of all.

The other NXT tour in Florida opened on 5/6 in Citrus Springs before 150 fans. As noted before, the crowds in Florida have been noticeably dropping of late. The show opened with the scary situation involving Kenneth Crawford in the match with Noah. Patrick Clark pinned Kishan Raftaar with a fisherman suplex. Clark is doing a cross between Apollo Creed and Hulk Hogan, with the flag on his tights and cupping the ear to get reactions. Cupping his ear will likely be death on the main roster. Josh Woods beat Dan Matha with an ankle lock. Mojo Rawley pinned Elias Samson. What was weird was Samson usually gets booed with the go-away heat deal where people don’t like the music and don’t like that he’s pushed. But here he was cheered. He worked heel but was surprised at the cheers. Tino Sabbatelli pinned Angelo Dawkins with a running powerslam. Nia Jax pinned Adrienne Reese with a tree slam. The main event saw Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder beating Mikey Nicholls & Shane Veryzer (Haste) in a great match.

The other Florida show was 5/7 in Orlando before 300 fans. Jax & Mandy Rose beat Aliyah & Daria when Jax pinned Daria with a tree slam. Woods beat Raftaar with the ankle lock. Nicholls & Veryzer did an interview saying they were the best tag team in the world. Samson beat Cezar Bononi, who is an amateur wrestler from Brazil. Samson won via spinning neckbreaker. Sabbatelli beat Dawkins with a running power slam. Patrick Clark beat Matha with a roll-up in a match Matha dominated with power moves. Reese pinned Royce with a stunner of the top rope. Main event saw The Vaudevillains return and beat Dawson & Wilder. The Vaudevillains worked as the faces since guys from WWE working NXT shows are usually faces even if heels on TV. It was a clean win.

The Reigns tour opened on 5/6 in Bismarck, ND, before 3,500 fans. 5/7 in Rapid City, SD, drew 4,500 fans. 5/8 in Sioux Falls, SD, drew 4,000.

The Ambrose tour opened 5/7 in Las Cruces, MN, before 6,800 fans as WWE once again did big business in a predominately Hispanic market that got huge reactions for Kalisto and Del Rio. 5/8 in Rio Rancho, NM, drew 3,700.

In Bismark, Ziggler pinned Corbin with a superkick to open. They did a rare heel win that isn’t a title match, although it made sense since it was Gallows & Anderson over Henry (first match since WrestleMania) & Darren Young with the Magic killer on Young. O’Neil pinned Fandango with the Clash of the Titus. Zayn pinned Stardust with the Helluva kick. Miz beat Cesaro to keep the IC title in a match similar to their PPV match as Cesaro had him in the sharpshooter and Miz was tapping but Maryse had the ref distracted. Miz came back to win clean with the Skull crushing finale. Post-match, Miz went to hit Cesaro with a belt shot and Cesaro came back and gave him the giant swing and laid him out with the neutralizer.

Charlotte pinned Natalya to keep the women’s title with her feet on the ropes. Part of the match story is Charlotte kept getting Natalya in submissions and Natalya would never quit. Big Cass pinned Diego with the East River crossing. Main event saw Reigns retain the title in a three-way over Styles and Owens. The fans cheered all three with Reigns being cheered a lot. The match was about putting Reigns over as the star, as he survived the forearm by Styles and the frog splash, and ended up winning by knocking Styles out of the ring with a Superman punch, and then pinning Owens after a spear.

Rapid City was mostly the same show. The only change is that Sheamus arrived on th tour so they had Reigns vs. Sheamus for the title and Owens vs. Styles in a singles match. Styles pinned Owens with the forearm. Cass on this show pinned Primo, so he worked the match without the Matadores Diego costume and used his new gimmick. Reigns of course pinned Sheamus with a spear in the title match main event.

Sioux Falls was the same show as Rapid City except in a different match order. Once again, Primo worked as Primo instead of as Diego as he did the first night. O’Neil vs. Fandango went about one minute. Before the Charlotte vs. Natalya match, ring announcer Eden Stiles asked the crowd if they wanted to see some beautiful women in the ring, which may not be the right way to build if you’re trying to sell it as something new and different. Styles vs. Owens said to be the best match. Owens got as many cheers as boos. Crowd was with Cass in the sing-along opening promo and they kept the match short. I’m not sure if that’s the best idea, because if Cass is going to be pushed as a star singles wrestler, he should be having matches with time when you run in Sioux Falls for the experience. Reigns and Shamus were both booed when they came out, so the deal of Reigns being cheered at house shows isn’t the case anymore. Since he worked as the face, it was about 50% cheers as the match wore on.

Las Cruces was a hot crowd. Lynch & Banks beat Emma & Lana. Lana got a big reaction. Banks used the Banks statement on Emma for the submission while Lynch had the Fujiwara armbar on Lana. Good match. Sin Cara pinned Fernando of Los Matadores. Sin Cara was a big favorite as even though he’s billed from Mexico, the area fans know he’s really from El Paso. Goldust pinned Viktor in a match with R-Truth as referee. All played for comedy in building up a Goldust & R-Truth partnership. R-Truth would ignore when Viktor had him pinned, or count super slow. When Goldust had Viktor down, R-Truth gave him a fast three count. Because of the dynamic the cheating referee spots were babyface spots.

New Day, being Big E & Woods (Kingston had the weekend off because he had asked for some time off besides Raw after his wife gave birth last week), kept the tag titles in a three-way over Show & Kane and Strowman & Rowan. Show got a huge reaction, bigger than New Day. They used elimination rules and Kane pinned Rowan after a choke slam and then Strowman took out Kane, and Big E immediately came from behind Kane for the schoolboy pin. Strowman & Rowan then attacked Kane & Show. E & Woods ran in and both teams worked together to do a double post-match choke slam on both Strowman & Rowan. Kane & Show danced with New Day after the match. Ryder & Rawley beat Axel & Dallas. Not much reaction. The finish was the Hype Ryder on Axel. Kalisto pinned Del Rio in the hottest match on the show. Del Rio got a huge babyface reaction since it was a Hispanic audience but as it went on the reaction was more mixed since he worked as the heel. Del Rio removed the padding from the turnbuckle. Kalisto sends Del Rio head first into the exposed metal and followed it up with Salida del Sol. Good match and the fans took it like it was the main event. Ambrose pinned Rusev via Dirty Deeds in the main event. Lana was kicked out for interfering midway through.

Rio Rancho was the same show. Before the show they asked fans which of the top three matches at Mania they wanted to watch on the screen, and in a surprise, Lesnar vs. Ambrose got the most votes over Undertaker vs. Shane. Reigns vs. HHH, the third choice, always comes in a distant last. The only difference was Sin Cara pinned Epico, so he went with his new gimmick without the mask. The comedy is that he used his Los Matadores entrance video when he came out, and the fans booed that. R-Truth was eating cotton candy while he refereed the Goldust vs. Viktor match.