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November 13, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Chris Jericho makes surprise return to NJPW, GSP returns, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 November 13, 2017

 

UFC 217 POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 257 (100.0%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 0 (00.0%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt 122

Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping 119

Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 10

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Mark Godbeer vs. Walt Harris 93

Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal 33

 

NEW JAPAN POWER STRUGGLE

Thumbs up 213 (99.1%)

Thumbs down 2 (00.9%)

In the middle 0 (00.0%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi 157

Kenny Omega vs. Baretta 39

Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay 10

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Minoru Suzuki vs. Toru Yano 98

Tenzan & Kojima & Makabe vs. Bullet Club 38

Ten man tag 20

David Finlay vs. Katsuya Kitamura 11

 

IMPACT BOUND FOR GLORY

Thumbs up 19 (26.8%)

Thumbs down 52 (73.2%)

In the middle 0 (00.0%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

X Division six-way 44

Team TNA vs. Team AAA 12

Eli Drake vs. Johnny Impact 10

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Abyss vs. Grado 43

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 11/7.

 

In one of the bigger shocks of the year, after Kenny Omega retained the U.S. title beating Trent Baretta at the New Japan’s Power Struggle show on 11/5 in Osaka, and he and the Young Bucks were in the ring, Omega did a joking promo about how this is the part of the show where whoever challenges him comes out to introduce himself. Then Omega started speaking in Japanese, a language he knows fluently, which is one of the reasons the fans accept him as such a major star. Then he asked, in Japanese, for whoever is his next challenger to come out. Nobody did. He then ended the promo with his trademark line, pointing his hand like it’s a gun, saying, “I bid you adieu, goodbye and good night.”

At that point, the lights went out and a video played. There was a countdown on the screen, somewhat similar to the countdown video promos Chris Jericho did when he arrived in the WWF in 1999, and again when he returned after a several year absence after retiring to try music and acting.

Jericho’s face finally appeared on the screen. Jericho cut a promo, complete with tearing up a photo of Omega and saying that “he’s not the best in the world, I am.” Jericho brought up names like Shawn Michaels, Edge and C.M. Punk, claiming all of them said they were the best in the world, but those three are all gone from pro wrestling and he’s still here, making him the best in the world. He said he was the Alpha, and said he wanted a match where it’s the Alpha against the Omega, and said he wanted it at Wrestle Kingdom 12 on 1/4 at the Tokyo Dome.

The basic idea for this angle went back months. In the past few weeks, Jericho and Omega had gone back-and-forth on social media, with Jericho trying to put Omega down for never having been a top star in the major leagues and how what you do anywhere but WWE doesn’t count. At one point a week ago, Omega said that this was all fun, but since there was no payoff for all this, it’s become a waste of time. But, the two kept going at it on Twitter. The Young Bucks were involved as well, acting disappointed that one of the major stars would dismiss guys that weren’t in the WWE.

Of course, aside from the obviousness that Jericho’s comments were clearly meant for a reaction, and the two are too professional in their own way to spend that much time on a twitter feud, the only giveaway that I was surprised was when Jericho announced that The Young Bucks would be on his cruise. Jericho’s association with ROH was already public with the announcement of an ROH tournament as part of his cruise. Jericho had originally tried to work with WWE and get NXT talent to perform on the cruise, but WWE turned down the idea. After the Omega match was announced, Cody’s name was also announced for the cruise.

Still, I’d have figured if that was the case, he’d have at least waited for the angle reveal to announce that the Bucks were on the cruise. I had expected Jericho to face Omega, either at the Tokyo Dome or on the cruise, since they are doing live matches on Jericho’s cruise. Of the two, the Tokyo Dome, being the second biggest pro wrestling live event of the year, would make the most sense. The angle was done extremely well live, particularly the sell job by announcers Don Callis (who had a hand in doing the angle) and Kevin Kelly. But they didn’t need to do that, since the Osaka crowd reacted big with Y2J chants even though the promo was all in English.

The story of this match dates back to this past summer. Jericho was watching how much attention the Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather fight got, and came to the conclusion that the reason it was going to be such a success (and it ended up grossing more revenue than any combat sports event in history) was because it was two top guys in a match people thought they would never get a chance to see, because they were from different sports and different companies that don’t work together. But they did.

He tried to figure out how he could use what happened there and worked so big in his own world. So he came up with the idea of doing a singles match with Omega, who had become the biggest star in the U.S. with a non-WWE pedigree coming off his win of last year’s G-1 tournament and his Tokyo Dome and Osaka main events with Kazuchika Okada.

A unique aspect of the match is that Jericho, Omega and Callis all grew up in Winnipeg and Omega and Callis still live there and Callis is close with both of them, and the match will be a unique situation where two wrestlers in the No. 2 match on the second biggest live show of the year are both from Winnipeg, as will be one of the announcers.

Jericho pitched the idea to Callis over the summer, who spoke with Omega about it. Omega was likely going to wrestle Kota Ibushi at the Tokyo Dome, which also figures into why Ibushi will be challenging Cody for the ROH title at the Dome show.

It is notable that Jericho has said for years that he would never wrestle outside WWE. Still, he’d felt out and discussed things with other promotions like TNA at times.

Omega liked the idea and pitched it to Gedo, who in another lifetime, was the tag team partner of Jericho, when Jericho used the name Liondo in Genichiro Tenryu’s WAR promotion in the mid-90s. There was a secret meeting in late August in New York with New Japan officials and Jericho, but the actual deal wasn’t finalized until early October. The video itself was filmed shortly after that, about two weeks ago, in Los Angeles.

Jericho’s social media personality in building the match as a heel took the approach that anything but WWE was minor leagues and what he did in New Japan didn’t matter since it wasn’t WWE. On his podcast, he said that at some point he would tell the complete story of how it happened, but that he considered Omega the best wrestler in the world right now.

Jericho’s last WWE contract was set to expire with WrestleMania this past April. When he signed the contract, the plan was for Jericho to go into WrestleMania as the Universal champion, and then lose the title at WrestleMania to Kevin Owens. Plans changed, as the decision was made to have Bill Goldberg, rather than Jericho, win the title from Owens, and then lose it to Brock Lesnar. That’s why Jericho vs. Owens turned into a program for the U.S. title. The angle was going to well that he ended up signing a one-month extension to last through early May, and then dropped the title and left, so he’s been a free agent for the past six months, contrary to a lot of reports published this past week.

He did work several dates as a free agent with WWE, a three-show tour over the summer in Singapore and Sumo Hall in Tokyo (he likes going to Japan because it was a big part of his early career) and one Smackdown broadcast in what was a one-time deal, because he’s on good terms with WWE. He was asked at the last minute to do the last Raw PPV show due to the viral infection situation but at the time had concert commitments and couldn’t do the show. The point being, he’s always been on good terms from a business standpoint with Vince McMahon and WWE, but this is not a deal WWE was involved in. Jericho signed the one shot with New Japan so it’s not something, similar to Jim Ross working New Japan, that isn’t going to be stopped by McMahon, and I’m not insinuating in the least that McMahon in this day and age would want to stop it, as this isn’t the 80s or the 90s and the world and he are very different.

That said, those close to the situation expect him back in WWE in 2018, with one person saying that they don’t know the date but it could be as early as the Raw 25th anniversary special with the idea he’d have just come from making news and then would return as a bigger deal than before, citing how big the crowds reacted everywhere to A.J. Styles when he made his WWE debut coming from New Japan Pro Wrestling.

It is also possible they could extend the deal, given that most would expect an Omega win here, but Jericho winning the title would actually elevate the title to the No. 2 belt in Japan, and allow them to do a second match. But we’re told the deal as it stands right now is one match.

As far as Omega goes, his New Japan contract expires on January 31, 2018, but unlike last year, there’s little talk of him leaving. He had said months ago that unless something unforeseen happens, he would be signing with New Japan for another year. His 2018 deal is said to give him a considerable bump in pay, as well as a strong creative voice in all of his angles.

The fact it’s close to a given he’s staying is why he’s been announced for shows such as the ROH Supercard of Honor on 4/7, where he’s likely to be the headliner. In 2016, company officials were talking months before the end of the year like it was probable he was going to WWE after the Tokyo Dome (he himself at the end of the contract had said he was planning on staying but it wasn’t 100 percent until he finalized the deal in early 2017), while at this point he is a key figure in both New Japan and major ROH show 2018 plans.

On 11/9, he said in Tokyo Sports, “I’m staying in New Japan 100 percent. This is where wrestlers can be themselves and fight for themselves. I want to show how great a place it is.”

He also said in the interview that Jericho is not full-time with New Japan and said that Vince McMahon gave Jericho permission to do the match. It’s not exactly that, since Jericho was a free agent and he didn’t need permission, but he is expected to return to WWE and there is said to be no issue in his doing the match.

From a New Japan standpoint, the idea of putting a WWE guy in the No. 2 match of their biggest event of the year was strictly a business move. It was said to be not an easy deal to put together, but in the end, all sides wanted it to happen. While Tokyo Dome shows over the past few years have been built around New Japan talent, with maybe somebody like Kota Ibushi as an outsider, or some NOAH talent underneath when they had the working agreement. But like with WWE using outsiders like Bill Goldberg and Sting at WrestleMania, the Dome show historically was about bringing in stars from other parts of the world to augment the New Japan stars and present dream matches. The nature of the business today, with fewer needle moving stars, made that difficult. But in the past, everyone from Hulk Hogan to Bob Sapp to Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada, Don Frye, Kenta Kobashi and tons others have been used to try and make the Dome shows special. When the business started to fall in the late 90s and early 00s, they were able to draw big crowds matching New Japan stars against the top stars who still meant something as draws from other promotions, so this type of match is really the way they had historically done business. Since 2000, they’ve used outsiders like Genichiro Tenryu, Kawada, Jun Akiyama, Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Hase, Misawa, Kazuyuki Fujita, Josh Barnett, Sapp, Satoshi Kojima and Yoshihiro Takayama as outsiders facing New Japan talent in main events.

The idea is it makes the show special, and that they can recoup the cost of using Jericho based on selling more tickets to the Dome and increasing sales of New Japan World. From a booking standpoint, the Omega vs. Jericho match itself elevates the prestige of the new championship and in the end, Omega has to win the final match of their program, which in some ways is good for the company in its home market.

It’s been conceded on the New Japan World front that the idea of streaming pro wrestling sites or sites like that have been a tough sell in the Japanese market for cultural reasons where paying extra for television has never been popular like in other parts of the world. In Japan, historically, the big matches were always on free TV, while in the U.S., they were either at the arena, or for a generation in boxing, on closed-circuit where you paid extra, and later on PPV. Netflix, which is popular in the U.S., also died in Japan, as did the WWE Network when it was introduced even though the country as more hardcore wrestling fans than all but a few places on Earth. Because of that, there is a push to try and build numbers up overseas in markets where streaming has proved to be successful.

There is the argument that the Dome being the show with all of these incredible matches in a row at the end would be weakened from that standpoint in not having Omega vs. Ibushi, which, leading to the Okada vs Tetsuya Naito main event could give them a ridiculous 1-2 punch like most of the Wrestle Kingdom shows in recent years have done. The onus there is on Jericho, and it is a different style than he works in WWE, but he’s also worked for years in Japan so it’s not a completely foreign style to him.

That wasn’t the only angle of its type at Power Struggle. Tanahashi ended the show beating Ibushi to retain the IC title in a match, if it had taken place in any other year, would be talked about as a late candidate for match of the year. Tanahashi did his long post-match celebration, complete with several encores. Essentially what made this angle work was the timing. Everyone thought the show was over, his interview and air guitar spot was over. And he was leaving. But the fans kept chanting “encore” at him so he’d come back. So the idea that there would be an angle was no longer in the people’s minds, even though it was promised that the introduction of Switchblade, a new character, would be at the show.

Tanahashi pinned Ibushi four hours and 30 minutes after the start of the show. Tanahashi’s post-match took another ten minutes when the video showing switchblades on the screen appeared out of nowhere. He was revealed as Jay White, showing him putting a knife through a piece of paper with the date January 5, 2017 (the night he left New Japan). After the video played, White came out to a big reaction with a presentation somewhat similar to how NXT does the ring introduction for Aleister Black. The two went face-to-face and White spoke to Tanahashi in Japanese, but said he was taking this (the IC title). They went at it, with the idea that Tanahashi had just come from a 30 minute grueling match with Ibushi, and they started elbows with White getting the better of it, and he laid Tanahashi out with a downward spiral. White then took off his cross necklace on Tanahashi’s chest and left, and White said, “Tanahashi, this was always going to happen. It was always going to be me and you from day one.”

The angle showed a lot of balls for Gedo to pull given the company has been built around a traditional hierarchy system. White is a great technical worker and it’s been clear for a few years he was going to be a star some day, but the name Jay White third from the top at the Tokyo Dome in his first match back getting a title match with Tanahashi was a bold move.

Takaaki Kidani has targeted 30,000 paid attendance for this year’s show, up from 26,192 last year, a level they’ve been at for the previous four years since the promotion’s business upswing.

The Dome show is starting an hour later this year, at 3:40 a.m. Eastern time on a Thursday morning. Thus far, five championship matches have been announced, with Okada vs. Naito as the main event, plus Omega vs. Jericho, Tanahashi vs. White, new IWGP jr. champion Marty Scurll (who beat Will Ospreay for the title at Power Struggle in the only title change on the show) in a four-way with Kushida, Hiromu Takahashi and Ospreay, Cody vs. Ibushi for the ROH title and Sho & Yoh defending the IWGP jr. titles against The Young Bucks. An IWGP tag team title match will come out of the tournament on the next tour, as will the remainder of the card, with the rest of the card expected to be announced right after the 12/11 show in Fukuoka.

The Young Bucks are pushing that they want to move out of the junior heavyweight tag team division to the heavyweight division, noting that if they win, that will be record seventh time they’ve held the belts and there’s nothing more to accomplish in the division. Quite frankly, New Japan is the last promotion left with the heavyweight and junior heavyweight dichotomy. It made sense in the 80s when fans were different and heavyweights were bigger and there was more of a reality theme. But for today’s audience, there is no problem with the idea of a Tetsuya Naito vs. Will Ospreay or Kenny Omega vs. Ricochet or Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiromu Takahashi match, let alone in the tag team division where the heavyweight division has been a mid-card throwaway for years and mixing in Sho & Yoh (who have been main eventing house shows regularly this past week), The Young Bucks, ACH & Ryusuke Taguchi and Dragon Lee & Titan would liven things up. Granted, you would have to have results like Dragon Lee & Titan having a shot at beating the War Machine type teams, but in 2017, you can book like that in every other promotion in the world and the fans don’t have a problem with it.

Amidst all that, and kind of buried in the news, was New Japan announcing a 3/25 show at the Walter Pyramid, which is the 5,300-seat volleyball arena that Long Beach State plays at. It’s larger and a far better facility to watch wrestling in, and they are confident they can sell it out. Remember that the two sellouts in July were purely hardcore fans since no tickets were available to the public after two hours and there was no local promotion or advertising needed.

There are still questions. First is, the only major market in the country where this wouldn’t be the first time for New Japan in the market, and thus not get the first-time ever sales, is the Los Angeles market. Second, much of the audience is fly-ins, and what made July so attractive is you would get two shows, not one. In addition, this is two weeks before WrestleMania, and WrestleMania week is the big fly-in week of the year, not just for WWE but because dozens of other promotions from the U.S., Mexico, Canada and the U.K. are all putting on their biggest events of the year that week. So it’s the worst time to do a show to a fly-in audience.

Next on the agenda is the World Tag League tournament. This is a lackluster tournament, because the decision was made that since everyone knows deep down the all the guys who are already in WrestleKingdom matches wouldn’t be able to win, they were all not put in the tournament unlike previous years where every major star was in it.

The A block has Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi, Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka, Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan, Evil & Seiya Sanada, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale and Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan.

The B block has current IWGP tag team champions Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr., War Machine, Chucky T (New Japan debut) & Baretta, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa, Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano, David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura and Togi Makabe & Henare.

All tournament matches will air on New Japan World. As of right now, the schedule is full live cards on 11/18 and 11/30 from Korakuen Hall at 4:30 a.m. The rest of the shows will be up a few hours after completion, but only the tag team tournament matches. As of the last word we had, the only show of the tour that will air in English is the final night on 12/11 in Fukuoka

The 11/18 show has Hirai Kawato & Shota Umino vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi & Ren Narita, War Machine & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Tama Tonga & Loa & Leo Tonga, Elgin & Cobb & Finlay & Kitamura vs. Ishii & Yano & Baretta & Chucky T, Tenzan & Kojima & Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Fale & Owens & Page & Yujiro Takahashi, Tanahashi & Makabe & Henare vs. Archer & Smith Jr. & Desperado, Okada & Ospreay & Gedo vs. Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, plus A block matches with Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Suzuki & Iizuka and Robinson & Callihan vs. Evil & Sanada.

11/30 has Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Umino & Narita, Tenzan & Kojima & Robinson & Callihan & Oka vs. Fale & Owens & Page & Yujiro Takahashi & Leo Tonga, Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Suzuki & Desperado, Tanahashi & Kawato vs. Evil & Sanada, Okada & Ospreay & Gedo vs. Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, and B block matches with Finlay & Kitamura vs. Tama Tonga & Loa, Makabe & Henare vs. Ishii & Yano, Elgin & Cobb vs Baretta & Chucky and War Machine vs. Archer & Smith.

The other tournament matches are:

11/19 in Takasaki: Baretta & Chucky vs. Tonga & Los, Elgin & Cobb vs. Ishii & Yano.

11/20 in Tokorozawa: Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Page & Yujiro Takahashi, Tenzan & Kojima vs. Fale & Owens.

11/21 in Yamanashi: Finlay & Kitamura vs. Archer & Smith Jr., Makabe & Henare vs. War Machine.

11/23 in Kobe: Fale & Owens vs. Page & Yujiro Takahashi, Tenzan & Kojima vs. Nagata & Nakanishi, Suzuki & Iizuka vs. Evil & Sanada, Robinson & Callihan vs. Goto & Yoshi-Hashi.

11/24 in Yonago: Finlay & Kitamura vs. Ishii & Yano, Makabe & Henare vs. Tonga & Loa, War Machine vs. Baretta & Chucky, Elgin & Cobb vs. Archer & Smith Jr.

11/25 in Shiga: Fale & Owens vs. Evil & Sanada, Tenzan & Kojima vs. Callihan & Robinson, Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Suzuki & Iizuka, Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs.; Page & Yujiro Takahashi.

11/26 in Nagoya: Elgin & Cobb vs. Finlay & Kitamura, Makabe & Henare vs. Baretta & Chucky, Ishii & Yano vs. Archer & Smith Jr., War Machine vs. Tonga & Loa.

11/28 in Nagano: Nagata & Nakanishi vs Robinson & Callihan, Tenzan & Kojima vs. Goto & Yoshi-Hashi, Fale & Owens vs. Suzuki & Iizuka, Page & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Evil & Sanada.

12/1 in Toyohashi: Tenzan & Kojima vs. Page & Yujiro Takahashi, Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Evil & Sanada, Robinson & Callihan vs. Suzuki & Iizuka Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Fale & Owens.

12/2 in Osaka: Finlay & Kitamura vs. Baretta & Chucky, Makabe & Henare vs. Elgin & Cobb, Tonga & Loa vs. Archer & Smith, War Machine vs. Ishii & Yano.

12/3 in Kochi: Robinson & Callihan vs. Fale & Owens, Tenzan & Kojima vs. Evil & Sanada.

12/5 in Oita: Ishii & Yano vs. Baretta & Chucky, Elgin & Cobb vs. Tonga & Loa.

12/6 in Nagasaki: Page & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Suzuki & Iizuka, Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Goto & Yoshi-Hashi.

12/7 in Yamaguchi: Finlay & Kitamura vs. War Machine, Makabe & Henare vs. Archer & Smith Jr.

12/8 in Hiroshima: Tenzan & Kojima vs. Suzuki & Iizuka, Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Fale & Owens, Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Evil & Sanada.

12/9 in Ehime: Makabe & Henare vs. Finlay & Kitamura, Elgin & Cobb vs. War Machine, Ishii & Yano vs. Tonga & Loa, Baretta & chucky vs. Archer & Smith Jr.

The A block winner faces the B block winner in the finals on 12/11 at the Fukuoka Convention Center.

Power Struggle drew an advanced sellout crowd of 5,480 to the Edion Arena in Osaka. The show was great, but it was all due to the last three matches and the key angles. The last two hours or so were tremendous, but the first part of the show was disappointing. The Young Bucks vs. Dragon Lee & Titan looked potentially great, and for the time they had, it was, but it was rushed. A lot of the undercard was rushed but the show ended up long because of the length the main eventers had and the time needed for the angels.

The Edion Arena is New Japan’s All-State arena since it usually has the hottest crowds. But this was just a normal crowd. They were into everything they should have been into, but they were just a normal Japanese big show crowd. Really, after the Minoru Suzuki vs. Toru Yano Never title match, it felt like this was a disappointing show, not that it was bad, but on paper it looked great and it was only okay. But once that match was over, it was, both because of the angles and the matches, as good a last two hours of a show this year, and that’s an amazing standard. The Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi main event, from a pacing and storytelling standpoint, was as good as Japanese classic match in recent years. It was similar to Tanahashi’s G-1 match with Naito, but with more explosive moves and more athleticism because of Ibushi’s talents and also because he mixes well in that way with Tanahashi. I was told that if you fully invested in the story where Ibushi, whose hero in wrestling was Tanahashi, was trying to prove himself to Tanahashi, and it was more about that than winning or even taking the title, then in that way it was even better than the Naito match. And Kenny Omega vs. Trent Baretta was only slightly behind.

1. David Finlay pinned Katsuya Kitamura in 5:32. Finlay has a legit bad right shoulder, and had to miss a couple of shows this past week, and used it for a key spot in the match. He took a bump right away and started selling the shoulder like he was injured and they’d have to stop the match. But then he attacked Kitamura. Kitamura got some near falls before Finlay pinned him with a diamond cutter. The two shook hands after which was the prelude to them becoming tag team partners starting in the tournament. **

2. Young Bucks beat Titan & Dragon Lee in 7:10. This was fast great action but too short. But that’s the booking. The show was already going nearly five hours as this spot wasn’t about having a great match, but the Young Bucks going over strong to set up them challenging for the titles at the Tokyo Dome. Nick came out and said that they were now on the Brock Lesnar schedule, and they come in for the big shows once a month. They had a big Lucha open and Lee and Titan did double flip dives. Nick did a jumping X factor into the ring on Lee and then a moonsault off the apron to the floor on Titan. The Bucks did a double sharpshooter spot but Lee & Titan made the ropes. They did a double superkick on Titan, Matt held Titan draped on the ropes and Nick came off with a swanton. They set up the Meltzer river on Titan, but Lee jumped over the top rope and gave Nick a huracanrana off the apron to the floor. Matt then did a Silver King dive into a DDT on Lee on the apron. Titan did great top rope Asai moonsault on everyone. The finish saw them give Titan the indie taker, and then they unveiled their new move, the cease and desist which is a double submission where Nick had the sharpshooter on Titan and Matt added a crossface. Granted, while that’s fine in Lucha Libre having a double-team submission, it kind of makes no sense to do that in Japan. ***1/4

3. Jushin Liger & Juice Robinson & Tiger Mask & Hirai Kawato & Kushida beat Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi & Desperado & Taka Michinoku in 5:19. Desperado was going after Tiger Mask’s mask. The action was good but again rushed. Kawato came off as the rising star again, doing a series of hot moves on a tag. Tiger Mask hit Michinoku with a tope and Kawato did a running flip dive on Sabre. Kushida then beat Michinoku with a DDT and the hoverboard lock. **3/4

4. Togi Makabe & Hiroyoshi Tenzan& Satoshi Kojima beat Cody & Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens in 8:11. Tenzan and Cody shook hands, but Tenzan refused to kiss his ring. Makabe did a hot tag and powerslammed all three. Owens did the Kojima style machine gun chops into the corner on Kojima, and then Kojima did them back. Kojima pinned Owens with a lariat. **

5. Sho & Yoh won the Super Juniors tournament beating ACH & Ryusuke Taguchi in 15:51. Sho & Yoh are getting the big push with Rocky Romero as their manager, not only holding the titles but winning the tournament. ACH had thigh and rib issues. Lots of comedy early. This match was good, but something was missing and it wasn’t as good as a lot of the tournament matches, and never reached the level you’d expect. Sho & Yoh do have issues in maintaining the hot crowd reactions even though they have cool spots that get over. Yoh did a running flip dive on ACH and then did the same to Taguchi. Yoh’s chest was all taped up from all the chops he’s been taking from Hiromu Takahashi every night. They did a deal where ACH was taken out due to the rib injury so Taguchi was on his own. Taguchi then got serious and did a Silver King dive on Yoh and a running flip dive on Sho. Taguchi did the three amigos on Sho, but on the third one, Sho blocked and put him in a guillotine. ACH made a hot tag, pulled the tape off his ribs and did a 450 on Yoh, but Soh saved. ACH did a flying DDT on Show off the ropes. ACH & Taguchi tried their Super 69 on Yoh, but Sho jumped on ACH to block it. Sho hit Taguchi with three German suplexes and then they did the double-team 3K. Sho hit a backstabber on ACH, Yoh followed with a running dropkick and then they hit the 3K on ACH for the pin. The Young Bucks came out to issue a challenge for the title at the Tokyo Dome, and Romero accepted the challenge. ***1/4

6 Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi & Gedo beat Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Seiya Sanada & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi in 12:07. Naito was booed here slamming Ishii on the floor twice. Goto whipped Sanada into the corner and he did the Flair flip into the turnbuckles, landed on his feet on the apron and came back with a springboard missile dropkick back to Goto. They kept Okada and Naito apart until the 6:00 mark and they started throwing elbows at each other. Naito did a Frankensteiner off the top on Okada. Everyone started hitting big moves. The finish saw Okada hit the dropkick and Randy Savage elbow on Bushi, and then laid out Naito with a tombstone piledriver before pinning Bushi with the rainmaker. After the match, Okada lifted his eye like Naito does to mock him. ***1/4

7. Minoru Suzuki beat Toru Yano in 15:21 in a bullrope match to retain the Never Open weight title. All the interference distracted from the match. Plus, Yano’s comedy doesn’t work well in a grudge bullrope match. Suzuki choked Yano with the bullrope and punched and landed elbows on him. Desperado and Kanemaru were putting the boots to Yano on the floor right in front of the ref. Hirooki Goto came out and grabbed both Desperado and Kanemaru with headlocks and dragged them to the back. Suzuki was twisting the fingers and the arm of Yano. He did a sick looking hammerlock. He was separating the fingers and did an armbar, but Yano made the ropes. Suzuki slapped him around, and delivered body punches. Yano really didn’t get much offense until the 9:00 mark with hair pulls and whipping Suzuki into the exposed metal. He was choking him over the ropes when Takashi Iizuka came out. Suzuki then started slapping him around. He had a chair, but the ref took it from him. Yano got the chair and nailed Suzuki in the head and power bombed him. Taichi showed up and pulled the ref out of the ring and threw him into the barricade. Taichi then jumped in the ring to attack Yano. Iizuka used the edge of the chair to nail Yano in the neck. Iizuka put on the iron fingers, but Yano got away, nailed Iizuka and Taichi with low blows at the same time and then tied up Suzuki with a bullrope for a near fall. Later, Suzuki using the bullrope, jumped off the apron and in falling, pulled Yano into the exposed metal. Suzuki tied him up, hit a dropkick and started choking. He tied the bullrope around Yano’s throat and had him nearly choked out, then picked him up for the Gotch piledriver. Suzuki held him for a long time before dropping him for the pin. Yano sold the finish big, like he had been completely destroyed after years of taunting Suzuki, and he was carried out. *3/4

8. Marty Scurll beat Will Ospreay to win the IWGP jr. title in 17:28. What’s notable is that just like with Ospreay vs. Kushida, where Kushida had always beaten Ospreay in the big matches, this was the same story. Scurll had beaten Ospreay over-and-over, including to win the Progress title, the ROH TV title, in this year’s Best of the Super Juniors and in Battle of Los Angeles. They did cool British style early. Scurll worked over the left arm. They traded cradles. Ospreay did a standing Spanish fly. They traded slaps and hard chops. Scurll went for a suplex that Ospreay turned into a stunner for a near fall. This was followed by a Space flying tiger drop, but Scurll moved and Ospreay landed on his feet on the floor. In a great spot, Ospreay went for a middle rope moonsault, Scurll moved and Ospreay landed on his feet. Then Scurll went for a standing moonsault in the same move like La Sombra and Ibushi used to do, but Scurll moved again. Then Ospreay did a standing shooting star, but Scurll got his knees up and cradled him fo a near fall. Scurll did the finger breaking spot. Scurll hit a unique move which was a Canadian Destroyer flip, but not into a piledriver but instead a DDT. He got the chicken wing, but Ospreay escaped. Ospreay put his fingers back in place and did a shooting star on Scurll who was draped on the ropes, and followed with a Paul Robinson kick. He went for the Oscutter but Scurll moved and they traded cradles into Scurll shocking used a front rolling cradle for the pin. After the match was over, Kushida came out to challenge for the title. There was a lot of swearing in this segment. Ospreay told Kushida that he had beaten him and to go back to the end of the line. Hiromu Takahashi was next out. He was wearing a lacrosse mask, gloves, plus a codpiece and shin guards. The idea is that every time he comes out to challenge for the title, somebody knocks him out, breaks his fingers, or gives him a low blow so he was protecting himself from every possibility. It was actually hilarious. This all ended up setting up the four-way. I think the Tokyo Dome should have one-on-one singles title matches, but this four-way could be incredible. ****1/4

9. Kenny Omega beat Baretta to retain the U.S. title in 21:34. Baretta started with a tope. Omega suplexed him onto the side of a table on his back, dropping him right on the metal. Omega then put the table on him and came off the apron with a double foot stomp with his feet going right through the table onto Baretta. There were enough American fans at this show to get a “Holy shit” chant that wasn’t with Japanese voices. Omega did his Terminator dive and You Can’t Escape, but Baretta got his knees up on the middle rope moonsault. Baretta did a running tackle to the lower back into a short German suplex. He tried a piledriver on the apron, but Omega reversed and gave Baretta a high backdrop on the apron. Baretta went for a Frankensteiner off the top rope, but Omega reversed and dropped Baretta face first on the top turnbuckle. Omega hit a Jay driller for a near fall. Baretta used a top rope German superplex with Omega landing almost on his head. Baretta followed with the Busaiku knee and used a jumping piledriver for a near fall. He did a second piledriver on the apron and followed with a running flip dive but Omega moved and Baretta went through a table. This led to another American “Holy shit” chant. I’ve heard Japanese do American chants on rare occasions, but this is the first show in Japan where I have heard there were enough Americans at the show to get chants going, although this is the only match that happened in. There was a great count out tease after that dive through the table. Baretta looked for sure like he wasn’t going to make it and dove in at 19. Baretta’s back was bleeding from going through the table. Omega hit three snap dragon suplexes and did some hard chops to the back, a power bomb, a V trigger and a doctor bomb. Baretta kicked out. Omega went for the One Winged Angel, but Omega instead changed to another snap dragon suplex. Omega hit a running V trigger but Baretta was back with a lariat. Omega went for another V trigger but Baretta sidestepped it and hit the dudebuster for a great near fall. People actually bought that Baretta could win at this point. This match gave Baretta so much more credibility as a singles star than anything he’s ever done. Omega did hard chops and sick kicks to the back. Baretta came up and fired back. But ran into another V trigger and Omega hit a reverse Frankensteiner. Omega got the pin after another V trigger and the One Winged Angel. ****½

Omega did a post match promo and said this was a valiant effort by Young Trent Baretta, and told him “Welcome to the heavyweight division.” Then he asked his next challenger to come out, which led to the Jericho tape.

10. Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Kota Ibushi in 29:26 to retain the IC title. Tanahashi did the old Red Bastien version flying head scissors. Ibushi would be knocked down a kip up. Ibushi went for the moonsault off the middle rope but Tanahashi dropkicked his knee. Tanahashi went for a dropkick to the knee, but Ibushi leap frogged over his dropkick and landed on Tanahashi’s body with a double foot stomp. Ibushi then on landing started selling the knee. Ibushi’s knee selling was so realistic, exactly like you’d see in a fight where it was subtle as opposed to the fake “look at me sell” style. Ibushi came back with a series of kicks and a standing shooting star for a near fall. Ibushi used a Frankensteiner to flip Tanahashi to the floor and hit a top rope moonsault to the floor. Tanahashi used a series of dragon screws to set up the Texas cloverleaf. Ibushi got to the ropes. Tanahashi blocked a power German superplex and did another dragon screw, followed by a high fly flow to the floor. Tanahashi went for a German suplex but Ibushi landed on his feet, but Tanahashi hit the sling blade. Ibushi did a backflip kick when Tanahashi went to the top rope for the high fly flow. Ibushi hit an awkward springboard huracanrana for a near fall. Tanahashi’s leg may have caught the ropes but he landed in a bad way. Ibushi used a knee to the head and a lawn dart into the turnbuckles. Why Tanahashi takes that spot is beyond me since he injured his neck taking it a few years ago. Ibushi hit the power German superplex, but missed a Phoenix splash. Tanahashi went to the top but missed the high fly flow. Ibushi came back with hard palm strikes. Tanahashi came back with hard slaps. Ibushi came back with punches and stomps on Tanahashi’s bad shoulder. Ref Red Shoes Unno had to pull Ibushi of him. Ibushi hit a killer lariat and a last ride power bomb but Tanahashi kicked out. Ibushi tried a second last ride power bomb but his knee collapsed. He went for a Phoenix plex, but Tanahashi escaped and hit three Twist & Shout neckbreakers. But Ibushi got up and used a high kick that looked to knock Tanahashi out. He went for his kawagoe finisher, but Tanahashi side stepped and hit the sling blade. Tanahashi then won with a dragon suplex, a high fly flow to the back and a high fly flow. They got up and hugged after the match with the story that even though Ibushi didn’t repeat his G-1 win over Tanahashi, or win the title, in the end, Tanahashi has accepted Ibushi as an equal. Tanahashi is easily the best show closer in the business, really the best since Steve Austin, and was out there for ten minutes before the Jay White video played and they shot the angle that ended the show. ****3/4


After four years in a self-imposed sabbatical from the sport, Georges St-Pierre, at 36, moved up a weight class and in his first match back, defeated Michael Bisping via choke in the third round to win the UFC middleweight title in the main event of the 11/4 show in Madison Square Garden.

The story itself was incredible, from St-Pierre being so much larger than ever before, but also seemingly tired and things weren’t looking good for him until he landed a hard left that put Bisping down and he finished him from there.

Many are already talking about this as the greatest UFC shows of all-time. I wouldn’t say that. It was a very good show, but not the greatest as far as action went. From an historical standpoint, having three championships change hands, one of which was one of the bigger title change upsets of all-time, and the GSP story which one can argue solidifies the claim that he was the greatest MMA champion of all-time, if you look at it that way, it is among the best.

Besides St-Pierre, T.J. Dillashaw won the bantamweight title from former teammate and training partner Cody Garbrandt in a come-from-behind major grudge match, that was the most thrilling fight on the show. And the shocking moment of all was heavy underdog Rose Namajunas winning the women’s strawweight title from the nearly unbeatable Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

While UFC has struggled all year, and there was much talk that Bisping vs. GSP wasn’t a money match, it was pretty clear this was going to be either the first or second biggest UFC show of the year.

Dana White after the show claimed that it blew past 1 million buys on pay-per-view, but even though you can pinpoint the number better than ever because of UFC getting its own internet PPV buy number immediately after the show, White says a lot of things. He also said that it set the all-time record, beating the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight in Canada. Others have said they set their all-time PPV record in Australia with this show, beating everything last year. The theory is that the St-Pierre vs. Bisping winner was going to face Robert Whittaker, plus the return of GSP, and the fact Bisping has fought several times in Australia and worked hard promoting there being the reasons why.

Right now the best early cable and satellite estimates are 875,000 buys in North America, so the worldwide total would probably end up as more than 900,000, but this wouldn’t include whatever they do on Internet PPV’s. Through usual PPV channels, the estimates right now look to be 625,000 buys in the U.S., and 250,000 in Canada, the latter being an amazing total (that would be the per cap equivalent of a nearly 2.3 million buy show). Google searches, traditionally very accurate, would indicate similar numbers. Even at that level, I’d consider the number a major success. The Jones vs. Cormier fight did 860,000 in North America, so it looks to be a higher number in the U.S. but St-Pierre vs. Bisping beat it due to he record level of Canadian buys.

Either way, it showed that St-Pierre still had major drawing power four years after he left the promotion. It also showed he was tremendous in bringing back fans from the past in Canada, since UFC in Canada has dropped greatly in popularity since he walked away in 2013 and hasn’t done numbers close to this in many years for UFC, probably dating back to GSP vs. Nick Diaz.

His return for UFC was a huge deal with Jon Jones suspended and Conor McGregor not having a deal to fight again. But if he doesn’t fight again, it really doesn’t mean a lot long-term. If he does, it pretty much is a lock with McGregor that UFC would rebound strongly in 2018 at least as far as big shows go.

The only show this year that topped 300,000 buys was the Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier headlined show that was estimated at 860,000.

Based on some nightclub reports, the U.S. numbers were far short of a McGregor or Ronda Rousey-level fight, but better than most this year. Many, if not most Canadian locations were packed with people turned away.

The prelims, which started 33 minutes late due to the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State game going long, averaged 1,276,000 viewers. Usually, a late start hurts ratings a lot, but this was different as the football game’s finish drew a big number to the point that it was the first match on FS 1, with Ovince Saint-Preux win over Corey Anderson, doing 1,394,000 viewers, that was the peak rating of the prelims.

It was the highest rating for a UFC fight show on FS 1 since 12/30, for the prelims before the Ronda Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes fight, which did 1,511,000 viewers. For last year’s shows that topped 1 million buys legit, the prelim numbers ranged from 1,300,000 for the second Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz fight to 1,843,000 for the first one, although as it turned out, it was the second one that did the most buys. Ratings aren’t close to a perfect predictor of PPV numbers, but most of the time they do give a good vague indication.

The first 33 minutes of the prelims were moved from FS 1 to FS 2, doing 251,000 viewers for the Randy Brown vs. Mickey Gall fight. That would be the second highest number for a UFC broadcast on FS 2 that wasn’t advertised.

Over the two hours, the prelims also streamed on Fox Sports Go and FOX Now, and during that period, averaged an additional 20,856 viewers, so viewership was 98.4 percent on traditional television and 1.6 percent streaming.

The show was second in its time slot in Males 18-34 and Males 18-49, trailing Texas vs. Texas Christian football on ESPN. The prelims went head-to-head with national college football broadcasts on ABC, CBS, FOX, ESPN and ESPN 2, as well as NASCAR on NBC Sports Network.

The postfight show on FS 1 did 321,000 viewers, up from the 221,000 for UFC 216, the show headlined by Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee.

Madison Square Garden ended up about 2,000 tickets shy of a sellout, with 18,201 in attendance and a $6.2 million gate, the largest gate of the year but well down from the $17 million for the McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez led debut show last November.

With the win, St-Pierre has tied Bisping for the most wins in UFC history with 20. It was also St-Pierre 13th win in a title match, breaking the record he and Demetrious Johnson were tied at 12 with. As his 13th straight win, he tied with Jon Jones and Johnson for second place behind Anderson Silva at 16. His third world championship puts him behind only Randy Couture’s five.

“I think it was good for the UFC,” said St-Pierre on the MMA Hour. “They made a lot of money. And it was good for me as well. It was good for Michael Bisping. Michael Bisping is someone I really admire. He’s incredibly brave and he’s a true example of determination in this sport. He’s the man.”

St-Pierre said Bisping talked a lot to promote the fight and while people think he should be mad at what Bisping said, he feels he needs to thank him because Bisping led to them selling a lot of PPVs.

After the fight, St-Pierre noted that he had suffered a neck injury in the fight, but would recover. He wouldn’t commit to defending the title against Whittaker and told Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour that, “I can’t say for suer anything. I don’t know anything.” But he told Kevin Iole at Yahoo that he was going to fight again. His contract for this fight was written saying that if he won, he would have to defend the title and his next fight would have to be with Whittaker. The UFC has the right to hold him to that, but if he was to say that he was going to vacate his title and fight McGregor or Woodley, I don’t see UFC saying no to that because he could retire tomorrow so he has the leverage. White made it clear they want to make the St-Pierre vs. Whittaker match next, because it’s the logical match of champion vs. interim champion.

He also said the process of the gaining weight, even though it was muscle, was difficult. He said he had cramps and other problems trying to force himself to eat five or six meals a day. He said he was 197 to 198 walking around before the fight, about ten pounds heavier than he was in his prime, but said after making 185, his body would only bounce back to 191 when he got in the cage. For what it’s worth, he looked far bigger at 191 in the cage than the 186-188 he fought at when he was welterweight champion.

He said he’ll make a decision on what he’s doing next shortly, because if he’s not going to face Whittaker he doesn’t want to freeze the middleweight championship picture.

Should he not fight, Whittaker vs. Luke Rockhold would be the likely title match, given that Whittaker already has wins over Ronaldo Jacare Souza and Yoel Romero, and the other most viable contender, Gegard Mousasi, left the promotion.

What we learned about the fight is that either GSP has the world’s greatest genetics, or he’s a hypocrite of the highest order, and I’m absolutely not accusing him of the latter. The ability to be so thickly-muscled and maintain a cut physique and being able to perform athletically in a fight situation with that new muscle and win a world championship is impressive. He was not a big welterweight, and had told people that while he wouldn’t want to risk his health doing so, that if he needed to, he could cut to 155. Looking at him now, where he looked bigger and thicker than Bisping, who spent much of his career fighting at 205, tells you any thoughts of 155 are ancient history.

Still, St-Pierre vs. McGregor would be the single biggest fight in UFC history. For that reason, them meeting at 170 can’t be ruled out.

What we saw of St-Pierre at 185 wasn’t a surprise. He was not as fast and he got tired faster than ever. Bisping was taking over in the second and third rounds, but St-Pierre caught him, dropped him, suckered him into thinking he could get up, so he gave up his back to do so, and St-Pierre was ready and clamped on a choke that finished him.

The reality is that even though Bisping was the very legitimate champion, having knocked out Rockhold with no camp in a huge upset, he was not the best guy in the division. St-Pierre, should he stay in the division, would have a hard time with people like Whittaker, Rockhold or Romero. Stylistically, Tyron Woodley at welterweight would be a tough style match-up because their wrestling would cancel each other out. Either could win a standing battle, but the odds would favor the harder-hitting Woodley. At welterweight, St-Pierre would likely be faster and have more stamina, but he’s still not going to be the fighter he was in his heyday at his age in a speed-oriented welterweight division.

Dillashaw came back from being nearly finished at the end of the first round by Garbrandt, to finishing him in the second with a picture-perfect right hook. Dillashaw said that he was going to drop to 125 and wanted a fight with Demetrious Johnson for his championship.

Namajunas dropped Jedrzejczyk twice. Because of Jedrzejczyk’s long tenure as champion, they should do an immediate rematch. That would be the biggest fight they could do in the division, but Namajunas was cold on the idea.

Everyone can have a bad night, and the fight was very reminiscent of the St-Pierre loss to Matt Serra in 2007, where St-Pierre was hurt by punches and never recovered. As it turned out, St-Pierre was hardly overrated or finished, as the rest of his career turned out since he never lost a fight again. So it could have just been a bad night for Jedrzejczyk, who is not only the best technical striker of all the UFC’s women fighters, but more technical standing than most of the men. However, this is not the first time she’s been hurt by punches, although t was the first time someone has been able to finish her.

Another noteworthy fight saw Brazilian middleweight Paulo Costa, who has the look of a superstar, giving a one-sided beating to former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks, finishing him in the second round. This was Hendricks’ last fight on his UFC contract and he’s gone 2-6 in his last eight fights. He is the type of name fighter that Bellator has been signing.

The bonuses of $50,000 went to Rose, Dillashaw and St-Pierre for their title wins. They also gave out $25,000 bonuses for Saint-Preux and Ricardo Ramos.

1. Ricardo Ramos (11-1) beat Aiemann Zahabi (7-1) at 1:58 of the third round in a bantamweight fight. Zahabi is the younger brother of Firas Zahabi, best known as the trainer of St-Pierre. Aiemann also just got married. Zahabi tried a takedown by Ramos landed on top. Ramos got a few takedowns later in the round to win it, including getting Zahabi’s back and punching him from that position. Zahabi won the second round landing good punches late. In the third round, Ramos was landing jabs. Zahabi scored with good uppercuts but Ramos landed a highlight reel spinning elbow to the jaw and knocked Zahabi out cold.

2. Curtis Blaydes (8-1,1 no contest) beat Aleksei Oleinik (52-11-1) via ref stoppage at 1:56 of the second round in a heavyweight fight. In the first round, Blaydes scored with three takedowns, a knockdown, and Oleinik in trouble with punches as the round ended. In the second round Blaydes took him down again. Oleinik was in trouble and on the ground. Blaydes went for a kick that grazed his ear. The referee stopped the fight thinking it was an illegal head kick. He called the doctor in to check on Oleinik, who was hurt and couldn’t continue. At first it looked like they were going to call a DQ or a no contest, but thankfully New York allows for instant replay. After studying the footage, the referee ruled that Oleinik couldn’t continue and no illegal blow landed so Blaydes was ruled the winner. This was the right call.

3. Randy Brown (10-2) beat Mickey Gall (4-1) on scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27 in a welterweight fight. Gall is known as being the guy who finished both C.M. Punk and Sage Northcutt. Gall got a good pop coming out. Brown landed all kinds of punches and knees from the clinch. He got a takedown and moved to side control and threw punches from the top. He dropped hard elbows and Gall was all cut up by the end of the round. In the second round Gall went for a takedown, but Brown ended up on to in side control. Gall reversed and got to the top. Gall landed punches and went for a guillotine but couldn’t finish. Gall got mount as well to win the second round, so it looked like the third would decide it. Gall went for a takedown, but Brown blocked and landed on top, which ended up winning Brown the fight. Brown was landing punches and Gall was covered with blood. Gall couldn’t get off his back. He tried a guillotine but Brown escaped and landed more elbows from the top and clearly and decisively won the round.

4. Ovince Saint-Preux (22-10) beat Corey Anderson (10-4) at 1:25 of the third round in a light heavyweight fight. OSP was a lot bigger of the two. He was landing more standing but Anderson started to take control with his wrestling. He got a takedown, then a high slam takedown and was riding him. OSP got up and started landing late and scored a late knockdown. I thought he took the round in the closing seconds but all three judges gave it to Anderson based on his wrestling. In the second round, Anderson won it with two takedowns. OSP looked tired at this point, as he took the fight on late notice. But out of nowhere, OSP knocked him out with a head kick, that was another highlight reel finish. OSP then challenged Ilir Latifi, of which I have no idea why, since Saint-Preux just had trouble with a wrestler and Latifi is ranked lower than Saint-Preux.

5. Mark Godbeer (13-3) beat Walt Harris (10-7) at 4:29 of a heavyweight fight. Harris was controlling the fight. Harris got a takedown and moved to mount. Godbeer got up. The ending of this fight was weird. Harris landed an accidental low blow. The ref jumped in between the two guys. Harris actually kicked around the ref and nailed Godbeer, knocking him silly. But the kick landed after the ref had called for a break. Godbeer wasn’t able to continue after the kick. After examining the footage, the ref made the call that Harris was disqualified, which was the right call because the ref had clearly stopped the fight before the kick was thrown that ended the fight.

6. James Vick (12-1) beat Joe Duffy (16-3) at 4:59 of the second round in a lightweight fight. This was a very good action fight. Vick is 6-foot-3 and 155 pounds, which makes him very tough in the division. Duffy got a first round takedown and then Vick got a takedown and worked for a guillotine. Bot landed good punches standing. In the second round, Vick started using his reach to land a lot more. Vick landed a head kick and then landed a right uppercut that put Duffy down and punches on the ground and the ref stopped it less than one second before the round ended. Vick cut a strong promo saying he’s 8-1 in UFC and almost nobody has that good a record and isn’t ranked. He said he wanted anyone in the top ten to face him on the 2/18 show in Austin.

7. Paulo Costa (11-0) beat Johny Hendricks (18-8) at 1:23 of the second round in a middleweight fight. Costa is like almost the prototype if you were going to create an MMA fighter in a video game. He’s got the look, an incredible physique to the point he looked like a guy 215 pounds ripped in the cage, where Derek Brunson, who he challenged, said in response that he’s 100 percent on steroids. He’s fast and athletic with the only question being his stamina, and we got no answers in this fight on that score. He threw hard body kicks and several punches. Hendricks couldn’t come close to getting a takedown. He landed a spin kicks and body shots. Then he started hard kicks to the body. Hendricks landed some punches laet, and continue with body kicks. Hendricks was hurt bad by this point. In the second round, Hendricks went for a takedown, but couldn’t get it, and Costa was landing a lot of punches. Costa had him hurt and was landing punches and the ref stepped in to stop it, ironically, just as Hendricks was moving forward for a takedown and took Costa down. Hendricks may not have been done, but he was taking a bad beating. Costa vowed that he would become a legend in the sport.

8. Stephen Thompson (14-2-1) beat Jorge Masvidal (32-13) on scores of 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 in a welterweight fight. The story of the fight is that

Thompson was able to use his karate stance to move in, land, and back off before Masvidal to retaliate. Thompson controlled the first round and knocked Masvidal down late in the round with a side kick. Masvidal was trying for a takedown in the second round, but couldn’t get it, and it was more of the same. Thompson knocked him down again and let him up. Thompson continued to land punches and side kicks throughout the round. The third round was more of the same. Thompson said that he hurt his hand in the third round and couldn’t make a fist.

9. Rose Namajunas (7-3) beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1) in 3:03 to win the women’s strawweight title. Jedrzejczyk had been bullying Namajunas all week claiming she was mentally weak and even going to the point of calling her boyfriend, former UFC fighter Pat Barry, a pussy. Joanna opened with a flurry, but Namajunas surprisingly decked her with an overhand right. She never recovered. She dropped Jedrzejczyk again with a left hook and landed punches on the ground and it was stopped. Jedrzejczyk clearly tapped from the punches although afterwards claimed that she didn’t. Namajunas did an interview talking about how people need to be nicer to each other and came across as somebody you really wanted to like.

10. T.J. Dillashaw (16-3) beat Cody Garbrandt (11-1) at 2:41 of the second round to win the bantamweight title. Because of Ultimate Fighter and all the talk back-and-forth, the live crowd was really into this fight. Garbrandt came across like a huge star and they were completely on his side. The back story is the two were training partners but Dillashaw quit Team Alpha Male and Garbrandt thought he had sold out. Garbrandt came out strong, dropped Dillashaw at the end of the round and the fight was on the verge of being stopped when the round ended. But in the second round, Dillashaw dropped Garbrandt with a left high kick. Garbrandt got up, but was dropped again with a right hook and Dillashaw finished with punches on the ground. It wasn’t over there because Dillashaw’s brother started taunting Garbrandt and Garbrandt went to confront him but officials pulled him away. This was a great heated fight and came across like it was a rivalry that would produce great fights and either guy would win at any time. But Dillashaw made it clear that he knocked Garbrandt out, that he may see him down the line, but that he doesn’t deserve a rematch now. Garbrandt after the fight said that he was the better fighter of he two but Dillashaw capitalized on a mistake he made in keeping his left hand low. He said that Dillashaw was hungry for the title but he’d show he was better in a rematch, that he’s faster, and he had him beat at the end of the first round and Dillashaw was saved by the bell. He said he didn’t respect Dillashaw as a person, that he’s a no good person and piece of shit as a teammate, but he does respect him as a fighter. Dillashaw claimed he’s only 150 pounds and eats a lot to get to that weight, so he could diet down a few pounds and make 125. He also noted his wife was having a baby so he’s not going back into a camp until the new year.

11. Georges St-Pierre (26-2) beat Michael Bisping (31-8) at 4:23 of the third round to win the middleweight title. Bisping came into the cage and did the Vince McMahon walk. Both landed punches in the first round and GSP got a takedown, but Bisping got right up from it. GSP hurt him with a left and a spin kick late in the round. In the second round, both landed early but Bisping started to take over. GSP took him down again, but again Bisping got right up. GSP was starting to tire when he got up. Bisping started landing punches and hurt him with a head kick and punches and won the second round. In the third round, GSP went for an immediate takedown and got him down. This time Bisping went on the attack, throwing elbow after elbow from the bottom and GSP was all sliced up, with the nasty cut from his nose and several places on his forehead. Bisping got up and GSP was bleeding badly and breathing heavy. But St-Pierre then dropped him with a left hook and went to the ground on top. He backed off on the ground and Bisping turned around to start to get up, but St-Pierre anticipated that and grabbed the choke at the perfect moment. Bisping went out before tapping. Bisping himself said he wasn’t trying to prove he was a tough guy by not tapping, but he just went out quickly because the choke was so tight.


There were a lot of plan changes made this past week for reasons that haven’t been explained, with the key being the decision to make A.J. Styles the WWE champion, as he defeated Jinder Mahal on the 11/7 Smackdown show in Manchester, England.

This was the first time the WWE title had ever changed hands outside of North America. The original plan for Smackdown was for Styles to beat Rusev on that show and become the fifth member of Team Smackdown. The Styles vs. Rusev match had been pushed on the 10/31 Smackdown TV show. But it was then announced in midweek that it had been changed to Mahal vs. Styles, a match that was scheduled for the 12/17 Night of the Champions show in Boston.

As far as why Vince McMahon changed directions isn’t clear. There wasn’t a lot of interest in the Brock Lesnar vs. Mahal match, and Houston wasn’t and still isn’t sold out for Survivor Series, but there aren’t many tickets left. Mahal’s presentation as far as the Singhs and he and the entrances and interview deliveries were good and he got a lot of heat. His interviews themselves were poised, although some of the material in the Shinsuke Nakamura program was awful. Obviously, in the ring, he wasn’t having anything close to the usual level of WWE title matches, but it was unfair to expect that of him since he wasn’t the in-ring performer of that level. His title reign was purely a play for India, and it was figured if he was to lose the title, it would certainly be after the India tour on 12/8 and 12/9 in New Delhi. As noted in the financials, there was no evidence at all that his being champion had generated new revenue out of India, but this is still a long-term play, in the sense his being champion did lead to media coverage that WWE would have never gotten in that country, and even if there is no money to be made now, the idea is a perception of being important in India could pay dividends years down the line when things are in place where there is money to be made with that huge population.

The match itself was a tremendous one-man show by Styles, in particular, his phenomenal forearm which he did once outside the ring and another time inside he ring for the finish in 16:39, both of which looked tremendous in slow motion.

The early part of the match was Mahal throwing Styles around showing a power edge. Styles leaped over the top rope like a pescado, but instead used the forearm. Styles hit springboard 450 but the Singhs pulled Mahal out of the ring. Styles did a running tackle to one of the Singhs and a jumping forearm and running knee to the other. Mahal then used the Khallas, the same type of finish that has been in most of his title matches coming off the Singhs distraction, but Styles got his foot on the ropes. The crowd went crazy for that not being the finish. Styles finished by snapping Mahal’s neck on the top rope and doing the springboard forearm into the ring. Interestingly, Mahal beat down both Singh Brothers after the match, teasing that there may be a split coming.

The Lesnar vs. Mahal match was expected to have John Cena as referee all along, although that decision wasn’t finalized until late this past week, which was after the Styles vs. Mahal match was announced. It appeared the direction was that Cena would cost Mahal the match, which would lead to a Cena vs. Mahal feud that could end up with Cena getting the title.

Even those who needed to be aware of the title change happening weren’t told until around the day before the match. And even those people weren’t clear about whether Mahal would get it back before Survivor Series, since Lesnar’s programs are all booked well in advance and Lesnar vs. Mahal was the match he was told all along. Obviously, Lesnar vs. Styles is a very different and much better match, and one that would appear to have a lot more interest. A Lesnar vs. Mahal match would be nothing but the Paul Heyman laid out style of a short match with nothing but trading big moves that Lesnar’s singles matches with the likes of Bill Goldberg, Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman have been. Mahal doesn’t have the aura, nor would there have been the interest in the match-up going in like the aforementioned bouts. His moves aren’t over to the level of the other three, so it would be difficult and the Lesnar vs. Strowman match wasn’t nearly as good as hoped for. Styles, on the other hand, is so talented that there’s no need to do that type of a match.

The change included the decision to take Cena out of the match as referee, since there’s no reason for him to be there since his role was to set up a match. Cena and Styles are now both babyfaces and Cena vs. Lesnar is not the planned direction as its been done many times.

So Cena was moved onto Team Smackdown for the Raw vs. Smackdown match which right now has Kurt Angle & Jason Jordan & Braun Strowman & Samoa Joe & Finn Balor vs. Shane McMahon & Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton & Bobby Roode & Cena, the latter in the spot earmarked for Styles. This doesn’t exactly fit well, given Cena was last on Raw and not Smackdown (and his return after Christmas right now is scheduled for a program with Joe on Raw) and even though his storyline is as a free agent who could work for either side, why would he be going against Raw? But there will be an explanation, and today, those trivialities and having storylines that make sense aren’t considered important to Vince McMahon, nor do they affect business any longer.

Announcing Cena in that match would indicate they aren’t switching the title back before Survivor Series, and there would be a very negative fan reaction to it going back to Lesnar vs. Mahal after now being changed to Lesnar vs. Styles. Mahal could still win it back before India, or they could add Styles to the India tour and do a change back there, and then rematch them again in Boston. Right now Styles is scheduled to headline Smackdown brand shows in the U.S. when the Raw tour of India takes place. Mahal & The Singhs are the only Smackdown wrestlers at this point scheduled for India.

Exactly where Mahal fits in all of this isn’t clear, although he denied an injury (his shoulder has been injured somewhat in recent weeks and he’s done less in he ring because of it, although he’s been working on it regularly for several weeks and it hasn’t been taped up for a few weeks) and he denied a drug test failure. He is still wrestling and there was no evidence of a drug test failure to begin with.

Jordan replaces the originally planned Roman Reigns in that match. Reigns was announced as returning to television after being off due to the mumps, on the 1/13 Raw show in Atlanta. The situation with Angle picking Jordan for the team seemed telegraphed for an eventual Jordan heel turn, just because of how insincere he came across as a babyface with “his father.” Granted, that doesn’t have to happen this quickly. It could be that Angle replaces Jordan with Reigns next week (although at this moment that is not the plan). Right now the plan is for Reigns to finally do the long-awaited Shield reunion for a Shield vs. New Day six-man tag at Survivor Series, which hasn’t been announced yet.

The New Day’s distraction caused Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose to lose the Raw tag titles to Sheamus & Cesaro on the 11/6 Raw in Manchester. This changes a Survivor Series match from Ambrose & Rollins vs. Usos to a Usos vs. Sheamus & Cesaro, which makes sense since the Usos are now faces and you have the face vs. heel thing rather than two face teams and diluting The Shield being hot which had been the planned key act for the Raw brand for the next few months, before its start had to be delayed because Reigns was taken ill.

The Miz vs. Baron Corbin battle of heels as IC champion vs. U.S. champion seems to still be on given the company had both create a twitter war.

The Alexa Bliss vs. Natalya women’s match could change to Bliss vs. Charlotte. It was announced that Natalya would defend the Smackdown women’s title against Charlotte Flair on 11/14 at the Smackdown show in Charlotte.

Right now, the women’s Survivor Series match is captain Alicia Fox & Nia Jax & Asuka (replacing Mickie James) & Sasha Banks & ? (Bayley was the person in this slot but the storyline right now is that Fox hasn’t picked Bayley) vs. Becky Lynch (captain) & Flair & Carmella & Tamina & Naomi.

Also on the 11/14 Charlotte show will be Corbin vs. Sin Cara and it was announced as Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs. New Day.

Owens & Zayn were sent home from the European tour after television on 11/7, a decision that definitely indicates how mad the promotion, and Vince McMahon in particular, were at them given how shorthanded the crew already was, and with The New Day having been moved to the Raw tour until the end of the week.

The decision was described to us as due to what was called selfishness on the part of the two by some people and a misunderstanding that got out of control by others.

On Smackdown, there was a match where Kingston was to pin Zayn, and then after, Owens was to run in and attack Kingston, which would lead to Woods and Big E jumping in and they were supposed to beat up Owens & Zayn to end the segment.

Instead, as Woods and Big E jumped in, Owens and Zayn rolled out of the ring. In watching back the tape, if there was any confusion from the New Day’s side as it was going on, that wasn’t evident. It could be just the ability to react to the moment, but I’ve seen spots that didn’t go as planned and most of the time you do see a split second of confusion on faces before they react and go with the flow. Either all three were very good at avoiding that, or they weren’t confused, in which case that would say they knew how it was going to go before, which makes the issue very interesting.

Now this is all probably having nothing to do with the situation, but my thoughts watching the segment without knowing the story, is that Zayn had done great mic work since doing his heel turn. His loss to Orton was far too early in the turn, but it was still Orton and it was a low blow finish designed to put Orton in the Survivor Series match and played off Zayn using a low blow to beat Orton the week before in a tag match.

Losing a singles match clean to Kingston was clearly a sign that they’ve slotted Zayn at a certain level, and it didn’t matter how well he was doing with his turn, or what the crowd thinks, that’s the same level he’ll be as a heel because that’s the level Vince McMahon sees him at. It is naturally going to be frustrating for someone who has to believe he’s got the goods to be a top guy, and was the top babyface during the key growth period of NXT, and was a top guy for years on the indies wherever he went.

Given Owens & Zayn were just starting their team, not only was Zayn getting pinned, but they were also getting beaten up in the post-match as well.

Still, that was my view from watching it and there was no indication this stemmed from anyone involved thinking that and being unprofessional or changing things because of that feeling.

In this day and age, not following the script on a television show isn’t tolerated, and Vince McMahon’s decision was likely because he felt they needed to send a strong message even with the star power for the shows on the tour already somewhat stripped down. That’s from the company standpoint and how they perceived it going down. But as best we can tell, there were no issues with anyone over what was scripted and it was a misunderstanding regarding what was to happen in that segment.

There is no word from WWE if they will be back at television in Charlotte on 11/14 or not. Neither are booked at Survivor Series in a match, but the storyline seemed to tease the idea that they could cause Team Smackdown to lose the match.

WWE had not commented on them being sent home at press time. The decision on when they are coming back will come from Vince McMahon and it all depends on how he feels, given he once suspended Titus O’Neil for 90 days (and then cut it to 60 after a bad reaction) for virtually nothing, so there’s no use trying to predict how he’ll take this.


Manami Toyota, who would have to be considered the in-ring greatest woman wrestler of all-time, and can be argued to be bell-to-bell the greatest performer regardless of gender in history after far as quality of work over an arduous schedule for years, finished her career as almost a one-person show in her retirement event on 11/3 at the Osanbashi Hall in Yokohama.

The show, which she promoted herself as both her 30th anniversary show and her retirement event, sold out all 650 seats in June, as soon as tickets were put on sale. After doing 51 short matches on one show, which has to be a record, against many of the greatest women wrestlers of all-time, she was covered with streamers while she cried in the ring, noting that it was time to retire due to all the injuries of working such a hard style. Her final show was a takeoff on a Christmas 1995 show where she wrestled 30 short matches

Few if any in history worked so many matches, as in her prime she was doing 300 bouts a year, and you pretty much got close to the same Toyota at a spot show before a few hundred people in makeshift arenas set up outdoors in parking lots where she’d dive on blacktop as before a big crowd in a major arena. Her retirement came because her body had worn out and she said that she just felt it was time to live life without so much pain.

The irony of Toyota being arguably the greatest athletic worker of all-time, is that when she first tried out for wrestling at the age of 15, she had no athletic background.

Toyota was born on March 2, 1971, was picked out of hundreds of young girls in an athletic tryout at the age of 15, and was wrestling full-time nightly by the age of 16, and was a great live performer by the age of 18.

She was born in Masuda, Japan, a poor city located in Southern Japan, on the Pacific Ocean. Hence, many of her trademark moves had Japanese ocean references. There was the Japanese Ocean bomb (a cross-arm reverse power bomb), the Japanese Ocean Queen Bee bomb (bodyslam into a brainbuster), the Japanese Ocean suplex (a bridging move similar to a Tiger suplex), and her trademark finisher, the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, which has her opponent on her shoulders in an electric chair position, and then bridges backwards with her like a reverse power bomb. 


MANAMI TOYOTA

 

CAREER TITLE HISTORY

 

WWWA WORLD WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: def. Aja Kong March 29, 1995 Yokohama; lost to Aja Kong June 27, 1995 Sapporo; def. Dynamite Kansai December 4, 1995 Tokyo; lost to Kyoko Inoue December 8, 1996 Tokyo; def. Yumiko Hotta January 4, 2000 Tokyo; lost to Kaoru Ito September 17, 2000 Tokyo; def. Kaoru Ito February 24, 2002 Yokohama; lost to Kaoru Ito July 6, 2002 Tokyo

 

AAAW WORLD WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: def. Chikayo Nagashima October 20, 2002 Yokohama; lost to Dynamite Kansai November 30, 2003 Tokyo

 

IWA WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: def. Kyoko Inoue April 25, 1992 Yokohama; lost to Reggie Bennett May 16, 1995 Niigata

 

WWWA WORLD TAG TEAM: w/Toshiyo Yamada def. Aja Kong & Bison Kimura March 20, 1992 Tokyo; lost to Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki April 11, 1993 Osaka; w/Toshiyo Yamada def. Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki December 6, 1993 Tokyo; lost to Kyoko Inoue & Takako Inoue October 9, 1994 Kawasaki; w/Mima Shimoda def. Kyoko Inoue & Takako Inoue June 22, 1996 Sapporo; lost to Kumiko Maekawa & Tomoko Watanabe January 20, 1997 Tokyo

 

WWWA ALL PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIP: def. Bison Kimura for vacant title October 7, 1990 Tokyo; lost to Suzuka Minami March 17, 1991Tokyo; def. Kyoko Inoue August 24, 1994 Tokyo; Vacated title March 1995

 

JWP CHAMPIONSHIP: def. Tsubasa Kuragaki May 28, 2006 Tokyo; lost too Azumi Hyuga September 18, 2006 Tokyo

 

OZ ACADEMY CHAMPIONSHIP: def. Aja Kong September 21, 2009 Sapporo; lost to Carlos Amano December 23, 2009 Tokyo

 

UWA WORLD TAG TEAM: w/Toshiyo Yamada def. Lady Apache & Kaoru January 19, 1992 Tokyo; Vacated title 1993

 

AAAW WORLD TAG TEAM: w/Carlos Amano def. Aja Kong & Amazing Kong (Awesome Kong) September 20, 2004 Tokyo; lost to Toshie Uematsu & Ran Yu Yu April 3, 2005 Yokohama

 

JWP TAG TEAM: w/Kaoru Ito def. Devil Masami & Hikaru Fukuoka January 23, 1998 Kawasaki; lost to Hikaru Fukuoka & Tomoko Kuzumi February 11, 1998 Tokyo

 

OZ ACADEMY TAG TEAM: w/Carlos Amano def. Akino & Ran Yu Yu May 2, 2010 Osaka; lost to Aja Kong & Kaoru Ito June 13, 2010 Tokyo; w/Carlos Amano def. Hiroyo Matsumoto & Tomoko Nakagawa April 10, 2011 Tokyo; lost to Aja Kong & Sonoko Kato January 15, 2012 Tokyo

 

DIANA WORLD CHAMPION: def. Mask de Sun April 6, 2014; lost to Kaoru Ito December 23, 2014

 

KITAKAMI CHAMPION: def. Bambi October 10, 2015; lost to Bambi May 22, 2016

 

TRIANGLE RIBBON CHAMPIONSHIP: def. Champion Ai Shimizu and Maruko Nagasaki December 31, 2016 Tokyo; lost to Tsukasa Fujimoto in three-way with Tsukushi June 25, 2017 Yokohama

 

WWWA JAPANESE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: def. Mike Takahashi for vacant title November 18, 1989 Matsuda; Vacated title after winning All-Pacific title October 7,1990

 

JAPAN GRAND PRIX TOURNAMENT

1989 - Lost in first round to Akira Hokuto

1990 - def. Yumiko Hotta in finals to win tournament

1991 - lost in semifinals to Kyoko Inoue

1992 - lost in finals to Aja Kong

1993 - Placed second in B block

1994 - Placed second in round-robin

1995 - def. Yumiko Hotta to win tournament

1997 - Placed second in round robin

1998 - def. Zap I (Kaoru Ito) to win tournament

1999 - def. Yumiko Hotta to win tournament

2000 - lost in semifinals to Yumiko Hotta

2001 - Placed fourth

 

THE BEST TAG LEAGUE TOURNAMENT

1988 - w/Toshiyo Yamada 6th place

1989 - w/Toshiyo Yamada lost in finals to Mitsuhiko Nishikawa & Madusa Micelli

1991 - w/Etsuko Mita 5th place

1992 - w/Toshiyo Yamada lost in finals to Aja Kong & Kyoko Inoue

1993 - w/Akira Hokuto def. Toshiyo Yamada & Kyoko Inoue to win tournament

1994 - w/Takako Inoue def. Kyoko Inoue & Sakie Hasegawa to win tournament

1995 - w/Kaoru Ito lost to Kyoko Inoue & Tomoko Watanabe in finals

1996 - w/Rie Tamada def. Tomoko Watanabe & Kumiko Maekawa to win tournament

1997 - w/Emi Motokawa 3rd place

1998 - w/Yumiko Hotta went to 30:00 draw with Nanae Takahashi & Momoe Nakanishi finishing second via points

1999 - w/Miho Wakizawa def. Tomoko Watanabe & Kumiko Maekawa to win tournament

2000 - w/Kayo Noumi lost in finals to Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda

2001 - w/Yumiko Hotta def. Kaoru Ito & Momoe Nakanishi to win tournament

 

MATCH OF THE YEAR 1993: w/Toshiyo Yamada vs. Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki April 11 Osaka

 

MATCH OF THE YEAR 1995: vs. Kyoko Inoue May 7 Tokyo

 

WRESTLING OBSERVER HALL OF FAME 1992


She was also the innovator of the Toyota roll, an early master of springboard moves, moonsaults, an innovator of the springboard somersault plancha, and crazy double foot stomps including from the top rope to the floor. She was also the last specialist in using the nearly dormant rolling cradle hold that dates back to Earl McCready.

She was in her early teens during the heyday of the Crush Gals. Her friends growing up had modest aspirations, to get out of Masuda, a city of fewer than 50,000 people, and get a job in Osaka, which was still hundreds of miles away. She, on the other hand, was a dreamer. High school wasn’t for her. She dreamed of being like The Crush Gals, a heroine to younger Japanese girls, rock stars and pro wrestlers.

Riding a peak of popularity in 1986, thousands of girls and young women sent in applications to try out for the promotion. The wrestlers and management oversaw the tryouts, weeded out all but a few hundred, and tested the rest on athletic ability and heart, and looks also played into it. Even though she had played no sports, the wrestlers and management noted that she would never quit in the drills, and that she had incredible stamina, particularly in exercises designed to fatigue the legs, and she had great leaping ability. In practice, she was able to get up-and-down for sequences like ten or more dropkicks in a row, always maintaining excellent form. Later, she incorporated that as a spot in her big matches. She was also thin and attractive, and was an easy standout at the tryouts. It was among the most successful tryouts in history, and the names picked to start in the dojo were Toyota, Mima Shimoda, Toshiyo Yamada (who idolized Chigusa Nagayo of the Crush Gals to the extent she wanted to be just like her) and Etsuko Mita.

By 18, she was earmarked for stardom as part of a tag team that really

didn’t go anywhere at the time, the Tokyo Sweethearts, with Shimoda.

Their first match of note was on May 6, 1989, a prelim match at Wrestlemarinpiad at the Yokohama Arena, before 12,500 fans. Wrestlemarinpiad was their version of WrestleMania.

The bout with 18-year-old Toyota teaming with 18-year-old Shimoda against 19-year-olds Mita & Yamada was a prelim bout with four women at the time that the crowd didn’t know. But it was filled with so many ahead-of-their-time moves and dramatic near falls that it stole the show from an in-ring standpoint on the show built around Nagayo’s first of many retirements. The decision was made to immediately push them, with the idea that with their combination of being teenagers, being pretty girls and amazing workers, that they could be the next generation Crush Gals (Lioness Asuka & Nagayo) or Beauty Pair (who in the 70s put All Japan women on the map as a mainstream entertainment vehicle on prime time television weekly), who were the tag teams that led the promotion to its greatest crossover success.

Later that year, she won the All-Japan women’s championship and vacated it after winning the All-Pacific championship at 19, the latter being the longtime No. 2 belt in the promotion.

It should be noted in that era of Japanese women’s wrestling, teenagers having that kind of success was not that unusual. In that era, the All Japan women’s promotion was on the Fuji Network in a weekly weekend afternoon time slot and wrestling was programming aimed at teenage girls, with the wrestlers as their surrogate heroines. The idea was that, like boy bands, that no matter how good the wrestlers were, they had short shelf lives and this was not a job they would do for 30 years, like Toyota did. They worked such a fast-paced style and so many matches per year because the idea was they were only going to wrestle for a few years, and then go on to regular life. At the time Toyota tried out, it was a strict lifestyle.

The women, except for the bigger stars, lived in a facility that was a combination dormitory room, with roommates, a gym, where they trained every day, and a restaurant, where the younger women and trainees worked. Unless they were on tour, they did their training every morning, the bus came and the women set up the ring, set up the arena, did the show and came back. Even with stars who had their own places usually lived very near the facility. The rules were the three no’s, no smoking, no drinking and no men. But these were girls and women, 16 to 25, so those rules were not followed religiously. Many of the women developed lesbian relationships with the other women during that era. The other rule is at the age of 25 your career is over.

The mentality is that, like with boy bands, each group of teenagers wants their own stars, and like Japanese girl rock stars, which was a similar world of young girls having few years of fame, that was pro wrestling.

Often, when the promotion felt the women who were on top had peaked and were starting to fall from the peak, rather than watch the promotion go down, they’d move them out and rebuild.

Toyota, Yamada, Mita and Shimoda came along just after the Crush Gals peak, when television ratings for Japanese women’s wrestling were similar to NFL ratings in the U.S. during the same time period. During that period they had a one-of-a-kind heel in Dump Matsumoto, who was the rival of the Crush Gals, who they allowed to stay on past 25 because nobody had near her charisma, and you really didn’t have to move out the top heel. But when Matsumoto did retire, business went on, which was tough on Chigusa Nagayo, the top babyface, who realized that her popularity was in great part due to being Matsumoto’s adversary. The period after Nagayo’s retirement until the rise of the new generation, a few years with Bull Nakano as the top star, was not good for business. When the Toyota generation, which featured Aja Kong as the star heel, came along, the makeup of the audience and lure were different. It was more about great matches, with the concert portion of the show gone. More regular wrestling fans attended. None of the women of that era came close to the levels of The Crush Gals and Beauty Pair, and the downside was instead of thousands of women every year wanting to follow in their footsteps, the number dwindled. In addition, other companies had sprung up and forcing early retirements would mean handing over established stars to the opposition groups. The rules changed and Toyota, who had she come along years earlier, would have been retired by 1996, ended up working for 30 years, long outlasting the promotion itself.

To show how far her star had advanced in 18 months, in December’s Japan Grand Prix tournament, the women’s version of today’s G-1, she won the tournament in her second year, beating Akira Hokuto in the first round, Madusa Micelli in the second round, and Yumiko Hotta in the finals.

From that point on, she was the key babyface star. She was very pretty, amazingly athletic, and could do almost anything in the ring. She was the master of springboard and high flying moves, but her matches were filled with hard-hitting action and she had the ability to sell and get incredible heat. In that era, Toyota in the ring with veteran big heels Bull Nakano, and later Aja Kong & Bison Kimura, made for some of the best in-ring dynamics of the era.

But instead, the decision was made to split the two pretty girls up and make two teams, with Shimoda teaming with the bigger and stronger Mita, and Toyota teaming with the hard kicking Yamada, which was a far better tag team dynamic. In 1996, they put the Tokyo Sweethearts back together and they had a seven-month run as world tag team champions, before Shimoda went back to teaming with Mita.

In the ring, her matches were filled with selling to garner sympathy from a largely female fan base, and athleticism which won over a stubborn male wrestling fan base that had been taught that women’s wrestling, no matter how talented the workers were, were culturally something that only teenage girls were supposed to attend or care about.

That dynamic change wasn’t without some long-term issues. By appearing on male wrestling shows, where the charisma of Kong and Nakano as heels and the amazing work of Toyota would outshine the male wrestlers they did bring in a new audience for the All Japan women’s group and broke the gender gap in attendance. Male fans who never went to see the Crush Gals, it would be like buying Barbie dolls in the U.S., saw the talent of the women wrestlers and realized they were more advanced than the men of that era. This enabled them to draw bigger crowds than ever at the big shows.

But in doing so, it no longer became the special province of the teenage girls who had supported the promotion during a few cultural high points built around pop singing sensations like The Beauty Pair and Crush Gals, who had chart topping records and strong album sales that made them like rock stars.

The idea of doing concerts, and the women themselves were really not good singers at all, but their star power with their audience was such that it didn’t matter, wouldn’t translate when you were drawing wrestling fans. More and more, the promotion relied on wrestling fans rather than teenage girls, and they were successful for many years. But in time, ratings fell, the afternoon weekend time slot was moved to late night, and eventually, their TV was canceled in 2002. The promotion was big enough to draw 32,500 fans to the Tokyo Dome for an amazing show in 1994, where Toyota vs. Kong had the best match of the show and one of the best of that year. They fell on hard times when the owners lost so much money in a real estate market collapse. During her last days with the promotion, Toyota was still working hard matches six nights a week, even though she was going long periods without being paid past quick cash from the box office and the money she got from selling her merchandise before the shows.

She held the WWWA world title, at the time the most significant championship belt in women’s wrestling worldwide, on four occasions. She had won all the other titles, but could never win the big one until March 26, 1995, when she ended the nearly three-year-long reign by Kong, by beating her before 9,000 fans at the Yokohama Arena.

After losing it for the final time on July 6, 2002, months after the company has lost its Fuji Network time slot it held for 25 years, she announced she was leaving the promotion, which led to those in the audience to start crying and begging her to stay. She moved to the Gaea promotion, which for the next few years became the place to be.

On December 10, 1993, she had two five star matches on the same show during the tag team tournament finals.

In 1995, Toyota was the first, and still the only woman wrestler ever to win the Most Outstanding Wrestler award, and she placed second three other years, and when you consider the caliber of pro wrestlers all over the world in that era, that is amazing in and of itself. For the decade of the 90s, the only wrestlers who fared better than her as far as Most Outstanding Wrestler year-after-year were Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi, which means over the decade she finished ahead of people like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Ric Flair, Toshiaki Kawada, Keiji Muto, Rey Mysterio Jr. and anyone else you can think of.

She had four top ten finishes in the Wrestler of the Year balloting, unprecedented for a woman including the highest finish ever, a third place finish in 1995. She was in both of the only women’s matches to win match of the year honors, the 1993 match where she and Yamada faced Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki, and a 60:00 draw in 1995 against Kyoko Inoue.

Her four wins (1990, 1995, 1998 and 1999) in the Japan Grand Prix, the women’s version of the G-1 tournament, was the most of anyone in history, one more than Aja Kong. Her five wins in the tag team tournament, with five different partners, is also the all-time record, with nobody else having more than three.

At the age of 31, she was the youngest wrestler ever to be voted into the Hall of Fame, getting 78 percent of the vote her first year on the ballot. Given how few wrestlers going forward are going to start full-time with major league promotions at 16 and be winning championships at 18, that is likely a record that will never be broken.

She’d pull out all the stops in her big matches, and was the prototype in many ways of the Hiroshi Tanahashi or Kazuchika Okada style big match that New Japan puts on in a lot of their big show main events, where you sell exhaustion and just barely hanging on, and then, win or lose, collapse at the end, with the idea that you gave the fans every last bit of energy left in your body.

Perhaps her most notable match was on August 15, 1992, at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall, a Sunday Noon show that still remains the greatest live match that I’ve ever seen.

Toyota and Yamada had briefly split up as a team and done a program to see which of the two was better. Yamada won a singles match the month before, which led to a challenge for a hair vs. hair match. Toyota’s long dark hair was her trademark. Yamada, on the other hand, grew up mesmerized by the match where Dump Matsumoto beat her hero, Nagayo, on August 28, 1985, before 11,000 fans in a bloody hair match. This was done to set up a rematch 14 months later.

Yamada was intent on losing a hair match and getting her head shaved in the ring like Nagayo did with a crying audience watching.

The most notable thing about the match was watching the ref, who had to get up and down to count the near falls, completely blown up and drenched in sweat. Even with the pace, the two women had remarkable stamina. Toyota


MANAMI TOYOTA FAREWELL SHOW

 

NOVEMBER 3, 2017 - YOKOHAMA OSANBASHI HALL - 650 SELLOUT

1. Mayumi Ozaki & Yumi Oka & Maya Yukihi & Alex Lee defeated Toyota in a four-on-one handicap match via count out in 3:00

ONE MINUTE TIME LIMIT MATCHES

2. Toyota pinned Tequila Saya in :31 with a moonsault

3. Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi defeated Toyota in a handicap match in :54

4. Toyota drew Meiko Satomura 1:00

5. Toyota defeated Emi Sakura via camel clutch submission in :54

6. Toyota drew Rina Yamashita 1:00

7. Toyota drew Tsubasa Kuragaki 1:00

8. Toyota drew Akino 1:00

9. Toyota drew Risa Sera 1:00

10. Toyota drew Drake Morimatsu 1:00

11. Toyota drew Cherry 1:00

12. Toyota pinned Aoi Kizuki with the Japanese Ocean Queen Bee bomb in :48

13. Toyota drew Yuki Miyazaki 1:00

14; Bolshoi Kid pinned Toyota with a schoolboy in :25

15. Toyota drew Kyusei Sakumi Toyota and Gami Toyota in a handicap match 1:00

16. Toyota pinned Kaori Yoneyama :32

17. Toyota drew Sonoko Kato 1:00

18. Toyota drew Leon 1:00

19. Toyota drew Yu Yamagata 1:00

20. Toyota drew Asuka (neither Lioness Asuka nor the WWE wrestler of the same name) 1:00

21. Toyota pinned Kaho Kobayashi with Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex :59

22. Toyota drew Hikaru Shida 1:00

23. Toyota drew Hiroyo Matsumoto 1:00

24. Toyota drew Ayako Hamada 1:00

25. Chikayo Nagashima pinned Toyota with rolling cradle :59

26. Toyota drew Ikuto Hidaka (male wrestler) 1:00

27. Toyota drew Papilon Akemi 1:00

28. Gabai Ji-Chan (male wrestler) beat Toyota via count out :57

29. Toyota drew Kanjyuro Matsuyama 1:00

30. Toyota pinned Kid with a kick to the face in :07

31. Toyota drew Antonio Koinoki (male gimmick wrestler) 1:00

32. Toyota pinned Otokozakari :39

33. Toyota pinned Isami Kodaka (male wrestler) with Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex :48

34. Ryuji Ito (male wrestler) beat Toyota with a dragon suplex on a barbed wire board :57

35. Toyota drew Carlos Amano 1:00

36. Toyota drew Mima Shimoda 1:00

37. Toyota drew Itzuki Yamazaki 1:00

38. Toyota pinned Bull Nakano withy a schoolboy in :33

39. Toyota pinned Chigusa Nagayo with a crossbody off the top in :42

40. Toyota drew Jaguar Yokota 1:00

41. Toyota drew Mariko Yoshida 1:00

42. Nanae Takahashi pinned Toyota with a Japanese Ocean Queen Bee bomb in :55

43. Toyota drew Kaoru 1:00

44. Kaoru Ito pinned Toyota with a double foot stomp off the top rope :41

45. Toyota drew Tomoko Watanabe 1:00

46. Toyota drew Takako Inoue 1:00

47. Yumiko Hotta pinned Toyota in :52

48. Toyota drew Kyoko Inoue 1:00

NO TIME LIMIT MATCHES

49. Toyota pinned Tsukasa Fujimoto with a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex in 7:02

50. Toyota pinned Tsukasa Fujimoto with a Japanese Ocean Queen Bee Bomb in 3:44

51. Tsukasa Fujimoto pinned Toyota with a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex in 5:52


eventually won with her Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex.

This led to an emotional scene with screaming teenage girls while Toyota, after having won, wanted to protect her tag team partner from the

humiliation, and demanded that they cut her hair instead. She sat in the chair, grabbed the scissors and started cutting her own hair until Yamada stopped her. Toyota was crying and the women in the crowd were crying. The owner of Korakuen Hall, which had some of the greatest and most emotional matches ever held, got caught up in the moment thinking they’d gone too far in wanting to shave a young woman’s head, not understanding that Yamada was the one who demanded it.

While she had the ability to get the crowd to go crazy for her matches, and was one of the key stars of the last real boom period for Japanese women’s wrestling, she was not particularly charismatic. She could also and could come off as almost aloof. But in the ring, she could put on matches night-after-night at a level that no woman, and very few men, could touch.

On Toyota’s last show, she chose Tsukasa Fujimoto, a former actress who now wrestles for the Ice Ribbon promotion as her final opponent. Fujimoto, who became something of a Toyota protégé, was the star of a television show called “Muscle Venus,” and later cast in a movie called “Three Count,” where she played a woman pro wrestler, and was trained like a pro wrestler for the role, in a movie that also featured Kyoko Inoue. After filming the movie, she became a pro wrestler for smaller promotions, and in June, defeated Toyota to win the Triangle Ribbon title in her home promotion.

Before that, Toyota had already done 48 matches that night, all but one of them 1:00 or less in length. With the exception of Aja Kong, since last week they had billed a match in Yokohama as the final Toyota vs. Kong match ever, almost all of the still active leading stars of her generation, the generation before, and many of the stars of the current generation were her opponents.

After an opener that included Mayumi Ozaki in a handicap match, she faced big and small names until winding up with the major names at the end. Included were a number of male wrestlers ranging from huge hardcore star Ryuji Ito to the small gimmick wrestler Antonio Koinoki.

Most, but not all of her contemporaries came out as opponents. Even Nakano, who didn’t even work her own retirement match and hadn’t really wrestled since 1996, past doing a one minute match in 2012.

Others on her final day list included Meiko Satomura, arguably the best woman wrestler in the world today (usually that discussion comes down to Satomura and Io Shirai), current stars like Hiroyo Matsumoto, and a ton of former ring rivals like Tsubasa Kuragaki, Bolshoi Kid, Kaori Yoneyama, Sonoko Kato, Yu Yamagata, Ayako Hamada, Chikayo Nagashima, Carlos Amano, Shimoda, Mariko Yoshida, Nanae Takahashi, Kaoru, Kaoru Ito, Tomoko Watanabe, Takako Inoue, Yumiko Hotta and Kyoko Inoue. There were also names from before her era like Nagayo, Jaguar Yokota and Toyota’s original trainer, Itzuki Yamazaki of the 80s Jumping Bomb Angels tag team (who aside from maybe three legends matches, hadn’t wrestled since 1991). There was also an Asuka who she wrestled, which was obviously not the WWE’s version or the Japanese legend Lioness Asuka who the WWE wrestler got her name from, but a rookie wrestler from the Pro Wrestling Wave promotion who was born as a male but had a sex change operation.

Most of the matches were draws. The theme of the show was in most cases, the matches she won were using her trademark moves, and the few matches she lost, at least the ones to women, were women who for the most part beat her with her own moves, with the story being they learned from her and are the new generation of stars heavily influenced by watching her.

After she had wrestled 48 short matches, most with one minute time limits, Toyota brought out Fujimoto as opponent No. 49, for a no time limit match. Toyota won the match with a Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex in 7:02. Toyota then said that Fujimoto had vowed to beat her before she retired, and failed to do so, and went to give her one more chance. Toyota won that match again with a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex in 3:44. Toyota called it a lesson and said that sometimes what you want doesn’t come easy. Finally, in match No. 51, Fujimoto pinned Toyota with her own Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex in 5:52. Toyota was then happy to retire, allowing Fujimoto to keep her word.

Toyota then, as a throwback to the 1992 match with Yamada, went to cut her own hair for the first time, as he had always maintained the long hair and never lost a hair match.

This time there was nobody pleading her to stop, as she said she was doing it for a donation for wigs for cancer patients. At 46 years old, with her hair cut short for the first time, she ended her career surrounded by a sea of streamers, finally looking like Chigusa Nagayo on the night of her first retirement and the night the four teenagers in the prelim match showed that they were going to be the stars of the future.


Impact held its biggest event of the year, the Bound for Glory PPV, on 11/5 in Ottawa, ONT, as its latest rebirth with new people in charge and yet it felt the same, only that with the set-up, the Aberdeen Pavilion looked almost exactly like the old Impact Zone.

The company, soon to be based in Toronto, did nothing on the show to make it feel all too different. Gone were the latest authority figures with Jeff Jarrett fired, Karen Jarrett gone, Jim Cornette, who had been the best performer on the television show was gone, and Gail Kim, who had been the heart of the depleted women’s division since its inception was in her final performance.

The last few months of television were built around new champion Eli Drake, being the lead heel, and John Hennigan, using the goofy prelim name of Johnny Impact, as the star babyface. They had the exact same TNA title match with all the interference that’s been a staple of the company, and coming right after a cage match that was also filled with all kinds of interference.

All the problems with moving television to Ottawa, and away from a theme park with tourists where you at least could get fans every night, came to roost. Bound for Glory itself drew 650 fans. The television tapings the next two days did about 350, which were a combination of letting anyone who had purchased a ticket for Bound for Glory in free, some who actually paid and there weren’t many, whatever comps, and they were paying for 50 to 75 fans each night to attend using a local casting agent who offered $50 per night for fans to attend the shows, and they were told they could be given signs to hold and said that if they bring signs they will be more likely to get their faces sown on television.

The show featured all the old TNA concepts. There was the multiple person X Division match that was filled with action and good workers, but in the end, nobody got over as personalities. There was the “he’s shooting” promo with Alberto El Patron ripping on management. There was a weapons match where for some reason the bell rang after an apparent pin, except the wrong guy won, causing an alert Jeremy Borash to note that it wasn’t the end. The level of talent has nosedived in the sense while there were good wrestlers on the show, aside from the X Division match and the main event, the work was very sloppy.

There were debuts and cameos, including Sami Callihan, Anthony Carelli (shown at ringside on the first show after Cornette was gone, although he is retired and there was no indication he’s with the promotion) and Jimmy Jacobs. Jacobs came out to the broadcast position and Jeremy Borash gave the “You don’t even work here” line and Jacobs said, “I don’t work here? That’s what you think.” In reality, Jacobs was working as a backstage producer for the show and at the tapings was managing Kongo Kong.

Johnny Impact was screwed out of winning the title in the main event by Alberto, who is now a heel, although at the tapings they did some angles and the two ended up as a tag team.

The only title change was Kim winning the Knockouts title in a three-way over champion Sienna and Allie. The original storyline was that Kim was retiring at the end of the year, and wanted to retire as champion at the end of the year. It was noted she won the title for the first time ten years earlier at Bound for Glory, so she was looking to win it for the final time there. But during the show, it was talked that this was Kim’s last match. And after she won it, she vacated it the next night on television so they are doing a tournament.

Usually Bound for Glory features a TNA Hall of Fame induction. There were at least three different people called to be in at different times in recent months. One was actually there, so I guess they just decided why bother. Another was Jerry Jarrett, and it’s obvious why that didn’t happen. The other was Mike Tenay, who at this point looks to be retired from wrestling.

There was a last minute change in the show as the Taya Valkyrie vs. Rosemary red wedding match (a women’s first blood match) was off because Valkyrie had a visa issue. The gist of it was that they had worked to get all of her paperwork in order, but with it being more difficult due to President Trump as far as getting people who aren’t citizens who leave the country back in, if she left for Canada, she would risk not being allowed back in. They had expected it would all be taken care of with plenty of time to spare, but it wasn’t so she couldn’t risk going to Canada. She’s still with the company and is scheduled to return at the next set of tapings. Rosemary’s role changed from a match to doing a run-in during the Abyss vs. Grado match.

The show opened with Alberto showing up and the announcers saying what is he going to be doing on the show.

1. Trevor Lee retained the X title in a six-way over Dezmond Xavier, Garza Jr., Sonjay Dutt, Matt Sydal and Petey Williams in 12:25. This was a good match. It was announced as a Lucha style match meaning that two people were allowed in at any time, but you didn’t have to tag. Since the first person who scores a pin wins, using logic, nobody would want to be replaced. Luckily there were no instances of guys who wanted to stay in when somebody else wanted in. Williams, the only Canadian, was the most popular guy in this match, and maybe, on the show. Williams got a huge reaction coming out to “O Canada”: with the flag. The fans chanted “We Want Petey” when he wasn’t in. Sydal looked great. Garza Jr. just had shoulder surgery and his shoulder was all taped up and it was clear he had no business in there. Luckily with so many people, he couldn’t hurt the match. Sydal, Williams and Xavier did a triple tope on the other three. Xavier did a space flying tiger drop and a sky twister. Williams used a sharpshooter for the easy Canadian pop. The match built to Williams hitting the Canadian Destroyer, teased throughout the bout. He hit it on Xavier. Lee then threw William and out and pinned Xavier. ***1/4

2. Taiji Ishimori pinned Tyson Dux in 4:47. Masayuki Uchida, who runs Pro Wrestling NOAH, came out with Ishimori. The winner was to get a shot at the X title. It was a little rough in spots. The announcers pushed that Dux was the best unsigned talent in Canada. It was more like a basic TV match. Laurel Van Ness was in the crowd pretending to be drunk. Unlike before, when she wore the wedding dress for months, now she was wearing a super short dress. Ishimori won with a 450. *1/2

Alberto came out for his “Oh no, he’s shooting” promo. He got a good reaction, but not overwhelming. He talked about what this company did to him, calling the people in charge cowards and perros. Well, with the benefit of hindsight I’m pretty sure most dogs, had they been in charge, would have done a better job than Dixie Carter. He said the company screwed him and destroyed him because they have no cajones. He said the company was run by backstabbers. He said the company believed all the lies instead of actually reading the reports because the reports will tell you that “I didn’t do anything but they suspended me and stopped paying me.” The announcers were acting like this was all a shoot and that the company may cut his mic.

He said how they stripped him of the title, but the current champion is fake and he would have to beat him to be a real champion. He said this place didn’t care about his family, his young children, and that there’s a loser in the company who wanted to spread lies and stuff that never happened. He said that when he showed he didn’t do anything, nobody from the company called or texted him or came to his house. He said the company was filled with losers, cowards and backstabbers and vowed to do something tonight.

He then went to Jeremy Borash and said he thought they were friends and asked him where he was three months ago. He said that Borash never called or texted him. Fans were chanting for Alberto to put Borash through a table, and he’s the babyface announcer. He told Borash to tell the people if he called him. Borash said that he never called or texted him and apologized. Then he and Borash shook hands while Borash acted all nervous. Alberto said he was going to make a statement. Borash said that they should talk about this later tonight and Alberto said “Maybe not.” Alberto promised that tonight would be amazing.

An interesting note is that when the show aired on television in the U.K., they edited the Alberto promo off the show.

3. Abyss beat Grado in a Monster’s Ball match in 10:23. The story here is that if Grado win, he would get his visa back. But if he lost, he wouldn’t and would have to return to the U.K. It’s all an angle as even though Grado lost, he’s still with the company and they’ll just be doing a storyline to change the stipulation. Abyss was working with a bad knee injury so he was limited in what he could do. Grado gave him a ow blow to start the match and used a kendo stick and a cheese grater. Abyss used a staple gun to staple Grado’s forehead. There was a barbed wire board thrown into the ring. Another barbed wire board was set up between the apron and the barricade. Abyss also pulled out thumbtacks. Grado used a cheese grater to the groin and the head. They traded garbage can shots. Grado was on the top rope and Abyss threw a garbage can at his head and Grado took a bump off the top rope through the barbed wire board bridge. Abyss then brought in Janice, the board with nails. Borash asked how he ever got that through customs. Laurel Van Ness was then shown in the stands acting drunk and falling all over guys in the stands. Abyss took a bump into a barbed wire board. Another barbed wire board was put on top of Abyss so he was a sandwich. Grado came off the top rope with a splash onto the board on top of him. Van Ness then hit the ring. So the story is that Grado was going to marry her so he could stay in the U.S., only to find out she was from Canada, so Grado called off the wedding, and he got drunk for the next two months, while all the time posting on social media photos with her real boyfriend Zack Ryder. She also gave Grado the killswitch and was pounding on him. The lights then went out. When they came on, Rosemary was in the ring. She blew mist in the face of Van Ness. Abyss went to choke slam her, but she started rubbing his head so he stopped. Abyss held Grado and she blew mist, but Grado moved and it got in Abyss’ eyes. Abyss was blinded and didn’t see what he was doing and choke slammed Rosemary on thumbtacks. Grado then schoolboyed Abyss and it appeared there was a count of three. The bell rang, except Borash then said that it wasn’t the finish and Abyss kicked out at two and that the bell ringer had made a mistake. The crowd booed that the match was continuing. Abyss got up and immediately gave Grado a black hole slam on a barbed wire board for the pin. ½*

4. James Strom & Ethan Carter III & Eddie Edwards beat El Hijo del Fantasma & El Texano Jr. & Pagano in 15:28. Dorian Roldan came out with Team AAA. The match was sloppy a lot of the way. Pagano is bad and a lot of the stuff looked mistimed, particularly when he was in. But the fans were into the Impact vs. AAA dynamic. Early on EC 3 wouldn’t tag in and turned his back to his partners. Texano whipped Storm with a bullrope. EC 3 hot tagged in and cleaned house. Edwards hit Fantasma with a tope. Texano did a running flip dive. Storm monkey flipped Pagano over the top rope on everyone. Storm followed with a flip plancha. Then they did a tower of doom spot. The stuff got over even though much of it looked bad. Fantasma gave Edwards a tombstone piledriver on the apron. The finish saw EC 3 hit a double low blow on Pagano and Texano, and then a double one percenter on both. The crowd was pretty into it by this point and Storm tagged in and pinned Pagano after a superkick. *1/2

5. Dave & Jake Crist (OVE) retained the tag titles beating Ortiz & Santana (LAX) in a 5150 street fight in 10:16. This was the wildest match on the show. Before the match started, the idea was that a mystery guy took out Homicide. You saw a pipe and a guy buried under the Mexican flag but you never actually saw it was Homicide. LAX started the match with a double tope. They used kendo sticks and a garbage can lid. Dave back suplexed Santana on a chair. Ortiz power bombed Jake off the stage and through a table. Then LAX put Dave on the table. Santana climbed up the light stand and did a New Jack style splash on Dave through a table. Fans were chanting “We can’t see shit” while this insanity was going on. Jake threw a chair on Ortiz’s head. Jake superplexed Santana onto four chairs, but Jake actually landed more on the chairs. The finish saw Sami Callihan run in and throw powder in Konnan’s eyes. Callihan threw Santana off the top rope onto a ladder bridging the apron and barricade. Callihan gave Ortiz a piledriver off the apron and through a table and both Crist Brothers pinned Ortiz to win. They buried LAX under the Mexican flag after the match. ***

6. Gail Kim won the Knockouts title in a three-way over champion Sienna and Allie in 9:40. Anthony Carelli (Santino Marella) was shown at ringside before the match. They called him by his real name, but Josh Matthews said he’s known him so long he calls him Boris (his name in OVW was Boris Alexiev). The match was sloppy with the story being Kim trying to win the title in her final match. Sienna German suplexed bot at the same time. She also choked Kim with her own hair. It was a weird dynamic where you had two faces and one heel. The original plan was for Taryn Terrell to be the fourth member but she couldn’t get into Canada and has left the promotion. Kim, who was the clear crowd favorite, pinned Sienna with eat defeat off the middle rope. *1/4

7. Bobby Lashley & King Mo Lawal beat Stephan Bonnar & Moose in a cage match in 10:41. The reason Moose continues to use his entrance song in every promotion is because his brother wrote it for him. This was well laid out given Lawal has only minimal experience as a wrestler and Bonnar has only had maybe two matches. They would tease Lawal and Bonnar going at it and then Lashley and Moose would get involved. It was clear Lashley and Moose were carrying it. Lashley power bombed Moose into the cage and Bonnar then power bombed Lashley. Lawal ended up cut around the right eye and was bleeding pretty bad. Moose did a lawn dart spot on Lawal. Lashley powerslammed Bonnar. The story at this point they told was how the wrestlers were beating up the MMA guys. Lashley power bombed Moose into the turnbuckles but Moose came right back out with a spear. There was a loud “GSP” chant when Mo took down Bonnar and was doing ground and pound. Moose and Lawal ended up going out the cage door. Dan Lambert then threw Mo into the ring and all the ATT guys, UFC fighter Colby Covington along with Alex Coracero and Josh Hartnett, went in the cage with Lambert. Lambert then locked the cage door with Moose on the outside. So it was six-on-one on Bonnar, who was laying everyone out until the numbers game became too much. Moose then climbed to the top of the cage and did a crossbody onto everyone. Moose then gave Hartnett a tree slam off the top rope. For the finish, Moose was distracted by Covington and Lashley speared him for the win. **1/4

8. Eli Drake retained the Global championship over Johnny Impact in 19:29. Chris Adonis was in Drake’s corner. He was interfering regularly. There was a cool spot where Drake whipped Mundo into the barricade and somehow he slid under it, came up the other side and did a running shoulder tackle back in. Drake used a neckbreaker on the apron. Impact used a back suplex on the ring steps. Drake crotched Impact on the barricade. Impact kicked Drake into the post. Impact went to kick Drake, but kicked the post. Drake gave him a swing into the barricade. Drake used a springboard moonsault bodyblock. Impact used a Samoan drop off the middle rope. Impact went to the top for his Starship Pain finisher, but Adonis distracted him and Drake used a quick superplex for a near fall. Impact used a top rope Spanish fly for a near fall. Adonis threw in the belt. Impact ducked the belt shot and hit a disaster kick on Drake. Impact then laid out Adonis with a belt shot. Impact hit Starship Pain on Drake and had him pinned. Alberto then pulled the referee out of the ring. Impact went for a dive on Alberto, who moved and Impact wiped out the referee. Alberto got in the ring and hit Drake with a belt shot, acting like he didn’t care who won. The he nailed Impact with a hard unprotected chair shot to the head. Alberto put Drake on top and the ref counted the pin. The match itself was good but all the interference got old, especially after the previous match was all about interference, and the tag title match was all about interference, and the Abyss match was all about interference. It was just too much. **3/4


Yukihiro Sakaeda, better known as Tokyo Joe and Joe Daigo, who was a trainer and booker for New Japan Pro Wrestling after his wrestling career ended due to a catastrophic accident in 1974, passed away on 11/4 at the age of 75.

Sakaeda had been suffering from colon cancer, and passed away due to organ failure after in infection in his small intestine coming out of surgery on 10/31.

Sakaeda, wrestling as Tokyo Joe, was working in Montreal in 1974 and scheduled to return to the IWE promotion in Japan with a major push. Before going back, he and tag team partner Devil Murasaki had expressed interest in wrestling briefly in one more territory in North America. The Kiwis, later known as The Sheepherders and Bushwhackers, who they knew from Grand Prix Wrestling in Montreal, were at the time in Stampede Wrestling as the International tag team champions and expressed interest in working a three week program where they’d drop the titles the first week, and then regain them two weeks later when Joe & Murasaki would leave.

But after winning the titles, tragedy followed. On March 18, 1974, a group of wrestlers, Joe, Murasaki, Killer Karl Krupp and Gama Singh (the uncle of Jinder Mahal) were in the car with him headed to Lethbridge, in a terrible snowstorm. Archie “The Stomper” Gouldie was able to find them on the highway and told them to pull over. When they did, he told them to head back to Calgary because the show in Lethbridge was being canceled due to the weather.

On the way back, the car slid on black ice and ended up in a ditch. Nobody was seriously injured. Another car came by and saw the wrestlers in a ditch, and drove to a place nearby and called a toe truck to get them out. When the toe truck driver found the wrestlers, Joe came and tried to help him put on the cable to pull the vehicle out. At that time another car came down the highway and also slid on the black ice, and then was able to swerve to avoid crashing into the toe truck, but in doing so, drove into Joe and drove him into another car. His leg was severed and there were pieces all over the highway. They got the pieces and did emergency surgery, but they couldn’t save the leg and had to amputate it. His wrestling career was over.

There was a huge court case stemming from the injury so he decided to stay in Calgary due to the case, rather than return to Japan, and after getting a settlement, ended up living the rest of his life in Calgary.

He worked booking foreign talent to the IWE promotion until it folded in 1981. At that time he ran a gas station in Calgary. In July, 1984, he was given a job as a scout, trainer and booker of foreign talent for New Japan Pro Wrestling after Hisashi Shinma was removed from power in the promotion over an embezzlement scandal. Among the people he gave the first major career breaks to in those years were Chris Benoit, Kokina (Yokozuna), Sid Vicious, Soul Taker (Charles “Godfather” Wright) and Punisher Dice Morgan, who became The Undertaker.

In addition, New Japan would send young wrestlers to Calgary for Joe to train, bulk them up with muscle and let their hair grow long and basically allow New Japan to bring them back with new finishing moves and new looks. Joe would train them, and they would work in Calgary and also gain experience working nightly for Otto Wanz’s tournaments in Germany and Austria. Among those he trained early on were Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Shinjiro Otani and Yutaka Yoshie. He also had a hand in training Akira Nogami, Osamu Nishimura, Kensuke Sasaki, Togi Makabe, Kenzo Suzuki, Masahiro Chono, Kendo Kashin, as well as Calgary based wrestlers like Natalya Neidhart (the only woman he ever trained, as he was of the belief women didn’t belong in pro wrestling but after seeing her passion for the sport agreed to train her), Harry Smith (Davey Boy Smith Jr.), T.J. Wilson (Tyson Kidd), Eric Thompson (Viktor of the Ascension) and did some, but not a lot of training with Ted Annis (Teddy Hart) and Jack Evans. He was also the conduit to bring Japanese wrestlers like Animal Hamaguchi, Mighty Inoue, Hiroshi Hase, Shinya Hashimoto and Sasaki to Calgary and other places in North America early in their careers.

He started as a sumo in 1957, at the age of 15. When his career in sumo ended, he became a pro wrestler in 1966 with Tokyo Pro Wrestling, training under Toyonobori, using the ring name Tsuyoshi Sendai.

After that promotion folded, he moved to the IWE and worked underneath, using the ring name Tetsunosuke Daigo. In 1973, when Mad Dog Vachon was working for the promotion, he saw Daigo wrestle, and thought he was great. He told the promotion he thought Daigo was one of the best pound-for-pound wrestlers in the world and wanted to bring him to Grand Prix Wrestling.

He had largely been a recluse for the past several years and nobody in the wrestling world even knew that he was battling colon cancer. He never returned phone calls and such, although he did see Ross Hart last year with Smith Hart passed away.

Wilson in particular had a close emotional attachment to him because of the similarities that both were undersized great workers whose careers were suddenly taken from them.

“I don’t know what my life would have been had you not come into it,” wrote Wilson. “I promise you I wouldn’t have survived June 1, 2015. But the truth is I wouldn’t have made it to that point anyway. I couldn’t appreciate you more than I do.”

Wilson believes, and almost certainly it’s true, that if not for the heavy emphasis Joe put on strengthening his neck in training, that he never would have survived the broken neck he suffered from the Samoa Joe muscle buster, an injury that only five percent of the people getting survive, and virtually nobody doesn’t end up a quadriplegic from it.

“Tokyo Joe, thanks for training me and believing in me as the first and only female wrestler you ever trained,” wrote Natalya Neidhart. “I’ll never forget our life lessons.”

“Tokyo Joe was crazy, stubborn, a psychic or second sighted, pushy, inspiring, tough as shit, funny, a trash talker, heavy drinker and a warrior with an insane work ethic,” said Harry Smith.

We’ll have more on him hopefully in next week’s issue.


One of Dragon Gate’s major shows, the Gate of Destiny event, took place on 11/3 at the Edion Arena in Osaka, before 4,000 fans (reported as 5,500) which is still impressive since it was with high ticket prices and New Japan was running the same building two days later.

The show featured one title change, as Yamato & BxB Hulk & Kzy won the Open the Triangle Gate titles in a three-way match over champions Shingo Takagi & Takashi Yoshida & Lindaman, with the third team being Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Kotoka.

The two highlights were said to be the return of Ricochet and the main event where Masaaki Mochizuki retained the Open the Dream Gate title over Susumu Yokosuka.

The main event was said to be the best singles match in the promotion for the year and a match of the year candidate.

Ricochet is currently doing a farewell tour with the promotion before he goes to the place he’s not allowed to talk about. Dragon Gate was the first international full-time promotion to give him a top-level push, including in 2014 his becoming the first and still the only foreigner to win the Open the Dream Gate title.

1. Shun Skywalker pinned Hyo Watanabe in 6:11 after a moonsault.

2. K-Ness & Yosuke Santa Maria & Shachihoko Boy & Misterioso (a Los Angeles independent wrestler) beat Gamma & Mondai Ryu & Kaito Ishida & Jason Lee in 7:47 when K-Ness pinned Ishida.

3. T-Hawk & Yasushi Kanda & Punch Tominaga beat Don Fujii & Ryo Saito & U-T when T-Hawk pinned U-T after the Kerbones. T-Hawk after the match said that he wasn’t happy where he was booked on the show and that the Verserk group should be treated better than this.

4. Kagetora retained the Open the Brave Gate title beating former champion Genki Horiguchi in 10:26.

5. Ricochet pinned Eita in 15:41 with a 630. This was said to be a great match.

6. Cima & Dragon Kid retained the Open the Twin Gate titles over Ben K & Big R Shimizu in 17:30 when Cima used the meteora on Ben K.

7. Yamato & BxB Hulk & Kzy won the Open the Triangle Gate titles from champions Shingo Takagi & Takashi Yoshida & Lindaman and also beat Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Kotoka when Yamato used a Frankensteiner to pin Takagi in 23:38. This was an elimination match as Hulk first pinned Kotoka to eliminate that team.

8. Masaaki Mochizuki pinned Susumu Yokosuka in 23:40 with the buzzsaw kick to retain the title. The reports we got raved about Mochizuki, calling him the best 45-year-old wrestler in the world in this match.


So here are the latest when it comes to the year-to-year North American business comparisons.

For September, WWE Raw house shows averaged 3,683 fans per show, the Raw TV tapings averaged 6,950; the Smackdown house shows averaged 3,188 and the Smackdown TV tapings averaged 3,950.

The numbers for last year were Raw house shows at 5,480, Raw TV tapings at 7,100, Smackdown house shows at 3,688 and Smackdown TV tapings at 5,850, so it was a decline across the board. It also makes clear that while some attributed the weak house show and in particular lower TV taping numbers to seasonal and September being a tough month, while Raw TV’s were pretty much the same, in all other categories for September there was a market drop, even though ratings were steady.

The ratings are the more important number since television is far more important than house shows to WWE business. But house shows are the best barometer of whether the talent and programs are clicking with the public, since people who are creatures of habit will turn on the television shot during the familiar time slot, but that doesn’t tell you how much they care or are paying attention, only that the TV is on. House shows tell you how popular the brand is and the star power of the roster.

Raw house shows for the month were down 32.8 percent, Raw TV’s were down 2.1 percent, Smackdown house shows were down 13.6 percent and Smackdown TV tapings were down 32.5 percent. Those are very significant year-to-year declines.

However, with factors being the election being last year, Raw numbers for this year are up.

Raw averaged a 1.98 rating and 2.89 million viewers in September, while Smackdown averaged a 1.78 rating and 2.60 million viewers.

Last year’s numbers were Raw at a 1.94 rating and 2.72 million viewers and Smackdown at a 1.75 rating and 2.44 million viewers, so those are clear increases.

Raw was up 2.1 percent in ratings, 6.3 percent in viewers (because viewers per home continue to increase) while Smackdown was up 1.7 percent in ratings and 6.6 percent in viewers.

NXT, on the other hand, averaged 1,134 per show outside of Florida and 300 in Florida this year. That’s a slight increase from 1,067 per show outside Florida and 300 in Florida last year, or a 6.3 percent increase in outside of Florida attendance.

ROH dropped, although that’s more because they only ran two shows in September, both in Las Vegas on successive nights. So the average was 800 this year and 838 last year, or a rare year-to-year drop of 4.5 percent since ROH has been up greatly all year.

Impact was the big loser in year-to-year comparisons. Impact averaged 255,000 viewers in September this year, down from 359,000 last year, or a whopping 29.0 percent down, which when it comes to ratings, which are usually the last metric to drop rather than the first, is gigantic.

For October, the attendance figures saw Raw house shows averaging 3,900, Raw TV tapings averaging 6,380, Smackdown house shows averaging 2,592 and Smackdown TV tapings averaging 4,960.

For last October, the figures were Raw house shows at 3,427, Smackdown house shows at 2,800, Raw TV tapings at 8,000 and Smackdown TV tapings at 5,000.

So Raw house shows were up 13.8 percent, Raw TV tapings were down 20.3 percent, Smackdown house shows were down 7.4 percent and Smackdown TV tapings were down 0.8 percent.

Raw averaged a 1.94 rating and 2.82 million viewers this year. Smackdown averaged a 1.67 rating and 2.39 million viewers.

Last year Raw averaged a 1.97 rating and 2.81 million viewers and Smackdown averaged a 1.64 rating and 2.33 million viewers.

But with Halloween on a Monday last year, and Tuesday this year, it’s better to factor that out, so in normalizing it, last year’s Raw would be 2.00 rating and 2.87 million viewers, and this year’s Smackdown would be a 1.72 rating and 2.45 million viewers.

So basically, Raw would be down 3.0 percent in rating and 1.7 percent in viewing audience and Smackdown would be up 4.9 percent in ratings and 5.2 percent in viewing audience.

NXT this October averaged 1,023 per show outside of Florida and 296 per show in Florida.

Last year’s numbers were 1,557 per show outside of Florida and 241 in Florida.

So the out of Florida shows were down 34.3 percent and the in Florida shows were up 22.8 percent.

ROH in October averaged 1,417 per show, meaning it for the first time in a long time, handily beat the NXT out of Florida number. Last year in October ROH averaged 558 fans per show, so that’s a 153.9 percent annual increase.

Impact for the month averaged 257,000 viewers, down from 326,000 last year or a decrease of 21.2 percent.


The taped Smackdown on 11/7 with the A.J. Styles title win over Jinder Mahal did a 1.86 rating and 2,603,000 viewers (1.52 viewers per home, a number lower than usual) a good number by today’s standards. Being taped actually helped this one a lot, since the word got out of the title change during the afternoon.

With last week being Halloween, it’s really not fair to do the week comparison, so we’ll compare it with 10/24 instead, which did 2,699,000 viewers the day after the invasion show.

The show did a 0.56 in 12-17 (down 3.4 percent from two weeks earlier), 0.70 in 18-34 (up 9.4 percent from two weeks ago), 0.94 in 35-49 (down 4.1 percent) and 1.07 in 50+ (down 2.7 percent)

The audience was 62.4 percent male in 18-49 and 61.0 percent male in 12-17.

The Ric Flair 30 for 30 on ESPN on 11/7did 1,831,000 viewers. It was in roughly tenth place out of the 94 episodes to this date of the series.

To show how the audience was different from WWE, this drew a much younger audience, more heavily concentrated in ages 35-49, and far more of a male concentration.

The show did a 0.43 in 12-17, 0.69 in 18-34, 1.13 in 35-49 and 0.48 in 50+. The audience was 77.5 percent male in 18-49 and 78.3 percent male in 12-17.

Raw on 11/6 did a 1.94 rating and 2,829,000 viewers (1.59 viewers per home), almost identical to the 1.94 rating and 2,830,000 viewers of the previous week, so it appeared that being taped had no bearing at all on the ratings. It’s notable because it’s been a given that at some point in time with the changes in social media, that live vs. tape will mean a difference when it comes to these shows. In the past, it’s made a very slight difference and you can argue perhaps this week’s show was better (and they did build the third hour better with the tag title match having Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins rather than pushing the women, or teasing Braun Strowman’s return, or cruiserweights in the final segment as in the last several weeks). But even if there was a difference, it’s still very minor.

In addition, the competition was tougher overall since the Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions football game did 11,083,000 viewers, up six percent from the previous week. Dancing With The Stars, without Nikki Bella, dropped six percent to 9,298,000 viewers, but that’s still within the normal range for the season.

What was notable is that the second to third hour drop this week was more among men than women. In the 18-49 demo, men were down 7.6 percent in the third hour while women in that demo were only down 4.7 percent. However, there was the consistent, but not as high third hour drop among teenage girls at 23.3 percent. Teenage boys in hour three were down 1.7 percent.

The show did a 0.68 in 12-17 (up 1.5 percent), 0.78 in 18-34 (down 3.7 percent), 1.12 in 35-49 (up 4.7) and 1.11 in 50+ (down 4.7 percent).

In the 18-49 demo, males were 66.8 percent while in the 12-17 age group, the male skew was 59.8 percent.

HBO Boxing on 11/4 with Deontay Wilder defending his version of the heavyweight title against Bermain Stiverne, which went head-to-head with UFC 217, did 824,000 viewers for the main event fight itself. The prelims and talking segments started at 327,000 and the first prelim did 427,000 and it continued to grow throughout the night.

Bellator on 11/3 did 508,000 viewers for a show headlined by Ryan Bader vs. Linton Vassell for the light heavyweight title and built around the theme of Penn State’s Phil Davis and Ed Ruth returning to the gym that they wrestled at and became NCAA champion. It’s in the range of what the shows have been doing, although I’m also sure that when they outbid UFC for the likes of Bader and Davis, they were hoping to draw a lot more than 508,000 viewers. It was up 16 percent from their last show headlined by Gegard Mousasi. The peak rating was 695,000 viewers for Davis vs. Leo Leite, which was the third match from the top, which means they lost viewers from that level during both the women’s flyweight title match and the Bader main event.

Impact on 11/2 did 275,000 viewers for the go-home show for Bound For Glory, which was up 19 percent from the low number the week before.

Total Divas on 11/1 did 556,000 viewers, which is in the same range that Total Bellas was drawing.

For the 10/31 Smackdown show, did a 1.53 rating and 2,119,000 viewers (1.51 viewers per home, way down from usual but with Halloween you would expect that).

Here’s some of the usual info we didn’t have at press time last week. The teenage rating was 0.48, down 17.2 percent from the high mark the week before. The audience was 60.8 percent male in 18-49 and 55.6 percent male in 12-17.


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CMLL: Jose Jair Soria, better known as Shocker, was arrested on 11/8 for allegedly assaulting a prostitute. According to news reports, Soria allegedly attacked a woman in Calzada de Tlalpan. Hotel administrators at the Hotelito filed charges against Soria for causing damage to one of the rooms. He was arrested by police in Coyoacan

 

The 11/3 show at Arena Mexico was a holiday card celebrating Dia de Muertos, which is something like Halloween. They had a big crowd built around yet another Cibernetico match, this time limited to eight people for the newly created Rey del Inframundo championship. You can see who they are counting on for the future, because the final two in were Soberano Jr., and Sanson, who ended up winning. The match went more than 30 minutes and I’d give it ****, with tons of great flying moves and a hot crowd. The order of elimination was Forastero, Valiente, Hechicero, Diamante Azul, Mistico, and Cuatrero. Because the semi went so long, the last match, Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia beating Caristico & Volador Jr. & Rush via DQ in two straight falls was totally rushed. The big thing was that after the match, both Rush & Volador Jr. turned on Caristico. Volador had been teasing it during their main event match the week before. Rush then offered Volador a spot in Los Ingobernables. The other top match saw Dallys retain the CMLL women’s title winning two of three falls over Marcela. The goofy aspect of this was that after every match, they had monsters surround the ring and they would carry the losers out of the ring and to the back and go through a special door, which is supposedly the doors to hell. Luckily, the CMLL talent is like Braun Strowman and they are able to escape from things that would kill a normal person, in this case would, places that were for dead people, and recover quickly enough to not miss their next bookings

The 11/10 show is headlined by Mistico & Marco Corleone & Valiente vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Sanson & Cuatrero, plus Negro Casas & Mr. Niebla & Cavernario vs. Sam Adonis & Shocker & El Terrible. 

Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi, as Kamaitachi, are in for the 11/12 main event, teaming with Rush against Marco Corleone & Volador Jr. & Diamante Azul.

AAA: Mesias (Mil Muertes) is out of action after undergoing surgery on both knees on 11/2. That’s a tough comeback at 42 years old

Averno & Chessman & Super Fly (The OGT’s) won the trios titles from El Poder de Norte of Mocho Cota Jr. & Carta Brava Jr. & Tito Santana. In the main event, Rey Escorpion won a three-way over Psycho Clown and El Texano Jr. to become the top contender for the Latin American title. El Hijo del Fantasma attacked Texano after the match. Dr. Wagner Jr., billed as Rey Wagner, won over Pagano, Hernandez and Mr. Aguila to become the top contender for the AAA Mega heavyweight title. El Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr. interfered to help his father win. Also on the show, Lanzelot retained the cruiserweight title beating Australian Suicide.

THE CRASH: Their big tour opened on 11/3 in Guadalajara before 3,500 fans, although the crowd looked bad because they were in a major outdoor bullring. The main event was a three-way with Brian Cage & Willie Mack winning over War Machine and Laredo Kid & Mr. 450. The 11/4 anniversary show drew a sellout of 4,500 in Tijuana.

ALL JAPAN: Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi retained the All-Asia tag titles beating the foreign team of Kim Nan Seok & Dr. Monz Jr. on 11/3 in Chiba

On the 11/5 show in Nagoya, Yoshitatsu beat Jun Akiyama via submission in 13:16. Yoshitatsu is getting a Triple Crown title match so they have to do this result, but I still think it’s not a good idea for New Japan bottom guys to be brought in and beat the legends and top guys here. I’ve seen this happen too often with smaller promotions taking big promotion prelim guys and treating them like superstars and having them beat their top stars, and usually it’s a long-term negative

The main event saw Kento Miyahara beat Takao Omori with a German suplex, so right before the tag team tournament starts, both Akiyama & Omori, the tag champs, lost in singles.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: As of 11/9, these are the updated standings in the Global League tournament. A block–1. Naomichi Marufuji 4-0-1; 2. Go Shiozaki 5-1; 3. Masa Kitamiya 4-2; 4. Mitsuya Nagai and Cody Hall 3-4; 6. Mohammed Yone 2-4-1, 7. Maybach Taniguchi 1-4, 8. Yuji Okabayashi 0-7 (he was injured before the start of the tournament so all of his matches are forfeit wins for his opponents). B block–1. Katsuhiko Nakajima 3-0-1; 2. Masato Tanaka 4-1; 3. Kenou 3-1-1; 4. Atsushi Kotoge 3-2; 5. Yuko Miyamoto 3-4; 6. Akitoshi Saito and Quiet Storm 2-3; 8. Kazma Sakamoto 1-6

It should be noted that double DQ’s and double count outs, because neither guy gets a point, are considered as losses while 30-minute draws are considered as draws since each guy gets a point for them

For 11/3 in Nagoya, Storm pinned Sakamoto in 9:33 with a lariat; Miyamoto pinned Saito in 11:30 and Taniguchi went to a double count out with Nagai meaning both got zero points

11/5 in Yamagata before 292 fans saw Nagai beat Yone in 11:18, Shiozaki pinned Hall in 11:57 with a lariat, Kenou beat Sakamoto in 10:04 with a double foot stomp off the top rope and Storm pinned Miyamoto in 10:10 after a lariat

11/7 in Aizu Wakamatsu before 332 fans saw Tanaka pin Sakamoto with the sliding D in 6:24; Marufuji pinned Nagai with a small package in 11:32; Miyamoto pinned Kenou in 11:39, and Taniguchi and Kitamiya ended in a double count out in 13:39 meaning neither got any points.

NEW JAPAN: The way tickets are done, it was almost impossible for those living outside Japan to get floor seats at the Tokyo Dome since they were only sold to those living in Japan. It’s not the worst thing because Americans who had floor seats last year said that being in the stands, even though farther away, would be preferable unless it’s the first few rows. Last year, when there wasn’t so much of a run on tickets, there were Americans who got tickets on the floor, and some of them told me they were, by choice, wanting to sit in the stands this year

The Buysumotickets.com site that takes ticket orders from outside Japan for shows sent out messages to foreigners who had made orders for New Year’s Dash (1/5 at Korakuen Hall) saying that all ringside and reserved seats were sold to fan club members and only a few tickets are left, and they are only being sold at a physical ticket location in Tokyo with a two tickets per person maximum so all orders are being refunded. The web site send the message of apology about refunds noting they were as upset as the fans about not being able to fulfill the orders. “Those of you who ordered with us last year know that this did not happen before and there is no way we could have expected it.” They also wrote, “It seems NJPW is getting too popular. We will probably not accept any orders for Das next year, but that decision will be made much later.

Another reason why the New Japan younger wrestlers seem to progress so much faster than Americans, besides their initial training, is how they are booked. The 11/2 house show in Shizuoka would illustrate that point. Hirai Kawato has been working with good people the entire tour, as well as teaming up with Kushida. Kawato & Shota Umino were in trios matches with Jushin Liger, one of the most experienced and best workers of all-time. Katsuya Kitamura and Tomoyuki Oka were both in semifinals on that show, with Kitamura teaming with Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe, while Oka was teaming with Juice Robinson & Kota Ibushi. And Sho & Yoh on this tour were main events most nights as part of Chaos in matches with LIJ, meaning they’re working with guys of the level of Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, Seiya Sanada, Bushi and Evil almost every night

The next New Japan World live show is 11/16 which would be a 5 a.m. start from Shinjuku Face in Tokyo for a Lion’s Gate show featuring Young Lions matches with Tomoyuki Oka vs. Ren Narita, Katsuya Kitamura vs. Shota Umino and Hirai Kawato vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi. The top bouts are Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Kotaro Yoshino & Dinosaur Takuma, Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Go Asakawa and Yuji Nagata & Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuma Aoyagi & Daisuke Kanehira.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: The Destroyer (Dick Beyer), 87, was honored with a proclamation of the government on 11/3, given the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays. It was a big thing for a wrestler to get that kind of an award and this news was covered in all the newspapers and major national news shows. Destroyer was not only a top pro wrestling legend, as the only man to hold a singles win over Rikidozan in Japan, but was also a star in a highly-rated prime-time television comedy show in the early 70s on Nippon TV. When being honored, they brought up the huge ratings for the 1963 match with Rikidozan (which drew 60 million viewers and we had the minute-by-minute breakdown of the match, which would have been the single most watched live pro wrestling match in history) and his 1965 match with Toyonobori, as well as his later in life bringing young wrestlers and young swimmers on trips to Japan for cultural exchange reasons. When Reid Fliehr was younger, he was one of the youth wrestlers that Beyer one summer brought to Japan

Yoshihiro Takayama, even though a quadriplegic right now, is being able to get around in a wheelchair that has a remote control where he can control it by biting down on it

Yuji Okabayashi of Big Japan, who has also worked as a guest on other groups shows, often in partnership with Daisuke Sekimoto, underwent an undisclosed surgery and could be out of action for as long as one year. Okabayashi is one of the most underrated wrestlers in the world.

HERE AND THERE: Richard “Tugboat” Taylor, who wrestled from 1979 to 1997, mostly in Texas and Mexico, passed away on 11/8 at the age of 71. Taylor was probably best known in the 90s when he worked for the Global Wrestling Federation on ESPN, as part of a father-son tag team with Chaz Taylor. Taylor had a thick powerlifter type physique, at about 360 pounds. He competed in both amateur wrestling and powerlifting and was 33 years old before he started pro wrestling. He started as a prelim wrestler using the name Tuffy Taylor working Tennessee for Jerry Jarrett in 1979. He worked prelims for Mid South Wrestling, and the old Amarillo territory as Tug Taylor, as well as for Central States Wrestling, where he got his first legit push in 1984. He did some enhancement work in the late 80s for WCW and WWE as Tug Taylor, before his 1991 push for Global, which taped television out of the Dallas Sportatorium. He had a run in 1992 and 1993 with AAA as Ciclope as well. He later ran a pro wrestling school in Houston

Matt Morgan, 41, was elected to the City Commission in his hometown of Longwood, FL, after what turned into a nasty campaign. Morgan, who wrestled for WWE and TNA, after being a college basketball player, had been targeted in hit pieces as being pro-gambling and supporting Las Vegas-style casino gambling at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club. Morgan denied the charges and claimed it was dirty politics. He won his election with 58.5 percent of the vote to a position that pays $12,001 per year, and campaigned saying that the police and fire department personnel deserve raises

Davey Richards said that due to school work, he’s not going to wrestle in 2018 but will return in 2019. He changes his mind about wrestling all the time as his first retirement talk was in 2010. He’s going to medical school and sees that as his future

The Brian Pillman book: “Crazy Like A Fox: The Definitive Chronicle of Brian Pillman 20 Years later,” has been released as a paperback book by Liam O’Rourke. O’Rourke talked to a lot of the people closest to Pillman for the book, including myself, a number of his family members, Kim Wood (the former Bengals strength coach who, along with Bruce Hart and Terry Funk were the only people in and the ones who helped develop his “Loose Cannon” gimmick), Bruce Hart, Raven, Shane Douglas, Jim Cornette, Mark Madden, Mark Coleman (who went to college with him at Miami of Ohio where Coleman was the school’s star wrestler and Pillman was a first-team All-American nose tackle), Les Thatcher, Alex Marvez, Mike Johnson and others. The book is available from Amazon

The WrestleCade show on 11/25 in Winston-Salem, which was one of the best drawing indies every year over Thanksgiving weekend based on the area tradition that dates back to 1961, and WWE later booked Starrcade for the Greensboro Coliseum head-to-head, has as top matches, Eli Drake vs. Johnny Impact vs. Jack Swagger, Ryback vs. Joey Mercury, Jerry Lawler vs. George South and Dan Severn (managed by Jim Cornette) vs. Josh Woods. Notable Lawler working head-to-head with a WWE show. The show will be taped for the Global Wrestling Network, which is the new Impact streaming service

There is talk that Walt Harris, 96, who would be the oldest living person with a notable history in pro wrestling, will be at the All Pro Wrestling show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on 11/10. Harris was the television announcer for National All-Star Wrestling, which was Roy Shire’s flagship show on KTVU in San Francisco during the 60s when the promotion was at its high point. He was a Lance Russell level announcer with a similar play-by-play sports broadcaster low-key style, who would get the characters, particularly the heels over, by getting into arguments with them. He had the ability to get over to the public as an honest normal man dealing with dishonest people in a crazy world and was able to bring credibility to the promotion. He was key in very subtly leading the fans when they would do heel vs. heel main events because he always, by little things or phrases, such as “I can’t believe it’s come to this, but Ray (for Stevens), I’m wishing you the best of luck against (Kinji) Shibuya” or The Sheik. He would always call the babyfaces by their first name and the heels by their last name, with the idea the babyfaces were someone he, the credible announcer, knew on a first-name basis and the heels were people who he didn’t. Harris was far more famous for being the voice of Bay Bombers Roller Derby, which was huge in syndication during the mid-60s and early 70s. Harris was the Bay Bombers first announcer from when they got television in 1958, and was believed to be the first person hired by KTVU, when it went on the air that year. Roller Derby grew, as the station did, over the next few years and Roy Shire, through the help of Jim Barnett who knew a car dealer who wanted to sponsor the show, got on the station in 1961, with tapings weekly at the studio. Harris was the second host of the show, although he was there pretty early on to the point that everyone thinks of him as the first. Harris rarely goes out in public but on 11/4 attended a Roller Derby reunion for the first time in San Leandro, CA. The word from the reunion is that he still had his legendary voice. I last spoke to him about 20 years ago and he had great recall of his wrestling days at that time, particularly of Ray Stevens, who was the biggest star of that period. He stopped doing wrestling in 1970 when KTVU canceled wrestling when Shire, after being warned repeatedly, spit tobacco juice on their office carpet, thinking that his show, which was doing 250,000 viewers in the market every week, made him untouchable. Harris worked for the station and when the television was moved to Sacramento at another station, he no longer did it. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen him at a pro wrestling show, but it’s been decades. I had spoken with him a few times during the 70s and he had very fond recollections of pro wrestling. The first All Pro Wrestling Cow Palace show did almost 3,000 fans, one of the biggest independent crowds of the year. But this week’s show may be coming back too soon. The main events are Rey Mysterio Jr. & Juventud Guerrera vs. Penta 0M & Rey Fenix, Jack Swagger vs. Jeff Cobb, Joey Ryan & Candice LeRae vs. Colt Cabana & Tessa Blanchard and Reno Scum vs. Michael Elgin & Brian Cage

Seini Draughn, better known as Lei’d Tapa of TNA fame, who has also fought MMA in Japan for Rizin, will make her debut as a pro boxer on a show on 11/17 in Charlotte promoted by Pretty Girl Promotions. She will fight a four-round heavyweight fight against Melissa Holmes, who has a 1-3 record. Draughn, 34, who was a star volleyball player and woman pro football player before going into pro wrestling. She has an 0-2 record in MMA. She has been training in Jiu Jitsu and has won tournaments in that sport

AAW brought in Josh Alexander and Jimmy Jacobs as mystery guys for their 11/3 show in Berwyn, IL. Alexander was the mystery opponent for champion Rey Fenix. He hadn’t been able to get into the U.S. for the past 14 months due to visa issues. After Fenix won, Jacobs came out and challenged him. Jacobs said that at his previous job, they knew all about the Lucha Brothers and their reputation. The match was set up for 11/25 in Chicago. Fenix had his shoulder all taped up and then the next show on 11/4 in LaSalle, IL, he injured his ankle

John Morrison & Shane Strickland vs. Jimmy Havoc & Darby Allin in a no DQ match was announced for the 12/7 MLW show in Orlando, which is headlined by Matt Riddle vs. Tom Lawlor.

EUROPE: Insane Championship Wrestling runs its biggest event of the year, Fear & Loathing, on 11/19 at the Hydro in Glasgow. Last year’s show drew 6,000 fans, the largest crowd for a U.K. based promotion since 1981. This year’s main event is Joe Coffey vs. BT Gunn, and has appearances by Kevin Nash (as guest commissioner), Rey Mysterio Jr., and Rob Van Dam

This was going on just as we went to press, but at the 11/9 Revolution Pro show in London, a match with Tomohiro Ishii vs. Keith Lee apparently tore the house down with a number of people saying it was the best live match they had ever seen. The show opened with Ryan Smile winning a three-way over Bushi and Josh Bodom, when Smile pinned Bushi in 15:00. Toru Yano & Gedo beat No Fun Dunne & Lord Gideon Gray when Yano pinned Dunne in 10:00. Yano got a big reaction and fans were chanting that they wanted to buy his DVDs. Yano gave his DVD to one of the guys, who opened it, and got powder to the face. Matt Riddle pinned Desperado with a Karl Gotch style tombstone piledriver, which was a tease because the next day he had a singles match with Minoru Suzuki. Said to be a very good match. Tetsuya Naito pinned Marty Scurll in 15:00 in what was also said to be a very good match. Both were over big and both got chants. The ref was knocked down and missed Naito having a pin with a dragon suplex. Scurll hit Naito with the umbrella until Bushi came out. Naito came back to win the destino in a very good match. Yuji Nagata pinned Zack Gibson in 15:00 with the bridging back suplex. Chris Brookes & Travis Banks beat Rocky Romero & Yoshi-Hashi when Banks pinned Romero with the Kiwi crusher in 14:00. Fun match. Ishii pinned Lee in 16:00 with a brainbuster after Lee missed a moonsault. The main event saw Hirooki Goto & Will Ospreay over Zack Sabre Jr. & Minoru Suzuki in 27:00 when Ospreay pinned Sabre with the Oscutter, which made sense since the next night is Sabre defending the British heavyweight title against Ospreay. Suzuki would laugh at Ospreay’s chops.

ROH: Brandi Rhodes will be a member of the cast of the new E! reality show “WAGS Atlanta” which is basically about hot wives and girlfriends of celebrity athletes. Barbara Blank (Kelly Kelly) and Anna Nichole Miller (the girlfriend of Tito Ortiz) have been on other WAGS shows. The idea is that they are high living hot women who live in Atlanta in an eight-week season that starts on 1/3, airing in the Wednesday at 10 p.m. time slot. The storyline for Brandi is that she’s a pro wrestler and former ring announcer who struggles with being married to a famous wrestler (Cody is listed as a current major wrestling star and an actor) and pushes that she’s the daughter-in-law of Dusty Rhodes, but that she struggles being married to a famous wrestler

They announced new dates with shows on 1/20 in Nashville, a 2/9 TV taping in Concord, NC and a 2/10 house show at Center Stage in Atlanta

Updated November shows are: 11/11 in Fort Lauderdale, FL, with Kenny Omega & Young Bucks vs. Dalton Castle & Jay Lethal & Kenny King, Cody vs. Rocky Romero for the ROH title, Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley vs. TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia for the tag titles, Shane Taylor vs. Punishment Martinez, Adam Page & Marty Scurll vs. Chuckie T & Baretta vs. TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia in a three way, and Matt Taven vs. Flip Gordon; 11/12 in Lakeland, FL with Omega & Young Bucks vs. Romero & Chuckie T & Baretta, Taven vs. Lethal, Page vs Gordon and Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian vs. Shaheem Ali & LSG plus Cody on the show; 11/17 in San Antonio (which goes head-to-head with the NXT show with Drew McIntyre vs. Adam Cole with Shawn Michaels as referee) has Omega & Cody vs. Daniels & Kazarian, Young Bucks vs. Gordon & Scorpio Sky, Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley & Jonathan Gresham vs. Taven & O’Ryan & Marseglia, Scurll vs. Castle non-title, and Deonna Purrazzo vs. Britt Baker plus outsiders Rey Cometa and Esfinge. Cody is also bringing “Arrow” TV star Stephen Amell, who he worked with on a WWE angle and PPV match in 2015 and Cody has appeared a couple of times as a heel on “Arrow.

11/18 in Dallas has King vs. Kazarian for the TV title, Sabin & Shelley vs. Cometa & Esfinge for the tag titles and Young Bucks vs. Castle & Lethal

11/19 in Oklahoma City has Purrazzo vs. Madison Rayne as the only match announced so far.

IMPACT: After Gail Kim won the Knockouts title at Bound for Glory and retired, they did a tournament on television that will last through several episodes. At the 11/8 tapings it came down to a television main event match that looks to be airing likely on 12/14, although that could be off a week in either direction, where Laurel Van Ness beat Rosemary. Rosemary went to blow the mist but Van Ness blocked it with her hands and rubbed her hands in Rosemary’s face, and then hit the killswitch off the top rope for the pin

M.J. Jenkins, Marshe Rockett and referees Earl Hebner, Brian Stiffler and Robert King are all no longer with the company. Hebner had been with the company since 2006, after he and twin brother Dave were both fired by WWE over allegations they had taken WWE merchandise designed for sale at arena events and transferred it to a wrestling store in St. Louis. They had denied it and had very bitter feelings, especially since most figured Earl had a job there for life based on the double-crossing of Bret Hart in the 1997 Survivor Series finish. Earl had been inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame. Stiffler, if that’s his real name (actually it was taken from a character in the “American Pie” movies) was a regular referee. You could see that in attempting to save money, they are going to use Ontario based independent referees rather than flying in the regular referees and that’s where Stiffler and Brian Hebner decided to leave. Stiffler had talked about leaving for a long time, and had made multiple attempts to get a job with WWE over the years. King was a referee who had flown himself in for two sets of tapings for experience and hopes of getting a contract. When he realized he wasn’t going to get a contract, he decided to stop flying himself in. It was noted to us that all of the recent departures when contracts expired actually aren’t saving the company any money as all of the recent departures with the exception of maybe Rockstar Spud (who left on his own decision) were only getting paid on a per night deal to begin with. The company is doing lots of cost-cutting but most of the names being gone really aren’t factoring into that, they are just names the decision was made not to use anymore and there was no point in keeping them under a contract at that point. A key contract up early next year is James Storm, who has one of the highest paid remaining deals, so the decision with him will be interesting and a match was set up at the tapings where he put his career on the line against Dan Lambert. In the case of the referees, the decision was made to use local referees from Ontario rather than fly in the regular ref crew

Alberto has it in his contract that he gets a private dressing room. He was there through 11/8, and then left so wasn’t scheduled for the 11/9 and 11/10 tapings

Taryn Terrell actually did suffer a concussion from the television angle slap by Gail Kim and because of the injury most likely couldn’t have worked Bound for Glory even if she had stayed with the company. Her leaving the company had to do with a visa issue where she was unable to get into Canada

While this didn't get any publicity when it happened, Jessie Godderz was another of the names either not renewed or let go. He hasn't been used in a long time. He is scheduled for an independent show for the Bar Wrestling promotion in Baldwin Park, CA on 11/9, which I believe Joey Ryan runs

Thomas “Bram” Latimer was also released this past week. He hasn’t been used in months and was frustrated about not being in storylines for so long, so asked this past week for his release

Notes from the 11/6 TV tapings in Ottawa. The crowd was very small. For Xplosion, Texano pinned Phil Atlas. They taped Impact for 11/9 and 11/16. The first show opened with Eli Drake and Chris Adonis out. Drake said there were no more challengers for him. This brought out Petey Williams who issued a challenge, to set up a match. Matt Sydal pinned Sonjay Dutt with a shooting star press. Eddie Edwards retained the GHC heavyweight title beating El Hijo del Fantasma. Dave & Jake Crist & Sami Callihan beat Ray Steel & Markus Burke & Atlas. LAX attacked them after the match. There was a backstage brawl with Alberto and Johnny Impact. Alberto did another heel promo ripping on the company, as well as the fans. He then started insulting Johnny’s father, which led to a second brawl. Gail Kim came out and announced she was retiring and relinquishing the title. She did a speech talking about her entire career and mentioned the WWE run and Trish Stratus among others. Dutt & Dezmond Xavier & Garza Jr. beat Caleb Konley & Trevor Lee & Taiji Ishimori. Dan Lambert came out for a long interview. He demanded that Impact stop holding things up and release Bobby Lashley from his contract. Moose came out. Lashley, King Mo and others attacked Moose until James Storm made the save. Ethan Carter III retained the Grand Championship over Fallah Bahh. LAX & Homicide beat The Crist Brothers & Callihan. Drake retained the title beating Williams. They also taped one match for One Night Only in the future with Alberto beating Storm

Notes from the 11/7 tapings. There were about 350 fans in attendance, a number that includes paying fans, comped fans, and fans who were paid to be there. The show opened with Moose beating EC 3 with a discus lariat in a match taped for a One Night Only PPV. For Impact on 11/16 and 11/23 most likely, it opened with Laurel Van Ness winning a three-way over Madison Rayne (returning after a recent WWE tryout where she did well) and K.C. Spinelli in what was a first round match in a tournament to fill the vacant Knockouts title. Ishimori beat Hakim Zane with a 450. Van Ness was in the crowd pretending to be drunk and sitting on fans’ laps. Storm pinned Texano after a superkick. After the match, the ATT crew all beat down Storm and Moose made the save. Sydal beat Tyson Dux with a shooting star press. EC 3 was on commentary during this match. Impact beat Alberto using Starship pain in the TV main event. Good match. Drake interfered first. Williams came in for the save. Next was a One Night Only match with Rosemary beating Spinelli. The next show opened with Allie & Richard Justice (whose gimmick is that he’s a standby wrestler) & Garza Jr. & Fallah Bahh & Edwards beating Chris Adonis & Konley & KM & Van Ness & Fantasma. This would be for the show over Thanksgiving weekend because the loser of the fall, Adonis, had to wear the turkey suit. There were two tables set up with food that was cooked by Chef Robert Irvine. Long match. Long post-match. Edwards pinned Adonis with a roll-up after escaping the Masterlock. After Adonis put on the suit, we had a big food fight. Geez, after that stuff just failed so badly with the Halloween theme in WWE, they still do it? Since a lot of the same names were in the next matches, it appears they were for the 11/30 show or perhaps some of 11/16. The next three matches were all taped for a One Night Only show. Santana & Ortiz beat Trevor Lee & Konley. Edwards & Xavier beat Dave & Jake Crist. A main event saw Lashley beat Fantasma with a spear

Notes from the 11/8 tapings. For the show airing on 12/7, Williams & Impact beat Drake & Adonis when Impact pinned Adonis after Starship pain. After the match, Alberto beat down Drake. Impact just watched this. In a match for Xplosion, Edwards pinned NOAH’s Kaito Kiyomiya (who is currently living in Ontario on his excursion) with a leg lariat. Back to Impact, Ishimori pinned Konley after a 450. Lee and Konley attacked Ishimori after the match and Xavier made the save. In a three-way where the winner was to meet Van Ness for the title, Rosemary won over Sienna and Allie by pinning Allie. Alberto & Williams & Impact beat Drake & Adonis & Kongo Kong. Jimmy Jacobs was in the corner as Kong’s manager. Kong carried Williams to the back so it ended up as a two-on-two. Alberto pinned Drake after a frog splash. Dave & Jake Crist & Callihan came out and challenged anyone. The Montreal tag team of TDT, Mathieu St. Jacques & Thomas DuBois came out. They got promo time and got into a brawl. The Montreal team, which was heavily cheered, was a victim of a 3-on-2 until LAX, being Santana, Ortiz, Konnan and Homicide, all made the save. In a Grand championship match, EC 3 retained with a draw with Sydal. EC 3 won the first round and Sydal won the second round. Fallah Bahh was a judge and in the third round, one judge had it for each guy so he was the deciding judge and he ruled it a draw. Lashley & Dan Lambert beat Moose & Storm. Lambert played the manager role, always running away from Moose & Storm, and only tagging in when they were down, and tagging out when they recovered. The finish saw Lashley spear Storm, and then Lambert tagged himself in and pinned Storm. The usual ATT crew was at ringside. Drake did an interview running down Alberto. Alberto came out. They’ve got some indie bookings that look like they’re being taped over the next several weeks because Alberto talked about a match they had last week in New Jersey and then challenged him to a title match next week in Detroit. These would be on indie shows since Impact isn’t running any house shows. Alberto then said he wanted the match tonight. Impact then came out and said he would be in Detroit as well. It ended up in a brawl with Drake & Adonis & Impact & Alberto. The brawl ended with Impact doing a nice dive on the other three before officials broke it up. For the 12/14 show, Allie won a four-way over Sienna, K.C. Spinelli and Madison Rayne when Allie pinned Sienna with a roll-up when Sienna had Rayne up on her shoulders. Said to be a good long match. Ishimori & Xavier beat Lee & Konley when Ishimori pinned Lee with a roll-up. This should lead to a Lee vs. Ishimori X title match later this week. Moose & Storm came out for a promo. Lashley & Lambert came out. Storm challenges Lambert to a singles match. Lambert accepted but only on the condition that if Storm loses, he must retire from wrestling. It’s possible this could be the blow-off since Storm’s contract expires soon and he has a fairly big money deal since they signed him back after he had done an NXT match for television before actually signing with WWE. Next was Van Ness beating Rosemary in the finals of the Knockouts tournament. A main event for the TV show “Genesis” was Drake defending against Impact and Alberto in a three-way cage match. Adonis slammed the cage door on Alberto’s head, knocking him out. Drake and Impact were both climbing over the cage. Impact jumped first and would have landed on the floor first, but Adonis caught him and stopped his legs from hitting the ground and then Drake jumped and his feet hit the floor first.

UFC: Two of the bigger fights in December have fallen through due to injuries to both Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz. Edgar was to face featherweight champion Max Holloway in the main event of the next PPV on 12/2 from Detroit. Edgar suffered an undisclosed injury that will force him out of training although he said he would be able to fight by February. Holloway said that he wanted to still defend his title on that show. The top three contenders besides Edgar are Jose Aldo, Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson, and Holloway has beaten all of them. Aldo makes the most sense of the three. The highest ranked contender that Holloway hasn’t beaten is Chan Sung Jung, who has only fought once in the last four years

Cruz suffered a broken arm so is out of his 12/30 fight with Jimmie Rivera. The winner of that fight was the logical next contender for T.J. Dillashaw’s bantamweight title. John Lineker has said he’s willing to face Rivera and fill the spot

UFC was attempting to add Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm as the main event, for the women’s featherweight title, for the 12/30 show in Las Vegas. However, Holm’s rep, Lenny Fresquez, said that the fight is dead. He said that Holm and UFC couldn’t come to terms for the fight. I think that means logic won out and she didn’t want to go into the cage with someone 20 pounds heavier. The funniest part of the buildup of this fight was Cyborg claiming that she was clean and insinuated that Holm came from a dirty camp

Jessica Eye is furious at Paige VanZant. The two were scheduled to fight at 125 pounds on the 10/7 show, but VanZant pulled out due to a back injury. Eye claimed VanZant personally called her and they agreed to fight when VanZant was healthy. Eye said she agreed to wait for VanZant. Then she said that on 11/8, VanZant called to say she wasn’t fighting her. Eye claimed VanZant told her that the fight does nothing for her because Eye was coming off a loss. The fight doesn’t really make sense for VanZant, because Eye has been fighting at 135 and VanZant at 115, and there is a big size difference.

Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw got into a war of words at the 11/2 press conference where Garbrandt claimed that he knocked Dillashaw out in sparring and then released the footage after Dillashaw denied it, that Dillashaw was a cheap shot artist in the gym (Chris Holdsworth claimed that during the week) when he was at Team Alpha Male, and Garbrandt claimed that Dillashaw showed everyone on the team how to do PEDs after both Holdsworth and Urijah Faber had certainly used code words implicating his usage in the past. Holdsworth, a coach at Team Alpha Male, used the term special supplements and Faber noted when Dillashaw fought Dominick Cruz how much his physique had changed which came at the same time the drug testing got more serious. Dillashaw noted that he had never failed a drug test and claimed all of this was released the week before the fight to get to him when he was challenging Garbrandt for the title

Regarding the 10/28 show in Sao Paulo doing the record low for a main card on FS 1, and the lowest in three years for prelims on FS 2, the World Series is a very legit excuse. That same night was the lowest rated Saturday night for college football during the season since 2011

Daniel Cormier said that his next title defense will be against Volkan Oezdemir, although no date has been finalized, but it looks like January or February

This week’s show is 11/11 in Norfolk, which is an FS 1 show that is one of the deepest Fight Night shows of the year, filled with action fighters like Dustin Poirier, Matt Brown, Diego Sanchez, Marlon Moraes, Joe Lauzon and more familiar names than most shows. It opens at 6:30 p.m. Eastern with Fight Pass bouts with Karl Roberson (5-0) vs. Darren Stewart (7-1), Marcel Fortuna (9-2) vs. Jake Collier (10-4), and Court McGee (18-6) vs. Sean Strickland (18-2). Then it’s the five plus hours on FS 1 opening with Nina Ansaroff (7-5) vs. Angela Hill (7-3), Sage Northcutt (8-2) vs. Michel Quinones (8-2), Tatiana Suarez (4-0, who placed third in the world’s women’s wrestling championships at 121 pounds in both 2008 and 2010 before becoming a fighter and winning TUF) vs. Viviane Pereira (13-0), John Dodson (19-8) vs. Marlon Moraes (18-5-1), Joe Lauzon (27-13) vs. Clay Guida (33-17), Matthew Lopez (10-1) vs. Raphael Assuncao (25-5), Cezar Ferreira (11-6) vs. Nate Marquardt (35-18-2), Andrei Arlovski (25-15) vs. Junior Albini (14-2), Diego Sanchez (27-10) vs. Matt Brown (20-16) and a main event that on paper looks like a killer match with Anthony Pettis (20-6) vs. Dustin Poirier (21-5)

They announced the January through March schedule. There will be the company’s debut at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on 1/14. The first PPV of the year will be 1/20 I Boston at the TD Garden. There will be a FOX show on 1/27 in Charlotte at the Spectrum Center. There will be a 2/3 show on FS 1 from Belem, Brazil. There will be a 2/10 PPV show from Perth, Western Australia. There will be a 2/18 FS 1 show in Austin, TX. There will be a 2/24 FS 1 show from Orlando. There will be a 3/3 PPV show from the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. And there will be a Fight Pass show on 3/17 from London’s O2 Arena

Conor McGregor will be on the cover of the third EA Sports UFC video game that will be released on 2/

The Late Late Show referenced in last week’s issue for the Conor McGregor interview is an Irish television talk show, not a U.K. talk show

A fight with Darren Till vs. Stephen Wonderboy Thompson was being talked about for the next show in London, but as of right now, Thompson’s side has said he has no interest in that fight

Ion Cutelaba, who was to face Michael Oleksiejczuk on the Madison Square Garden show was pulled from the show the day before, actually after making weight, and put on a provisional suspension over issues with voluntary disclosures that he listed on his USADA forms that he was taking when they came to drug test him on both 10/18 and 10/19. I can see results of a test taking few weeks to come back, but when it’s something the guy declared on his form, it’s weird it took them two weeks and had the guy go right through the final weigh-in before suspending him

Azzuna Anyanwu, who recently debuted with a late notice fight, was also provisionally suspended based on results of an out of competition test on 10/18

Gavril Gabriel, the lawyer for 19-year-old Antonio Georgakopolous, who is suing Michael Bisping over an incident that allegedly happened at a 24 Hour Fitness where they had an argument in the gym and Bisping allegedly choked him, said that Dana White ripping on the kid calling him a “meathead” and a “pussy” on a podcast was part of the bullying culture coming from the top of UFC

Gleison Tibeau, who has been on a two-year suspension after testing positive for EPO, returns on 1/20 in Boston for a fight with Islam Makhachev. This would be Tibeau’s’s 27th career UFC fight, putting him in a tie with Michael Bisping, Tito Ortiz, Frank Mir and Demian Maia for second place all-time behind Jim Miller at 28. Tibeau had the record in hand but the two years off slowed him down or else he’d have had 31 to 33 by now and been way ahead

Two bouts added to 12/16 in Winnipeg are Danny Roberts vs. Sheldon Wescott and Jan Blachowicz vs. Jared Connonier

Markus Perez, who was the Legacy Fighting Alliance middleweight champion, debuts on the 12/9 show in Fresno against Eryk Anders

Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier have issued public challenges back-and-forth for the 1/27 show in Charlotte

Humberto Bandenay pulled out of the 11/18 show in Sydney due to a fractured wrist. He was to face Alexander Volkanovski.

BELLATOR: The 11/3 show in State College, PA at the Bryce Jordan Center was headlined by Ryan Bader (24-5) retaining the light heavyweight title over Linton Vassell (18-6) via ground and pound at 3:58 of the second round. Bader dominated the fight with his wrestling up to that point. Surprisingly, Vassell went for a few takedowns, but every time he did, Bader would overpower him and land on top. This was a very wrestling oriented show and had a wrestling-oriented audience since it was built around former Penn State national champions Phil Davis and Ed Ruth returning home. In addition, Cael Sanderson, one of the greatest American wrestlers of all-time (the only undefeated four-time national champion in history who finished his career with a 159-0 record and went on to win an Olympic gold medal) and the coach of the multi-time national champions, including coaching Davis and Ruth was there, and even did commentary. Davis even suggested that Sanderson try his hand at MMA, although Sanderson clearly had no interest. Bader talked about defending his title next against King Mo Lawal. The thing with Bader is that he was always a top guy in UFC, but was never able to get a win over the real top guys or even be competitive with Jon Jones and Anthony Rumble Johnson. The same goes for Davis, and these guys are probably both top five or six in the world but you can’t argue for them as No. 1 based on their long UFC history. They had what seemed to be a good crowd and a great atmosphere, and the idea of coming here once a year with Davis and Ruth looks to make sense. They also crowned the first major U.S. promotion women’s flyweight (125 pound) champion, beating UFC by a few weeks. Ilima-Lei MacFarlane (7-0) dominated her fight with Emily Ducote (6-3) with crisp striking and good wrestling to win via submission with an armbar from the bottom at 3:42 of the fifth round. MacFarlane had won the first four rounds, and had a previous win over Ducote. MacFarlane was clearly the one the promotion was trying to push as the star. Davis (18-4) beat former Jiu Jitsu world champion Leo Leite (10-1) via straight 30-27 decision. You had a great wrestler and a great Jiu Jitsu player and they had what amounted to a sluggish kickboxing match. Davis, who usually loves going to the ground and submissions, fought the smart fight since his stand up was clearly better. Ruth (4-0) beat former Division II All-American wrestler Chris Dempsey (11-6) via knockout at :27 of the second round. The first round was all wrestling and Ruth was just at a different level. In the second round he went for the knockout and got it. It was exactly the kind of showcase win they’d have wanted. The TV opener saw Saad Awad (21-9) stop Zach Freeman (9-3) in 1:07 with a punch behind the ear, really the first punch that landed in the fight. Freeman was the guy who submitted Aaron Pico in :24 after knocking him down in Pico’s debut in June in Madison Square Garden. He got hit once here and it was over. Off TV, another star wrestler, Logan Storley, a four-time All-American at the University of Minnesota (who went to Webster High in South Dakota, the same high school as Brock Lesnar) moved to 7-0 with a dominant decision win over Matt Secor (9-5). Storley, as a senior in high school, captured the Junior Hodge title after a high school career where he went 262-3 and won an amazing six state championships, meaning that when he was an eighth grader, he won state beating the seniors

They have shows the next two weeks. The 11/10 show, which was to be built around James Gallagher of Dublin, a featherweight who they are trying to build, is as weak a show on paper as they’ve done. They’re at the 3A Arena in Dublin, and on TV this week all they pushed was that two second generation fighters A.J. McKee (the son of Anthony McKee) and Baby Slice (the son of Kimbo Slice) would be fighting. McKee (9-0), who has legit skills, faces Brian Moore (10-5). Slice (1-1) faces Fred Freeman (2-0) and the other pushed fight has Ireland’s Sinead Kavanagh (4-2) vs. Maria Casanova (3-1-1). The 11/17 show is from Tel Aviv, Israel, with Patricio Pitbull Freire (26-4) defending the featherweight title against Daniel Weichel (39-9). Pitbull knocked Weichel out in the second round in a fight on June 19, 2015, in St. Louis to keep the title, but Weichel has come back to win four fights in a row.

OTHER MMA: One of the scariest stories in a long time took place on 11/3 at the Legacy Fighting Alliance show in Houston on AXS (his fight was before the live broadcast). C.J. Hancock said that in the middle of his fight, his heart and kidneys both stopped working and he essentially died and had to be revived. They did CPR on him and his heart got shocked back into beating. The 32-year-old fighter said he didn’t know why it happened but did note he had a very tough weight cut. He was told by doctors to never fight again

Angela Lee, one of the top stars in the One promotion, as its atomweight champion, got into an auto accident on 11/7. According to One CEO Chatri Sityodtong, Lee’s car flipped over five or six times. She was driving to the gym that morning and fell asleep behind the wheel. It was said to be miraculous that all she suffered was a concussion and some minor burns, and she’s bruised and banged up. She is expected to make a full recovery, although obviously won’t be fighting on the 11/24 show where she was to defend her title against Mei Yamaguchi.

WWE: In the concussion lawsuit against WWE, plaintiffs lawyer Konstantine Kyros did a new filing with a lot more specifics on the various wrestlers filing suit. There were specifics of injuries and claims, most of which would fall into injuries that wrestles would suffer and be plagued by as they get older. As noted before, most of the wrestlers involved in the suit had long careers and WWWF or WWF was only part of those careers. Some only had a few matches with the promotion during their careers. Others, like Chavo Guerrero Jr., continued to wrestle after filing the suit and were involved in booking Lucha Underground which featured hard chair shots to the head, and Mark Jindrak claimed suffering issues with concussions and works full-time to this day with CMLL. There is a real issue here and unfortunately in so many of the cases it's such a reach and to me that hurts the credibility because there absolutely is a real issue with a lot of talent that did work for the promotion for a long period of time and have suffered damage, and even more, will suffer damage although WWE has certainly done its best in recent years to try and tone down head trauma. The lawsuit claims, although WWE has countered that there was no specific diagnoses attached to the suit for them to examine the claims, that Timothy Smith (Rex King/Timothy Well), Jimmy Snuka and Harry Fujiwara (Mr. Fuji) were all diagnosed with CTE after their deaths, along with Jon Rechner (Balls Mahoney) and Brian Knighton (Axl Rotten), whose post-death CTE diagnoses have been reported previously. The suit also claimed that Larry Oliver (Rip Oliver, who spent only a short portion of his career in WWE), Paul Orndorff, Angelo Mosca and Dave Hebner have been diagnosed with either dementia or Alzheimer's and have been prescribed Aricept. In the lawsuit, Shane Douglas alleged that he suffered a broken back and wasn't cleared by a New York State Athletic Commission doctor (Dr. Richard Birrir) unless he got an MRI or CAT SCAN. He said Vince McMahon wanted Birrir to clear him and asked what was the worst thing that could happen to him if he wrestled and Birrir said that he could wind up in a wheelchair or with sexual dysfunction and Vince McMahon yelled at the doctor saying he's got a dressing room full of wrestlers with sore backs and the doctor just screwed 25,000 people of his fellow New Yorkers out of the most important match on the card. The lawsuit was filled with similar anecdotes. In the original suit, there was a claim that Ashley Massaro was sexually assaulted on an overseas tour on a military base in Kuwait and was told by WWE officials not to report it. WWE responded by nothing this had nothing to do with brain injuries or concussions, and claimed as best they could figure out was that Massaro became ill on the tour and the doctor gave her a pelvic examination and she told some people that she believed his exam was inappropriate, but claimed that she never reported this to any WWE officials. The new complaint only states that she suffered a serious incident on a military base and was instructed by WWE officials not to report it and she was traumatized and feared losing her job so she didn't report it

Flair was all over ESPN on 11/7 to promote the 30 for 30 show. There wasn’t a lot new, past that his near-death experience has changed him, and it really has. He said that when he was in a coma, he was dreaming the entire time, and it was of good things that happened and things that he hoped would happen. He broke down, as expected, whenever Reid was brought up. He noted that there were four previous times when they had to call 911 because he had overdosed and Ric said after his own near-death experience changed him, he can’t figure out why when Reid nearly died that it didn’t change him. He said that on the night before Reid died, that they went out to dinner and watched the NCAA wrestling tournament together, but then they went their separate ways (they were staying in a hotel in different rooms) and when he went back, he did see that Reid had gotten messed up after they went their separate ways. But he didn’t call for help as evidently, he didn’t think it was that bad, which probably only make the hurt worse. When he woke up to get Reid to go to the airport, that’s when he was purple and made the 911 call. There was a lot talk about decisions, saying when he was world champion and had his scheduled days off, there was always a promoter asking for a favor and he’d say yes, and he probably should have spent it with his family

Austin Aries, whose 90-day non-compete period is ending this week and will be starting on the indie scene with a pretty full schedule, noted that the WWE’s report on him that it was their decision and not his decision to leave was accurate. He said that Paul Levesque called him and told him that Vince made the decision that creative had nothing for him. He said he was told nothing more and anything else would be speculative. He did say regarding the stories that he was unhappy that his match with Neville was cut from the Mania DVD, meaning he didn’t get a royalty check from it, likely stemmed from him being paid to tweet about the Mania DVD and Blu Ray, and he joked in his tweet about how his match, which he said some thought was the best match on the show, wasn’t on the DVD. He said he wasn’t unhappy about it, but apparently there was a chance that some people read that at the time and took it that way, and he was just making a joke. He said that perhaps an issue was one of the guys when they got their scripts would try and tell the writers that his character wouldn’t talk like that and would try and change things to what he thought was consistent for his character and that was different because most just do exactly what they’re told. He said he’d be very open to returning. He said that the tweet about making more money on the outside was true in the sense he was making more per show on the indies than he was making in WWE, but it wasn’t meant as a knock on WWE as much as letting people know that there is money to be made if you have a certain level of name outside WWE. But he said he had no idea why he was let go and leaving wasn’t his decision. He had disc issues n his neck at the time he was let go and wasn’t cleared to wrestle. That’s unusual as WWE usually doesn’t fire people until they are rehabbed. He was allowed to use the Performance Center rehab after being let go, which explains why there were reports of him at the performance center even though he wasn’t with the company. The other issue, given so many of the releases of late were of talent that had been injured, that it is going to lead to pressure on guys to either hide injuries, work through injuries, or to avoid surgeries that keep them out of action for long periods of time, because it’s clear you’ll lose your spot unless you are already established as top guy, and often you’ll never get a spot back. Aries suffered a broken orbital bone that kept him out for months when Nakamura’s toe cracked the bone (he said it wasn’t painful or a stiff shot at all), which ended up as a blessing in disguise because they made him a commentator and he did well in that role. But then when he was brought back, he had the disc injury in his neck and he was losing strength and starting to atrophy a bit, which is when he got examined and was told to take time off and rehab. He was actually fired very shortly after he gave the company the word he had to take the time off

The Pontiac Silverdome, the host of one of the most famous pro wrestling events ever, and many would argue the most famous match ever held in the U.S., the Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant match at WrestleMania III, is now scheduled to be demolished on 12/3, or if the weather is bad, on 12/10

Jericho on his time between WWE contracts has signed to host a new television show on The Travel Channel called “The Legend Of...With Chris Jericho.” It’s a mystery based show which debuts on 11/17 in the 11 p.m. Friday night time slot. The show has Jericho talking about unexplainable legends and the stories behind them, and tries to separate the fact from the fiction in those stories. The first show looks at the legend behind Butch Cassidy

We had been told off the record a few weeks ago about how they were going to change (the term we were told was bastardize) the War Games and it wouldn’t be what the original Dusty Rhodes idea/conception was for them. The Dusty Rhodes version, created for a July 4, 1987, house show in Atlanta, that drew 16,000 fans, was heavily promoted with two rings, with a roof on the top, and two teams, a team led by Dusty, with Nikita Koloff, The Road Warriors and manager Paul Ellering, against the Horseman team of Ric Flair & Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard & Lex Luger and manager J.J. Dillon. Two men started. There was a coin flip, which the heels always won (Dillon set the all-time record for correctly calling something like 30 coin flips in a row and what are the odds of that?) which meant they always had the man advantage. Two men would open for five minutes and from that point on, every two minutes, somebody else would enter, a heel to get man advantage heat, and then a babyface would come in two minutes later and run wild. There could be no pins or submissions during this period. When all ten men were in, the match beyond began which could only end via submission. The early War Games beauty was the faces always won clean (in the first one, the Road Warriors did the doomsday device to Dillon, who legit separated his shoulder and then submitted) and there was no outside interference and no running away. The Road Warriors (and in later years Sting) would do dives from one ring to the other. TNA tried to copy it with Lethal Lockdown but got carried away with weapons being used and all the garbage can lid shots and such took away from it and never got the concept down. Plus, they never had the talent level as far as stars being over to pull it off at the level WCW did in those early years. So for the HHH version of War Games, which will be three teams of three people each, which are Adam Cole & Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly vs. Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong vs. Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain. All three teams will start in a shark cage. Each team will choose one member to start so it’ll be a three-way singles match for five minutes. At the five minute mark, one of the three teams will get to have both of their other members come in, meaning they’ll have a 3-on-1-on-1 advantage for three minutes. At the eight minute mark, a second team will get the other two members in. At the 11:00 mark, the final team (likely Sanity since they seem to the be strongest babyfaces and the concept is the faces have a numbers disadvantage, sell, and then make comebacks) will be able to release its last two members. At the 11:00 mark, the match can then end with either pins or submissions

In a match that may steal the night, Pete Dunne will defend the U.K. title against Johnny Gargano on the 11/18 Takeover show in Houston. This match won’t be on the live special. My belief is that it will be taped for the NXT TV show that airs on 11/22, but it has been hinted it will be a dark match

The idea of a Hulk Hogan return is being revisited. It’s always down to the same thing, the feeling of whether sponsors would be okay with it and perceiving if there would be a media backlash where the racist quotes come out. With Hogan, it’s magnified far beyond anyone else, which is why they could name an award after Warrior and build their breast cancer program around him even though he said stuff far worse than Hogan, and unlike Hogan, he never apologized for it. Hogan was in talks about a return to wrestling of late, but not with WWE, with an angle that would have been huge, but in the end, it wouldn’t have made economic sense and the feeling is also that if he went anywhere, maybe it would be a tease like he did in the past and not go through with it and it would just be his angling to get WWE to bring him back

Ric Flair is scheduled to appear at the 11/25 Starrcade show in Greensboro, which will include Natalya vs. Charlotte in a cage match. Given that Ric won the NWA title from Harley Race in a cage match at the first Starrcade, that would seem like a good place if they want to make the name mean something as far as doing a house show title change

With only a few hundred tickets available, and selling out immediately, the secondary market entry price for the 1/22 Raw at the Manhattan Center (one of two locations for the show) is $306, which is the highest price for entry that I’ve seen for a secondary market show ever. I’ve heard the Kenta Kobashi retirement show at Budokan (which had closer to 17,000 seats) was in that range and the first MSG show for UFC was much higher, but the highest number I can recall for a pro wrestling show was barely half that for the NXT show in Dallas after the announcement of Nakamura debuting

They seem to be slowing down on the number of PPVs, given that it appears the way they are doing them isn’t cost-effective with the network model. What’s been shown is that adding more PPVs hasn’t led to an increase in subscribers. They had been doing one Raw and one Smackdown PPV per month except in the months of the big four shows. However, December and February only have one PPV. In fact, the next Raw PPV isn’t until 2/25, which will be the Elimination Chamber show from the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. There will probably be a Smackdown PPV two or three weeks later before everything is geared to Mania, and that’s not even a definite at this point, but that would make it December until March for a Smackdown specific show

Emma, Darren Young and Summer Rae were all given 90-day non-competes. Basically that means they are being paid their downside guarantees through 1/27, at which point they will be free to work anywhere. Not sure what will happen but we do know that Emma is actively looking to continue her career and has publicly said she’s looking for indie dates after 2/1. Emma, who will go by Tenille Dashwood, her real name, was in talks with Stardom to start when her non-compete ended, but negotiations have fallen through as her asking price of $2,000 per match, plus first class tickets and full creative control weren’t thought to be economically or business prudent by that company

In another example of how it doesn’t pay to get injured in WWE, Sawyer Fulton (Jacob Southwick, 27) was released this past week. This wasn’t a surprise since they had done nothing with him since he had returned from surgery. Southwick was in the original Sanity group with Eric Young and Alexander Wolfe, but when he needed surgery, he was replaced by Killian Dain and that was it. Southwick was a Gerald Brisco recruit, who had placed second in the NCAA Division II championships as a 6-foot-8, 280 pound heavyweight. He had started doing independent wrestling while still in college in the Ohio area as Big Jake South. He took his name because of the veteran undercard wrestler Charlie Fulton, who was from Marion, OH. After graduating college, he signed with WWE in 2012. It’s weird because even though he was as tall as guys like Big Cass and taller than Baron Corbin, Braun Strowman or Kane, he didn’t project size like they did at first glance. He had tried a few different gimmicks that went nowhere before being put in Sanity, and since Young was really the star of the act, he’d have been in a good place, and probably been on the way to the main roster now, had he not gotten injured and needed surgery

Johnny Moss, a longtime U.K. wrestler, who was running a wrestling school there, who we noted some time back had accepted a job with WWE at the Performance Center as a coach, has now moved to Florida and has started

Josh Bredl, who won the last season of Tough Enough, was released this past week in the latest round of cuts. Nobody knew it since he hasn't been around in months if not longer. He won the $250,000 one year contract and stayed after the year was up, surely at a fraction of that rate. He was thought to have a lot of potential due to his size (he was 6-foot-8 and about 275 pounds), look and athletic ability. He had suffered either a bad concussion or multiple concussions but we'd heard a long time ago that he was never expected back. It becomes one of those legal things where they kept him under contract to probably alleviate any potential future legal issues and evidently they felt that had been for long enough and he was cut, but his being cut was inevitable for a long tim

Also released this past week was Leo Gao, who was one of the Chinese athletes they brought in from a tryout. He had been suffering from a neck injury since August. He had yet to have a match

As noted before, Ronda Rousey has been training regularly at the Performance Center of late, so it’s no secret or something being hidden. Right now the Horsewoman vs. Horsewoman match it scheduled for WrestleMania, which gives her, Marina Sharif and Jessamyn Duke, who have all been training there as well, several months to be able to get ready for the match. There is a strong argument that Rousey’s first match shouldn’t have been at Survivor Series because her first match will be the one that garners the most publicity, and may as well be on the biggest show of the year. If it goes well, they could always build for singles matches down the line

Itami’s call-up for 205 Live is now expected imminently. It also should be noted that in Japan there is talk that Itami is interested in returning when his contract is up. As far as other call-ups, in the end, it’s Vince McMahon’s decision and they happen when they happen. Andrade Cien Almas was at one time on the list to come up in April, and here it is in November and they are still working on his character, and that’s been a good thing. The Authors of Pain were also on the list and haven’t been pushed as much in NXT of late, but it hasn’t happened yet

Rockstar Spud is also scheduled to debut shortly after his contract is signed, as he has to go through the visa process and all the other pre-signing processes, and is earmarked for 205 Live and not NXT. My guess is that the success of Enzo in elevating the viewership of the brand has made them try and add talent along the lines of Enzo to it, as Spud is a unique character

Balor spoke openly in on Sky Sports News on the subject of PPV shows coming from Europe, the U.K. in particular, saying he thinks they should do it. As noted, since UFC has done them (although with the same slot issues they haven’t for several years, but that’s because the time slot is a hindrance to buys while for WWE, it’s about the network and that’s not an issue since buys are a fairly small part of it). “The fans here deserve a PPV in the United Kingdom. They haven’t had one since 1992 and that one went down as one of the greatest PPVs in WWE history. Why it hasn’t been done since then is beyond me. People above me will make excuses about how it’s not financially beneficial to the company, but I think there are more important things beyond the bottom line and that’s giving the fans what they want at any cost.” He said that the talent wants to do a PPV in the U.K

In another attempt to make the 11/17 San Antonio house show special, they’ve added Trent Seven & Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne & Mark Andrews to the show

Wolfgang suffered an injury in a match with Dunne on the 11/3 show in Aberdeen, Scotland and missed the rest of the U.K. shows and has been pulled from his shows this weekend including an 11/12 Progress show

WWE ratings on Sky for the week of 10/23 to 10/29 saw the live Raw do 57,000 viewers, the live Smackdown did 17,000, a Thursday Raw replay did 19,000, a Friday Raw replay did 14,000 and Main Event did 20,000

WWE held a tryout camp on 11/6 and 11/7 in Manchester before the shows with Regal and Robbie Brookside running things. Those invited were Andrew Inch (Scottish wrestler Andy Wild), Omari Hockel, Chinu Sandhu (eight-time British freestyle heavyweight champion and 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist), Tosan Adeogun (Big T Justice, who is 6-foot-9 and 300 pounds), Jackie Polo, Mark Coffey, Iestyn Rees, Donna Dale (Little Miss Roxy), Chris Warring (Chris Ridgeway), Jason Melrose (Primate), Samantha Hunter (Sammii Jayne), Eddie Dennis, Ashton Smith, James Ahmed, Alan Niddrie (Kenny Williams), Charlie Spooner (Charlie Winston), Courtney Stewart (a 23-year-old kickboxer), Wesley Male (Ugandan Warrior Nsereko) and Colin George (a 6-foot-10 Kickboxer)

Sin Cara was injured on the 11/5 show in Madrid, Spain. He was working in a three-way with Corbin and Zayn. He collapsed in the match and was on the mat holding his knee. Corbin and Zayn went right to the finish where Corbin just pinned him with the End of Days since Corbin had to win. He had to be helped out of the ring. What was notable is that even though it was legit, a lot of people just thought it was part of the show. Later that night, he felt a lot better and felt like he had dodged a bullet. He was held off the house show in Madrid the next day, but was evaluated at TV on11/7 in Manchester and cleared

Regarding this week’s house shows, HHH worked the Raw events from 11/1 to 11/5, as part of The Shield, teaming with Ambrose & Rollins over Sheamus & Cesaro & Wyatt in the main events. He also worked the 11/6 Smackdown house show beating Rusev. He’s not working the house shows this week. Angle worked as part of The Shield on the 11/7 show in Birmingham. The New Day were scheduled to move to the Raw side for shows from 11/8 to 11/11. The idea was to make up for Reigns, who they considered the biggest star on the Raw brand, not being at the house shows because of his illness

HHH made a surprise appearance at the Insane Championship Wrestling show in Scotland over the weekend. ICW is one of the promotions WWE has a working relationship with

Cass was on the Sam Roberts podcast and said his recuperation from knee surgery was going from a timing standpoint right as expected. He said he was targeting shortly after WrestleMania for his return

Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock are going to be working together on a project called ShamrockWay in 2018 to talk openly about mental health and mental health awareness

Balor and Lynch have opened a WWE Academy, a kids playground with a WWE theme, in London as part of KidZania. It’ll be a place where kids can dress up to be like wrestlers, and cut promos

The top three matches for the 12/26 show in Madison Square Garden are Shield vs. Sheamus & Cesaro & Wyatt (who is replacing Miz in the angle), Cena vs. Joe, Kane vs. Strowman and Miz vs. Balor

WWE stock closed at press time at $27.11 per share, the highest in many years, giving the company a $2.09 billion market value. It’s trading at 83 times earnings because the last quarter gave the impression they are going to be much more profitable going forward. When UFC was sold for $3.95 billion last year, it sold for 24 times earnings and there were people who thought that was excessive

The most-watched shows for the week on the WWE Network were: 1. NXT on 11/1; 2. Table for 3 with The Shield; 3. The recent TLC PPV show; 4 Ride Along with the Hardys, Axel & Dallas; 6. Ride Along with The Shield, Banks & Bayley; 7. Beyond Phenomenal: A.J Styles in the 2016 Royal Rumble; 8. Beyond Phenomenal, more A.J. Styles clips; 8. 205 Live from 10/31; 9. WrestleMania 33; 10. 2015 Survivor Series

Notes from the 11/6 Raw tapings in Manchester. A normal show with the luxury of a few edits because it was a taped show. The show drew an advanced sellout of 14,000 fans. There were a few edits on the show. In the backstage segment with Angle, Sheamus and Cesaro, Angle forgot his lines, looked into space and was flustered. Sheamus tried to cover for him. Asuka also went to the back after her win and then was told to come back out and celebrate. It was a different U.K. crowd, very well behaved and unlike in the past, they never tried to hijack the show. The one extra, Stacy Coates, 23, who was brought in for Asuka, was the wrestler who uses the name Isla Dawn out of Scotland. One report had her as the girlfriend of Aleister Black, but she was definitely trained by Black, Killian Dain and Mikey Whiplash, and has worked for Insane Championship Wrestling. For Main Event, Trent Seven & Tyler Bate & Mark Andrews beat Joseph Conners & Tyson T-Bone & Sam Gradwell. Matt Hardy pinned Hawkins. Gallows & Anderson beat Rhyno & Slater. Raw opened with Miz, Dallas and Axel out. Evidently Miz and Corbin are doing a Twitter feud to try and drum up business, and Corbin must have insulted Maryse and his unborn daughter. Seriously, is there anything more lame than a Twitter feud where you insult somebody’s unborn child. That’s a turn off and a red flag not to take it seriously. Miz called Corbin the bathroom break of Smackdown while he’s the star of Raw. Angle came out and told Miz he’s got his full support at Survivor Series. Miz said that he couldn’t say the same to Angle. Angle said that Raw has the best talent, the best show and the best fans. Geez, both groups have the same fans, just more will pay to see Raw and more watch Raw. Angle said that Shane has an inferiority complex because Smackdown is the B show and they were going t prove that. Angle also apologized to Bryan saying that he had nothing to do with Kane’s attack and he has all the respect in the world for Bryan. Miz said that he doesn’t believe Angle didn’t set up the attack on Bryan because Angle wouldn’t let them leave last week knowing Strowman could be coming back. Miz said that he and Dallas escaped but Axel, who was wearing a neck brace from last week’s beating, wasn’t so lucky. He said that Bryan doesn’t deserve an apology but Axel does. Angle told him he’s not apologizing to Axel. Miz said that Angle awarded Strowman by putting him on the Raw team. Angle said that he put him on the Raw team because he needed the strongest team possible, and to get him to agree, he had to give Strowman a match with Miz later in the show. Jordan beat Elias in 7:19 in a guitar on a pole match. Elias came out singing. Once the match started, the crowd was silent. Booker T continued to be on Jordan’s case, comparing him to Erik Watts, and how everyone in WCW felt. When Bill Watts was put in charge of WCW, he brought in his son Erik and put him over like crazy, having him beat all but the top heels in the company and everyone resented it. Elias got the guitar first, but to win it wasn’t about getting the guitar, but hitting your opponent with it. He tried but missed. Possession went back and forth of the guitar before Jordan finally hit Elias in the back with it to win. Just a dead match. Angle was backstage with Sheamus & Cesaro. This was the promo they had to redo. Sheamus complained that Angle made Miz and Bliss defend the title because he wanted to make sure he had the best champions, but he didn’t make Ambrose & Rollins do it and called favoritism since he already had teamed with them. Sheamus was going to complain to Stephanie and told Angle that Ambrose & Rollins may not be able to beat the Usos but they could. Angle agreed to give them one last shot at the tag titles. The crowd booed this. Asuka beat Stacy Coates with hard kicks and the Asuka lock in 1:11. Charly Caruso was backstage with O’Neil and Crews. O’Neil said that at Titus Worldwide they love to have fun but last week wasn’t fun at all. O’Neil said that this week he’s got his eyes set on Joe. O’Neil and Crews came out. O’Neil may be injured because his body looked really soft by his standards and didn’t look like he was training. Joe came out and threw Crews off the stage and attacked O’Neil and choked him out. I guess O’Neil didn’t have his eyes on Joe as much as he should have. Joe got on the mic and said that it doesn’t matter if you’re as big and bad as Titus or as athletic at Crews, he will put you down. He challenged anyone in the back saying he wasn’t done yet. Balor accepted the challenge. They went to a double count out in 14:38. Cole said that Balor was an extraordinary man who can do extraordinary things. I think the line is an ordinary man who can do extraordinary things. They brought up that the two had many great matches in NXT. They had a good match here, but far from their best match. Balor missed the coup de grace. Joe hit a uranage and put on the choke. Balor kicked off the ropes to break it and did a double foot stomp. Balor followed with a running flip dive. Joe ended up biel throwing on the ramp where both were counted out. They continued to brawl until Angle and security came out. Angle said he was picking both of them on the Raw team for Survivor Series. He said that’s the kind of action and attitude he wants on the team. After all that, Balor broke free and dove off the stage onto Joe which looked good. Miz, Dallas & Axel were backstage. Dallas gave a pep talk saying that monsters aren’t real, and that they have strength in numbers. Axel said he wasn’t sure, that he’s never been manhandled like that in his life and that Strowman isn’t human, he’s a monster among men. God that verbiage where they have to say “monster among men” over and over in promos just guarantees it to come across as badly scripted lines. Nobody talks like that in real life, nor if they’re trying to make a real point. Axel said they should all just leave right now and get too the airport. They weren’t happy with that and Axel changed his tune saying that if they aren’t afraid, that he isn’t’ either. Angle was leaving a phone message to Bryan, who wasn’t picking up. Jordan then showed up. Angle chose Jordan as the final member of the team. He told him he’d better develop thick skin because people would be mad about that. The crowd booed that segment really badly but they had turned the crowd audio off. Jordan acted in a way where you’d think he’s going to turn on Angle at some point. Booker kept saying that was a bad decision. Bayley & Banks did an interview. They noted Asuka was on the team in the women’s match and neither of them were. They both wanted to be on it. They were acting so much like best friends that you got the impression there would be a turn, especially given the Banks turn has been penciled in to happen in the first quarter of 2017 and here we are nearly at the end of the year. And it may by this point not even be Banks that is the one to turn. Bayley & Banks beat Fox & Jax in 11:43. During the match, they talked about how Jax was recently on a runway as a fashion model. I’m not sure when she’s supposed to play bully heel that it fits in helping establish her character when you say stuff like that. It would be like when Booker T was chasing the title if they brought up he was a drum major in the band and didn’t play any sports, which is true, but it’s not like it enhances the character. Fox used a rolling reverse cradle on Banks, but she reversed into the bank statement for the submission. Fox then said she needed Banks on the team and wanted Banks on the team. Banks accepted. So poor Bayley, who was on the winning team, was sitting in the ring like she’d been rejected again. Strowman beat Miz via DQ in a non-title match. Strowman just kept biel throwing Miz all over the place. Booker noted that Frank Beel would be so proud. It’s actually Fred Beel, but Booker even knowing that the biel throw was named after a turn of the 20th century wrestler makes him smarter than 95 percent of the people about the business. Strowman knocked out Dallas and went after Axel, and threw him into the barricade even though he was wearing a neck brace. Strowman bieled Miz over the top rope onto Axel and Dallas. Kane then came out to save Miz and started a slow-moving brawl with Strowman. Strowman powered out of a choke slam attempt and hit the powerslam on Kane. Kane sat up. Strowman clotheslined Kane over the top rope and Kane landed on his feet. Miz then chop blocked Strowman and Dallas did as well. They were beating Strowman down three-on-one until Strowman made his comeback and laid out Miz with a powerslam. Ambrose & Rollins did an interview talking about how they defend the tag team titles every night. Dunne pinned Amore in 3:41 in another non-title match. Enzo got light boos, and then some in the crowd started singing to him. He said he was the biggest thing to come to the U.K. since the Bubonic Plague. He cut a promo on Kalisto and said there was a conspiracy by Angle because he’s the only champion on the roster who is defending his title at Survivor Series. That’s the first time they actually acknowledged that all of the bouts with champions on the show but that one are non-title. Angle then brought out Dunne saying it’s the cruiserweight vs. the bruiserweight. Dunne didn’t get an immediate reaction, but ended up getting a good reaction with bruiserweight chants. Enzo tried to get a pin with his foot on the ropes, but Kalisto, who was sitting at ringside, told the ref. Dunne then won with the bitter end. Bliss did a promo mad about Natalya’s saying that she ran her off Raw. Charly Caruso said that Bliss ran off when Smackdown invaded Raw. Bliss said that when she was on Smackdown she was a two-time champion and Natalya was never the champion when he was there. She said she was also a two-time Raw champion, and asked Caruso what two plus two equaled. Caruso said four. Bliss said one, because there’s only one Goddess of the WWE and she’s it. Sheamus & Cesaro beat Ambrose & Rollins to win the tag titles in 18:50. The match itself was really good. The finish was very different but clearly designed to change the belts while protecting The Shield as an act. Ambrose & Rollins both did planchas early. Ambrose blocked a Cesaro power superplex attempt and crotched him on the top rope and when he was sitting there, nailed him with a clothesline, In Japan, when Stan Hansen did the exact same thing to Kenta Kobashi, it was one of the most famous spots for years and it’s probably where they got the spot from. It wasn’t super heated but the wrestling was good. Cesaro & Sheamus did a double razor’s edge with Ambrose on the floor into the barricade. Sheamus & Cesaro did the doomsday device on Rollins for a near fall. The crowd went nuts when Rollins kicked out of that. Rollins superkicked both. Ambrose gave Sheamus Dirty Deeds and then Rollins followed with a frog splash but Cesaro made a last second save. The New Day came out and cut a promo. The question isn’t how they got in the building, but how did they all have Raw mic’s? Woods thanked the fans for staying awake for three hours during the B show. Well, at least they had a crowd at their show. While this was going on, Angle told all the undercard and mid-level guys to get tot he ring. Angle led much of the roster out. While all this was going on, and the match had stopped for several minutes, suddenly Sheamus gave Rollins the Brogue kick and the ref counted three to end the match. After the show was over, Sheamus & Cesaro were singing “You’ll never walk alone,” which is the Liverpool FC team’s fight song. Rollins & Ambrose called them back I the ring and offered a handshake. Then they turned on them and laid both men out with double-team power bombs

Notes from the 11/7 Smackdown tapings in Manchester. The show was built around the title change with Styles beating Mahal. The other big story was the crowd was just 3,500, they tarped off the top and set up with the old TNA configuration where they only used half of the arena underneath. It was said to be the smallest crowd for a WWE TV taping ever in the U.K., and that’s coming off a sellout the night before. Some of the crowds on this tour have been down, but nothing like this. In the dark match opener, Breeze & Fandango beat the Colons. Smackdown opened with Shane out. The crowd was really hot for him. That’s the thing, even though the crowd was small, they made a lot of noise. Shane said that after Survivor Series they will never be able to say that Smackdown is the B show again, that Smackdown will be “the show.” He said he holds Angle and Stephanie responsible for what happened to Bryan, saying that they had him locked in their office and sent Kane in to do the dirty work on him. He said he was going to do payback for what they did to Bryan. He also said that Bryan would be back next week on TV. There was a big edit here so they were lucky they weren’t live. The crowd started booing and then Shane got thrown off, said that he thought they liked Bryan so it must be they were disappointed he wasn’t there. All of that got edited out and they changed the sound to pipe in cheers when it was announced Bryan would be there next week. Shane then called out the New Day. He talked about how they beat people down in the Under Siege thing the first time. Shane said that they have the Smackdown spirit. They said how they were on Raw and then Raw sent them like they were nothing to Smackdown in the superstar shakeup. Did anything close to that happen? Finally Owens and Zayn came out. Before they came out, Shane was dancing with the New Day. Owens said that Shane’s dancing was the most painful thing he’d seen in his life. Zayn told Shane that he wasn’t cool and he should never dance again. The New Day made fun of Zayn’s ring entrance and said that he looked like a fool. Owens said that Shane was mad because of how he beat him at Hell in a Cell and told Shane not to compensate for his daddy issues on everyone else. Owens & Zayn said that they could have single-handedly beaten up the entire Raw roster but that they were men of honor. They claimed that Shane set them up to fail last week. Zayn said that he lost to a low blow by Orton and Shane did nothing to fix that. He said how Shane thinks they’re not entertaining enough because Shane wants people who dance and sing like his New Day puppets. Kingston said that the only puppet is the 1930s paper boy who looks like he’s never been in the gym a day in his life. Zayn said he was going to enjoy watching Raw beat Smackdown. Shane said that they proved they have no brand loyalty and set up Kingston vs. Zayn for next. Kingston pinned Zayn in 9:44. There was a quick “paper boy” chant. Kingston threw one hell of a dropkick and did a crazy dive like spot, and ended up winning clean with a crossbody off the top. Owens attacked Kingston after the match. Mahal did an interview and said that Styles was the appetizer for him before he gets to the main course, who is Lesnar. He said Styles was a formidable opponent for a mere man, but he’s the modern day maharajah. There was another Bludgeon Brothers promo. Orton pinned Rusev with an RKO out of nowhere in 6:59. The stips were that if Rusev won, he would become the fifth guy on the Smackdown team. This opened the door for Cena. Ellsworth was waiting outside the women’s dressing room door for Carmella. Lynch came out. Ellsworth gave her the Bobby Riggs speech. This felt like somebody watched the Billie Jean King movie since Ellsworth went all Riggs on her. He said they were in Manchester, as in Man, and said that women shouldn’t be in wrestling but he lets Carmella compete because it makes her happy. Lynch beat Ellsworth in 5:52. This was pretty bad. I mean, there was the germ of a good idea but they went too long. Ellsworth tried to leave once and Charlotte threw him back in. He basically wanted to give up the match and went to hug Lynch, but she put him in the disarmer and he tapped. After the match, Carmella superkicked him and laid him out. This felt like a blow-off of the character. He was entertaining in his role and did it well, but it is a character with a short shelf life. Shane was talking to Charlotte. Natalya showed up and said that she knows Shane wants her to take Charlotte’s place on the Smackdown team, so she’ll beat Bliss and then captain Smackdown to victory. Shane said that isn’t what he wanted to talk with her about, and instead announced Natalya vs. Charlotte next week. Benjamin & Gable beat Usos via count out in 2:50. They barely got started when Gable gave Jey a running chop block on the floor, taking out his knee. It felt like a heel move since the fans pretty much have turned the Usos face anyway. This is probably the start of a longer story but as a match itself, it sucked. Renee Young was with Styles who talked about his title match. When they announced New Day vs. Owens & Zayn, they tabbed Owens & Zayn “The Best Friends,” which is the name Trent Baretta & Chuck Taylor have been using for years. The Singhs came out with their mocking Heyman intro for Mahal. Styles beat Mahal in 16:39 to win the title. 205 Live opened with the Zo show. The only 205 Live guys brought on tour were Enzo, Kalisto, Gallagher and Alexander to save travel costs, and instead filled the show up with U.K. talent. Enzo talked about Jimmy Kimmell, Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and other U.S. talk show hosts which the U.K. fans had never heard of. Hell, half the Americans don’t know who Johnny Carson or Dean Martin are today. Fans were chanting “boring” at him, which you could see he wasn’t used to and it got him flustered. He said the U.K. was a dump, and talked about how all the women are bland, the men are bland and that they should call the city Blanchester. Enzo said he lost to a guy and he doesn’t even know the guy’s name. He said he’d been with a lot of women that he doesn’t know the names of, but he’s never been beaten by a guy who he doesn’t know the name of. He called Dunne “loserweight” in response to fans chanting “bruiserweight” at him. This led to more boring chants. This segment went way too long. A bunch of U.K. guys came out and he exchanged words with them one-by-one. Jordan Devlin did a heel promo saying he was trained by Balor but that’s where it ends and he’s not anything like Balor. Tucker then backed Balor, making him a babyface. James Drake backed Enzo. Enzo said that Mark Andrews needs to go on a diet and eat more salads because no way he can make the 205 pound limit. Geez, the guy is like 155 pounds. Tyler Bate was put in the position to be top face and went head-to-head with Enzo. Bate was the only one the crowd treated as a star. He talked about Enzo’s screeching annoying voice. Enzo said that Bate could be his butler. Bate then decked him to end the segment . Drake did a promo establishing him more as a heel. Kalisto pinned Gallagher in 5:07. Gallagher ran down the U.K. fans saying they had fat children, talked about all the lazy people in the U.K. living on the public dole. This got more of that groaning response than heat. Nigel McGuinness compared this match stylistically to Mil Mascaras vs. Billy Robinson. Well, if Kalisto had charisma and if Gallagher had the heavyweight skills. Kalisto did a really cool flip, jumping over the top rope from the ring, to the middle rope on the other side, an then doing a springboard flip dive. Gallagher had Kalisto in the Fujiwara armbar, but Kalisto, while caught in the move, kicked off the ropes into the Salida del Sol for the win. Enzo did an interview claiming he closed down bar tabs with more money than any of these guys have ever made in their lives. Andrews & Alexander beat Drake & Conners in 4:32. They noted (true story) that Conners lost half of his ear in a bar fight. This match got no reaction. Andrews pinned Conners with a shooting star press. Alexander worked most of the match until Andrews tagged in for the finish. Enzo beat Bate in a non-title match in 8:14. The match early story was that Bate’s wrestling was far too advanced for Enzo to keep up with. Enzo came back with brawling. The story was that Bate twisted his knee falling out of the ring. Fans were chanting “We Want Tables,” which had nothing to do with the match, and Enzo just hit the Jordanzo for the pin. Bate was way too over to have been put in this position. He’s clearly fallen out of grace from when they were going to build the division around him. Nakamura & Roode beat Ziggler & Corbin in the dark match main event

Notes from the 11/1 NXT show. It opened with Nikki Cross pinning Taynara Conti in 2:33. Conti had cost Cross a match earlier theoretically keeping her out of the four-way for the title, but since Cross came back to win a Battle Royal to get into that match, it took away the heat and it felt nothing like a grudge match. It was more like a squash match. Conti is very green and not ready for television yet. If things click with her, I can see her becoming a Brazilian superstar based on her look and she does more like an athlete. She won with her spinning fisherman neckbreaker. Mercedes Martinez did an interview and was asked who would win the four-way for the women’s title at Takeover (Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, Kairi Sane and Cross). She said she didn’t know who would win, but did know Moon wouldn’t win, saying everyone knows Moon can’t win the big one. So that’s kind of a tease that would make Moon the favorite. Fabian Aichner pinned Johnny Gargano in an upset in 8:08. Really good TV match. They said that Aichner was only the second person who was born in Italy to ever be under a WWE contract, with the other being Bruno Sammartino. The story of the match was that Gargano did his spear from outside in but Aichner kicked out. The idea is Gargano is having issues mentally that are causing him to lose, and the story of the match was more Gargano losing than Aichner winning, but Aichner looked impressive and his winning was part of the story. The crowd ended up really into it, which was a lot due to Aichner coming across like somebody and kicking out big moves. Gargano went for the Gargano escape, but Aichner reversed into an abdominal stretch and then dropped down with a lateral guillotine to win. Regal was backstage with McIntyre, who signed his contract to face Almas at Takeover. The Street Profits were hanging around in the parking lot putting over a white Maserati. They told people that if they worked hard in life, they could own a car like this. Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli came out, dressed up like they were trying out for the Four Horsemen. They said it was their car. I think it actually was Sabbatelli’s car as Sabbatelli is actually somewhat wealthy financially from his years in the NFL. He’s definitely not in WWE developmental for the money, or even pro wrestling itself, so that tells you he’s really into it as a fun job. It looked like this was to start up a program as Moss & Sabbatelli told them to step away from the car. McIntyre came out. Almas attacked him with Zelina Vega out there. Almas signed the contract while McIntyre was beaten down, and grabbed Vega’s gum and stuck it on the contract and tried to stick it on McIntyre’s shirt. Billy Kay and Peyton Royce were doing a backstage promo. They were making fun of the idea that Sane thinks she’s a pirate. Sane then showed up in her pirate hat and pirate steering wheel, stuck out her elbow and pointed at Royce, like she’s going to drop the elbow on her. The main event saw The Authors of Pain beat Sanity, in this case Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young, via DQ, so Sanity retained the tag titles in 8:27. The crowd was behind Sanity. Lots of near falls. The match was decent. AOP did the last chapter on Young and had him beat when Bobby Fish & Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly attacked the AOP for the DQ. They pushed this as the second time that The Undisputed Era had cost AOP the titles. Paul Ellering was there, but wasn’t at the ring, I guess because with the post-match attack and not wanting to touch Ellering, it made no sense for him to be there. Killian Dain tried to help Sanity since the Undisputed era beat down both teams. But Dain was being beaten down as well. Roderick Strong came out next. He teased joining the Undisputed era and put on their armband. They were holding Akam so Strong would attack him, but instead Strong attacked O’Reilly & Fish & Cole. The fans booed this at first as they wanted Strong to join them, even though Strong is a face and they are heels. Strong helped AOP and threw his armband at Cole. Regal came out and announced the three trios would be in a War Games at Takeover in two rings. The fans popped pretty big for the War Games announcement, which is something since the peak of War Games was 30 years ago and it’s been 20 years since the match was done under that name. But the clamor for it is such that they were chanting “Yes” at Regal’s announcement

NXT opened on 11/2 in Gainesville, FL, before 200 fans. Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy when Lorcan used a running blockbuster for the pin. Nikki Cross pinned Abbey Laith with a swinging neckbreaker. Kona Reeves beat Jason with a backslide his feet on the ropes with help from Ming, who was in Reeves’ corner. Lars Sullivan pinned Chris (formerly Donovan, Chris being his real name) Dijak with a muso. The crowd chanted “one more time” and he gave it to him one more time. Eric Bugenhagen was out doing an interview. He’s a natural heel but was a face here. Wesley Blake, Steve Cutler and Chad “Gunner” Lail came out. They went to attack him until Heavy Machinery made the save. This led to Machinery & Bugenhagen beating Blake & Cutler Lail when Machinery did their assisted world’s strongest slam and then allowed Bugenhagen to score the pin. Aleister Black pinned Velveteen Dream with the black mass. The crowd was more into this than anything else on the show. Ruby Riot & Sarah Logan beat Lacey Evans (as a heel) & Sage Beckett when Riot pinned Evans after a Pele kick. Main event saw Drew McIntyre retain the NXT title over Riddick Moss using a Claymore kick. It’s a good sign for Moss that he was put into a singles main event

Usually NXT switches things up, which is a good thing because it’s better to get a wide variety of experience as opposed to just repeating the same match all weekend, but Jacksonville on 11/3 was almost the exact same show. They drew 300 fans. The only differences were in the opener it was Lorcan teaming with Big Boa over Moss & Tino Sabbatelli, an added match where Dan Matha beat Nick Miller of TM 61 (and boy have they fallen off the face of the Earth–injuries are not your friend in NXT, that’s for sure, unless you’re way ahead of the curve, if you get injured not only do you lose ground but you get an injury label), and no McIntyre on the show. Black vs. Dream was moved to the main event spot

The final NXT weekend show was 11/4 in Largo, FL, before 350 fans. Street Profits beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy. Liv Morgan pinned Bianca Belair. Ohno pinned Babatunde Aiyegbusi. Strong beat Buddy Murphy. They did a run-through of the women’s title match for Takeover in Houston with Royce winning over Moon, Cross and Sane. Gargano pinned Aichner. Blake & Cutler beat Heavy Machinery. Heavy Machinery seemed to be doing pretty well and Dozovic has unique charisma but they haven’t been used as high of late. McIntyre pinned Itami to keep the title in the main event

The European tour sold out some cities, but overall was down in most places from the size of crowds they’ve been doing on these tours for years. It was the first time in anyone’s memory when they came to the U.K. and there were concerns about advances, particularly the Manchester Smackdown show. There were no bad crowds, but a lot of cities were down significantly from normal

Raw opened the overseas tour in Glasgow on 11/1 before 5,000 fans. 11/2 in Brighton drew a sellout 3,100 fans. 11/3 in London at Wembley drew a sellout of 8,700. We didn’t get the attendance for 11/4 in Minehead, England. 11/5 in Cardiff, Wales drew a sellout of 5,000. 11/6 in Lisbon, Portugal drew 7,500. 11/7 in Birmingham, UK drew 6,500, which was only a little more than half full based on available seats, in a city where they routinely have sold out and drawn more than 10,000. Angle wasn’t advertised locally until very late in the game. 11/8 in Dortmund drew 4,500. 11/9 in Leipzig, Germany drew 4,000

Smackdown opened on 11/2 in Dublin before 5,500 fans, with the entire top section tarped off. 11/3 in Aberdeen, Scotland drew 5,000. We didn’t get the attendance for 11/4 in Barcelona. 11/5 in Madrid drew 8,000, which is half what they drew the last time they ran the arena. We didn’t get the figure for 11/6 in Lisbon, Portugal. 11/8 in Leeds, England drew 5,000. 11/9 in Nottingham also drew 5,000

Glasgow opened with Asuka beating James with the Asuka lock. They worked as babyfaces early with James doing the slight turn. Miz beat Matt Hardy to keep the IC title. Miz won with an eye poke and the skull crushing finale. What’s notable was just how far down the old delete stuff has gotten as people kind of realize that character isn’t coming back, plus Matt changing his look a little was a reminder. Jordan & Slater & Rhyno & Goldust beat Elias & Dallas & Anderson & Gallows with Jordan scoring the pin on Anderson. Amore pinned Kalisto with the Jordanzo to keep the cruiserweight title. The crowd didn’t boo Enzo when he came out, but when he refused to spell out SAWFT they turned on him. Probably worst thing on the show. Pete Dunne beat Wolfgang to keep the U.K. title using the bitter end. This was a great match and Dunne was really over. Strowman beat Kane via DQ in a great match. Short match ending when Kane used a chair for the DQ. But after the match, Strowman put Kane through a table. Strowman was really over. Bayley & Banks beat Bliss & Jax when Banks beat Bliss with the bank statement. Bliss had a lot of heat. Banks was more popular than Bayley, but both got good reactions. Bayley was far, far more over when she was last in Glasgow. Balor pinned Joe in what was said to have been the best match on the show. HHH & Rollins & Ambrose beat Sheamus & Cesaro & Wyatt when HHH pinned Cesaro after a pedigree which everyone thought was the finish, but then HHH signaled for the Shield triple team power bomb, which they delivered as the finishing move. They did all the Shield stuff. The crowd went crazy for it, and even though some fans who weren’t there complained about HHH being part of The Shield, the live crowd loved it. 

There was a spot where they teased a triple tope, but Ambrose and Rollins flew threw the ropes and dove while HHH slowed down, climbed through the ropes and jumped off the apron and attacked

Brighton was the same show except the second match added Jordan on the face side and Dallas on the heel side. Also, the U.K. match was different as Mark Andrews & Dan Moloney beat Tyson T-Bone & Joseph Conners

London was the same as Brighton. Balor beat Joe in a solid opener. After the match Balor noted that this was the building he defended his NXT title against Joe in and put over how Joe took him to his limits. The crowd cheered Joe after the match. The crowd didn’t care much for Asuka vs. James. The one thing notable on this tour consistently has been the lack of reaction to Asuka which shows how different the WWE audience is as well as the wonderful job they did in her debut. The U.K. match here was Tyler Bate & Trent Seven over Conners & T-Bone. What was notable was the lack of reaction here as well. There were a few fans chanting “Mustache Mountain” but it didn’t catch on. It’s really clear that the NXT audience watches a lot of wrestling but the WWE house show audience doesn’t even know the U.K. guys. The match wasn’t that good with some missed moves and a crowd that was bored. Enzo came out and got one of the biggest pops of the night, but turned the crowd on him when he insulted them. The match only went 3:00 with Enzo winning with the Jordanzo. Same Strowman vs. Kane, short match with the chair shot finish and Strowman pinning Kane through the table after. Crowd was into the Bayley & Banks vs. Bliss & Jax match. Miz got a lot of heel heat. Hardy wasn’t that over, which also tells you about how this crowd weren’t people who watch a lot of other wrestling since Hardy gets a big reaction almost everywhere. Then again, given the level they have him on and the reality that he’s not getting use of the gimmick that revitalized his career, this does look like his future. Miz won with an eye poke and the skull crushing finale while Dallas & Axel distracted the ref. HHH got the biggest pop of the show coming wearing The Shield gear. Fans were then chanting for WrestleMania in London. Rollins & Ambrose said they’d love for Mania to be in London. HHH joined in but then said that unfortunately that isn’t his decision to make

Minehead was also the same show, with the exception of the U.K. match where Bate & Seven beat Conners & T-Bone

Cardiff also had the same results, other than the U.K. match was Dunne pinning Mark Andrews to retain the title. The crowd was big into Balor. Mickie James worked as the heel against Asuka. Dunne over Andrews was a basic match and not nearly the level of what they usually do on indies. Dunne got the pin after the bitter end. The crowd didn’t care at all about Enzo vs. Kalisto. Biggest reaction was for HHH and the crowd chanted “You still got it.

They changed the show up for the second week starting with the 11/7 show in Birmingham. Balor pinned Wyatt with the coup de gras in a match with a lot of stalling early. O’Neil & Crews beat Goldust & Hawkins when O’Neil pinned Hawkins with the Clash of the Titus. So Goldust was working as a heel here. Jordan pinned Dallas after suplexes. Dunne beat Dan Moloney to retain the U.K. Title in a short match, using the Bitter End. Asuka beat Brooke. Asuka got a better reaction than on the early part of the tour. Brooke worked as a cowardly heel even though she’s been a face on TV for a long time. Asuka won with the Asuka lock. Strowman beat Kane via DQ in their usual match. Bayley & Banks beat Jax & Bliss with Fox as referee. Bayley & Banks got big reactions and the crowd sang to Bayley. Bayley pinned Bliss with the Bayley-to-belly. Miz beat Matt Hardy when Dallas & Axel distracted the ref, and Miz used an eye poke and the skull crushing finale. Main event saw Angle & Ambrose & Rollins as The Shield beating Joe & Cesaro & Sheamus. Angle got a hot tag late and did his suplexes. The finish saw them do the Shield triple power bomb on Cesar and Angle pinned him

In Dortmund, it was mostly the same as Birmingham, but no U.K. match and no angle. Instead of Jordan beating Dallas, they did a singles match where Joe beat Jordan used the choke and the two shook hands after the match. Fox also replaced Jax as Bliss’ tag team partner and the finish of Bayley & Banks beating Bliss & Fox was Banks using the bank statement on Fox. With no Angle, the main event was changed to a three-way for the tag titles with Sheamus & Cesaro winning over New Day (Woods & Kingston) and Rollins & Ambrose. Cesaro pinned Kingston to win. After the match, Rollins put over New Day and wanted to shake hands with them. However, the New Day attacked Rollins & Ambrose. Cesaro & Sheamus ran back in the ring to help New Day. Balor and Joe ran in so it was all the Raw guys against New Day. Sheamus hit Big E with a brogue kick. Balor used the coup de grace on Kingston. Cesaro used a giant swing on Woods and then Ambrose & Rollins & Joe gave him a triple-team Shield power bomb. Rollins then said that Smackdown should take this as a warning and vowed to beat Smackdown at Survivor Series. The New Day sold the beating for a long time after all the Raw guys left.

.. Leipzig was mostly the same show. The New Day team in the main event was Big E & Kingston. This was right at press time so we couldn’t check on it, but there was a report that Hardy may have been injured. He worked his match with Miz, but as soon as the match was over, he took off his right boot and had to be helped backstage. The only difference was the women’s tag as it was Bayley & Banks over Jax & Bliss, instead of Bliss & Fox. Fox was the referee. Bayley pinned Bliss with the Bayley-to-belly

The Smackdown crew opened in Dublin with a three-way for the tag titles with the Usos over Big E & Woods and Rusev & English. The New Day were the most popular but the Usos worked as faces here and the crowd cheered them as well. The Usos did the Young Bucks superkick party on everyone (keep in mind it is good psychology when done in WWE but bad when it’s done anywhere else) and one of them pinned English after a splash off the top rope. Roode pinned Ziggler with the Glorious DDT. Roode got a great reaction. Jordan Devlin & Tucker beat Tyler Bate & Trent Seven. Devlin is from Dublin so Devlin & Tucker were the faces here. Devlin pinned Steven after a moonsault. The crowd started off cold but the work in this match got it over really big by the end. Harper & Rowan came out and destroyed Devlin & Tucker after the match. This led to Harper & Rowan & The Ascension beating Breeze & Fandango & The Colons. This match was set up as Harper & Rowan were still beating down Devlin & Tucker. The Ascension & Breeze & Fandango ran in for the save, since they are friends on television. Then The Ascension turned on Breeze & Fandango. So both teams were beating down Breeze & Fandango until the Colons made the save, so they were babyfaces here. Slow paced match ending with Harper & Rowan each choke slamming one of the Colons each for a double pin. Nakamura pinned Owens with the Kinshasa. Nakamura’s reaction was nothing compared to what it was when he appeared in Dublin in the past. Owens was cheered more. Isn’t creative supposed to derive results to where you get on worldwide television and you get more popular? Fans were chanting “Fight Owens Fight” and Owens got on the mic and told the crowd not to tell him what to do. In a 3 on 4 handicap match, Charlotte & Naomi & Lynch beat Carmella & Natalya & Tamina & Lana. Because they were in Dublin, Lynch was the most popular wrestler in the match by far. They worked the match with that in mind as they kept Lynch out of the ring most of the way to build for her hot tag and gave her the glory spot, where she used the disarmer to make Lana tap out. Corbin won a three-way over Zayn and Sin Cara to keep the U.S. title. Zayn came out and cut a heel promo to make sure the crowd didn’t cheer him. He said he came to town and wanted to see the sights, but then realized he was in Dublin and decided to take a nap instead. Sin Cara hit the swanton on Zayn but then turned around and Corbin gave him the End of Days for the pin. The crowd was really into this match. Main event saw Styles beat Mahal in a non-title match. Mahal came out and said he would beat Lesnar and prove that he’s the real champion. The Singhs constantly interfered in the match. Styles ended up knocking both Singhs out of the ring and pinned Mahal with the phenomenal forearm. After the match was over, Styles said that he would beat Mahal for the title and follow it up by beating Lesnar

Aberdeen was mostly the same show. Kingston & Woods worked as the New Day and it ended when Jimmy pinned English after a superkick. Roode and Ziggler had what was called by far the best match on the show. They switched around the eight-man which made more sense, as this time it was Breeze & Fandango teaming with The Ascension against the Colons & Harper & Rowan. This ended when Fandango pinned Primo after a falcon arrow. Dunne retained the U.K. title over Wolfgang using the bitter end. Nakamura vs. Owens said too be ve disappointing. The same women’s match as the night before, but out of Ireland, the finish was Charlotte getting the submission on Natalya with the figure eight. The rest of the show was the same. The Singh

Brothers were challenging Lesnar and Heyman

Barcelona was the same show except they had Breeze & Fandango team with the Colons against Harper & Rowan & The Ascension

Madrid was the same show except they went back to Breeze & Fandango teaming with The Ascension. This was where Sin Cara was injured. Roode vs. Ziggler was said to be the best match on the show. Harper & Rowan were wearing their Wyatt family outfits on the entire tour rather than new outfits. Lana’s hair extensions fell off in the women’s match

There were some changes in Lisbon with HHH on the show and the New Day moved to the Raw brand for the rest of the week. Nakamura pinned Owens with the Kinshasa. The crowd was split almost 50/50 on this one. The Ascension beat the Colons with the fall of men. The Ascension were kind of over as the babyfaces coming off the Fashion Files segment and there were even chants for them. Usos won a three-way for the tag titles over Breeze & Fandango and Harper & Rowan. Harper and the Usos were the most over as faces. Harper actually got some of the biggest reactions of the show, as a babyface, which is notable since he’s supposed to be a heel and aside from the vignettes, hasn’t been on television in a long time. Fans were chanting for Harper for everything he did. Jey rolled-up Fandango for the pin. Rusev came out and was also cheered. However, the reaction to HHH got the biggest pop of the night. Part of that is because nobody knew he would be on the card. Since bullfighting is so big in Portugal, HHH did a bullfighting spot playing matador with Rusev and fans chanted for that. HHH gave Rusev a pedigree and then gave English one for good measure as well. Said to be much better than you’d think for a hose show match. They did the same 3 vs. 4 women’s match they’ve been doing. Lynch came out with SirKazzio, who is apparently a well-known local YouTube personality. Originally they had pushed that he would be on the show locally in the corner of the New Day, but plan changes nixed that. The reality is that even linked with Lynch, the people didn’t want to see him at a wrestling show and he was heavily booed. Short match that wasn’t very good. Corbin won a four-way over Roode, Ziggler and Zayn. The fans were heavily behind Roode and Zayn. There was a comedy improvised spot as fans were chanting “Where’s Your Briefcase,” at Corbin. Ziggler evidently saw a fan with a briefcase, jumped out of the ring and got the briefcase and gave it to Corbin. Fans were then chanting “Cash it in.” Ref Charles Robinson played along like he was the ref asking him if he wanted to cash it in. The finish saw Roode hit the glorious DDT on Ziggler, and then Corbin threw Roode out of the ring and pinned Ziggler. Main event saw Styles beat Mahal in the same non-title match. They announced it was a non-title match since Styles was getting his title match at Smackdown the next night. It had been advertised locally as a title match. Mahal didn’t get much of a reaction. The Singh Brothers once again mocked Heyman’s introduction of Lesnar with their one on Mahal. Styles was over but the crowd enjoyed the undercard more than this and mostly only reacted when he did signature spots. Styles won with the phenomenal forearm. He then gave Samir the Styles clash after the match

For the Leeds show on 11/8, the first show after Owens & Zayn were sent home and the title change, they had to switch the show around. An interesting note from those live is that they were surprised how many people didn’t know attending the show that Styles had won the title, and they didn’t show a video earlier so people were even more surprised. Almost nobody knew that Owens and Zayn weren’t going to be there, nor the New Day, and nothing was said about any of them. Roode pinned Ziggler in the opener with the DDT in a match that got a great reaction. Usos retained the tag titles over Benjamin & Gable, Rawley & Ryder and Breeze & Fandango. One of the Usos pinned Ryder with a roll-up. Corbin retained the U.S. title beating Sin Cara in Sin Cara’s return. Sin Cara didn’t appear to be bothered by his knee at all and did a few dives before Corbin won with the End of Days. Tyler Bate & Trent Seven beat Sam Gradwell & Saxon Huxley. A solid match. Most of the fans didn’t know any of the four. Huxley got heat and they worked a much stiffer and more realistic style then the other guys. Orton pinned Rusev with an RKO. He also hit the RKO on English. Orton got a huge reaction coming out but there were also chants in the match for Rusev. They did the same women’s handicap match with Lynch & Flair & Naomi over Lana & Natalya & Carmella & Tamina. Short match ending with Charlotte beating Lana with the figure eight. Ellsworth was still there after the thing on Smackdown. The match ended with all the women hitting Ellsworth with their finishers. Dillinger & The Ascension, as the faces, beating Harper & Rowan & Kanellis. Still Harper was the most over as a face as every time he tagged in the crowd went crazy. Dillinger pinned Kanellis with the tye-breaker. Main event saw Styles retain the WWE title in a three-way over Nakamura and Mahal. Said to be a great match. Singh Brothers interfered. Styles pinned Mahal using the phenomenal forearm. After the match, Styles hit one of the Singh brother with the Styles Clash and Nakamura hit the other with the Kinshasa

Nottingham was mostly the same show. Little reaction to Corbin vs. Sin Cara. The only difference is the U.K. match was Bate & Seven over Dunne & Drake in a quick match. The crowd took to Bate as the biggest star, and his team won with a power bomb and back suplex double-team move no Drake. Fans went nuts for the Styles vs. Nakamura interaction.