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September 11, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Jeff Jarrett takes leave of absence from GFW, PWG BOLA reviewed, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 September 11, 2017


Impact Wrestling announced on 9/5 that Jeff Jarrett, who was running the wrestling end of GFW and is part-owner of the company, was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the company to deal with personal issues.

According to those close to the situation, the personal issues aspect of the story is legitimate and public story is accurate. The public statement made by the company is that Jarrett would be available as a consultant as needed.

It was clear that the decision was not something he knew about in advance because he sent out a Tweet that morning talking about going back into the office to start a day of work, and that day was scheduled to host a party for the company staff at his home, which ended up being canceled.

However, others in the company were aware of this for at least a week. There were a long list of reasons involved that date back several months, including a screaming match with Bob Ryder at a television taping, although issues between the two were settled quickly, but it was said the situation was very bad when it happened. Another was what Reby Hardy called unprofessional drunk text messages that were sent to her that she had talked about on Twitter some time bac regarding her own going public on the Broken Hardy intellectual property argument. The messages had gotten around to some in the company. There were other incidents and it appears the breaking point, had to do with his behavior at TripleMania in Mexico City on 8/26, where Ed Nordholm, who runs the company for Anthem Sports, was on the trip and who is the person who made the call to remove Jarrett. Jarrett was said to be not in shape for wrestling, but also stumbled down the ring steps (although he wasn’t the only person on the show who had trouble with the steps) and did little wrestling.

There was also an argument with Vampiro backstage that night, since the few people aware ahead of time were talking about it after Ed Nordholm and Jarrett had gotten back from Mexico. There was another incident, although one could argue Jeff was in the right, where he got into a confrontation with Jhonny Gonzalez, the superstar boxer in Mexico who held four world titles and is married to Sexy Star. It was when Jarrett was telling Sexy Star that she was out of line and needed to apologize and Gonzalez, who is not a big guy, a champion at featherweight and bantamweight, got in Jarrett’s face and defended his wife. I’m not sure if Jarrett knew who he was at first, but at one point he did know and they were face-to-face and Jarrett told him he didn’t give a shit who he was, that she was out of line and needed to apologize.

Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated reported that with Anthem losing significant money, that sources close to the situation say Anthem is ready to pull out of running a wrestling company and is ready to sell. Multiple sources in the company deny the story, but that type of story is also always going to be denied until it happens for the obvious morale reasons. Also, because even those at the top would probably not be in the loop on a sale and have it kept from them if there is such a thing.

One person who denied the story said, “Anthem wouldn’t be spending a considerable amount of money to launch the new multi-company app we just announced last week on TV if the plan was to shut down and sell the tape library. It was the long-term goal from the start. All the cross-promotional matches we are doing is being done to lay the groundwork for content that will be offered on the OTT, AAA, Crash, NOAH and Impact libraries. Costs have been brought way under control and they are pretty far into plans to move everything to Toronto. Huge tax savings and government assistance.”

On the 8/31 TV show, the announcers had talked about the Global Wrestling Network streaming service. They didn’t go into detail, just saying it would be launched soon. They will be streaming Impact, likely after it first airs on TV in the U.S., Canada and U.K. I’d think, similar to what ROH does.

Still, there is no way they can make the revenues, at least at any time in the near future, to cover the expense of the promotion, so whoever owns it would have to have deep pockets to cover losses for an extended period of time, with no guarantees things would change.

As noted last week, the inability to get a new U.S. television deal, and thus remaining on Pop, was bad because it’s clear the company can’t grow financially while on the station and the current status doesn’t appear to have any way to make money. In addition, after testing the waters with the three house shows in the Northeast, one of which was canceled and neither of which drew well, no future house shows are on the schedule, as is nothing past television tapings in November after Bound for Glory.

Barrasso noted the value in selling to WWE, which would acquire a tape library that could be used for the WWE Network and other projects since it contains footage of some of the biggest names of the modern era, including many who are stars on the current roster like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode. However, given that Anthem also owns The Fight Network, it means the tape library has a lot of value to them as a station and even if they were to sell the wrestling company, the value of the tape library to them is significant. Selling the tape library would appear to be the least likely thing that would happen out of this right now.

When Dixie Carter was in talks with WWE in the past, which was denied to those in the company at the time, it was about selling the tape library as WWE had no interest in running the promotion. An added situation is that the intellectual property the company claims ownership includes the Broken Hardy gimmick, which would remove any obstacles of the Hardy using the gimmick in WWE.

It isn’t clear who else would be interested in buying the company. When it was for sale the last time, the only interested parties were Billy Corgan, ROH and WWE.

Last year Corgan was interested in taking over the company. Corgan and Nordholm have had talks, as he worked as a liaison in an unsuccessful attempt to settle the Broken Hardys issue and they have talked, but those close to Corgan have said there have been no approaches to Corgan regarding the company being for sale, and one would think if it was for sale, the first people talked with would be Corgan, WWE and ROH.

Clearly in response to sale talks, TNA sent out a release later that day talking about plans to launch the Global Wrestling, a streaming service giving news access to the complete TNA and GFW libraries, a key thing because the idea is if they were selling the company or tape library, they couldn’t launch the network. They also announced an Impact Wrestling Channel on Pluto TV, an over-the-top service in the U.S. They announced Impact would remain on Pop TV as we reported last week, and remain in the Thursday at 8 p.m. time slot. They also announced a deal with 7Sports to put Impact on ran FIGHTING, a fighting station that airs in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Because all the paperwork on the GFW merger with Impact Wrestling hadn’t been completed, the talks would be regarding Impact Wrestling and not GFW. One source close to the situation described the merger as being far from done, even though the company sent out a press release on the merger April. However, the feeling is that for the time being, it makes no sense to do another rebranding, so the GFW name will continue to be used on television.

The creative side of the company right now will be in the hands of John Gaburick, Scott D’Amore and Sonjay Dutt. Gaburick being one of those in charge of wrestling becomes interesting since there was a lot of heat and criticism from when he was in charge in the past. All the key people on the creative end were either brought in specifically by Jarrett or those who are long time friends of his. D’Amore was the company’s booker when it had its best run as far as the PPV business and quality of PPV shows went. D’Amore will also remain the company liaison to Japan, NOAH in particular, and Jeremy Borash will remain the liaison to AAA and The Crash in Mexico.

Jarrett had been on television doing a television feud with Dan Lambert, although like when Alberto Rodriguez (El Patron) was suspended, the pre-taped television wasn’t changed. Jarrett was also scheduled for a package that was put together before he was let go for Jarrett and Jeremy Borash to comment on the Sexy Star situation from TripleMania.

PW Insider had reported that Jarrett vs. Alberto had been scheduled for Bound for Glory on 11/5. That match was going to originally be set up with an angle at TripleMania, which would have been inserted into the show. However, Alberto was not at TripleMania due to his own issues with AAA that weren’t resolved. The original version was that Jarrett would be teased against Alberto, trying to build an angle around Alberto’s suspension where he’d blame Jarrett for suspending him. In the original version, it would be a big swerve where everyone would think Jarrett would wrestle, only to have it changed the night of the show to Rey Mysterio Jr. However, that fell through and negotiations with GFW and Mysterio are no longer taking place as he’s heavily involved with The Crash and there had been too many issues between the two sides of late, and some dating back several months. Among those issues was the Crash heavily promoting Bobby Lashley and getting all his papers in order for a show in Tijuana, only to have Impact at the last minute replace him with James Storm. Another of which was that Jarrett had agreed to lose his hair to Mysterio at a big show in Tijuana later this year, and after shooting the angle, the next day, with no warning, Jarrett announced the Impact deal with AAA and ended up working TripleMania.

Still, those incidents happened prior to the talks of Mysterio vs. Alberto for Bound for Glory, and Mysterio was still in the plans for a surprise role, but in the end the negotiations for Mysterio fell through and all talks of him coming in right now appear to be dead. When Mysterio fell through, the idea changed back to Alberto vs. Jarrett in a singles match. At this point it’s not clear right now what role Alberto will have on the show.

Based on different sources, talent was said to be “80 percent” to “100 percent on board with the changes and were taking this move as a positive, although they couldn’t possibly be taking any rumors of a sale as a positive.

If the Lambert angle even lasts past Bound for Glory, it can be easily transferred to Jim Cornette as the GFW authority figure, since that’s also been pushed on television.

However, the status of both Cornette and Dutch Mantell, who were in the company due to longstanding friendship with Jarrett, are in question, although for now they are still with the company. One company source said the decisions regarding both men were up in the air, and in the case of Cornette, there was at least a feeling of downplaying or not having an authority figure, which is his television role and it all depends on creative direction. Cornette wasn’t involved in creative and his only role was as an on-screen authority figure. If authority figure angles are done away with, that changes a lot of the creative direction. Similarly, the future of Karen Jarrett and Bruce Prichard are up to the new creative team. Karen Jarrett was working in the office as well. Whether that continues is also up in the air.

The creative has improved under Jarrett, particularly the quality of the show stemming from the last television tapings. And most of the damage was done prior to his return, but the new storylines haven’t led to any kind of a ratings increase. And in the big picture, that’s a moot point with GFW having signed with Pop for another year, meaning they have television and short-term ratings are what they are. But even if ratings improve, they aren’t going to be able to make any serious money off U.S. television, which means from a business standpoint things will remain tough.

Rebecca Hardy posted on Twitter that, “Y’all trippin if you think Imma be anything but laughing at the misfortune of someone who went so out of their way to f*** with my family. FOH. Not gonna get a fake response out of me. You’d be doing the same thing if you were in my shoes.”

Stephen Espinosa of Showtime, one of the promoters of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight, estimated that PPV numbers would fall between 4.5 million and 5 million, and be on par, if not break the 4.6 million record set by Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao.

Later, on the MMA Hour, he was a little more subdued, saying “We are now sort of mid-4 million. If we see the kind of growth that we typically see, then we’ll break the record. I don’t want to assume we get the typical growth, because this is not a typical event. There are many different ways in which this event behaved differently. But we have a very good shot at breaking the record.”

We had been told last week that when it comes to cable and satellite numbers, it looked to be slightly less than Mayweather-Pacquiao, but if you added in iPPV, it should break the record.

In addition, Sky Sports announced it was the biggest PPV in history in the U.K., topping 1 million buys, beating the record set by the April boxing match with Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko for a version of the world heavyweight championship from Wembley Stadium. As a comparison point, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao did 700,000 buys in the U.K.

Like with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, this became a major cultural event that everyone wanted to see. Espinosa didn’t break down the split between cable, satellite and iPPV. Adding in the higher numbers in the U.K. and Ireland in particular, which aren’t figured into the North American numbers, that this would end up with more worldwide PPV buys than any event in history.

The final gate figures pretty much told you not to trust promoters of boxing or MMA. The Nevada commission confirmed the actual figures were 13,094 tickets sold and 137 comps, or 13,231 total for a gate of $55,414,865.79. There were 4,467 seats that weren’t sold, far more than the 3,000 tickets left that was said after tickets were first put on sale and didn’t sell out. There were large segments of the building tarped off like it was a WWE event.

Weeks before the event, promoters said the gate had topped $60 million, and Dana White said $70 million two days before the fight, while Floyd Mayweather said $80 million after the fight.

It fell far short of the immediate sellout of the smaller MGM Grand Garden Arena of 16,219 tickets (no comps) for $72,198,500 for Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.

Even at $55,414,865.79, it would be easily the second biggest live gate in the history of combat sports. Only one other event, the Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez fight in 2013, topped $20 million and barely hit that number. The Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight on 9/16 is said to be sold out with a $30 million gate in Las Vegas.

The moral of the story is they overpriced tickets if they had an event that big and had 4,467 unsold seats, all of which were priced at more than $3,500. Clearly the empty seats were due to people feeling the attraction wasn’t worth the ticket price, and at $3,500 for a seat, you can make that decision. If those same seats were priced at $500 they would have been gone instantly. Ticket brokers also didn’t do well, expecting huge over prices charged demand, when the opposite ws the case. Most knew, based on the rules, the outcome was almost assured, and while millions would pay $100 for that, not that many were willing to pay $3,500.

The big question is what does this all mean going forward? From a UFC perspective, you can see that the business is now all about finding those few matches a year with the big draws.

The big draws is a tougher issue. The key seems to be the ability to be a name that people are intrigued by and then have interesting opponents.

Another big question is what does this mean for McGregor going forward. To an MMA fan, his loss to Mayweather shouldn’t affect his drawing power, because he’s still a big personality who is over like nobody’s business and is one of the greatest ever at building interest for a fight.

But when numbers are at the big level, it’s all about general public, which means the ability to garner big sports media coverage. Everyone in sports media talked about Mayweather vs. McGregor, but won’t cover the vast majority of UFC big events.

Nobody ever knows what will happen when it comes to the public. Mayweather beat Pacquiao handily, his name value was at an all-time high, but then, perhaps because the fight was such a letdown and perhaps because it was his opponents, but his drawing power was down until McGregor, which clicked to the public even they were told over-and-over that it shouldn’t be a competitive fight.

McGregor lost. The general feeling among strong MMA fans is it was a moral victory, just because he wasn’t completely wiped out, did win a few rounds even if the whole fight probably played out almost exactly like Mayweather’s strategy from the start looked like it would have been, which was that McGregor simply wasn’t going to have the stamina, to make him tired, and then finish him.

More people know McGregor than ever before. That in theory is a positive. More saw him lose, but he also handled the loss well. The reality is that when both McGregor and Ronda Rousey had their upset losses, and Rousey couldn’t have handled it worse, the one loss didn’t hurt their drawing power.

With UFC, like boxing, more and more reliant on a rare huge attraction, it makes the value of that attraction go up, and McGregor is in a great bargaining position. There’s nobody else and UFC needs him. The attempt to rehab Jon Jones is back in shambles and right now he could be gone for years. Georges St-Pierre was a huge draw four years ago, and obviously Michael Bisping will build the fight up well. History says St-Pierre should draw but there are questions regarding what type of a fighter he’ll be and really everything depends on that and the results of the next fight. But until that fight, and when McGregor fights again, it’s going to be PPVs with probably 100,000 to 300,000 buys for the foreseeable future.

The WWE’s biggest B PPV in recent memory, No Mercy on 9/24 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles features two major first-time singles matches with Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman and John Cena vs. Roman Reigns.

Both matches have been scheduled for a long time, but injuries and other circumstances changed the dates around. Both matches are also such that one would think they would try and get more than one bout out of each rivalry.

A lot has to do with WrestleMania, where the idea is still, as it is every year at this time, to build for Reigns coronation as the top star of the company.

With the Cena return, there is no more lip service about Raw being the A show, given not only are the three top stars as viewed by McMahon, Cena, Reigns and Lesnar, all on the brand, but so is the most protected newcomer in Strowman.

Cena vs. Reigns has been built on some of the strongest promos in the company this year, and this week was clearly to leave people wondering because Cena backed down from a fight for the first time ever. The idea was is he playing mind games with Reigns, or did he really back down when challenged. As far as who wins or loses, don’t kid yourself, the idea of the match is to get Reigns over. If he loses, it’s because they feel that will be more effective for him to get over in the long run.

For Lesnar vs. Strowman it’s a different dynamic. If the idea is to change the title, it’s simple. If it isn’t, you could do a DQ, but Paul Heyman has as lot of input into Lesnar’s programs and I don’t see him wanting a DQ in a big match, so it becomes a way for Lesnar to win and make Strowman stay as big or make him bigger, a goal easier said than done.

Other matches official for the show are Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus & Cesaro for the tag titles, Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax vs. Emma vs. Sasha Banks for the women’s title and Neville vs. Enzo Amore for the cruiserweight title. The destination is still Bliss vs. Jax and clearly they want more time to get to that in singles. On the road shows, the recent TV has made Jax the most popular of the women on the show. Not sure if Emma’s role is to lose, because Bliss shouldn’t lose in the four-way, Jax shouldn’t lose right now, nor should Banks.

The cruiserweight situation is notable because in making Enzo the star of the division, it appears they’ve added interest to the division while at the same time clearly buried it. There’s no question Enzo gets a bigger reaction than anyone, and is seen as the biggest star. At the same time, he’s spent months as a doormat, not just a guy who loses all the time, but a guy who isn’t even competitive. Then he switches and not only becomes the top contender, but the gimmick is he’s so much smarter than the rest of them and they’re mindless robots working hard doing things that mean nothing.

Still, it says something for him that he can be buried in a way no babyface is every buried, for months on end, and people still see him as a star.

Other matches will likely come together this coming week, but at one point the idea was The Miz vs. Jason Jordan for the IC title.

Smackdown on 9/5 was headlined by Shinsuke Nakamura beating Randy Orton to earn the WWE title shot at Jinder Mahal on the 10/8 Hell in a Cell show in Detroit. Whether that would be the Hell in a Cell match, or Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon would be, remains to be seen. The tag title and women’s title should be more clear after title matches on 9/12 in Las Vegas. The U.S. title program looks like A.J. Styles vs. Baron Corbin, and perhaps they’ll go with Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler, since they’ve been working together at the house shows this past week, as well as Sami Zayn vs Aiden English.

The Battle of Los Angeles, the highest-profile and most sought-after independent wrestling ticket in the U.S., took place from 9/1 to 9/3 in Reseda, CA, with Ricochet winning.

PWG and the American Legion Post in Reseda have become a unique part of wrestling culture. It’s very much a cult thing, with unique fans. It’s become a place where the stars of the future have some of their best matches because they work with great people in front of a unique fan base and have little creative restrictions.

The second and third nights were two of the best shows of the year. But far more important than BOLA and the fans going crazy for multiple matches, is that it felt like we were in an interesting pro wrestling crossroads.

Over the past two years, independent wrestling in the U.S. and the scene in the U.K. have gained greatly in popularity. There are independent wrestlers making a nice living, although only a few are getting anything close to wealthy doing it. To its credit, WWE became a big player on the underground U.K. market in addition to being the biggest player mainstream by signing many of the key U.K. stars, and thus having the ability to control their bookings. It was notable that the key WWE U.K. talent wasn’t at PWG this year. This has given WWE tremendous power over the U.K. independent scene even if things have moved slowly in regard to the idea of a U.K. weekly television show on the WWE Network and the idea of a U.K. or European-based touring brand that has been talked about as a forerunner to the idea of having a series of regionally based companies around the world.

The point is, the landscape has changed greatly, and it will probably continue to change. While indie wrestling is strong enough that it will continue to exist in the U.S and the U.K., and there will always be younger wrestlers to come along and fill the holes of people who leave, we don’t know this current level will sustain, or even grow. One of the perks for younger wrestlers of PWG is that, while not at every show, William Regal is there regularly, including this past weekend. Essentially you can do a tryout match in front of the key WWE talent scout, usually working with someone of top caliber ability, and even though things often move slowly when it comes to signing talent, you at least get on the radar and they know who you are.

What we do know is WWE is strong, and from a base situation, while creativity may lead to certain ups and downs, they are only going to get stronger unless something out of their control like a overhaul of the television situation takes place.

They are also far more open-minded when it comes to talent that can headline. And wrestlers who became stars before WWE, at one point shunned with the idea they have bad habits and they’d rather train someone from scratch, the last few years have shown unless you’re a physical freak like Braun Strowman, it’s the guys, regardless of size and physique, who developed their working ability to working around the world with the top indie guys, who thrive in NXT. They are also the guys who at least start with a lot of interest in WWE, even if not everyone makes it as big as hoped for.

Ricochet (Trevor Mann) is one of many wrestlers this weekend who find themselves in an interesting position. There is nobody in the business more physically talented than him. The one thing about this generation of independent top stars is even if you see them once every few months live, and as far as athletic moves go, he’s been a standout for many years. But the improvement in the other aspects of the game, whether it be selling, timing, confidence and being able to make what they do be more effective, you can really see the difference.

What I noticed was his selling, facial expressions and match structure have improved greatly. He has the ability to work with just about anyone, as he understands how to work with big people and is strong enough to do impressive power spots with them, and he can work with small people and do a high spot laden style with anyone, and he can excel in New Japan with either juniors or heavyweights.

A year ago, he was expected to be headed to WWE when he turned down Lucha Underground’s offer to keep him. His deal is up 90 days after the last episode of the season ends, which was delayed. The season in building to a finish and his free agency and next move should be happening some time in January.

After winning BOLA, in a post-match promo where he was told to act a little cocky, to build for a championship match with Chuck Taylor, he noted that winning the PWG title is one of the last things he wants to check off before moving onto bigger and better things. The obvious implication is WWE, since if he stays with New Japan, there’s no reason to leave PWG, and his tournament win did have the feeling of a surprise go-away present.

It’s probably the right time for such a move.

But things are interesting with New Japan’s talks of expansion into the U.S. market. While the cult following of the company is significant, nobody is even entertaining the idea they can be true competition for WWE, because of the greater exposure and great roots and history and decades of being the dominant group in the U.S.

But that’s where certain people, notably Ricochet, Kenny Omega, Will Ospreay, Matt Riddle, and a few others become intriguing players over the next two years. They are the key in a battle for the future with WWE and New Japan.

It’s not really a battle because one group is 20 times the size of the other. But New Japan is the second most viable company in the world, has solid financial backing, but they are still far behind when it comes to the international television rights scene. The nature of the business and the world is that if they could get television, they have a product that can get over, not at the WWE level but at a level where they could be far bigger and more profitable than they are now. While there is almost an endless supply of upcoming talent, as this weekend showed. Ricochet and Riddle are keys in the sense of all that talent, they are the ones who have the charisma to be difference makers, particularly if New Japan is gaining a U.S. foothold. Omega is as hot as someone can be given the limits of New Japan on AXS. And they could be the foreign stars right under him.

If New Japan wants to make a U.S. move as far as regularly touring, obviously the key is television, and as we’ve seen, that has become a tougher nut to crack. Even with underground wrestling having a niche, we’ve seen no movement or changes on the television scene in the U.S. or U.K., so as hot as crowds are in small venues, there is still a ceiling that has yet to be broken through, although there is slow and clear growth. With all the social media and insider talk, there is a status level and money level that you can only get when you’re a big star in WWE.

Right now, Ricochet is with New Japan and holds the junior tag team title there. Riddle is starting there soon as Riddle & Jeff Cobb are scheduled for the late November and early December tag team tournament.

For the American market, Riddle has the potential to be a strong No. 2 behind Omega once he gets more acclimated to the style. In WWE, his potential is huge as well. It’s less of a sure thing and may take longer to get there, and promos are so important. But the potential as far as star power and money goes would be huge. Riddle seems to have the idea of gaining more and more experience with different styles on the outside, and looks to be enjoying himself. From the New Japan standpoint, they don’t want to be the final grooming ground for guys to end up in WWE, and are looking to establish themselves as a final destination for such talent. Yet, they have lost key talent to WWE in recent years, talent that has walked into NXT or even WWE and been taken by the fan base as instant superstars. And they’ve successfully replaced them and gotten stronger. For WWE, the scene is such that it appears right now to be an endless supply of talent and it’s a matter of getting people fitted in. Some would say the best match this year in WWE, and certainly top three or four, was Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne. They tore down the house before a big crowd in a city that neither had performed. And the crowd popped for them before their match started. Yet, aside from some rare NXT matches, which they’ve excelled in, they haven’t been used or pushed. That tells you about the logjam when it comes to talent that couldn’t have made more of a statement or proved themselves more on a major show with a big crowd.

One aspect several have noted is WWE signs talent for three years, while New Japan usually does one year deals, although some are longer. But that makes New Japan vulnerable to being the last stepping stone where guys go to fully develop their in-ring skills before WWE. But it’s a position New Japan doesn’t want to be.

With Ricochet, a major handicap that New Japan should change is the junior and heavyweight delineation. They have two categories, and in a sense, so does WWE with 205 Live, which is really a lot lower on the showcase order than the juniors in New Japan and the guys in 205 Live are guys they weren’t going to give top pushes to on the main roster to begin with.

But for the U.S. market, which accepted Rey Mysterio as a main eventer and Daniel Bryan as the most popular wrestler in the company for a time, that traditional New Japan split isn’t needed.

New Japan also showed with slighter-built Zack Sabre Jr., that a lighter guy being booked strong against heavyweights can thrive today in Japan as well as a top heavyweight contender. If I was New Japan, I’d make a play for Ricochet as one of the few true potential major players they could have for international expansion and make it clear he’s going to have a top spot. If he does go, it’s not a killer loss for the Japan market. The Super Juniors tournament was so loaded with talent it’s not even funny and the junior division standouts for the next several years are going to be Kushida and Hiromu Takahashi, and there are enough guys there and guys who will become stars that they are training or in the U.S. and Mexico that the current version just opens up a spot for someone on the way up. But if they are serious about the U.S., he can be one of the franchise players, if booked as one.

But as noted, New Japan because of the nature of their top talent and how talent in the ring is so important because of how they tell stories, there is the situation where if you’re put in the top mix you’re usually protected better and have more creativity and ability to get over.

But for Ricochet, after being held back by the Lucha Underground contract, this feels like the right time to go to WWE. There are offers coming from everywhere, but NXT seems like the right move for him.

In winning the tournament, which was a surprise since going in you’d think it would go to someone who PWG would have access to for the long haul, it felt like it was a going away present. The tournament winner against current champion Chuck Taylor was set up. Both started together in PWG, and it would be a fitting finale. Ricochet all but acknowledged his time was probably limited in PWG by saying at the end of the show that the PWG title was one more thing he wanted to check off his list before he moves on to bigger and better things.

Riddle was the most popular wrestler in the tournament even though it was clear Omega, who hasn’t appeared in PWG since the first Okada match upped his profile by a great degree, was the biggest star of the weekend. He’s done great in the U.K. with singles matches against both Katsuyori Shibata and Tomohiro Ishii. He still has his WWN deal where he’s their biggest star.

The match of the weekend was an insane match of the tag team of The Monsters, Donovan Dijak and Keith Lee, a singles match that followed up a nearly as good match the two nights earlier when they were a team against Matt Riddle & Jeff Cobb.

They were in the third of 11 matches on the 9/3 show. Lee is probably 6-foot-2 and 330 pounds and Dijak is about 6-foot-5 or more and 270 pounds, with a good physique and is the most agile from an in-ring standpoint guy of his size that I’ve ever seen in pro wrestling, surpassing even Don Leo Jonathan. The two of them have wrestled before and tore the house down in Northeast Wrestling, and many felt they had the single best match of WrestleMania weekend on 3/31 when they wrestled for Evolve, and that takes in a lot of competition. But this match was ten minutes longer and had the same freaky athletic spots, but this match had tons more crowd heat than the Evolve match according to people who saw both matches live. It was also said to be far better than their 5/20 Evolve match.

This was to be their final meeting since it was Dijak’s last independent date as he started full-time with WWE in Orlando two days later.

They went out there and did athletic spots and power moves with endless near falls. They did a cross between an Undertaker vs. Michaels WrestleMania match and an Ishii vs. Shibata match, except with more spectacular moves thrown in. The crowd couldn’t have gone more nuts, and they got hotter and hotter with each near fall, and when they kept kicking out of moves everyone figured were the finish, the crowd got hotter and did the fight forever chants. This was not an audience that would do those chants lightly.

When I compare it with different key U.S. matches, while Undertaker vs. Michaels got more out of doing less and were able to sell more because of the advantage of who they were, this still felt like watching that match given the hot crowd and people buying the near falls so heavily, except the moves were far more spectacular. With Bate vs. Dunne, or Cena vs. Styles, those matches were similarly hot, but it was much bigger guys doing far more athletic things, and that’s saying something when you talk about athletic things in a PPV main event and compare it favorably to Styles. As compared with the SummerSlam main event, the advantage of the SS match is that I can remember the moves and structure of that match today, while with this match, it was again far more spectacular and blew the crowd away equally as a prelim match with far lesser name stars. But I can’t say the spots in the match were as memorable because there were so many of them, in the sense I remember the four-way at SummerSlam better as far as the key points went, but it was a match relying on four guys doing their big spots over and over as opposed to this match where the guys did far more, but they weren’t moves I was as familiar with. It was two different kinds of roller coaster rides, a great ride on a roller coaster you’ve rode since childhood but it still fun, against a new updated version which has a lot more twists and turns but you don’t know it and aren’t as familiar with it.

A key to the match is physical dynamics. The two have worked together a few times and because they mostly work with smaller guys, there is some limits as far as certain acrobatics because for guys this size you need a powerhouse base that they usually don’t have. The fact they did this match in a ring that broke a few minutes into the match (there were people under the ring fixing it as the match was going on) made it even more impressive as they didn’t skip a beat. There were people who have been fans for decades saying it was the best live match they had ever seen.

There is the belief, and it was expressed by some after the fact, that wasn’t the kind of match to do that early in the show, and questions about kicking out of so many finishers. But the reality is, this match didn’t burn the audience out for the rest of the show. I could see hating to follow it, and when it was over, I thought immediately that they should have at least taken an intermission.

Zack Sabre Jr. and Rey Fenix followed, and started with matwork, a huge contrast, but after a few minutes because those two are so good, the crowd was back, loved the match and remained hot the rest of the show. I can’t say the prior match hurt the crowd heat of the next match after midway through, but they definitely had to start slow. The reaction to the near falls the rest of the night was strong. Without question, that match didn’t hurt the show and when the show was over, it was what everyone was talking about as the highlight of the weekend. PWG is a place where things that would be “wrong” from a traditional structuring of the show perspective for somewhere else, and “wrong” if you think too much about it. Even the idea that if you have guys of that size doing little guys moves like crazy dives, that it kills it for smaller guys because that’s the stuff they have to get over with, is an opinion that makes all the sense in the world, but on this show, the smaller guys who did the flying moves later get the same reaction they would have. This is not to disagree with those opinions because as the match was going on, I was thinking the same way. But the crowd loved it, and it didn’t hurt the show or kill it for anyone else on the show aside from the crowd not reacting that strong for the first few minutes of the next match.

Sammy Guevara and Joey Janela did something similar on the second night. They went out there to tear down the house with crazy moves and did. They’d have been the weekend talking point, and were for a day, until Lee vs. Dijak came along.

Yet, when it’s over, it was like the biggest tree had fallen in a small village. PWG is this little world of fans who, instead of talking about seeing each other at the next indie show in the area, or even a vacation at WrestleMania, talk about their next trip to Wrestle Kingdom, or being at the G-1 finals, or the Progress show in New York. If you’re in the group, the show is one of the highlight events of the year. And for the talent performing, it is as well. But it’s a village on a little island that most don’t know exists. There’s no iPPV, and while they still sell a lot of DVDs when the DVD era of wrestling is largely a thing of the past. It’s great, and it’s the place to go to see new moves invented and new ideas tested, and new talent before they become famous. You very much see the future of the top tier independent style ahead of its time, some of which will blend into all of the big promotions in time. They put on two of the best shows of the year, and a third not far from that level, and so many great matches that most get lost in the shuffle.

On the flip side, if you’re not in that village, for the most part, it’s not that important to you. But the talent in the building on these nights is more than just about anywhere. It was this weird emotion with me with all the match ratings because to be fair, everything was really good to excellent, everything got super heat, and you had a crowd that has seen everything still popping for everything and talking like these were some of the best shows they’ve ever seen. The crazy part of all this is that the ring was a mess at times, and it was a sauna inside the building and guys were working long matches and on the last day, multiple matches.

A key part of wrestling right now when you see the talent here is that there is right now far more pretty much near elite level talent in the business than regular job openings with major companies. If Lucha Underground, which has a lot of the talent here under contract, doesn’t announce a new season, there will be a flood of good talent available. There are so many guys that you think should be on television with a major promotion, even guys with major league size who can have incredible matches like a Brian Cage, or a super charismatic guy like Penta 0M. WWE can only bring in so many people at once, GFW has limited revenue and NJPW already has too many guys unless they split into two tours and that’s a move they’ve talked about but it’s risky because it goes against 45 years of history where fans expect the show to have all the big Japanese names in the promotion on it.


Night one results:

1. Dezmond Xavier pinned Brian Cage in 10:41. Xavier is getting his TV break in GFW, having won their X Cup. It felt like nobody knew that here. He’s another one who has improved greatly in the ring mechanics since the last time I saw him. It was considered a big upset with Xavier winning with a Japanese rolling crotch hold, reversing Cage after a double power bomb spot. ***½

2. Marty Scurll beat Flash Morgan Webster with a chicken wing in 15:34. Webster is a British wrestler who is very light, same size as Scurll but much lighter. At the 2:00 mark Webster got what appeared to be a surprise pin. Scurll grabbed the ropes but the ref counted three and the bell rang, and it was restarted. Most didn’t see his hand on the ropes and the crowd exploded so big for the surprise finish that it made it difficult to get back to that peak. A lot of people after thought that even though you’d be cheated out of a real Scurll match in the tournament, because the quality of everything was so high, it would have been a great finish. But Scurll was booked to continue on so it couldn’t be. It turned into a great match and the crowd chanted “Please come back” at Webster, although they did that to almost everyone who lost that was a newcomer because of how hard everyone worked. ***3/4

3.Rey Fenix beat Rey Horus in 16:04. This was a crazy high flying Lucha Libre match. Horus injured his knee, the lone injury of the weekend. A lot of great dives, with Horus doing the biggest spot of the show with a running dive over the post several rows deep, basically the same dive Ricochet came back to do twice in the finals. People think of Fenix as mainly a high flyer who does great rope work, but he’s the complete package and brings it every night. There was a lot of money thrown into the ring after this match. ****1/4

4. Jeff Cobb & Matt Riddle beat Keith Lee & Donovan Dijak in 18:12. This was a killer of a match. With Cobb, Lee & Dijak were able to do their huracanranas and such that guys their size in theory shouldn’t do, let alone do as fluidly as they both did. Cobb and Lee opened with a Lucha Libre high spot that was at the level of top Luchadores who are legit half Lee’s size. Lee also has great charisma to go with his freaky agility doing flips and dives and huracanranas and really high leap frogs and such. I don’t know that WWE would want a guy that size doing those things. He also can do long fast paced matches. Riddle & Cobb are a regular team here so have chemistry and cool moves, including a Doomsday device type double-team move where Riddle comes off the top with a flying knee rather than a clothesline, and gets ridiculous height doing the move. You see him and think he should be a major star with a major group because he reminds me of Bam Bam Bigelow at the same stage, not as heavy but far more agile. Riddle pinned Lee here, which was a surprise with Dijak leaving, but considering how Lee was pushed all weekend, it had a purpose for Riddle pinning him. ****½

5. Penta 0M pinned Matt Sydal in 12:00 with a running package piledriver after a reverse huracanrana. Great action, Sydal is a great worker and Penta has everything to be both a superstar and a major merchandise mover. ***3/4

6. Zack Sabre Jr. beat Jonah Rock in 18:07. Rock is a short powerhouse type, who worked with TMDK in Australia. He did good power moves early but Sabre won late with an armbar. ***1/4

7. Ricochet beat Flamita in 22:10. Great main event. Flamita can do some amazing flying but he’s far from the level of a wrestler as someone like Fenix. He did a lot of cool things with the ropes. He’s still young so the potential is there, but it was clear Ricochet was a totally different level wrestler and made this a great bout. Even though they went a long time, the finish came out of nowhere and people were at first surprised by it. ****1/4


Second day:


1. Donovan Dijak pinned Trevor Lee in 11:41 with Feast Your Eyes, which is similar to the GTS. Lee played up the bit of being an Impact Wrestling superstar for easy heat. ***½

2. Sammy Guevara pinned Joey Janela in 14:06 using a 630 splash. This was crazy dives and big bumps including some insane bumps on chairs. It reminded me a little of the Kevin Steen vs. El Generico Final Battle match in ROH many years ago. It was Guevara’s second match in PWG and Janela’s first, and I’d go so far as to say ahead of time people were talking about it as their least looked forward to match, and it ended up being the second best match of the tournament. Guevara does a tope like El Hijo del Fantasma, and then Janela did one, and Ricochet, Fenix and so many others this weekend were doing them as well. Janela missed a senton off the top rope and crashed onto the apron which was not the most spectacular thing but for whatever reason was a spot most had never seen before and made a big impact. ****½

3. Travis Banks beat Mark Haskins in 17:17. These guys were having an excellent match but there was a screw-up on the finish. Banks did his usual finisher. I think Haskins was going to kick out. It really wasn’t made clear past the ref made a mistake on the finish, got up and called for the bell and said it was three when I guess it was supposed to be a near fall. Considering what they followed, the match was real impressive in how much it got over. ***½

4. Zack Sabre Jr. & Marty Scurll beat Ricochet & Matt Sydal in 21:10. Sabre & Scurll have teamed up a lot in the U.K., and it’s too bad they can’t team up anywhere else in the U.S. because they are the best working real heel tag team in the business. Ricochet & Sydal were an incredible team in Japan but Sydal being fired from New Japan ended their run. Sabre & Scurll are in different U.S. groups, and in Japan, Sabre is Suzuki-gun and Scurll is Bullet Club, so they can’t team there. The finish saw Sydal do a top rope Frankensteiner which Sabre rolled through into a sunset flip. ****½

5. Jeff Cobb pinned Sami Callihan in 11:42 with the Tour of the Islands. This would have been a great match on most shows, and did get over but it was difficult because the standard by this point was so high from matches two and four. ***1/4

6. Matt Riddle beat Michael Elgin in 18:36. This was worked like a G-1 style match with that kind of a New Japan flow. Really, as a G-1 match it would have been in the high-end category but not the top ten of the tournament. It was physical, hard chops, forearms and kicks, with big moves, but more making the moves mean something, but also the power stand up no sell spots from German suplexes that worked every time they did it. The finish was a double reverse tombstone into a front powerslam from that position. Elgin then put over Riddle and told him to go out and win the tournament. ****1/4

7. Keith Lee pinned Walter in 19:42. Walter is a huge powerhouse from Germany. He’s several inches taller than Lee, so probably 6-foot-4 legit, perhaps 6-foot-5, and 310. He doesn’t have a pretty body but he’s thinc and strong and wrestles extremely well. He reminded me of a much better wrestling version of the physical type that would be a big money opponent for Bruno Sammartino. Walter also chops ridiculously hard. Crowd did loud “Please come back chants” for him after losing. ***½

8. Young Bucks & Kenny Omega beat Penta 0M & Rey Fenix & Flamita in 27:04. It was interesting that unlike in the past, only the PWG champions were recognized or came out with belts. Trevor Lee was never mentioned as GFW X champion, the Young Bucks weren’t mentioned as ROH tag champions and Omega wasn’t mentioned as U.S. champion, while in the past champions from other companies had both been introduced as champions and come out with their belts. Penta and Fenix were introduced as PWG tag champions. The first ten minutes was comedy and building. They built to a square off of Omega vs. Penta and the place went nuts for that. They did the old school heel arm pump handle spot where Omega kept doing it to his opponents until Fenix did a switch and Omega kept doing it to Nick. Marty Scurll interfered as a comedy cameo for one spot. About five minutes in Penta did what I think was a package piledriver on the apron, but the key is the ring broke. So they went about 22 minutes in a ring what was almost like a water bed with how it would sink with every step and the ropes were very loose. I thought it would be a disaster, and they had to modify some stuff since they had three guys (Nick, Fenix and Flamita) who were likely doing a ton of acrobatic rope spots. And they did some, and ignored the ring problem as much as they could. There was a double Asai moonsault spot by Flamita & Fenix where Fenix got so high that he kicked the light that was hanging from the roof and ended up putting the light out. He was scared to death because his foot hitting the light changed the trajectory of his dive, but he was able to control his body to his mark and was caught. There was another spot where Nick did a moonsault off the apron and pretty much landed on my head. It was the spot they do all the time where Nick is on the apron and it looks like he’s doing a springboard spot into the ring but instead moonsaults onto someone on the floor. The spot happened so fast but as soon as I saw Nick there, I knew it was coming but everyone sitting around me thought he doing the springboard spot and with two of the guys, I think Flamita and Fenix, right in front of me on the floor and the people to my side not moving, I couldn’t move an inch let alone get out of the way. The two guys caught him and broke the fall to a degree since he landed so light that it looked terrible but didn’t hurt at all. I don’t think it was a rib and they may not have even known they did it since nobody brought it up to joke about after the match. I really wouldn’t have thought about it except Marc Raimondi of MMA Fighting in tweeting about seeing his first show noted that I got moonsaulted and how Ronda Rousey was doing loud chants with the rest of the crowd all night long. It was something seeing her doing every chant and jumping up and down for all the big spots. Omega’s highlight was near the finish doing three snap dragon suplexes in a row, one on each guy. The finish was an Indy-taker on Flamita, where Nick was thrown in the air rather than coming off the top ropes for a springboard, and then Omega pinned him with the One Winged Angel. ****1/4


Notes from day three:


1. Ricochet pinned Dezmond Xavier in 10:51. Xavier did a space flying Tiger drop as the first move of the opening match of the show. Very good agility based match. Ricochet did a lot of taunting like Xavier wasn’t up to his level yet and won with a flapjack uranage. ***½

2. Travis Banks pinned Marty Scurll in 12:51. Banks reversed a chicken wing into a front rolling cradle. Once again the place went nuts for the upset finish. Scurll, like in his first match, worked like Banks wasn’t in his league pointing out that he won the tournament last year. ***3/4

3. Keith Lee pinned Donovan Dijak in 21:41. There were so many insane moves here with them kicking out of everything. Very early on the ring broke, but unlike the night before, it only made things a little wobbly but it wasn’t like you’d even notice it as a fan watching even though these were good sized guys landing hard from off the top rope. I could see it being uneven in spots and heard the spot it broke, but didn’t know it was a break until after the match was over. Early on Dijak did a Fosbury flop dive and Lee came right back with a running flip dive. The rest of the match was filled with acrobatic spots that guys this size shouldn’t be doing, leapfrogs, huracanranas back and forth, one count kick outs that exploded the crowd, monster big man spots, and big power spots. Lee finally won with his second jackhammer, his finisher, which Dijak had kicked out of earlier in the match. Because the two have a unique chemistry, I guess the idea was to do their best match possible since they knew they’d never have a chance to do this kind of a match together. Even if Lee ends up in WWE and they feud, there’s no way WWE would allow them to do this kind of a match unless perhaps it was on a Takeover show and even then I doubt they’d let then kick out of so many finishers. *****

4. Rey Fenix pinned Zack Sabre Jr. in 14:11. Given where the crowd was, they started with excellent matwork. It was impressive how Fenix was able to stay with Sabre. Sabre did some great armbar spots out of nowhere. The finish saw Fenix win by pinning Sabre with his own usual bridging cradle. ****1/4

5. Jeff Cobb pinned Sammy Guevara in 5:14. Guevara opened the mach with two crazy dives. He also had Cobb on his shoulders and did a couple of squats with him. Cobb would beat him down and tell him to stay down. Some were disappointed because of time, but the work was excellent and the show was going to be long so a short match here was for the good of the show. ***1/4

6. Matt Riddle beat Penta 0M in 14:19. These two had the crowd hot the entire way. Penta nailed him with hard chops and then tore his own top off to expose his chest to dare Riddle to fire back, which he did. During the week fans started with BROLA chants since most fans chant “Bro” constantly during Riddle matches. There was a crazy chop battle at one point. The finish saw Riddle nail Penta with elbows over and over like an MMA ref stoppage finish, and then switch to a twister submission. ****1/4

7. Ricochet pinned Travis Banks in 12:16. Another excellent match. The highlight was a belly-to-belly Spanish fly. ****1/4

8. Keith Lee pinned Rey Fenix in 6:39. These two traded really hard chops. Lee won with a power bomb. At this point in the show, going short made sense since Lee still had another match to go, and there was nothing he should have done here after the Dijak match when he still had the finals to work. Lee won with a powerslam and jackhammer. ***1/4

9. Jeff Cobb beat Matt Riddle in 8:53. They traded agility spots and wrestling power spots like gun wrenches. It was worked like tag team partners trying to win to advance, but doing everything they could to do so. Cobb was bleeding from the nose, which he was in just about every match he had. Thought people were going to boo Cobb’s winning because Riddle was so popular, but they reacted big to Cobb. Both hugged after the match. ***½

10. Joey Janela & Mark Haskins & Flamita & Flash Morgan Webster & Chuck Taylor beat Brian Cage & Trevor Lee & Jonah Rock & Walter & Sami Callihan in 23:23. Originally Rey Horus was to be on the face team but he injured his knee in the match with Fenix two nights earlier. So it was five-on-four and with some huge heels like Cage, Rock and Walter, an aggressive hard hitter in Callihan and Lee, who was really a great heel and the best worker in the match, they beat down the much smaller face team. After a few minutes, Taylor came down from commentary and teased being the fifth guy to help the smaller team. Then he went to the back and said he was going to change into his gear. I actually figured there would be a surprise fifth partner but it was Taylor. The action never stopped. Lee took a crutch away from TK Cooper, who was injured on the Progress show in New York and will be out of action for three months. He had been there all weekend on crutches. Cooper took the crutch away from Lee and Taylor pinned Lee with a piledriver. Taylor being put over strong made sense since Ricochet vs. Taylor is a future direction. ****

11. Ricochet won a three-way elimination match over Keith Lee and Jeff Cobb in the finals in 19:02. This match saw Ricochet thrown around by the bigger guys, but he also did power moves on both which popped the crowd. Lee did a spinning huracanrana. This match was tremendously well constructed, almost like a pure highlight reel or sequences to build to a big pop spot. Ricochet did a running dive over the top rope and over the post several rows deep on Cobb, and then got in the ring and did it on the other side of the ring several rows deep to Lee. He also did 630 splashes on both. The finish saw Lee pin Cobb at 18:44 with a jackhammer. Lee then went to give Ricochet the jackhammer, but Ricochet reversed into a small package for the pin. ****½

The post-match saw Taylor come out with his belt and Ricochet and his big trophy. They pushed that Ricochet had become the first person ever to win BOLA twice. They issued the challenge for the title match playing off how the two started together in PWG and that Taylor never won BOLA, but Ricochet never won the PWG title. They are looking at 10/21 for the next show, but that was not definite as for PWG, it’s about finding a date when you can fill a show with nothing but all-star talent and enough has to be available.

There was good news and not so good news this past week when it comes to two of the biggest stars in pro wrestling, Ric Flair and Yoshihiro Takayama.

Flair, 68, had a short video of him put up where he was sitting down, wearing a shirt that read “I ain’t dead yet mother f***ers,” (a T-shirt that is being marketed) and said: “Hey, to all my fans out there, let it be known worldwide that the Nature Boy, Whoo!, is back up and running, looking as only I can look. I want to tell all my fans out there, thank you for all the love and support. And I will see you in the very, very, very, very, very, very near future, Whoo!”

Flair’s situation has improved enough that those closest to him are relieved and believe that while he has a long road ahead, that he turned a major corner. His fiance,. Wendy Barlow, called it a miracle. It was true that in using a walker to start getting back on his feet that he recently did a strut. He has spoken in the last week to some people in wrestling and the family has asked for specific details to not be released at this time.

From a personal situation, I want to say some things about Flair. As we all know, Flair has had very public issues, based on living life as Ric Flair for decades. The death of his son was devastating and like almost anyone, took the death of his parents very hard as well. He had heart issues going back about 14 years ago which doctors told him were from drinking and steroids. Still, he didn’t change and drinking remained a huge part of his lifestyle, and it got worse after his son’s death, which will be covered in places like his new autobiography and I’m sure in the ESPN 30 for 30 piece scheduled at last word in November.

I think everyone close to him would like to hope that this will force a change in his lifestyle. Because he’s Ric Flair, there is almost a bullet proof mentality from him because he came from a generation where celebrities could do just about anything and people would clean up the mess, and those were the perks of being a major star in that era.

I just want to say how happy I am that things have taken a turn for the best, and how happy I am for those closest to him. There’s always worries about someone in a coma and what will happen. But he was talking fine. A few people have been allowed to see him including Tony Schiavone, Conrad Thompson, David Crockett, Michael Hayes, Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Hart that I’m aware of and he’s been in touch with Steve Austin and Paul Levesque and I’d suspect other key people from WWE.

While was a fan before Flair became a major star, there was a period, because wrestling in California went so downhill in the late 70s, that my interest went down as well. It was really Georgia Championship Wrestling coming on cable that revived my interest and the two key players in my mind during that key period were Dusty Rhodes as the top babyface, and Flair as the occasional guest, who we knew was the top star in the Carolinas so he was not a regular, so he’d maybe be on television once a month, which made his appearances special. He had future world champion written all over him between his style, his look and his in-ring ability. He ended up being one of the greatest and most enduring world champions in history, during a tumultuous period where wrestling changed. He was the last of the true touring world champions as the old regional foundation of pro wrestling and the National Wrestling Alliance crumbled.

On 9/6, Flair, on Twitter, announced he was parting company with longtime agent Melinda Morris Zanoni and Legacy Talent, who he’s worked with for more than a decade. He said he would be announcing his new agents this week. WWE is about to release a book called “Second Nature,” a dual autobiography of Ric and daughter Ashley (Charlotte).

Not as good news has to do with Takayama. As reported here several weeks back Takayama went public this week that he is now a quadriplegic and the belief is that will not change. It was a fluke sunset flip where he landed on his head, but one has to think this was similar to what happened earlier this year with Tomoaki Honma and with the death of Mitsuharu Misawa, where it was the accumulation of decades that was the key.

We were told at the time the story first broke that at some point soon he would release a statement and that would also lead to fund raising efforts, which happened this past week.

“I, Yoshihiro Takayama, am deeply grateful for this support, and grateful to everyone gathered to hear this announcement. On May 4, after suffering a cervical spinal injury in my match, I was unable to move beneath the neck, nor breathe on my own. During surgery, my heart stopped and I had other post-operative trouble. My condition and disappointing progress left me unable to offer updates. Under these circumstances, that everyone gathered together and offered me their support is something I can only be deeply grateful for. Thank you so much to everyone. I want to contribute my own ideas and will be doing my very best to recover.”

Minoru Suzuki, who was a long-time tag team partner of Takayama, was in tears at a press conference this week talking about the situation. Shinsuke Nakamura commented on it saying that Takayama was a key in him becoming who he turned out to be and both have spoken about trying to raise money for what will be a lifetime of care.

In the UFC’s first show since Mayweather vs. McGregor, the company presented a Fight Pass exclusive event at Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Holland on 9/2.

The show didn’t have a lot of big names, but a lot of the winners made good impressions.

The main event saw Alexander Volkov finish Stefan Struve in the third round in a battle of big heavyweights, with Volkov at 6-foot-7 and Struve at 6-foot-11 ½. Struve, because of his size and ground skill, feels like he should be a major star, and he is the only guy ever to finish Stipe Miocic. But more often than not, he seems to disappoint, and he’s unable to use his size and length effectively in the stand-up game on frequent occasions.

The $50,000 performance bonuses went to Volkov, Struve, Mairbek Taisumov and the debuting Zabit Magomedshapirov.

Taisumov finished Felipe Silva in 1:24, and then cut a promo talking about how he wanted to fight Michael Chiesa, who said he needed some wins, but now that he’s been winning, Chiesa’s people don’t want the fight. He then brought up wanting a fight with Anthony Pettis, and then mentioned Nate Diaz and said he thinks he smokes too much.

1. Thibault Gouti (12-3) beat Andrew Holbrook (12-3) in 4:28 of a lightweight fight. Gouti knocked Holbrook down with punches and followed with a head kick. Holbrook looked in trouble, but worked for a Kimura. Gouti escaped and started landing more punches until it was stopped.

2. Abdul Kerim Edilov (17-4) beat Bojan Mihajlovic (10-6) at 2:31 of the second round in a light heavyweight fight. Edilov dominated the first round, getting a takedown and punching on the ground for the rest of the round, which was a 10-8 round. In the second round, Edilov landed a flying knee and took Mihajlovic down. He continued the ground and pound until it was stopped since Mihajlovic was just taking punishment.

3. Zabit Magomedshapirov (13-1) beat Mike Santiago (21-10) at 4:22 of the second round in a featherweight fight. Magomedshapirov was throwing all kinds of crazy kicks like a spinning rolling savate from pro wrestling, a spin kick, and went for the Showtime kick where you jump into and springboard off the cage with a kick. Santiago was able to block most of that. In the second round, Santiago took him down. Magomedshapirov reversed, got Santiago’s back and worked for a choke. He couldn’t get it at first, but after more elbows, he got the choke for a second time for the submission.

4. Aleksander Rakic (9-1) beat Francimar Barroso (19-6, 1 no contest) via straight 30-27 scores. Barroso landed early but Rakic came back in the first round. In the second round, Rakic started landing punches. Barroso took him down but Rakic got back up and landed punches and kicks. Barroso took him down again . The third round started slow. Rakic landed some body kicks and had Barroso hurt in the final minutes.

5. Rustam Khabilov (22-3) beat Desmond Green (20-6) on scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Khabilov in a lightweight fight. Khabilov scored quickly with an overhead belly-to-belly and also got the better of the striking game in the first round. Green did better in the second round, blocking takedowns and landing punches. Khabilov got a takedown, but Green got up quickly. Khabilov landed a good head kick. In the third round, Green took Khabilov down once and did enough from there to take the round.

6. Michel Prazeres (23-2) beat Mads Burnell (8-2) at 1:26 of the third round in a lightweight fight. Prazeres, who is already a powerhouse, missed weight. The whole fight saw him take Burnell down at will. In the first round Prazeres got two takedowns, got side control and then mount. In the second round, he was landing punches, got another takedown, and also got mount and should have gotten a 10-8 since it was complete domination. In the third round, he got another takedown, moved to side control, and finished with a North-South choke.

7. Mairbek Taisumov (26-5) beat Felipe Silva (8-1) in 1:24 in a lightweight fight. Taisumov landed with a short counter right to the chin and then said that he needed a top ten opponent next, mentioning Chiesa, Pettis and Nate Diaz.

8. Darren Till (15-0-1) beat Bojan Velickovic (15-5-1) on straight 30-27 scores in a welterweight fight. The win by Till, keeping him unbeaten, was strong enough that he’ll be headlining a show in October against Donald Cerrone. Till dropped Velickovic and landed elbows on the ground. Velickovic was bleeding from the ear. Till landed hard punches and I had the round at 10-8. Till took him down off a kick and was on top in the second round. Velickovic landed some good shots from the bottom. Till busted up Velickovic near the right eye with punches and elbows on the ground. Till was bleeding from the mouth as well. In the third round, Till got him down again and landed punches and elbows on the ground.

9. Leon Edwards (14-3) beat Bryan Barbarena (13-5) via straight 29-28 scores in a welterweight fight. Edwards took the first round with body and head kicks. He scored a knockdown with a left as Barbarena threw a kick. Edwards got his back on the ground and worked for a choke. In the second round, Barbarena threw a kick and was taken down. Barbarena landed a short uppercut and knocked Edwards down and landed a lot of punches on the ground to even the fight. Edwards got a third round takedown and worked for a choke with a body triangle. Barbarena got up once, but Edwards took him down again to clinch the round and the fight.

10. Marion Reneau (8-3-1) beat Talita Bernardo (5-2) at 4:54 of the third round in a women’s bantamweight fight. Reneau because the first woman who is 40 years old to compete in UFC here. When she first came to the attention of UFC, she was 37 and Dana White outright said she was too old to make it, and later apologized for that. Bernardo took her down and went for a kneebar. Reneau worked for an armbar from the bottom. Bernardo landed punches and got her back and worked for a choke. Bernardo also landed elbows from the top. In the second round, Reneau came back landing punches. Reneau was blocking all of Bernardo’s takedowns and landing punches. Bernard got another takedown but Reneau got back up and landed knees to the body and elbows. It came down to the third round. Bernardo took her down but Reneau went for a triangle, then a guillotine and then a choke. Reneau landed a lot of punches late until the fight was stopped with six seconds left.

11. Siyar Bahadurzada (23-6-1) beat Rob Wilkinson (11-1) in 3:10 of the second round in a middleweight fight. Bahadurzada was very popular. Wilkinson got a takedown and got Bahadurzada’s back. Bahadurzada got back up. Wilkinson got another takedown and got his back again, but Bahadurzada got the better of the standup. In the second round, Bahadurzada got three knockdowns and landed a ton of punches on the ground. This was an egregiously late stoppage.

12. Alexander Volkov (29-6) beat Stefan Struve (32-9) at 3:30 of the third round in a heavyweight fight. Struve started landing knees and a high kick. Volkov took him down but Struve got back up. Struve was landing punches but Volkov came back. Volkov got another takedown and was landing a lot of punches on the ground. Volkov was cut under the left eye. In the second round, they were trading punches. During this round Struve poked Volkov in the eyes twice as Volkov had the advantage. It was ridiculous that no point was taken away after the second one. Volkov was landing big shots and had Struve in trouble a few times in the round. In the third round, Volkov landed an uppercut and Struve poked him in the eye again. Once again, no point was taken away. Volkov kept landing punches and dropped Struve and it was stopped after a few punches on the ground. With the thin heavyweight division, Volkov is likely to be getting a name fighter next.

Regarding cable/satellite and its current penetration in the U.S., currently there are 96,108,000 homes in the U.S. with one or the other as of three weeks ago out of a total of 119.6 million homes with television, or about 80.36 percent. That figure is dropping. If you include homes that don’t have cable or satellite, but have streaming versions that would have access to the key cable channels, the figure moves up to 97,578,000 or 81.59 percent. Keep in mind that not every home with cable gets CNN, USA, ESPN, etc. Because of the decline, the one thing not talked about in all the stories is the value of being on a network aside from cable, which for years was getting smaller and smaller, is now getting larger-and-larger. Cable probably peaked at close to 88 percent of television homes before the decline started, and stations like USA, Spike and ESPN would be in almost every home that had cable.

Now ESPN is in 72.92 percent of American televison homes, which means that a show like Monday Night Football isn’t available in more than one-quarter of the homes as opposed to probably one-eighth not that many years ago. FS 1 would be in 70.59 percent, Spike would be in 69.20 percent and USA would be in 76.84 percent.

Smackdown on 9/5 was back up to the recent normal levels with 2,582,000 viewers, a 5.2 percent increase over the prior week for a show built around Randy Orton vs. Shinsuke Nakamura.

Smackdown was fifth for the night on cable.

The show did a 0.52 in 12-17 (identical to the prior week), 0.56 in 18-34 (up 3.7 percent), 1.04 in 35-49 (up 6.1 percent) and 1.07 in 50+ (up 8.1 percent).

The audience was 61.3 percent male in 18-49 and 66.3 percent male in 12-17.

Raw on Labor Day on 9/4 fell to 2,916,000 viewers, a drop of 11.6 percent from the prior week.

The drop was a combination Labor Day and College Football. Last year in the same week, a similar combination of College Football and Labor Day resulted in a 10.4 percent drop, although last year’s football game was far higher profile. Last year was a similar surprise when it came to the three hours because you’d think on a summer holiday that the viewers would arrive late, but the past two years the first hour has been the biggest and the audience has declined in hours two and three. Still, the year-to-year drop from last year’s Labor Day Raw was only 4.6 percent, well below this year’s average.

The first hour did 3,069,000 viewers. The second hour did 2,978,000 viewers and the third hour did 2,750,000 viewers. The third hour had to be a disappointment with all the hype into the Big Show vs. Braun Strowman cage match in hour three. It probably also didn’t help that John Cena and Roman Reigns were in the first hour and they are the two biggest mainstream names on the show.

The one thing I’ve noticed historically with ratings is that so often when a match pops a rating, the second time you do it, the numbers are often disappointing. The first Show vs. Strowman main event was a big success, so it made sense that putting them in a cage match would keep the audience, except it didn’t.

Raw was second for the night on cable, trailing only the Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech football game that did 5,134,000 viewers. The game against Raw last year on Labor Day did 8,354,000 viewers. Tennessee won a game that went down to the wire 42-41, which didn’t help Raw late in the least.

However that wasn’t the big reason for the third hour drop, and it was a 10.8 percent second to third hour decline of women 18-49 and 8.6 decline in the over 50 audience from hours two to three. For the most part, males stuck with the show as Males 18-49 were down only 0.8 percent from hour two to three, while Males 12-17 were up 3.8 percent.

The show did a 0.72 in 12-17 (down 8.9 percent), 0.88 in 18-34 (down 11.1 percent), 1.20 in 35-49 (down 9.8 percent) and 1.15 in 50+ (down 8.0 percent).

The audience was 61.7 percent male in 18-49 and 64.5 percent male in 12-17.

Ballers on 9/3 fell from 2,852,000 viewers last week to 994,000 which gives you the answer of just how important the Game of Thrones lead-in was to the show’s success. Viewership of 994,000 on HBO is still equivalent to 3 million viewers on basic cable, so it’s still very successful, but not blow away like it’s numbers with the lead-in were.

Impact on 8/31 did 268,000 viewers, down another ten percent from the prior week, so whatever people may think of the new angles, they are not resonating at this point with viewers. For a show on the same week last year, they did 351,000 viewers, so the year-to-year drop was 23.6 percent.

The first week of the new Ultimate Fighter season to crown a women’s flyweight champion on 8/30 did 308,000 viewers, which is bad for a season opener.

Regarding Lucha Underground, after the Johnny Mundo vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. match last week set records, this week they came back to normal levels as the 8/30 show did 92,000 viewers at 8 p.m. and 49,000 viewers at 9 p.m. The 141,000 total was down from 221,000 (36%) from 8/23, but the 8/16 show did an usually low 110,000, and 141,000 is normal range.

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9/1 Wichita, KS (WWE Raw - 2,000): Three-way for tag titles: Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose won over Sheamus & Cesaro and Matt & Jeff Hardy, Jason Jordan won Battle Royal, Finn Balor b Elias, John Cena b Bray Wyatt, Five-way for women’s title: Alexa Bliss won over Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, Alicia Fox and Nia Jax, IC title: The Miz b Jason Jordan, Roman Reigns b Braun Strowman-DQ

9/1 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Blue Panther & Blue Panther Jr. & The Panther b Cuatrero & Mascara Ano 2000 & Sanson, Amapola & Dallys & Zeuxis b Marcela & Princesa Sugehit & Silueta, Mistico & Caristico & Soberano Jr. b Cavernario & Felino & Negro Casas, Diamante Azul won Grand Prix elimination match over Dragon Lee, Euforia, Mephisto, Rush, Ultimo Guerrero, Valiente, Volador Jr., Johnny Idol, Juice Robinson, Kenny King, Satoshi Kojima, Marco Corleone, Matt Taven, Michael Elgin and Sam Adonis

9/2 Kansas City (WWE Raw - 3,800): Three-way for tag titles: Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose won over Sheamus & Cesaro and Matt & Jeff Hardy, Jason Jordan won Battle Royal, Finn Balor b Elias, Roman Reigns b Braun Strowman-DQ, Five-way for women’s title: Alexa Bliss won over Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, Alicia Fox and Nia Jax, IC title: the Miz b Jason Jordan, Street fight: John Cena b Bray Wyatt

9/2 Moline, IL (WWE Smackdown -3,500): Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Kofi Kingston & Big E and Tyler Breeze & Fandango, Aiden English b Tye Dillinger, Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder & Sami Zayn b The Ascension & Erick Rowan, Luke Harper b Konnor, Three-way for U.S. title: A.J. Styles won over Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin, Charlotte Flair & Naomi b Natalya & Tamina, Bobby Roode b Dolph Ziggler, Last man standing for WWE title: Jinder Mahal b Randy Orton

9/2 Tijuana (The Crash - 4,000 sellout): Jonathan & Kamik-C & Sombra de Plata b Mirage & Skalibur & Viento, Dezmond Xavier & Desi Derata b Laredo Kid & Keyra, Homicide won three-way over Ultimo Ninja and Eli Everfly, Jack Evans b Bestia 666, Four-way for GFW tag titles: Ortiz & Santana won over Dave & Jake Crist, Arkangel Divino & Black Boy and El Hijo de Pirata Morgan & Ultimo Maldito, Carlito & Daga won three-way over La Mascara & Pierroth and Garza Jr. & M-ximo, Mask vs. mask: Black Danger b Oraculo

9/3 Des Moines (WWE Raw): Three-way for tag titles: Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose won over Sheamus & Cesaro, Jason Jordan won Battle Royal, Finn Balor b Elias, No DQ: Roman Reigns b Braun Strowman, Five-way for women’s title: Alexa Bliss won over Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, Alicia Fox and Nia Jax, Street fight: John Cena b Bray Wyatt

CMLL: The Grand Prix elimination match headlined the 9/1 iPPV show from Arena Mexico. The match went 54:17, making it one of the longest major promotion matches of the year (aside from Omega vs. Okada, I can’t think of another one for a major group). The order of elimination was Johnny Idol, Sam Adonis, Euforia, Mephisto, Marco Corleone, Dragon Lee, Kenny King, Rush (who got eliminated via DQ) and Valiente. This left a final six of Satoshi Kojima, Volador Jr., Diamante Azul, Michael Elgin, Ultimo Guerrero and Juice Robinson. Volador then pinned Robinson with a backstabber at 40:14. Elgin pinned Volador in 41:52 with a falcon arrow. Guerrero made Kojima submit in 44:12. Elgin pinned Guerrero with a crucifix power bomb in 46:53. This left Elgin and Azul, and they went 7:24 before Azul got a pin with a German suplex. Elgin was said to be the star of the match. We didn’t get a crowd past it was very big, but not as big as last year, with the feeling that people are seeing 9/16 as the big show and last year the Grand Prix wasn’t two weeks before the Anniversary show. The semi was said to be great, even if somewhat short given the length of the main event, as they went less than 13:00 for three falls with Mistico & Caristico & Soberano Jr. beat Cavernario & Felino & Negro Casas

Niebla Roja is injured and has been out of action. The belief is that he’ll do an angle at the 9/8 Arena Mexico show and will wrestle Gran Guerrero in the mask vs. mask main event at the Anniversary show. We’re told he’s expected to be good enough to work, but he won’t be 100 percent

The complete Anniversary show lineup on 9/16 has Guerrero vs Roja mask vs. mask, Princesa Sugehit vs. Zeuxis mask vs. mask, Flip Gordon & Caristico & Volador Jr. vs. Kojima & Mephisto & Ultimo Guerrero, Rush & Kraneo & Sam Adonis vs. Casas & Cavernario & Felino, Corleone & Azul & Valiente vs. Sanson & Cuatrero & Forastero and opening with The Panther & Blue Panther Jr. & Stuka Jr. vs. Hechicero & Polvora & Dragon Rojo Jr. The promotion is hot so it should draw reasonably well, but it’s the weakest Anniversary show as far as big matches in a long time. As far as a show itself, every match should be entertaining to watch and most mask vs. mask matches with stars end up being good, but you’d have to go back to around 1998 or 2000 for an anniversary show less appealing as far as the big stip matches go

The 9/8 Arena Mexico show has Dragon Lee & Corleone & Mistico vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia as the main event, plus Diamante Azul & Valiente & Volador Jr. vs. Kojima & Rush & Pierroth, Titan vs. Rey Bucanero and Rey Cometa & Soberano Jr. & Stuka Jr. vs. Cavernario & Casas & Sam Adonis. This will be the show with the final angles leading to the Anniversary show

Octagon had his first match in CMLL since 1992 on 9/4 in Puebla, in the main event, teaming with Mistico & Volador Jr. to beat Gran Guerrero & Satoshi Kojima & Ultimo Guerrero when he submitted Ultimo of all people.

AAA: The promotion has just gotten a U.S. television outlet on Univision Deportes. They’ve been airing a lot of older footage. The show airing on 9/10 is scheduled to be TripleMania, or at least some matches from the show, airing at 9 p.m. Eastern

Sexy Star has been stripped of her Reina de Reinas title as punishment for the incident at TripleMania. We’ve got more on the reaction to that in the GFW section. There was no public explanation given, only that they were stripping her of the title. Among the fans in Mexico who still care about titles, they couldn’t understand why and many were sympathetic to her since she’s gone on television and made herself the victim in the situation. At the 9/4 tapings in Irapuato, there was a match with Lady Shani winning over Big Mami, Ayako Hamada, Faby Apache and Hiedra. Shani will face someone, who hasn’t been announced, for the vacant title. The irony is Shani was the one who actually started the rough stuff in the TripleMania match by stiffing Sexy Star with real blows

They announced the Heroes Inmortales lineup, which is the next major show on 10/1 in San Luis Potosi. It’s the Johnny Mundo show as he’s defending all three of his titles in three different matches. He defends the AAA Mega heavyweight title against Kevin Kross, El Hijo del Fantasma and El Texano Jr. He defends the Latin American title against La Parka, Rey Wagner (Dr. Wagner who really has dropped the legendary name since being unmasked), Rey Escorpion (who came here from The Crash), Pimpinela Escarlata, Hernandez, Psicosis, Mamba, Murder Clown, Dark Cuervo, Eddie Edwards (the GHC champion), Monsther Clown, Ethan Carter III, Estrella Divina, Histeria, Marty the Moth, Dinastia and Dave the Clown. He also defends the cruiserweight title against Mascara de Bronce, Venum, Lanzeloth, El Hijo del Vikingo (who everyone raves about), Solaris, Dragon Solar, El Hijo del Villano III, Angelikal and Tiger Boy. Also announced is the final match of a best-of-five series for the Trios title with Aerostar & Drago & Raptor vs. Carta Brava Jr. & Mocho Cota Jr. & Soul Rocker (Carta Brava’s team tied things up at 2-2 at the 9/4 tapings in Irapuato), a domed cage match with Argenis & Lanzeloth & Ricky Marvin vs. Averno & Chessman & Super Fly where the last guy left in the cage loses his hair or mask, and Mesias vs. Pagano vs. Joe Lider in a death match

At the Irapuato tapings, besides Shani’s win, they also had Mini Psycho Clown retain the minis title over Dinastia when Marty the Moth interfered and Mini Psycho, who is a heel even though Psycho is a face, used a low blow for the win. Eli Drake retained the GFW title beating Mascara de Bronce. Averno & Chessman & Super Fly beat Argenis & Lanzeloth & Ricky Marvin via DQ in a bloody match when Super Fly sold a non-existent chair shot by Marvin that the ref bought. Vampiro then came out and announced a domed cage match for Heroes Inmortales with the stipulation. In a match to build up Bound for Glory, Ethan Carter III & James Storm beat El Hijo del Fantasma & El Texano Jr., when Fantasma and Texano turned on each other. The main event was supposed to be a Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Psycho Clown rematch. Rey Escorpion was added to make it a three-way. Escorpion gave Psycho a low blow but Wagner stole the pin. Kevin Kross then attacked both Psycho and Wagner after the match, so they’ll probably wind up as a tag team facing Kross & Escorpion

After the Irapuato show, the entire AAA roster, along with GFW wrestlers James Storm, Ethan Carter III and Eli Drake, as well as Jeremy Borash, were stranded in the middle of nowhere during a 28 mile traffic standstill, and the bus didn’t move for eight hours.

THE CRASH: They announced a show on 4/6 in the New Orleans area as part of WrestleCon for WrestleMania week, which is the Friday night of that week

The company has attempted to book The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay over the last several months, but in every case, New Japan wouldn’t allow it. The Young Bucks had worked here previously but couldn’t take future dates because New Japan doesn’t want its talent working in Mexico unless it’s for CMLL. The frustration is that every one of these names don’t work CMLL. There was an attempt to book Okada vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. for a major Tijuana show. The hope is with the dual working agreement with Rush and Pierroth working both companies, that it would open the door to CMLL not blocking New Japan guys from working here, especially since CMLL guys were just working for All Japan

They did another sellout of 4,000 on 9/2 in Tijuana at the Auditorio headlined by a mask vs. mask match where Black Danger beat Oraculo with a piledriver. Oraculo was unmasked as Jose “Jay” Rios, from Puerto Rico, a ten year pro. They also had Carlito & Daga winning a three-team match over La Mascara & Pierroth (making his debut) and Garza Jr. & M-ximo. Mascara and M-ximo after the match attacked Garza. M-ximo tried to kiss Daga, who moved, and kissed Pierroth, and Daga pinned Pierroth to win it. But then Pierroth & Mascara attacked M-ximo. M-ximo & Mascara came together from CMLL after being fired for destroying Ultimo Guerrero’s car. But with Pierroth & Rush in, they are forming a trio of Los Ingobernables, without the name since CMLL owns it, back with Mascara. In a match likely taped for GFW television, LAX or Ortiz & Santana kept the GFW tag titles over Dave & Jake Crist, Arkangel Divino & Black Boy and El Hijo del Pirata Morgan & Ultimo Maldito. It should be noted that Dave & Jake Crist had already beaten LAX for the belts back on 8/20 at a TV taping, but since that hasn’t aired yet, LAX was still defending the titles. That is so ridiculous in 2017. Jack Evans beat Bestia 666 which led to an angle where Konnan signed them for a hair vs. hair match on 11/4 in Tijuana.

DRAGON GATE: They are building to a major show on 9/18 in Tokyo with Yamato defending the Open the Dream Gate title against Masaaki Mochizuki, Cima & Dragon Kid defend the Open the Twin Gate titles against Big R Shimizu & Kotoka, Jimmy Kagetora defends the Open the Brave Gate title against Yosuke Santa Maria and the final match of the current five team survival series where the fourth and fifth place teams in the standings face each other with the losing unit having to disband

The 9/5 show at Korakuen Hall featured a three-way trios elimination trios match on top where Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Kotoka won over Shingo Takagi & T-Hawk & Lindaman and Cima & Dragon Kid & Eita in 30:48. The show drew a sellout 1,850 fans. Don Fujii gave two younger wrestlers new ring names, as Yuki Yoshioka is now Yukio Yoshioka and Katsumi Takashima is Takao Takashima. He said they would become great fighters with the new names. However, Yoshioka suffered a knee injury on the show

ALL JAPAN: A few notes stemming from the report from the Sumo Hall show on 8/27. While they drew 6,550 fans, which sounds promising, it was heavily papered so that’s not really a good indication of where they are at when it comes to big show drawing power. I got to see the last two matches of the show while away. While in Reseda the word was going around that the Shuji Ishikawa vs. Kento Miyahara Triple Crown title match was the best non-New Japan match this year. Well, at least as of Sunday afternoon. While that’s very much an arguable point, it was in my mind a ****3/4 match and was to me, at least close if not on par with the top tier stuff this year. The tag title match with Yuji Okabayashi & Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Naoya Nomura & Kai was right behind it. And these matches came at the end of a too-long five plus hour show. People have been raving about the improvement in All Japan all year, and numbers are up since the focus has been on Miyahara as the top star. From an American perspective, it’s become a situation where there is so much great in-ring all over the world, and it’s just impossible to keep up so this kind of stuff that would have gotten everyone talking even a few years ago is just the weekly expected great main events

The Ishinriki on the 8/27 show was not 90s Ishinriki who was a popular name from sumo who was a name pro wrestler at that time that we wrote about. They have a different wrestler using that name

Ultimo Dragon’s jr. title defense against Billy KenKid will take place on 9/18 in Osaka

It looks like Ishikawa & Suwama are going to form a tag team

They are pushing the debut of a big new trainee, an Australian who will use the Japanese name Kyoboku Futoshi, which is Japanese for thick tree. He debuts on 9/30 in Maebashi. He’s the Australian heavyweight champion and is billed at 6-foot-4 3/4 and 265 pounds.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Ultimo Ninja, who is the cousin of Garza Jr., will be replacing Rey Fenix on the next tour. There is still a lot of heat on this because Fenix was caught in the crossfire of the problems with Konnan and Dorian Roldan. Roldan tried to get NOAH to block the booking by saying that MGM, the parent company of Lucha Underground, had him under contract and would not allow him to wrestle on the tour. Fenix contacted the lawyer for MGM who then said that they never said that, but NOAH by this point had already canceled the booking.

NEW JAPAN: Kenny Omega had arthroscopic surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee on 9/6. The surgery was necessary for all the accumulated wear and tear on it dating back several years. It was something he’s been needing to take care of for a long time, and apparently before those last two matches with Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito in the tail end of G-1, he already knew it was going to have to be soon. But after he got home, his knee locked for a 48 hour period when he wasn’t doing much more than sitting on the sofa and walking, so he had to get it done this week. He still did the BOLA booking which is why he didn’t take any risks during the match, plus once the ring broke everything that wasn’t simple became a risky proposition. He came to Japan after BOLA, and worked the first night of the tour in Nagoya in a six-man tag, and then had surgery the next day. He’s going to work on it 18 days after surgery, as he’ll be back on the final night of the tour to defend the U.S. title against Juice Robinson in Kobe, as well as defend it a few weeks later in Chicago for ROH

Omega’s spot on the cards will be taken by Leo Tonga, the giant younger brother of Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa. Leo is 27 years old, and a legit 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds. He’ll be the new Bullet Club monster. I’ve seen photos of him with Bad Luck Fale and he towers over him. He’s been training in New Zealand with Fale and before that, trained at the Team 3-D Academy in Kissimmee, FL. He started wrestling in November in New Zealand under the name Hikuleo. That is awfully ambitious to put a guy with that little experience debuting in high card matches as opposed to openers in this promotion

An interesting trivia note is that Kazuchika Okada’s current reign as IWGP champion is looking to be a record breaker. As of 9/6, he was at 443 days, meaning that on 10/23 he will pass Shinya Hashimoto’s 1996-97 record of 489. Basically the only way he doesn’t get that record is if Evil beats him at King of Pro Wrestling on 10/9. For most days of total reign, he’s at 1,239 on four total reigns, having just surpassed Keiji Muto at 1,238 for second place. The record is 1,358 by Hiroshi Tanahashi in seven reigns, a number he would he was break on 1/4, the day of his probable Tokyo dome defense against Tetsuya Naito. So he could end up breaking the record by one if he goes into the Dome as champion. Keep in mind he’s only 29, so he’s going to blast past these records by the time his career is over unless he gets a career ending injury

New Japan announced the pricing structure for this year’s Tokyo Dome show. It’s the opposite of WWE which increases the price of the top seats every year since the secondary market indicates they were underpricing, but keeps the lower priced seats similar. For the Dome, the floor seats are only up five percent while the first deck at the Dome is up 27 percent and the top deck is up 38 percent. The worst seats are $41, up from $31, while the ringside seats are $461 the same price as last year

The big show of the week is Destruction in Fukushima on 9/10 at 3 a.m. Eastern, meaning a midnight Saturday night time slot, or about two hours after the completion of the UFC show. The card is Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Shota Umino, Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura vs. Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi, Trent Baretta & Jado vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe & Kushida & Ryusuke Taguchi & Ricochet vs. Takashi Iizuka & Taka Michinoku & Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Leo Tonga & Fale, a three-way for the IWGP tag team titles with War Machine defending against Tama Tonga & Loa and Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer, Tomohiro Ishii & Will Ospreay vs. Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi, Evil & Seiya Sanada & Bushi defend the trios titles against Okada & Toru Yano & Rocky Romero and a main event where Minoru Suzuki defends the Never Open weight title against Michael Elgin in a lumberjack match which actually hurts the match because it almost guarantees a ton of interference

There will also be 9/9 live show from Korakuen Hall on New Japan World at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time

The plans for a show in Australia this year that we had reported months back have fallen through. A guy named Mr. Juicy, who works with Bad Luck Fale and arranged the recent New Japan tryouts, was working with New Japan to put on a show but on the Drawing Heat podcast said that they weren’t able to put it together for this year, but are now planning one for 2018. They said when they realized they couldn’t put a show together this year, they arranged a tryout and Gedo and other New Japan officials came in, as did Will Ospreay, who gave advice. There were about 40 wrestlers at the tryout. New Japan was looking for guys to put on the roster as opposed to young lions, although it is also possible they may use guys in that role as well. They only allowed trained wrestlers at the tryouts as opposed to good athletes who wanted to be wrestlers but had never wrestled. Mr. Juicy said of the 40, New Japan had interest in at least four. He didn’t mention any names. He also said that for Australians interested in working in New Japan in the future that the best way would be to train at the Fale Dojo in New Zealand

Sami Callihan is scheduled to debut before the end of the year

Taka Michinoku had his 25th anniversary show on 9/3 in Tokyo at Korakuen Hall before a sellout of 1,616 fans largely to see Okada and Ibushi go at it in a tag team match. The show was mostly K-Dojo students, a match with Io Shirai, and a Michinoku Pro nostalgia from the 90s match where Great Sasuke & Super Delfin & Dick Togo who all started together beat outsiders Ricky Fuji & Kotaro Yoshino & Dinosaur Takuma in a fun match. Minoru Suzuki beat Go Asakawa which was Suzuki playing tough guy by not selling Asakawa’s hits, giving him some offense at the end and then finishing him. The main event saw Okada & Gedo beat Ibushi & Michinoku when Gedo pinned Michinoku. The fans cheered Ibushi & Michinoku and booed Okada to the point the heat on Okada was said to be molten. Okada responded by working a heel style. They kept Okada and Ibushi apart until late in the match and the crowd went nuts when they finally locked up.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Tatsumi Fujinami and Keiji Muto held a press conference on 9/7 to announce Dradition shows on 10/27 at Korakuen Hall and 10/29 in Osaka at ATC Hall with the idea of recreating one of the most famous matches from 29 years ago. On August 26, 1978, at Budokan Hall, there was an All-Star dream card put on by Weekly Pro Wrestling where all the major stars from every promotion joined together, including the last time Giant Baba & Antonio Inoki formed a tag team. However, what was remembered as the match of the show and many said match of the year in Japan for that year was Fujinami & Mil Mascaras & Jumbo Tsuruta teaming together as a dream team (when they were all known as high flyers believe it or not) to beat Masa Saito & Akihisa Takachiho (before he became Great Kabuki) & Tiger Toguchi (also known as Kim Duk). They can’t bring everyone back but the Korakuen Hall main event will have Fujinami & Muto & Mascaras vs. Kabuki & Jinsei Shinzaki & Kazma Sakamoto. They also have Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Shiro Koshinaka vs. Mitsuya Nagai & Hiro Saito and Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa (who were the best tag team in the world at one time) vs. AKIRA & Super Delfin. The 10/29 show has Fujinami & Mascaras & Riki Choshu vs. Kabuki & Koshinaka & AKIRA, Fujiwara & Takaku Fuke vs. Nagai & Saito and Takuma Sano & Takaiwa vs. Koji Kanemoto & Delfin

As of the weekend, the current standings in the Stardom Grand Prix are: Red block: 1. Mayu Iwatani 4-1;, 2. Hana Kimura and Viper 3-1; 4. Yuko Bito 3-2; 5. Kagetsu 2-2, 6. Kris Wolfe 1-3; 7. Hiromi Mimura and Xia Brookside 1-4; Blue block: 1. Toni Storm 4-1-1, 2. Mandy Leon 3-1; 3. Io Shirai 3-1-1; 4. HZK and Kay Lee Ray 3-2; 6. Jungle Kyona and Tam Nakano 1-3; 8. Konami 0-4. Viper, Storm and Ray will be flying from Japan to Las Vegas (well, actually Storm is flying from Japan to the U.K. for a show there and then to Las Vegas) and back to Japan next week since they are there for the Mae Young Classic finals

Antonio Inoki’s Ism promotion will have its second show on 10/21 at Sumo Hall. Inoki closed down the old IGF promotion and fired everyone working there, including Simon Inoki, who has since started his own promotion as well. It’s expected to be the Inoki brainchild of some real matches, some pro wrestling matches worked to look real, and some pro wrestling matches using fighting stars of the past who were big names in Japan during the fighting heyday. This format nowadays is Inoki’s vision of pro wrestling, but doesn’t really appeal to hardly anyone now, as if you want real, you have MMA, and if you want pro wrestling, you want exciting matches. Perhaps former fighters doing it badly is okay once in a while if you’ve got the right guys and right stories, but not an entire promotion of it. But they are also opening it up and looking at adding a Lucha Libre element with four to six wrestlers from Crash, as well as debuting younger wrestlers

Fumihiko Uwai, a former manager and New Japan matchmaker announced a 9/22 show in Osaka with Scott Norton & Tajiri vs. Jun Akiyama & Seiichi Ikemoto. Uwai’s idea is to make Ikemoto into the star of his company with the idea Akiyama would teach him and give him the rub as a tag team partner. From a history perspective Norton vs. Akiyama is unique because both were major stars for a long period of time but I don’t recall them ever wrestling since Akiyama was in All Japan and NOAH and Norton was in New Japan.

HERE AND THERE: Ohio Valley Wrestling will be holding a Matt Cappotelli fundraiser on 9/23 at the Davis Arena. All proceeds will go to Cappotelli’s medical care. Cappotelli was a WWE contracted wrestler who won Tough Enough and was thought to have a real future in the business when diagnosed with brain cancer, that ended his career. He beat the cancer, but the cancer recently returned and it was the one of the worst kinds of cancer possible. A lot of names from the past will be returning to work the show. Jim Cornette will also be there and will sign anything for a donation

Joe Son, 46, an actor, pro wrestler and MMA fighter who has been in jail for several years on a rape conviction, had 27 years added to his sentence after a conviction for voluntary manslaughter. Judge John Brownlee added the time. He said of Son’s beating of a fellow inmate Michael Graham to death on October 10, 2011, “That crime is as monstrous and despicable as anything this court has ever seen.” Son beat a fellow inmate to death using his hands. Son was in prison for a horrible rape and torture charge from December 24, 1990. He wore a mask but was brought to justice 18 years later when a DNA sample taken when he pleaded guilty on a vandalism charge matched up to the DNA found on the woman. He later in trial admitted raping the woman, but denied torturing her. He admitted holding a gun to her head to make her compliant. Son was an actor who had a small part in the first “Austin Powers” movie. He also fought in an early UFC event wearing a small speedo suit, and was the manager of Kimo Leopoldo in his famous match with Royce Gracie. That fame got him gigs in Japan as an MMA fighter for Pride. He ended up with an 0-4 MMA record. His time in Pride got him work as a pro wrestler in Japan with both Wrestle-One, including a major match with the late Shinya Hashimoto, and with the Hustle promotion

Steve Ketcher, better known as Steve Gatorwolf, a wrestler and promoter in the 80s and 90s,passed away in a Colorado jail from what was reported were heart issues on 8/25. He was 59. Ketcher was born September 20, 1957, and grew up in Florida. He dropped out of high school and became a pro wrestler. He worked mostly independent groups until 1984, when WWF hired him and was going to push him as its new Native American star. Chief Jay Strongbow (Joe Scarpa) was one of the most successful long-term characters in WWF history, but with the company expanding nationally, the feeling was Strongbow was too old to be pushed so they were looking for a new Strongbow. Strongbow was to mentor and endorse him, but it didn’t work out. The company has a major marketing plan for Gatorwolf, and Strongbow pushed the importance of after winning, doing a war dance. But he looked unimpressive in his win, and his finish looked bad, and then he forgot to do the war dance after winning. WWF gave up on him at that point. Ketcher promoted independent shows in the Southwest off that brief WWF push, running mostly at reservations in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and others states, and eventually also started promoting both Tough Man contests and later MMA shows when pro wrestling indie shows stopped drawing. He had a bad reputation for sometimes not paying talent and the crew. John Cena and Louie Spicolli were notable wrestlers who had started their careers working on his shows. He also did one tour with All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1990 and worked WWE as enhancement talent through 1990. Ketcher got into legal trouble and fled Arizona after the 15-year-old daughter of a woman he had a relationship with went to police and he was charged with seven felony accounts of sexual assault of a child. Ketcher was accused of raping the daughter seven times when she was 14 and 15. According to the victim, Ketcher had told her that he would kill himself if she told authorities because he wouldn’t go back to prison. He was convicted of aggravated assault in 2001 and violation of a protection order in Salt Lake City and spent one year in jail. After the alleged victim pressed charges, Ketcher was interviewed by a Mesa County detective where he said he had no idea where the allegations came from. Then he disappeared from Arizona and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was found in Jacksonville, FL, when authorities found a photo taken of him at a casino. He was eventually sentenced to 16 years to life and had been in a federal prison in Canon City, CO. He had written lengthy detailed letters always professing his innocence and being set up

Taz came through his surgery well, although the surgery ended up being more extensive than originally thought. The surgery was to repair nerve damage that led to a loss of feeling and muscle atrophy and an inability to grip with his right hand. In addition, they did work to counteract the beginnings of issues with his left thumb. The issues likely stemmed from neurological damage related to a broken neck suffered during his wrestling career

Nick Busick, 63, better known as Big Bully Busick, underwent brain surgery on 8/25, but has recovered well. Busick, who a few years back beat esophageal cancer, being diagnosed with it in 2015 and then being ruled cancer free the next year. On 8/27, his wife posted that he was doing much better, that he would be in the hospital for a few more days before returning home, and was already back walking the hallways

WWC is starting to build to its Aniversario show. Once again they are going back to the past, as Chicky Starr returned to television and the first thing he did was challenge Invader I to come out of retirement to face him once more. Invader has come out of retirement dozens of times and I don’t know how much it can mean at this point, although it has worked successfully many times over the past 20 years. In 1988 after Bruiser Brody was murdered, who would believe that Invader still be around wrestling in 2017, and that on the island, most people would have long forgotten about the murder. After one of his retirements, the government even was going to honor him until they were informed about the Brody case, which, even though it was huge news at the time, it had been so many years that nobody involved with honoring him remembered it

For the first time in its history, Pro Wrestling Illustrated has listed a Japanese wrestler No. 1 in its annual top 500 listings. Given that Kazuchika Okada had been IWGP champion all year and went almost 365 days unbeaten and those are two key criteria they use, there really was nobody else they could pick. Still, taking that list seriously is difficult even with Kayfabe wins and losses counting, given that Dean Ambrose and Miz were ahead of everyone from ROH, NJPW (except Kenny Omega and Okada) and everyone else not in WWE among others. Naito in particular was IC champion most of that period, G-1 champion, outside of G-1 only lost twice (to Tanahashi and Ishii) all year and not kayfabe had several of the years best matches and is undoubtedly per cap the best in arena merch seller in the world. Then again, I’ve never taken that stuff seriously so it’s silly to do so now. New Japan was informed of this a long time ago and Okada did pose for a photo while holding previous top 500 covers

AAW drew an advanced sellout of 435 fans on 8/31 in Berwyn, IL. The main event saw Rey Fenix win the AAW title from Sami Callihan, a result expected since Fenix put up his mask against the title. The other big draw was the first appearance for the company of Cody Rhodes, although Rhodes is for the time being pretty much done with indies which would indicate he’s signed an exclusive ROH contract. Indie promoters had been told he’d be taking dates through the end of August. I don’t know if there are going to be exceptions like NEW, since he’s very close to promoter Mike Lombardi and still holds that company’s championship, but he’s also a regular for APW in California and won’t be on their 11/10 Cow Palace show or any future dates for at least the time being. On the show, Jeff Cobb went to do a T-bone suplex on the apron on Joey Janela and both ended up on the floor, but neither was hurt. Matt Riddle and Shane Strickland tore the house down on that show. Riddle won and fans threw money into the ring after the match. Rhodes worked as a heel against DJZ. He then turned face after the match saying that he lied and he really loves Chicago and it’s one of his favorite cities in the world. He put over DJZ strong, saying DJZ was overcoming an injury and still isn’t 100 percent, and if he was, there’s a good chance DJZ would have beaten him. Fenix won the title to end what was a year long program. Callihan unmasked him, but Fenix was able to get a new mask and come back to win. Callihan teased jumping him after but hugged him and raised his hand. Fenix gave Callihan one of his masks. Callihan kissed Fenix on the mouth and left. They teased Fenix vs. Penta for both titles (Penta holds their Heritage title), which takes place 10/7 in LaSalle, IL

Jamie Szantyr, 36, better known as Velvet Sky, is in a competition called “Maxim’s Finest,” with fan voting where the winner will get a $25,000 modeling contract. At least at one point during the week, due to wrestling fans voting, she was in the lead

The Cobo Convention Center in Detroit, the home of Cobo Arena, one of the most famous pro wrestling arenas in the 60s and 70s during the heyday of The Sheik, is expected to be getting a new name. The venue was named after the late Albert Cobo, a mayor in the 50s. Cobo during the 50s once said that he would defend the city against “the Negro invasion,” when he was running for mayor. With all of the recent media of late against symbols of racism in the U.S., having buildings named after him in Detroit was a bad look and current Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he was supporting he idea of changing the name of all the convention center, and arena with a licensing naming rights deal

William Ogletree, a 25-year-old independent wrestler in Oklahoma, passed away after being critically injured in a ring accident, evidently hitting his head while taking a spinebuster. The incident got some local press in the Oklahoma City area because it is one of the states where pro wrestling is still regulated by the athletic commission, and because of that, the show itself was illegal as the commission had in the past denied the promoters a license. The group ran the show anyway and claimed to be a theatrical organization as opposed to a pro wrestling promotion, but the commission has said that don’t agree with that because what they were doing was pro wrestling

Regarding the Go Fund Me for Brad Cain, who was Lodi in WCW, who just underwent neck surgery, a few months ago, while in the gym, he dropped a 15 pound dumbbell because neck problems had caused him to lose so much strength in his left hand that he couldn’t hold it. He was training on a ruptured disc which caused nerve damage that essentially rendered both the left hand and left triceps to be useless. The problems were causing degeneration on the left side of his body so he needed neck surgery to remove the ruptured disc and a third fusion surgery. The surgery was a success, but he had no insurance and incurred about $25,000 in medical bills. The MLW One Shot show in Orlando on 10/5 has added Jeff Cobb vs. Tom Lawlor, pushed as Olympic wrestler vs. UFC fighter, to its card that also features Ricochet vs. Shane Strickland and MVP vs. Sami Callihan

Hector “Moody Jack” Melendez, who was the booker for the WWL in Puerto Rico, quit the promotion on 8/25. That immediately started rumors he was headed for The Crash. Melendez and Konnan have worked together for years. The thought in Puerto Rico is that The Crash is getting a television deal and he’d be brought in as head writer. That makes sense, and Crash is obviously negotiating a TV deal, but as of the last word we’d heard, the deal hadn’t been completed. In Puerto Rico, Melendez had critics who said he was stuck in the Attitude era style booking from the heyday of the IWA promotion where he was Dutch Mantell’s booking assistant

Zack Sabre Jr. is scheduled to make his Puerto Rican debut in October for the CWA group, which is the No. 3 promotion in the island

Oleg Prudius, who worked in WWE as Vladimir Kozlov and later worked for the IGF, was in a Chinese box office smash movie “Wolf War II.

Devin Nicholson, who wrestles as Hannibal and is best known for winning a lawsuit against Abdullah the Butcher claiming that he got hepatitis from being in a double juice match with Abdullah (and later medical testing did show Abdullah had hepatitis ), was awarded $25,000 in back pay stemming from a case that went back several years. Nicholson was working as a part-time gym attendance for the city owned Ray Friel Recreation Complex in East Ottawa, ONT. He was fired on August 7, 2013, due to what the city claimed was unacceptable behavior at work. The city said there were three acts of aggression while he was working there, a run-in with a former wrestling videographer who also worked at the center which allegedly included throwing a plastic pool chair and making a remark. The local union challenged the firing, saying Nicholson should have just been given a short suspension. This past December, an arbitration panel ruled Nicholson deserved his job back and that he should have only received a two month suspension from work. They ruled that Nicholson’s irritability was driven from side effects of an experimental drug therapy he was using to combat Hepatitis C, which he contracted during his 2007 match with Abdullah, which he also claimed cost him a deal with WWE. He had a WWE developmental contract which was rescinded when tests showed him with Hepatitis. He was awarded $2.2 million from Abdullah in 2014, although it’s doubtful Abdullah ever paid. Besides the $25,000, Nicholson has been assigned to work at the Francois Dupuis Rec Center

DJZ will be debuting for Evolve on shows on 9/22 in Livonia, MI and 9/23 in Summit, IL

Steven Arsenault, 36, a Nova Scotia based independent wrestler, was sentenced to two years in prison for beating his ex-girlfriend two years ago in Halifax. Judge Bill Digby called Arsenault a classic spousal abuser. According to testimony in his trial, he and ex-girlfriend Melinda Crowe got into an argument at her house on November 15, 2015, after a night out with two other couples they knew from wrestling. Crowe said that Arsenault shoved her in the chest, knocking her on the kitchen floor and he struck her multiple times and at one point she was knocked unconscious. She said that he stopped, helped her up, took her to the bathroom and washed the blood off of her. A neighbor had called 911 and officers arrived seeing Crowe with mucus on her face, blood on her jeans, her shirt was wet, her tooth was chipped, she had a cut on her fan, the left side of her face was swollen and there were broken blood vessels in both eyes and a blood blister was under her right eye. She refused at the time to press charges or go for medical attention. Later a friend of hers told police that Crow had all the facial injuries when they were out earlier that night and that she told them she had been in a bar fight with another woman. But the friend late admitted that he made the story up. Arsenault apologized and said he regrets not taking responsibility for his actions from the start and said it’s a shame something like that happened and he’s trying to change his life.

EUROPE: Five Star Wrestling, the promotion that many thought was finished after they canceled a series of what were to be weekly televised shows for a 128 match tournament this year, appears to be back with a new television deal in the U.K. for 2018. A new free-to-air television station launched on 9/1 called FreeSports on all the major platforms, Freeview, TalkTalk, BT, Sky and FreeSat, basically everywhere but Virgin Media. It is a 24-hour sports channel, the first free-to-air sports channel in the U.K. television market. FreeSports will be the sister channel of Premier Sports and will have ten international soccer games weekly plus be the U.K. home of the NHL (which will be on free TV in the U.K. for the first time since 2005) and NASCAR. They announced a number of other sports, including monthly ONE MMA shows from Asia, a monthly live boxing show from the U.K. and said that they would be making an imminent announcement of a weekly live U.K. pro wrestling television show. Steve Fludder’s Preston City Wrestling made an announcement on 9/5 that they had made an agreement with FreeSports which led people to believe they were the company that had signed with the new station. FreeSports on 9/7 then announced that while initial discussions with Preston City Wrestling did take place regarding airing a live event in October, that there was a “misunderstanding” and they have no agreement to air such a show and that they would not be airing it. They said they would be airing live weekly shows from major arenas starting in 2018 and Five Star Wrestling would be the station’s exclusive wrestling promotion. Preston City Wrestling was under the impression they had a deal with the station to do monthly three-hour specials with the first show on 10/27. Steve Fludder, the Preston City promoter said they had been in talks for months, thought they had a deal, only to find FreeSports changed their minds after the verbal agreement. He said Freesports had assured them on 9/4 that the deal was done and that’s when they made the announcement they had the deal starting with a live show on 10/27. He intimated that they lost the deal because Five Star had promised the promotion weekly major arena shows, something Preston City said they couldn’t deliver. Five Star had announced a similar tournament for this year, running major arenas with some big names, but canceled the entire tour when they couldn’t sell enough tickets. Right now it appears Five Star will go back to plans it announced of the tournament starting in February. Many U.K. fans felt this was an opportunity lost since it would be the biggest television vehicle a U.K. based group would have, since FreeSports is available in 18 million homes. Five Star has a bad reputation for ambitious scheduling of events and then cancelling, and has only run six shows in the last two-and-a-half years. The feeling was FreeSports didn’t research the scene and went with major promises of big weekly arena events. Five Star drew poorly for the most part in their major arena shows, and their shows have been based around former WWE & TNA stars as opposed to promoting the U.K. stars and it was generally considered an outdated product they were presenting. The reaction to the announcement that Five Star was getting the slot was very negative, and making it worse was Five Star Tweeting, “Almost two years ago we ran our first event and now we’re on a channel in 3x as many homes as WWE. Turns out, hard work and grit pays off.” Jim Smallman, the Progress promoter replied saying, “What hard work? You mean when you canceled a load of arena shows you’d not sold tickets for, leaving loads of talent out of pocket?” He also replied to the idea they would be airing live arena events weekly in 2018, saying, “No you won’t.” He also wrote, “So many wrestling companies in the U.K. do things really, really well and we should be proud of them all. But 5 Star can get in the sea. Mea, Jon and Glen have worked hard. Most other promoters work hard. Don’t insist you’ve worked hard by canceling dates, you shower.” He also suggested to wrestlers that if Five Star tries to book them, make sure they get paid in advance before agreeing to the date. Joe Coffey wrote that after the last debacle where he had dates canceled that he wouldn’t work for 5 Star if they offered him a million pounds, and Will Ospreay and Jimmy Havoc also tweeted negatively. The 12/8 Revolution Pro show at York Hall, with the Young Bucks, Cody and Marty Scurll announced, sold about 850 tickets so far out of 1,100. That’s considered good but it was not an instant sellout

Catch Wrestling in Austria, promoted by Chris “Bambikiller” Raaber, held an eight-man single elimination tournament in four cities from 8/30 to 9/2, which included Rey Mysterio Jr., Joe Doering, Alofa (L.A. Smooth) of Samoa, Apolo (Puerto Rico) and Chicano (Puerto Rico). 8/30 in Salzburg drew 400, 8/31 in Klagnfurt drew 600, 9/1 in Leibnitz (near Graz) did 1,000 in a sold out tent, and 9/2 in Vienna did 950. The production was described as being similar to a live UFC event with multiple big screens around the buildings, including showing replays of key spots after each match. Unfortunately, since Mysterio has been working so many dates in recent weeks, he ended up injuring his ankle. He was supposed to face Doering in the finals in Vienna. He came out at the start of the show and apologized for being hurt. Doering then attacked him. Mysterio made a quick comeback, hit a 619 and cradled Doering for the win. Mysterio apologized again after the match and said he would be back in Vienna to make up for it. He went to the hospital after the match to get his ankle checked. We’re told there was an injury but it wasn’t serious and he’ll be wrestling soon. Mysterio beat Alofa on 8/30 and Apolo on 9/1 to reach the finals, while Doering beat Michael Kovac on 8/31 and Demolition Davies on 9/1. Alberto El Patron was also there for his CWA world title match against promoter Raaber on 9/1. It was described as an overbooked clusterfuck that made no booking sense. Alofa and Apolo came out during the match. Alberto ran them off with a table. Alofa got on the apron and Alberto gave him a step up enzuigiri and put Raaber in the armbar. Apolo attacked Alberto and Alofa, and then Raaber. The ref then called the match a no contest. Raaber and Alberto worked together to throw Apolo and Alofa out of the ring. Alberto wanted the match restarted. Tony St. Clair, the former wrestler who is their commissioner, said no. Alberto then cut a promo about how the people in the suits ruin sports for everyone, citing the NFL, NBA and pro wrestling. They did a tag match in Vienna with Alofa & Apolo vs. Alberto & Raaber. The fun part of all this is Mysterio and Apolo hadn’t had their match yet, so it basically telegraphed that since Apolo was booked for a tag match the next day, that Mysterio was probably winning and going to the finals. Alberto & Raaber won the tag match with a double pin finish

wXw announced the world tag team weekend from 10/6 to 10/8, which will be a double elimination tournament with Mark & Jay Briscoe, Low Ki & Homicide, Absolute Andy & Marius Al-Ani, Lucky Kid & Tarkhan Aslan, Walter & Timothy Thatcher, The Spirit Squad, Jurn Simmons & David Starr and Mike Dratzik & Angel Ortiz. The night before, Walter vs. Thatcher will have a UWFI rules match. There will also be single elimination Femmes Fatales II tournament with Jazzy Gabert, Melanie Grey, Alex Windsor, Laura DiMatteo, Pauline, Jinny, Viper and Toni Storm. Thatcher will be living in Germany through the end of the year, working all wXw shows as well as running classes at their school.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: They are heavily talking about Ultima Lucha on television so the season is winding to a close. None of the talent knows anything. The basic word we’ve heard is that El Rey would like a new season, but nobody has yet come through to fund the season. After season one lost so much money, they were able to get one of the owners to put up money for two more seasons so they could reach 100 episodes, a milestone they reached. They never tried touring and at WrestleMania in Dallas it was clear there was a huge buzz on Lucha Underground that isn’t there anymore and missed it. This stuff was taped 15 months ago and nobody has gotten paid since then but are under contract, so this has really screwed with the guys because ROH and WWE won’t touch anyone here. GFW has a relationship so have been able to get a few people. But there are a lot of talented guys who will be on the free agent market soon unless a new season is announced

Brian Cage, 33, and girlfriend Melissa Santos, 33, the ring announcer for Lucha Underground, are expecting their first child.

ROH: After the success of the Chicago show on 10/15, Kenny Omega has been added to the 11/11 show in Fort Lauderdale and the 11/12 show in Lakeland

Due to their success is moving merchandise at Hot Topic, there will be a full line of Young Bucks, Bullet Club (with the different characters) and Elite merchandise not only in Hot Topic but several other chains are expected to pick it up around the second quarter of 2018

Joe Koff did an interview with Fan Buzz. Regarding New Japan, he said that he expects they’ll be back some time in 2018. “I’m not sure that I feel that they’re ready to tour. I think they have a presence here. They have presence with us. We’ll see how that develops.”

GFW: The Sexy Star/Rosemary story in a sense is continuing. Because of all the media and social media coverage of the story, Impact announced that they would be discussing it on the 9/7 television show and clips of the match will air as well as interviews with both Jeremy Borash and Jeff Jarrett, who were both in Mexico City. With the change in creative, there is a possibility the segment may be pulled from the show since it was a Jarrett idea to air it and the rest of creative wasn’t completely behind it. But either way, we’re told that Sexy Star won’t be coming in. It could have played into a GFW vs. AAA feud with Jeff Jarrett and possibly Vampiro as the leaders but that is also out of the picture now. From the Sexy Star standpoint, what a lot of people don’t understand is the cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico, and this is not a defense of her really, but is a defense of her and those in Mexico not understanding who the situation is viewed in the U.S. While an armbar and hurting the opponent with it is not a regular thing, fights getting rough in Mexico is part of the culture and nobody complains. For her standpoint, not only was she getting roughed up in that match, but before she became a top star, she was roughed up and beat up regularly by the Apache sisters and Martha Villalobos (who in an irony was there to present the belt to Sexy Star after she won at TripleMania), who were the veteran stars, and she was taught to never complain, and if something exactly like what happened there happened in Mexico it would get no talk or press coverage. From her standpoint she couldn’t understand how the story got actual mainstream coverage in the U.S. because in her world it’s not all that unusual and happened to her and was a part of wrestling. The other thing is we have a vocal generation due to social media who want wrestling to be better, and in their version of pro wrestling, these type of things don’t exist and shouldn’t exist and the in-ring bullying is from another era. It’s a more healthy mentality but her career was mostly in Mexico

She also released a lengthy letter on Twitter on 9/4 which is notable because unlike in her other television appearance where she adhered to kayfabe and acted like it was real and somebody was hurt in a fight, she talked about how she met with the other women before the match and said she wanted to do a more American style match since Rosemary had never wrestled in Mexico and talked about talking over the match ahead of time, which is notable because people usually don’t go into that kind of detail publicly in Mexico. She said how the armbar finish was agreed upon and that it is one of the least dangerous submissions moves and she did it no differently from how she always does it. She said that she had no idea she hurt Rosemary, and talked about her admiration for Villalobos, who prepared her body to handle the physical rigors of pro wrestling. She said that 20 minutes after the match in the locker room that GFW officials told her that Rosemary was injured, which surprised her because she saw Rosemary walking backstage without help. She said she went to see Rosemary and she had ice on her elbow and nobody was tending to her and nobody was helping her and protocol in Mexico if you’re hurt you have someone helping you. She said Rosemary wasn’t sitting down and she thought there was nothing wrong with her. She also said the AAA talent coordinator told her that everything was fine and she left the arena with her husband. She said she didn’t think Dorian Roldan would have let her leave if anything was wrong. She said she never thought or worried about the situation because she saw Rosemary backstage and she didn’t look injured. She said the next day she started receiving what she called cyber attacks, including the letter by Rosemary, saying that she injured her on purpose. She claimed she became the victim of cyber bullying by wrestlers and fans, that she was attacked in the media by people who weren’t at the event and people who don’t even cover Mexican wrestling wrote that she dislocated Rosemary’s shoulder or intentionally broke her arm. She claimed she did the same submission with the same amount of force plenty of other times and nobody was hurt because in pro wrestling that is not a dangerous move and she has never attempted to hurt anyone. That’s what she says

An interesting trivia question regarding Johnny Mundo/Impact. Is he the first person to appear on two major promotions with national television at the same time, using two different names, and the top heel and world champion in one, and being a top babyface in the other. You can almost make that three since AAA has just gotten television on Univision Deportes in the U.S., so he’s world champion in two television promotions at the same time as a heel and challenging for a third as a face

The Dan Lambert/Jim Cornette/Jeff Jarrett angle over whether Bobby Lashley goes to MMA or stays with GFW is actually great, realistic, and Lambert is like a super heel, but completely believable in the realm of a real story. I guess the idea is that in the end, Lashley chooses pro wrestling over MMA and becomes a babyface but right now he’s caught in the middle between his love for wrestling and his loyalty to his friends. From what I’m told, the segments get better and more heated each week. Except the Lesnar stuff because of how strongly booked Strowman has been and how good Joe’s promos were, and the fact Heyman is so good at laying out programs, this would be the best angle on U.S. television easily. That said, the fact you hear nothing about it says just how far the company has fallen with the fans and how deep the hole is they have to dig out. Plus, on Pop TV, and with WWE churning out so many hours of product weekly that even the former TNA fan base would be priority on, I’m not sure they can fully reach ground level again with that distribution partner

Really, from an angle standpoint, GFW has probably the best current writing with the Lambert angle and the Grado & Joseph Park angle, which while totally silly, and I’m not sure about the payoff aspect being good, has been entertaining. The key twist that I didn’t see coming was in a backstage skit this past week where Grado & Park were with Laurel Van Ness, who had agreed to marry Grado so he could stay in the country, and when asking where she was from, they found out she was from British Columbia, in Canada, thus not an American citizen herself, meaning the whole thing had fallen apart. It’s funny because it’s not secret she’s legit from B.C., yet nobody ever figured that out before it was in the storyline and it’s legit.

UFC: Forbes reported that Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta have sold the limited interest they still had in the company over the last month. The brothers each owned 2.9 percent of the company after having sold about 37.6 percent each of their original 40.5 percent of the company in a deal where each received about $1.5 billion each. Each received approximately $145 million for their remaining stock. The key is that in the sale, WME IMG and the Fertittas agreed to a current value of the company at $5 billion

The Washington Post and the University of Massachusetts did a national poll asking adults if they were fans of certain sports. MMA placed seventh with 25 percent of adults claiming they are fans, slightly behind boxing at 28 percent. The top six were pro football, pro baseball, college football, pro basketball and college basketball. Of the 11 sports asked about, WWE pro Wrestling finished in last place with 14 percent, behind also soccer, auto racing and Ice Hockey

Conor McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, said this past week that he doubts McGregor will fight again this year, saying the hoped-for 12/30 show in Las Vegas sounds early, although he didn’t completely rule it out

Holly Holm has said this week she was open to facing Cris Cyborg for the featherweight title, which would probably be the biggest women’s match as far as casual fan interest, that UFC could put on right now

The company sent out word this past week that they have moved to a new insurance carrier and launched a new insurance policy for fighters. The letter to fighters said the new insurance would include increased dental coverage and unlimited physical therapy, as well as full coverage for dehydration, heart and circulatory issues. They will also pay for PRP treatment (Platalet Rich Plasma) for the athletes to help them avoid surgery

This week’s show is UFC 215 from the Rogers Place in Edmonton. The show starts with Fight Pass fights at 6:15 p.m. Eastern time with Kajan Johnson (21-11-1) vs. Adriano Martins (28-8), Arjan Bhullar (6-0) vs. Luis Henrique (10-3) and Mitch Clarke (11-4) vs. Alex White (11-3). Next will be FS 1 fights at 8 p.m. with Rick Glenn (19-4-1) vs. Gavin Tucker (10-0), Ashlee Evans-Smith (5-2) vs. Sarah Moras (4-2), Henry Cejudo (10-2) vs. Wilson Reis (22-7) and Sara McMann (11-3) vs. Ketlen Vieira (8-0). The PPV at 10 p.m. has Gilbert Melendez (22-6) vs. Jeremy Stephens (25-14), Ilir Latifi (12-5) vs. Tyson Pedro (6-0), Rafael dos Anjos (26-9) vs. Neil Magny (19-5), Amanda Nunes (14-4) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (14-2) for the women’s bantamweight title and Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1) vs. Ray Borg (11-2) for the flyweight title. The key is that Johnson will be going for the record for most consecutive successful. He currently has ten, a record he shares with Anderson Silva. He’ll also be going for a probable tie for second place for most consecutive wins. He currently has 12. The record is 16 by Anderson Silva. Jon Jones is currently listed as 14, but that is likely to be changed to 13 if the result in the Daniel Cormier fight is overturned, which it would be expected. In the prelims, Bhullar, making his UFC debut, is the former Canadian Olympic wrestler who is friends with Jinder Mahal. Mahal is taking the night off from WWE to attend this show, although he will not be talking Bhullar to the cage

Paige VanZant talked about her move to flyweight and said she would never fight at 115 again. She said that she had passed out several times when trying to make that weight and at least once the fight was nearly called off. She said her parents couldn’t understand her doing it. She said that she weighs more than people think, as her natural body weight is 137. The thing is at 115, she didn’t even look big for the weight class, but this was her call and insistence of changing divisions. Duke Roufas once again this past week in talking about his team, mentioned C.M. Punk fighting this year. My thought is that he really won’t mean much the second time, unless it’s a television fight where, if it’s heavily promoted, he could be a curiosity draw. But I think the long delay between fights combined with his showing in his first fight and being farther away from the wrestling TV heyday, that he wouldn’t mean a lot the second time on PPV

The company has reached a deal with The Fite App to stream PPV shows. That’s notable because UFC streams PPV’s on UFC.tv worldwide. The 9/9 show will be the first event of the new deal

Cain Velasquez is working on different projects and his wife is having their second child, so he’s not going to be fighting until 2018. He would be the top opponent for Stipe Miocic and right now that would seem to put Francis Ngannou as the most viable top contender

The 9/16 show in Pittsburgh, headlined by Luke Rockhold vs. David Branch, is now discounting tickets on Groupon

A very interesting welterweight bout with John Dodson vs. Marlon Moraes was announced for the 11/11 show in Norfolk

Andrew Sanchez vs . Ryan Janes, Brett Johns vs. Joe Soto and Eric Spicely (who does independent pro wrestling in New England) vs. Gerald Meerschaert have been added to the 12/1 UFC show in Las Vegas. This is a Friday night TUF Finale show where they will crown the first women’s flyweight champion, taking place at the Park Theater

Darren Till vs. Donald Cerrone was signed as the five-round main event for the 10/21 show in Gdansk, Poland. Till came out of the 9/2 show in Rotterdam with a 15-0-1 record. Jodie Esquibel from Invicta debuts on the show as well. Esquibel, a former pro boxer, is 6-2 in MMA, mostly fighting at 105. She’ll move up to up 115 and face former title contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz, who is from Poland and will be one of the major stars locally on the show

Alex Chambers faces debuting fellow Australian Nadia Kassem on 11/19 in Sydney

Jack Hermansson vs. Thiago Santos has been added to the 10/28 show in Sao Paulo.

BELLATOR: After all the hype of Aaron Pico as being the best MMA prospect in recent memory ended with a 24 second submission loss to Zach Freeman on 6/24 in Madison Square Garden, he’ll be doing something similar on 9/23 in San Jose. Pico, 0-1, with no amateur MMA fights, with face 7-3 Justin Linn, but this time it’ll be at Pico’s wrestling weight of 145 instead of at 155. But again, he’s facing someone with far more experience. Rory MacDonald did an interview and when asked about Jon Jones’ failed steroid test, said, “Shameful, like every other guy that does this crap and hides it, yet gloats during victory.” Then he was asked if he believed Robbie Lawler was on PEDs at the time of their classic match of the year, he said, “I’m convinced he was.”

OTHER MMA: One is building up what would be the highest profile fight in company history on 11/24 in Singapore with Ben Askren vs. Shinya Aoki (who would be moving up a weight class) for the welterweight title. Askren. 33, will apparently be retiring after this fight to take a position as an executive for the company. That wasn’t a surprise because he’s talked about retiring for his last few fights. Askren was on the MMA Hour and said he’s been thinking about it for some time, and that in sports, nobody retires in time. He talked about Muhammad Ali being his favorite athlete and all the damage he took for fighting for too long. He said that he simply wasn’t at the physical peak he was four or five years ago, but said he keeps getting worse and worse and this was his cut off point. He said he always was planning on retiring at 30, but since he never got hit much, he extended it. But he said MMA fans have been misled about an athlete’s peak, saying it’s 26 to 30, but with guys on PEDs, they can extend it by several years and people have thought MMA athletes peak older. He said he’s never used PEDs. He said that technically as a fighter he’s better than before, but physically he’s worse. Askren goes into the Aoki fight with a 17-0 record with one no contest, and he’ll likely be talked about for a long time as one of the best potential contenders for a championship who never fought in UFC. He said that he would come back if he could fight the best guy in the world, but with Tyron Woodley as the UFC champion at welterweight, he has no interest in fighting him since they’ve been friends and teammates dating back to being on the same wrestling team at the University of Missouri

Rizin announced a Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Gabriel Oliveira match on the 10/15 show in Fukuoka at bantamweight. Kawajiri fought most of his career and lightweight and featherweight. They are trying to build to a Kawajiri vs. Kyoji Horiguchi match. Horiguchi may be the best of the Japanese fighters but fans in Japan don’t really know who he is past the hardcore MMA fan base and it would seem the idea would be to use Kawajiri, who was a big name at the end of the glory days, to put Horiguchi in a situation people will care about

The California State Athletic Commission is recommending that Invicta bantamweight champion Yana Kunitskaya leave the division and move up a weight class. Kunitskaya won the vacant title on 8/31 in Lemoore, CA winning a five-round decision over Raquel Pa’aluhi. Kunitskaya weighed in at 134.5 pounds at weigh-ins, but entered the cage at 154.6 pounds. California has ruled that if a fighter goes into the cage more than ten pounds above the weight she weighed in at, that they would need to move up a weight class. So in recent UFC and other shows in California, there is a maximum weight going into the cage. For example, Cris Cyborg, who is usually 170, weighed in at 145 when she won the featherweight title on the show in Anaheim, but couldn’t go into the cage at more than 159.5 pounds, which is why she was smaller than in previous fights. Similarly, both Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier had to go into the cage at 225.5 pounds or less, or also be recommended to have to move to heavyweight. It is possible for Kunitskaya to get a doctor’s letter saying it is safe for her to make 135 in the future, but that would be against recommendations. Now that she is champion, she may have to get her natural weight down five or six pounds so she can make weight in a healthy manner and not shoot past the 148.5 limit to go into the cage in California for her division.

WWE: John Layfield has left the Smackdown broadcast booth. He made the announcement this past week and was gone for the 9/5 show. He will remain affiliated with the company. Layfield wrote on Twitter, “After much consideration, I will be stepping back my weekly role as Smackdown announcer to dedicate more continuous time on the work I have done since 2010 with at risk kids and communities. My new schedule will allow me to continue to be part of the WWE family and also continue my work that I feel is the most important thing in my life. I will continue my 20+ year relationship with WWE and will appear on such marquee shows as Tribute to the Troops, WrestleMania among others.” Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated denied that this had anything to do with the Mauro Ranallo situation, and it wouldn’t, since the two never worked on the same dates since Ranallo’s job is only with NXT. Barrasso wrote that Layfield wasn’t the primary person of interest behind the Ranallo situation, which is interesting wording. Ranallo’s primary issues were not with Layfield, but with the culture in place at the time headed by Vince McMahon. Layfield was part of it, but not the key part of it. Layfield’s actions were the straw that broke the camel’s back in a situation that has been resolved enough to where Ranallo returned with the proviso he’s working and reporting to Michael Cole and Paul Levesque, neither of which he ever had any problems with and they were the two people who recruited him into the company in the first place. But Layfield’s comments on the television show either were approved or directly came from above. The heat with fellow broadcasters from MMA with Layfield was the idea of your broadcast partner going after you in a public forum, and Layfield made a ton of enemies among wrestlers over the years, but in the end, it was the culture within the company that was the overriding issue. The claim is Layfield made his own decision 11 months ago when his contract expired, which would precede the Ranallo situation by several months. Others have said it was three months ago when he gave notice but nobody disputes that it was his choice and this isn’t part of the Ranallo fallout given the Ranallo situation was taken care of long ago. The claim was that the travel was a big part because Layfield had to leave Bermuda on Sundays to work the Tuesday shows due to travel connections and the feeling they wanted him in town a day early in case of last minute issues. Even though he didn’t work the shows, he was at most Raws, which meant three plus days away from Bermuda each week. Layfield then switched his travel days to Mondays for two months, thus never coming to Raw, before being confronted about it, and after they confronted him, then he gave notice. Layfield works with underprivileged children in Bermuda both in helping them get a better education, and a news story came out on this just days before he then released the news he was leaving. Layfield started by arranging Rugby leagues for students called Beyond Rugby and has done fund raising for years. It was notable that stories were done on Layfield and his work just days prior to him saying that he wasn’t doing the shows anymore,. Corey Graves was picked to work both Raw and Smackdown to take his place. Graves does a great job and the change is a strong positive for the show. I didn’t think they’d have an announcer on both shows since the original storyline was everyone was to be exclusive like they were different and competing companies, and I was hoping for Jerry Lawler in the spot. But that attempt at exclusivity ended when Renee Young was put on both shows. Well, really Nigel McGuinness but I didn’t see politically where they’d make that move. Lawler did a good job on Raw this past week and was doing well on Smackdown when the decision was made to replace him, which had to be an age issue since Lawler is 67. Lawler had been doing his best work in years with Ranallo when he converted back to being a smart-ass heel, when the decision was made to replace him last summer when the show went live and Layfield was moved from Raw. McGuinness will now be working as the color guy on 205 Live in the spot Graves had, working with Vic Joseph, and will also continue on NXT

The biggest thing on the second batch of Mae Young Classic segments was an angle where Ronda Rousey, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Sharif confronted Charlotte, Bayley and Lynch and Rousey told them to name the time and name the place

One would expect an angle on the 9/12 live show in Las Vegas. The rumors have been that Rousey would do a Horsewomen vs. Horsewomen match at Survivor Series and that would lead to another match at WrestleMania, singles match with Stephanie McMahon and Charlotte being the names most talked about

The Mae Young Classic is clearly a huge hit on the WWE Network. For this past week, the top eight most-watched shows on the network were all eight episodes, which means that the four episodes released a week ago were all still head of both NXT and 205 Live both last week and this week. In fact, episodes one through four, even a week later, were ahead of the new 205 Live released on 9/5, even though they were released on 8/27. The top ten rankings for the week were: 1. Mae Young Classic episode five; 2. MYC episode six; 3. MYC episode seven; 4. MYC episode eight; 5. MYC episode four; 6. MYC episode three; 7. MYC episode one; 8. MYC episode two; 9. 205 Live from 9/5; 10. SummerSlam 2017. The NXT episode on 8/30 was in 11th place

The company has signed a multi-year French language television deal in Quebec with TVA Sports. They will air a one-hour edited version of Raw every Wednesday night starting on 10/18 with stand up comedian Kevin Raphael and wrestling author Pat Laprade. Laprade has written some great wrestling books including the history of wrestling in Montreal “Mad Dogs, Midgets & Screwjobs,” a history of women’s wrestling around the world, and his English language translation of the original French language bio of Mad Dog Vachon has just came out. It has been 19 years since WWE was on a French language station in Quebec

Due to Hurricane Irma, the company has canceled the next two weekends of Florida house shows. Shows on 9/8 in Daytona Beach, 9/9 in Crystal River, 9/14 in Lakeland and 9/15 in Dade City are canceled, with a new Dade City date being announced for 10/5. At press time, they are still planning on taping television on 9/13 at Full Sail University, but there is a back-up plan in place if for some reason they aren’t able to do so

Stephanie McMahon Levesque will be one of the leading speakers at the eighth annual ESPN W Women and Sports Summit presented by Toyota. The headline speakers are Jeanie Buss, the President of the Los Angeles Lakers, Stephanie, and Sheryl Crow, the famous rock star. The event takes place 10/2 to 10/4 in Newport Beach. ESPN’s Hannah Storm will interview McMahon. It’s really notable that WWE’s public changing of its portrayal of women, even though way behind the curve, has made Stephanie more legitimate as far as how she’s viewed as well as the company in women’s sports

Konstantine Kyros, the attorney suing the WWE in all the concussion cases, wrote publicly what he is looking for to settle the case and what he asked for in recent settlement hearings that didn’t come to a fruition so the case continues, are this: 1. Full health insurance for all the plaintiffs and their families for at least those who don’t have it or can’t afford it, and supplemental insurance for those who have medicare and medicaid; 2. Lump sum disability payouts based on medical diagnosis, which would be distributed based on a formula for the number of matches the plaintiffs had in WWE, as well as WCW and ECW, the companies WWE acquired the intellectual property of; 3. WWE paying for medical monitoring of brain specific testing for all plaintiffs; 4. Additional payments that would cover diagnosed neurological issues; 5. WWE should pay for a comprehensive study on the mortality rate for pro wrestlers to discover what are the causes and then what can be done to lower it (that one I was strongly in favor of years ago, but with the rate lowered coinciding with increased drug testing, they appear to have made key strides in that direction already, although only time will tell); 6. Expand the company’s drug and alcohol program and tie it with overall medical care; 7. Fair royalty payments and a full accounting of royalties to all plaintiffs; 8. Wrestlers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors; 9. WWE should finance CTE and brain injury studies specific to the business of wrestling as opposed to donating money to sports or military CTE studies; 10. WWE should agree to lump sum payments to plaintiffs who are diagnosed after their death with CTE

Samoa Joe is now slated to return at the end of October after his knee injury suffered last week

The mobile care unit that Sami Zayn started a Go Fund me for in Syria to be able to get to people in combat situations who can’t make it to hospitals and also provide mental health care started in operation this past week. Zayn wrote that it was the proudest day of his life

Regarding the situation with Corbin that was talked about last week, it all stemmed from a wrestlers meeting with Dr. Joseph Maroon that took place in early August. Maroon was there to talk about medical issues, concussion protocol and other issues. There were reports that Maroon was playing down the link between concussions and CTE, and Corbin started arguing with him, and said how could they trust what he was saying and accused Maroon of being the guy who covered up and denied the CTE story and link to football which was how the “Concussions” movie played out. Others have said the movie mischaracterized Maroon as the villain in the story. Maroon himself claims to be the one who brought attention of Dr. Bennett Omalu’s work to the NFL. It was said that the argument was uncomfortable to watch. Corbin was said to be pretty informed on the subject in the argument and there was a feeling he had valid questions but that he should have addressed them privately rather than taking over the meeting. It also came out in the discussion that Corbin was one of the players suing the NFL in a concussion lawsuit, which makes things weird given he’s now working as a pro wrestler, plus WWE apparently wasn’t aware of this fact until this past month. On the Mae Young Classic, the only real thoughts I have are that the atmosphere is very good and the storyline narrative worked well. Due to Internet issues I wasn’t able to watch any of the second four shows, but they got generally good reviews and that the tournament built well. When you watch it you want people to succeed and feel for the women as underdogs. That allows people to overlook the inexperience in a lot of cases. As noted last week, in the Cruiserweight Classic, the matches, particularly after the first round, were much better than Raw or Smackdown. With the women, I don’t expect that, but the feeling that this is something major and groundbreaking is stronger. Some of the women, notably Taynara Conti, didn’t belong on television this early. I can see why they signed her as she’s got a great look and has an athletic background and she didn’t go far so it’s not that big of a deal. The best match I saw was Kairi Sane, who came across right way as feeling like she could be a superstar as she comes across as the most likeable babyface, man or woman, in the company. Tessa Blanchard, who had a strong match with her, feels like a no brainer as far as someone they’d want, between the wrestling background, her in-ring and she’s has a real star look

WWE announced a new television deal with Fox Sports Mexico. They will air a new weekly Spanish language show, WWE Saturday Night which started this past weekend at 9 p.m., obviously, on Saturday night, It’s part of the new strategy to do highlight shows, adding in local cultural flavor and focusing on talent from that region, similar to what they’ve just done in India, to try and make their international brand have more of a local connection

Nikki Bella starts on Dancing With the Stars on 9/18, so WWE will have competition from both that show and football on Mondays this fall. Her competition on the show will be Barbara Corcoran (Shark Tank TV show), Debbie Gibson (actress and singer), Derek Fisher (former NBA star), Drew Scott (TV show host), Frankie Muniz (former star of Malcolm in the Middle), Jordan Fisher (singer and actor best known for the live Grease show), Lindsey Stirling (violinist), Nick Lachey (star of band 98 Degrees), Sasha Pietersie (from Pretty Little Liars), Terrell Owens (NFL star), Vanessa Lachey (MTV host) and Victoria Arlen (a participant in the Paralympic games)

There is some unhappiness as word got out this week that with 12/25 and 1/1 both falling on Mondays, that Raw will be live both days. While both dates were major wrestling dates in another era, WWE has always given talent those days off and started back on 12/26 and also given talent off 1/1 except in 2007 when they did do a live Raw that night. In other years past when both fell on Mondays, rather than run those days, they’d tape Raw ahead of time. Right now it looks like Raw and Smackdown will air on 12/25 and 12/26 in Chicago, and that Raw will air on 1/1 from Miami. A lot of families just got the news of the shows being taped live. The claim is that it was a USA Network call and not a WWE call. Chicago is at least located in a place where a lot of the talent could leave first thing in the morning because they want you there by early afternoon, but some will have to leave on Christmas Eve. For Miami, with so much of the crew in South Florida, for most, it’s not a bad trip for those on the West Coast, they’d probably have to leave on New Year’s Eve to make it. That would also put Raw against Bowl games and the NFL

Darren Young returned this weekend on the Raw crew working in Battle Royals. He came back to little fanfare and no television push for his return, nor with Bob Backlund. He was not used on television, even for Main Event

Heyman is always controversial as there are people in management and creative who don’t like that he comes in and gets Lesnar segments changed so often. Heyman does have a lot of pull with Vince and the reality is most of the unique Lesnar creative, whether it’s the angles or match strictures and finishes, are out of the box and for the better such and my belief is the Joe program helped spark a business turnaround that led to the even stronger momentum the great four-way and the Strowman program. The belief is that if Heyman wasn’t around, than Lesnar would be more apt to do things the way they are originally written instead of the changes

Gallagher needed four stitches from his 8/29 match with Kendrick on 205 Live where his head with split open after being slammed into the ring steps, which caused them to work right to the finish

Regarding the weekly U.K. show, there are two stories going around. One said that it was still in the plans but the hold-up is the expense of doing the tapings because the original U.K. tournament that was supposed to be the kickoff show lost so much money. But the company was also looking to get the show on television in the U.K. and thus far hasn’t been able to make a deal

Douglas Nemeth, 30, the brother of Dolph Ziggler and former WWE developmental wrestler Ryan Nemeth, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the death of Joshua Mascol at the University Hotel in a drug deal that went bad. Nemeth and Jack King, 52, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison, pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping and robbery charges. Nemeth and King worked together as boilermakers, while Nemeth and Mascol were close friends. Mascol was Nemeth’s regular drug dealer as well. The prosecutors said that even so, Nemeth and King plotted to rob Mascol. It turned into a fight and one of the men shot Mascol. It’s inconclusive which one of the two shot Mascol. The death was on January 23, 2016. Text messages showed Mascol agreed to meet with Nemeth to sell him cocaine. Nemeth and King met in the lobby and took the elevator up to meet mascol. King brought with him a tool bag and zip-tie handcuffs. King was the one who pulled the gun. After Mascol was shot, he and King started fighting on the ground. Mascol called Nemeth for help. Nemeth jumped in and two more gunshots were fired and Nemeth and King ran off and left Mascol. Prosecutors still don’t know who fired the first shot. Nemeth apologized for what happened to Mascol’s family, saying he battled severe addiction issues and lost a good friend because of it, and told them he wanted to make things right. According to local reports, Nemeth’s family didn’t know of his drug addiction issues

Jericho did an interview on 107.7 The Bone and talked about how he got the Styles clash unbanned. At first, when Styles came to WWE, because Yoshitatsu and others were injured from the move, Styles was told he couldn’t use the move. Jericho said he knew it was a safe move and that if Vince McMahon actually saw what the move was, he would let Styles use it. So Styles used the move in a match with Jericho, which was not the finish. Jericho noted that people were on his case for kicking out of the move, not realizing there was a method to all this. He said that he eventually went to Vince and asked him what he thought of the move and the big reaction to the kick out, but was careful never to say Styles clash, with the idea the move was banned, but Vince actually didn’t know what the move was. Jericho, after the match, went to Vince, and put over the move saying he thought Styles should use it as a finisher. And Vince agreed that it looked good enough to be a finisher, not realizing that move was the Styles clash. He noted that story is in more detail in his new book

Jericho, in an interview with us, clarified the story of his one-show return. It wasn’t as if he showed up to do Southpaw Regional Wrestling and they saw him and decided to put him on the show. He was coming to film that show for some time, and at one point, ahead of time, because he was going to be there, he was asked to do a two-segment match where he’d put over Styles as a surprise. When the finish at Battleground was botched, and that’s what it was, that match became a three-way and because Styles was no longer champion and Styles was never supposed to lose it

Cena’s entrance music is in a new Toyota commercial

For next week’s tour of Australia, the lineup has everyone on the Raw brand but Cena and Rollins. Ambrose will be appearing in a Battle Royal, with the card being Reigns vs. Strowman in a street fight,, Miz vs. the Battle Royal winner for the IC title, a five-way for the women’s title with Bliss vs. Banks vs. Emma vs. James vs. Jax, Balor vs. Wyatt, Hardys vs. Sheamus & Cesaro, Neville vs. Enzo vs. Tozawa for the cruiserweight title and the Battle Royal. The street fight likely means Reigns wins, because on two of the weekend house shows, they did no DQ matches with the two and instead of Reigns winning via DQ, because of that stip, he had to win via pin

Smackdown on 9/12 in Las Vegas, besides the Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane finals of the women’s tournament, with the Ronda Rousey angle, will also have the Usos vs. New Day in a street fight for the tag titles, Styles vs. Dillinger for the U.S. title, Natalya vs. Naomi for the women’s title. TJP vs. Rich Swann is advertised for 205 Live. Right now the plan is the Mae Young Classic final at 10 p.m., tentatively scheduled for a one-match show plus angles and such to go until about 10:30 p.m., and then 205 Live immediately after. We’re not sure if the MYC final will be just the Baszler vs. Sane match or a complete show, given they are flying women in from all over the world to be there. Vince McMahon also returns on that show as part of the angle where Owens in threatening to sue the company

Regal did an interview talking about Asuka vacating the title and said in the next few weeks he’d come to a decision on how to fill the vacancy. If that announcement is more than six days off, it inherently would mean it won’t be the Mae Young Classic winner to determine the champion, but another match or series of matches

Otis Dozovic at the WWE athletic competition at the Performance Center proved to be the best when it came to muscle stamina in the bench press doing 225 for 46 reps. I think that puts into perspective just how strong Bruno Sammartino was, as he once did 335 for 38 reps

The WWE stock had a strong week, closing at $22.10 per share at press time, putting the company value at $1.704 billion, the highest in a long time

.Notes from the 9/4 Raw show in Omaha. A strong show but around once again putting Strowman over like a monster for Lesnar, having him take out show in a very good cage match that had a lot of well laid out moments, and another strong interview segment with Cena and Reigns. This one was booked to make Reigns look a lot better. He was scripted to hold his own, and unlike last week, never got lost and it never appeared there was any ad libbing. They drew 8,000 fans. For Main Event, Mustafa Ali & Lince Dorado beat TJP & Kendrick and Elias pinned Kalisto. Raw opened with a video package covering the Reigns and Cena stuff from last week. This was edited to make Reigns come across a lot better than he actually did. Cena came out and got a great reception, with overwhelming cheers. The announcers were pushing that Reigns vs. Cena was a WrestleMania caliber match, which is really is. Cena pinned Jordan in 11:42. I thought, in losing to Cena, Jordan came across the best he has since the angle started. Still, they did him no favors to tell the story that it was Jordan’s father, Kurt Angle, who gave Cena his first chance since Cena’s debut, which has become legendary, was when Paul Heyman was doing Smackdown and he wanted to bring Cena up from OVW with a push and had him verbally go head-to-head with Angle and be competitive with Angle before losing. It was also notable that he was brought up as John Cena, and not Prototype, the name he was using in developmental. The story is that the circle had turned and now it’s Angle’s son in the position Cena was in, and Cena in the position Angle was in. It made for a nice story but it’s kind of a disconnect because it’s pretty clear nobody buys that Jordan is Kurt’s son and the best thing is to low-key it rather than browbeat people with it. They pushed how Jordan went 35-0 as a senior at the University of Indiana. I believe Jordan did have a 35 match win streak but he wasn’t undefeated for the season, and didn’t make top eight in the NCAA’s that year, but winning 35 straight matches at heavyweight in Division I is a hell of an accomplishment and he did go to the NCAA tournament three times, but never placed. Cena put Jordan over strong, as Jordan reversed an STF into a crossface. Jordan got a great near fall after two Northern lights suplexes but Cena reversed a back suplex and hit the Attitude Adjustment for the pin. Reigns came out and the people took to him completely as the heel in this program. In a sense, Reigns has turned Cena into a huge fan favorite on TV nights and I’m guessing that’ll also be the same at the PPV in Los Angeles. Reigns asked why it took a 16-time world champion 20 minutes (well, it didn’t) to beat a rookie. He said that if Cena was stronger and faster than ever he’d have crushed Jordan, or that he lied last week about being stronger and faster and that proved Reigns right. Fans were giving Reigns the “what” treatment and he was ignoring them and you could see his concentration in delivering never wavered. He called Cena a lying fake ass little bitch, in the 8 p.m. hour. Cena called him Debbie Downer, saying he was disgusted by Reigns’ face and that Reigns was doing the worst possible thing, trying to use his brain. He told Reigns to stay in his lane because that’s not his strong suit. Cena claimed Reigns came out with his zipper open and Reigns claimed it’s because he’s the big dog. Cena said he was looking for Reigns’ balls and couldn’t see them. Reigns said that Cena would be looking at them. Cena said that Reigns would be getting beat either by a guy who lost a step, or a guy who was been stringing him along for years, letting Reigns make mistake after mistake so he could find the right time to chop him down to size. He called Reigns a conceited know-it-all golden boy who needs to be taught a lesson in respect. He said he respected Jordan & Gable, who have had to fight for every inch, and even Miz, who he despises, has had to scratch and claw week after week and he respects that, but he doesn’t respect Reigns. He said the only person living a lie is Reigns. He said Reigns says it’s his yard but the fans don’t agree, and Reigns says he’s the guy, and the fans don’t agree. He asked if there was any room in Reigns’ clouded protected, conceited brain to see what is going on or does he have to beat some common sense into Reigns. Reigns smiled and said, “Now we’re talking” and told Cena to come beat some sense into him right now. He asked Omaha if they wanted to see Cena beat his ass, and the crowd went pretty nuts with “Yes” chants. He told Cena to back up his mouth. Cena backed off and smiled. It was done in a way where Reigns got the better of it but you’re not sure if Cena backed off or if Cena was just playing him. Reigns said Cena showed he was all talk and that’s why he doesn’t respect him. Cesaro & Sheamus came out doing either the Hall & Nash bending over pose or the Fusion Dance at Dragon Ball. Balor was pushing the “Too sweet” after a few fans started chanting it. That’s such a weird coincidence with them pushing that phrase right after The Young Bucks did a “Being the Elite” story about supposedly being banned from using phrases (which I think is a spoof on how WWE doesn’t let Cody use the Rhodes name). Cesaro & Sheamus beat Slater & Rhyno in 2:14 when Sheamus pinned Rhyno with a Brogue kick. Ambrose & Rollins were doing commentary claimed that they are now The Bar and were going to steal the tag team name. They pushed donating money for Houston relief, talked to Booker T, who was from Houston, and noted Mark Henry was in Houston helping out. Renee Young was with the Hardys. Matt was very much doing his Broken character. Jeff talked about how he lives for the moment and that his daughter may see him become IC champion tonight and that’s pretty cool. Miz retained the title over Jeff Hardy in 12:59. They noted that it was 10 years and one day previous when Jeff won the title the last time. Axel knocked Jeff off the top rope. This led to Matt going after Axel & Dallas. The ref threw all three of them out and fans were chanting “delete.” The finish saw Jeff go for a swanton and Miz moved out of the way. Maryse looked like she shook Miz’s arm and he then moved as opposed to pulled him out of the way. Still, Jeff came back and went for a twist of fate, but Miz reversed it into the skull crushing finale for the pin. They pushed that by late next week Miz (445 days) will surpass the Honky Tonk Man (454) and have the third most total time as IC champion behind only Don Muraco (541) and Pedro Morales (619). They announced Bliss vs. Banks for the title at No Mercy. Jax confronted Angle and wanted a title shot. Angle said that Banks gets her title rematch first. Emma came out and said nobody talks about Jax on Twitter, but they all talk about her, and told fans to start a hashtag of “Five Emma a chance at the women’s title.” Angle set up a match with Bliss & Banks vs. Jax & Emma, and if Bliss & Banks won, then neither Jax nor Emma would get a title shot. But if Jax & Emma won, the title match would be changed for a four-way. Enzo & Metalik & Alexander beat Nese & Gulak & Dar in 5:01. The crowd was big-time into it when Enzo came out and did his promo and they especially got into “SAWFT.” Enzo claimed Metalik called Gulak “Captain Underpants.” Alexander & Metalik did stereo flip dives. Enzo pinned Gulak I 5:01 with eat defeat, which when Enzo uses it, is called the Jordanzo, after Michael Jordan. Bliss came to Banks and told her how Emma and Jax were sticking their nose into her business. They were pushing Connor’s Cure heavily during the show. Several wrestlers, both faces and heels, were wearing the new T-shirts WWE was marketing with all the money going to Connor’s Cure. They did that on Smackdown as well. Balor did an interview and talked about the Balor Cup. There was a light “too sweet” chan and Balor encouraged it and said Wyatt cost him a shot at the IC championship in last week’s Battle Royal. Even though Balor won clean last time, Balor said he may have beaten Wyatt at SummerSlam, but that Wyatt always shows up when he least expects him. Wyatt said that Balor never beat him, the Demon did and told him to face him at No Mercy in a rematch not as The Demon. Emma & Jax beat Banks & Bliss in 8:54. At first Emma was selling and building up Jax for the hot tag. It’s clear and audience wants Jax vs. Bliss. Jax leg dropped Bliss and Emma tagged herself in and stole the pin. Jax wasn’t happy about Emma stealing the pin. Jax wanted a handshake. Emma did but Jax did the squeeze and then gave Emma a Samoan drop. Strowman did an interview saying that he would be sending a message to Angle, Show, Lesnar and everyone else. Elias was backstage playing the guitar when Ambrose & Rollins walked past him. Rollins & Ambrose beat Gallows & Anderson in 11:47. Rollins & Ambrose hit double pescados. Ambrose did a tope on Gallows while Rollins did to rope Frankensteiner on Anderson. Cesaro & Sheamus were at ringside and Rollins threw Anderson head first into Cesaro and gave Anderson a schoolboy for the pin. Fans were chanting “Too sweet” after Anderson & Gallows threw out Cesaro & Sheamus. But Cesaro & Sheamus made a comeback and Sheamus laid out Anderson with a Brogue kick and cleaned house on Gallows as well. Ambrose was mimicking Scott Hall’s “I’m so scared” hand deal. Enzo said he was going to take out Alexander and Metalik for steaks. Neville was clapping and said Angle is ordering a five-way elimination match the next night on 205 Live with Enzo, Alexander, Metalik, Nese and Kendrick. The winner gets the No Mercy title match with Neville. John Cone, who was the ref when Strowman superplexed Show and the ring collapsed on purpose. Cone’s flew out of the collapsing ring on that night. He said the ring was being double reinforced. Renee Young interviewed Show. Show said that the had never faced an opponent as imposing physically as Strowman, but he’s had more cage matches in his career than Strowman has had matches. That line came off much better when Flair would tell people he’s had more title reigns than the number of women they’ve had in their entire lives. He said Strowman would not put him out to pasture because they’d have to break him and nobody has broken him in 23 years. Show exhibited more fire than he has had in a long time, and fans were really into the match which followed. Strowman won a very good match in 16:57. Strowman has been one of the most improved and greatest success stories in years, and an incredible booking success as well. Reigns deserves a lot of credit in his elevation because Reigns, as the top guy on the brand, made him larger-than-life by doing angles and matches where Strowman would stay up from his big moves and get the better of him in most matches and angles. Show was so great in his role, as far as story telling and putting Strowman over. Show hit him with the knockout punch early but Show couldn’t capitalize from being beaten up earlier. Show did an elbow drop off the top rope and the crowd went wild. Booker said he hasn’t done this since his second year, although he did it not that long ago and the place went crazy for that. Show tried to get out of the cage but Strowman, from the inside, pulled the cage door to hit Show. Show then did the same when Strowman tried to get out. Show hit a choke slam but Strowman kicked out. Show went to climb out but Strowman pulled him down and tackled him into the cage. The whole match was building to the superplex spot since they kept showing clips of the ring breaking in a previous mach with the two. Strowman hit the superplex, but the ring didn’t break since they pushed over and over how it was double reinforced, and even at one point showed people tightening the ring up. Strowman then pinned Show after a powerslam. Strowman started yelling about what he just did to the giant, and how he’ll do the same thing to the beast. He told Lesnar that this is Lesnar’s future (showing Show laid out) and that his future is being Universal champion. He then picked Show up again and threw him into the cage which had been clearly gimmicked and Show went through the cage for the big pop to end the show. Strowman then told him that it’s time to go out to pasture, old man. Strowman was clearly the heel here to the crowd because of Show’s promo and the match story

Notes from the 9/12 Smackdown show from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This was one of those weeks where Vince didn’t think the city sounded major league enough so there were no mentions where the show was coming from. This was built around the Nakamura vs. Orton match with the key angle being the start of the build to Owens vs. Shane. Roode wasn’t on the TV show, which was a surprise since he just started, but he did work a dark match and they did do a video package for him. The show drew 4,000 fans. It opened with Roode pinning Kanellis in a dark match. Smackdown opened with Orton came out for a promo and said that nobody would stand in the way of him taking the title back from Mahal. Nakamura did a promo saying he respected the legend of Orton but he’s chasing his destiny. The show opened with Carmella & Ellsworth in the ring for their match with Natalya. Owens then came out and said he was the guest referee for the match. He tried to get ref Dan Engler to give him a referee shirt, but he refused. Shane came out for a promo and said that Owens wasn’t going to do what he did last week and make himself a referee. Shane said that there’s one thing we have to get very clear. Then he forgot his line. And waited. And waited. Finally he remembered and said that Owens needs to stop blaming Shane for his losses. Orton said that Shane pulled Corbin out of the ring and then interfered in his match. Owens said that Shane never wanted him on Smackdown and that we both agree on that and Owens said he always wanted to be on Raw. Shane agreed with that. If Shane was in charge and he didn’t want him on Smackdown, why was he on Smackdown? Shane told Owens to stop blaming Shane when Owens isn’t successful and to blame himself. Owens then talked about how Shane always has to be the center of attention. He asked if his father never gave him enough attention growing up. He said Shane is always looking for attention and talked about how he paraded his kids on television and had them dance for his entrance (for the Undertaker match). Shane said to never bring up his kids again. Owens started making fun of how Shane jumped off really high things and then got up and survived a helicopter crash. He said that his entire family would have been better off if he had died in the helicopter crash. So that was the entree they went with for the angle. He said how Shane’s dad and wife would have been better off and especially his kids would have been better off. Shane snapped and attacked Owens and tackled him over the announcers table. Shane continued to beat on him and shoved away everyone who tried to stop him. Finally Bryan came out and told Shane to stop. After the break, Owens was backstage selling the beating big. Bryan admitted that Shane was completely out of line. Owens said he was going to sue Shane, the WWE and every member of the McMahon family and was going to take the company down. He also said he was going to press criminal charges against Shane. Natalya pinned Carmella in the non-title match in 6:15. The story here is that in the middle of them match, Ellsworth threw the briefcase into the ring. Carmella freaked out because she didn’t want to cash it in. She started yelling at Ellsworth and Natalya pinned her with a schoolboy. So the briefcase wasn’t cashed in, but it figures to be fairly soon. Carmella was furious and said that she knew he was sorry, and said he was the sorriest excuse for a human being ever. She berated him, calling him a genetic defect, that he has no reason being in the company and he’s only there as a charity case. She said that his mother should have given him away on birth and that they were through. The crowd cheered big for her dumping him. Next was the promised return of Ziggler. This went nowhere. He said the fans don’t appreciate him and don’t care about his being the greatest performer in WWE history. He said they don’t want him, and just want some dumb gimmicks. He then went to the back. Cena’s music played and Ziggler came out doing Cena mannerisms. That didn’t get over. Then he came out to Randy Savage’s music and had a woman with him. That was even lamer. He said the people usually like nostalgia. Then he came out to Naomi’s music with fake Naomi hair glowing in the dark. It was lame, but it was supposed to be lame. But it was still lame if you get what I’m saying. He said that anyone could do what he just did, but nobody else can do what he can do in the ring. English pinned Zayn in 1:04 when Zayn missed a splash off the top rope and English pinned him with an Oklahoma side roll. So they are trying to make English a player. He went to sing after the match but Zayn chased him to the back. Bryan was backstage when New Day came out. Woods was there on crutches. The Usos came out and Bryan told them to announce their stipulation. They said that on next week’s show they would defend against the New Day in a Las Vegas street fight. Big E said that he was the dealer and the Usos were about to bust. Kingston and Woods looked at Big E like that was the worst line ever. Nothing like booking to make your babyface seem uncool. Bryan came out with no music and called out Shane. Shane also came out with no music. Bryan told a story that when Miz insulted him months ago on Talking Smack that he wanted to head-butt Miz in the face, but he didn’t do it because Shane told him that he had to put the WWE and the fans first, and he had to put the employees first. He said that every week he had to restrain himself for punching Miz in the face. He said he did what he did because it was the best thing for the company and for the show. He told Shane that he can’t be assaulting employees or superstars. Shane said Bryan was right. But he said that when somebody talks about his family, he goes into a blind rage and when people cross that line, there’s no coming back. Bryan said that Kevin was going to sue the company. Shane said he’d talk to Owens and smooth it over. Bryan said that it’s too late, as he got a phone call from Vince. He said Vince ordered Shane to be indefinitely suspended. Renee Young was with Mahal and the Singh brothers. Mahal said that he represents Asia better than Nakamura does. He said as far as the main event went, that let the better man win. Corbin pinned Dillinger in 7:34 with the End of Days after dropping him on the post. Dillinger hit Corbin with a tope to open the match and got a good near fall with a front rolling cradle. Dillinger was backstage and Styles came up to him and said that he put up a good fight as well as a good fight last week. Dillinger submitted in that match in less than one minute. Styles said that Corbin was a cheap shot artist. He said that he’d give Dillinger a U.S. title shot next week. So Dillinger lost in less than a minute two weeks ago, and then lost to Corbin clean this week, to get himself a U.S. title match. She then kissed him hard and slapped him in the face. Ellsworth came out apologizing and begging Carmella, admitted that he was a freak and that he probably belonged in a zoo and would keep his mouth shut. So then she kissed him. Then she slapped him in the face. So he was totally lost. Nakamura pinned Orton in 13:26 to become the top contender for Mahal. The match was good, and the crowd got into it strong in the last few minutes. Orton did a superplex off the top rope. Nakamura went for the first Kinshasa but Orton turned it into a powerslam. Orton went for an RKO but Nakamura turned that into an armbar in a real good spot. Nakamura then turned that into a triangle but Orton power bombed himself out. The crowd was chanting for Orton at this point. He went for the RKO a second time, but Nakamura turned it into a backstabber and then hit the Kinshasa for the clean win. To their credit, they had Orton put him over with no controversy and get the Kinshasa over without having to do two of them to get Nakamura ready for his main event title match. Backstage, Owens was with Bryan. He vowed to start next week and make Smackdown his playground and make it Bryan’s nightmare. Bryan then told him that Vince would be back next week 205 Live opened with TJP pinning Daivari in 4:01 with the detonation kick. Swann came out with a bag of popcorn to watch the match. He put his chair on top of the announcers table and watched the bout eating popcorn. The match had no heat and they wrestled well. Swann got in the ring to challenge him for a match for next week. Tozawa pinned Gulak in 6:37. No O’Neil or even a mention of him. Gulak did a promo and there was light Captain Underpants chants. Gulak complained about not getting in the five-way for a shot at the title. He then said he had 427 proposals for a better 205 Live. The first was no coming off the top rope. The second was no coming off the middle rope. Tozawa came out to break up this promo. They had a good match. Tozawa used a nice tope and won with a senton off the top rope. Enzo did a promo talking about how everyone else works hard but he works smart. Essentially he said that all these guys busted their ass for years going all over the world on indies while he walked in, and because he’s such a good talker, he’s exactly where they are having not worked nearly as hard. That no doubt will endear him to everyone. Neville showed up and said 205 Live was a place for serious athletes and Enzo has no business being in the ring with him. Enzo said he was winning the title at No Mercy. Enzo won the five-way over Kendrick, Nese, Metalik and Alexander. The story of the match is that everyone, particularly Alexander, were busting their ass while Enzo stood out on the floor talking to fans. It made it hard early since Enzo is given all the promo time and is presented as the biggest star (and he does move the most merch and has evidently added viewers to this show) and his dancing and talking to fans basically steals the heat from the guys in the ring. I’ve seen a lot of vets in the old days in tag matches do that to keep younger guys work from getting over, but this was exactly how the match was booked. Metalik and Alexander looked great together. Kendrick suplexed Enzo on the floor so he sold out several more minutes. Alexander hit a standing Spanish fly and suddenly the crowd woke up and decided this must be a great match because it had a cool move. Then they did a tower of doom spot with everyone but Enzo. Enzo recovered, went for a tope but Kendrick and Nese caught him and dropped him on the announcers table and threw him over the table. Then it came time for finishes. Alexander pinned Nese with the lumbar check in 11:38. Alexander pinned Metalik with the lumbar check in 12:54. Alexander was clearly being booked as the star of the match in the ring. Alexander pinned Kendrick with the lumbar check in 14:44. Enzo then jumped in the ring and pinned Alexander with a schoolboy holding the tights in 14:50. Enzo’s philosophy is that if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. Nigel McGuinness portrayed it that Enzo, if he wasn’t cheating, wasn’t good enough to hang with the guys in this match. The dark match main event saw Styles beat Mahal via DQ in a title match when the Singh Brothers interfered

Notes from the 8/30 NXT TV show. Better show than usual due to the main event and the big push of Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish as the top heels. The show opened and there was chaos in the parking lot. They showed all three members of Sanity beat down as well as security laid out in the parking lot. While they didn’t show Cole & O’Reilly & Fish, during the broadcast they made it clear that they were the ones responsible. The show opened with Drew McIntyre in the ring doing an interview saying he’s waited 17 years for this moment to come out as champion. He said he’s got a target on his back and mentioned Fish, O’Reilly and Cole. The crowd popped for the mention of Cole. He challenged anyone. Roderick Strong came out. He said he only cares about his family and the title and that he was going to beat Bobby Roode tonight and then he wants to challenge for the title. McIntyre said that he’s happy Strong came out there the way he did to challenge him to his face like a man, and he hopes Strong is also ready to get knocked out like a man. Roode said he had unfinished business with Strong and also wanted a rematch with McIntyre for the title and then he’d walk away from NXT as champion and go to Smackdown. Peyton Royce beat Ruby Riot in 8:20. The match ended up being good. Riot kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment and Royce kicked out of a power bomb. Riot did a tope on Royce and Billie Kay. The finish saw Kay kick Riot in the face and the kick looked great. Royce then pinned Riot after a fisherman suplex. Regal was in his office when Kassius Ohno came in. He wanted a rematch with Hideo Itami. Regal said he was thinking the same way and scheduled it for next week. Ohno then asked for it to be a no DQ match and Regal agreed to that. Heavy Machinery beat Damian Aweel & Edwin Negron in 2:13. It was just a quick squash with Dozovic pinning Negron with the compactor, which is the assisted world’s strongest slam. Regal was in his office with Lars Sullivan. He said that Sullivan keeps attacking his tag team partners so next week he’s putting Sullivan in a one vs. three handicap match. Strong pinned Roode in 15:09 in Roode’s NXT farewell. Very good match. This wasn’t at the same level of their house show match in San Jose or the other cities. The heat wasn’t great even with Roode, but it was better heat than NXT usually gets in Orlando. Strong did all kinds of backbreakeres. and Roode also did some backbreakers. Roode called Strong a failure. Roode also used a spinebuster on the floor. Roode hit the glorious DDT but Strong got his foot on the ropes. Roode told Strong he was an embarrassment to his family. Strong responded with three jumping knees. Strong used a suplex into a backbreaker, then blew Roode a

goodbye kiss, hit another suplex into the backbreaker and got the pin. After the match, McIntyre came out and held up the belt, basically intimated that he’d be giving Strong the next shot and told Strong “Hell of a match, brother.” At that point Cole, Fish & O’Reilly all attacked McIntyre and Cole DDT’d him on the stage. They were also beating up security that tried to stop them before they left the building. Cole, Fish & O’Reilly were positioned here as major players and Cole came across like a Michael Hayes ring leader of the Freebirds in the attack

The Raw crew opened on 9/1 in Wichita, KS before 2,000 fans. 9/2 in Kansas City drew 3,800. Due to Internet issues all week, we didn’t get attendance figures from the 9/3 show in Des Moines. Smackdown opened on 9/2 in Moline, IL before 3,500 fans. We didn’t get attendance figures for either 9/3 in Cedar Falls, IA or 9/4 in Rochester, MN

Wichita opened with a three-way for the tag titles with Ambrose & Rollins retaining over Sheamus & Cesaro and The Hardys when Ambrose pinned Sheamus after the knee by Rollins and the Dirty Deeds by Ambrose. Jordan won the Battle Royal for a shot at the IC title later in the show by throwing out Axel and Dallas together when they were the last three left. Others in were Amore (notable he was in there and there was no cruiserweight match on the tour), Crews, Hawkins, Goldust, R-Truth, the returning Darren Young, Kalisto, O’Neil and Wilder. Balor pinned Elias with the coup de grace. Balor has been flashing the “too sweet” symbol at the house shows, which is notable. Cena pinned Wyatt with the Attitude Adjustment. Wyatt replaced Samoa Joe who had been booked in that slot, and Wyatt was originally booked for Balor. Cena and Balor were the two most popular wrestlers on the show. A five-way for the women’s title saw Bliss retain over Banks, Brooke, Fox and Jax when she pinned Brooke after a DDT. Jax was cheered more than any of the other women. Miz retained over Jordan with a thumb to the eye and the Skull Crushing finale. Miz offered Jordan a spot in the Mizterouge before the match. Axel and Dallas interfered and were kicked out during the bout. Reigns over Strowman via DQ for using the ring steps match they’ve been doing, once again ending when Reigns put Strowman through a table with a spear

Kansas City was the same show. The only difference is they put Reigns vs. Strowman on before intermission so they could end the show with Cena over Wyatt in a street fight so it would be a clean face win to end the show. Reigns was reported to have been cheered by about 80 percent of the fans over Strowman, a complete contrast to if they were in the same city and the show was taped for television. Jax was cheered the most of the women here as well. Cena put Wyatt through a table with the Attitude Adjustment to win the match, so the babyface pop both going into intermission and after the show was a heel going through the table. The crowd split in that match was 70 percent Cena and 30 percent Wyatt until Wyatt did mic work to turn himself heel. At the Kansas City show, and this is probably consistent everywhere, they gave the live fans a code number to get two free months of the WWE Network

The only change was in Des Moines was once again ending with Cena vs. Wyatt in a street fight, but they also did a no DQ with Reigns vs. Strowman before intermission and Reigns pinned him

The Smackdown in Moline opened with Usos keeping the tag titles over Kingston & Big E and Breeze & Fandango. Woods didn’t travel this weekend since he’s injured. The crowd was really behind New Day and booing Usos, who got cheered in a lot of markets. The finish sawo one of the Usos pin Fandango with a superkick and roll-up. English pinned Dillinger. English got great heat and Dillinger of course got the big ten reaction. Long match that the crowd was into. English won with an eye rake and a front facelock drop. This is a good sign for English because usually you don’t put heels over on the house shows unless they are champions or viewed on a higher level than their opponent, so this would indicate English being viewed more highly. Rawley & Ryder & Zayn beat Ascension & Rowan when they used the Rough Ryder on Konnor and then Zayn pinned Viktor with the Helluva kick. The Ascension wouldn’t leave and challenged anyone in the building or the biggest man in the back. Harper came out for what was a cameo appearance, as Viktor walked off on Konnor and Harper used the discus lariat on Konnor for the pin in seconds. Styles retained the U.S. title over Nakamura and Corbin. Nakamura got a huge reaction for his entrance. The crowd was most into Styles vs. Nakamura. There was a great sequence where Styles got the calf killer, but Nakamura countered into an armbar, but Corbin pulled Styles out of the ring for the save. Styles pinned Corbin with the phenomenal forearm. Styles was cheered the most by the end of the match. Naomi & Charlotte beat Tamina & Natalya. Naomi pinned Natalya with the rear view. Roode pinned Ziggler Ziggler came out and did the same promo he did on TV two weeks earlier. They started slow but turned into a good match with Roode winning with the spinebuster and glorious DDT. Mahal beat Orton in a last man standing match to keep the title when one Singh distracted the ref and the other gave Orton a low blow. Orton couldn’t get up to win. Orton laid out one Singh and Mahal after the match with the RKO

Cedar Falls was the same show. Rochester was the same show but in reports we got they didn’t have the Harper thing at the end of the six-man tag match.