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September 4, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: McGregor vs. Mayweather, Dr. Wagner Jr. unmaskes, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 September 4, 2017


Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeated Conor McGregor via tenth round ref stoppage in a curiosity-fueled money heist which will go down as a major event in boxing, MMA and sports culture.

The end result was no surprise. Even at 40 and clearly past his prime, Mayweather had a lifetime of boxing ring experience and skill drummed into him from childhood that overcame that his legs weren’t what they used to be.

The fight was more entertaining than most Mayweather fights, a strategic win where Mayweather laid back for the first four rounds, expecting that McGregor would fade. McGregor did exactly that, and Mayweather took over. McGregor was barely hanging on in the ninth round, and was about to be put out in the tenth before the ref stepped in and called the fight.

The match, making a joke out of the World Boxing Council, was actually sanctioned for their newly-created and likely never to be heard from again World Money Championship.

McGregor did better than most boxing experts expected. Part of it was Mayweather’s strategy of giving up the early rounds to take advantage later. He clearly won the first three rounds, and two other rounds were close, while Mayweather won five rounds, with the ninth round the only round where one fighter had the other in jeopardy. He landed more punches on Mayweather (111), even if he never hurt him, than Manny Pacquiao did in 2015 (81) and almost as many in less than ten rounds than Canelo Alvarez (117) did in 12.

Given it was McGregor’s first pro boxing match, it was impossible to knock his performance, but he had also claimed with eight ounce gloves he would score a first round knockout, and so many people bet on him that the odds ended up being ridiculously close given there was very little chance Mayweather could lose.

It was a moot point, but the judging was horrendous. Judge Dave Moretti had it 87-83, giving McGregor the first three, Mayweather the next six and a 10-8 ninth round, which was the only defendable card.

Burt Clements gave McGregor only the first round, even though Mayweather didn’t even start fighting until the fourth, having it 89-82 going into the tenth. Judge Guido Cavalleri had it 89-81, giving Mayweather every round but the first, and giving him a 10-8 ninth round.

As far as punch stats went, McGregor’s edge in the first three rounds were 9-2, 8-5 and 9-5. The fourth round saw both men land 16 punches, making it close, although Mayweather’s shots were stronger. From there, Mayweather took over and the longer it went, the more dominant he became.

Most media sources, including us, had it 86-85 going into round ten. Scores of 87-83, 87-84, 86-84 or 86-85 were all reasonable.

If there were key takes, it was that even though he was game and came to fight a strategic fight, McGregor was a non-boxer going into a boxing match with someone, who even older, was an expert mentally at the game. McGregor’s punches didn’t have great power, which is funny because he’s been a knockout artist in MMA, but the smaller gloves changes the game and power. The fight was sold on the idea that if McGregor could hit him, he could hurt him. The reality is that Mayweather’s strategy was about letting McGregor hit him early, to tire him out, feeling that he couldn’t hurt him, and that turned out to be correct.

McGregor was clearly concerned about his own stamina, and about being countered, so fought a careful fight, and never tried to throw big punches that would tire him out. He still hit the wall in the ninth round. He complained after, noting that happens in a lot of his long MMA fights but he has the ability to get a second wind, noted he was never knocked down and that the fight shouldn’t have been stopped. It is true he was just about finished early in the second Nate Diaz fight, but came back to win and he won the fifth round of that fight. But he was really tired in the ninth and being hit with solid shots, and he was about to go down in the tenth when it was called off.

Mayweather after the fight said that he felt he owed the people a good show after the Pacquiao fight, so his strategy was to win via knockout instead of decision. To do that, he had to fight a style where the goal was to let McGregor win rounds and expend energy, so he could take him out later. The plan was to let McGregor throw heavy stuff early, figuring he would tire at the 25 minute mark, since MMA fights are 25 minutes.

The strategy worked out perfectly. While MMA rounds are harder because they are five minutes, so in a ten round MMA fight, you have 30 minutes of fighting and 9 minutes of rest, while a five round MMA fight has 25 minutes of fighting, but only four minutes of rest. Still, McGregor has gotten tired in five round fights. Plus, the bigger gloves and less experience under the rules were going to tire McGregor out as well.

Mayweather made it clear this was his last fight, and it should be. While he was in tremendous visual shape at 149.5 pounds, he was not the fighter he was even two years ago and couldn’t beat the top fighters today.

Unless he changes his mind, and he shouldn’t, he’ll finish his career with a 50-0 record. Rocky Marciano retired at 49-0 and that is one of the most treasured records in boxing history, although there have been other fighters who have won 50 straight, but all ended up losing before retiring. There were boxing purists who hated that the record was broken in this fight, but the reality is that Mayweather throughout his career fought more championship-level fighters than Marciano, who had some non-fighters in his 49 wins.

He’ll have earned close to $1 billion in the ring, the most money any athlete in history is believed to have earned from sports, and this was expected to be the single biggest one day payoff in sports history.

McGregor, who weighed in at 153, and went into the ring in the 168-170 pound range, giving him roughly a 20 pound weight edge, made his big score. He could box again, but to make big money, he’d have to face one of the few big names, perhaps only somebody like a Miguel Cotto or Canelo Alvarez, to draw any kind of a big number, and there’s no more curiosity in that people have seen him box, and he wouldn’t fare well against either.

The reality is every fighting sport is different and at the top level, skills are specific to the rules of the sport. You can use skills in one sport to be a base for another sport with those same skills, but trying to do two sports at the same time is not a good way to reach the top in either. High-level freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers who tried to do MMA at the same time saw their wrestling success compromised because they are different sports. The same goes in the other direction, and the same goes with kickboxers. Concentrated boxing training competition training will only hurt McGregor’s all-around MMA game and make him less successful in the sport he’s best at.

McGregor, at 29, made it clear that even with the huge payday, he wants to still fight. He opened the door to box again or to do MMA, and in specific, noted that he wanted a trilogy fight with Nate Diaz for the UFC lightweight title. With the possible exception of Georges St-Pierre, Diaz would be the opponent he would draw the best against. But Diaz, who doesn’t care if he fights again because he’s already won based on having enough money to live comfortably, will also be the hardest UFC fighter to get to agree, and he’d have to be guaranteed huge money, since he doesn’t care about championships or notoriety a this point.

McGregor also talked about having money to where he’ll never have to worry about money again, and opening up companies, mentioning a clothing line and an Irish Whiskey line.

As far as the big questions, the money numbers, there is nothing official at press time. The announced attendance was 14,623, so ticket sales were slower than had been reported. No gate was announced. Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather’s manager, claimed it would break the $72 million mark set by Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. Mayweather himself claimed it was $80 million, although no gate was announced and the Nevada Athletic Commission didn’t have any official numbers at press time.

It wasn’t an issue with interest as much as pricing. The lowest price to get in for the tickets that were remaining was $2,718, and even on a secondary market where ticket brokers did not do well, you still couldn’t get in for less than $1,716.

Dana White claimed 6.5 million PPV buys, which would have to be a worldwide number to even have a shot at being accurate. Mayweather vs. Pacquiao did about 4.6 million in the North American market and its worldwide total was closer to 5.5 million.

Early indications were this fight handily beat Mayweather vs. Pacquiao in the U.K. and Ireland, as was expected, as well as in Canada, which is no surprise since MMA is much stronger than boxing in Canada. The indication we had gotten from the cable industry and others with access to numbers were that it did not beat Mayweather vs. Pacquiao’s 4.6 million North American figure.

Mayweather was guaranteed $100 million while McGregor was guaranteed $30 million. If PPV numbers are even close to what White claimed, Mayweather will end up with about $300 million, McGregor with more than $100 million and UFC with more than $50 million.

Unlike most events, where the cable company or satellite company gets 50 percent of the revenue, this fight saw 70 percent go to the promoters and fighters and 30 percent to the cable or satellite companies. The hope was also that there would be more streaming buys, in which case there was no split with the cable companies and a much higher revenue percentage to the promoters and fighters.

It was said to have easily set the record for the most-streamed iPPV in history, although that was a disaster, since both UFC and Showtime had issues due to the number of orders, particularly coming in at the same time. Showtime, which was already sued in Oregon over its stream not working, said that servers went down in California and Florida, and the start of the show was delayed by 20 minutes.

The biggest problems were with UFC.tv. NeuLion, who was handling the streaming for UFC, had said they had scaled up to triple redundancy and added support assistance. But it still crashed. Before fight time, they sent messages to those who ordered but couldn’t get it to work to try and order it through Showtime.

Both UFC and Showtime announced they would refund the money to anyone who ordered but wasn’t able to watch it.

“We always try to put on the biggest and most exciting fights,” said White in a statement to the media. “We want our fans to have the best experience when watching our events. Unfortunately, we didn’t deliver the way we wanted to on Saturday because of NeuLion’s technical issues on UFC.tv. As usual, we always take care of our fans and will fix this. We have started processing refunds immediately for anyone that could not access the fight after purchase.”

Essentially UFC threw NeuLion under the bus and it wouldn’t be surprising that if another event of this magnitude comes up that UFC will stream, that they will get a different partner.

Comcast had issues with people who ordered the show but couldn’t get the show. The problem was they were so understaffed that to get through the prompts to reach a customer service rep was a nightmare, and once you got past the prompts, it was a 90 minute wait to reach a rep. Some gave up and ordered it another way. Others waited and did get through and were able to watch all or most of the fight, but missed the prelims.

We did a story on that aspect, and the key was that a lot of people had issues, but virtually all of them found another to watch it, either Comcast customers ordering it streaming or going to a friends house, those ordering it streaming and having problems then ordering it through cable or satellite providers, or some finding local clubs. A few said they pirated it, but that percentage was low, but virtually nobody who wanted to see it didn’t figure out a way to see it.

Sports bars in many cities were sold out well in advance. In some cities, it was literally impossible to find a place to watch it at an establishment. The Golden One Center in Sacramento sold out in advance for a viewing party at $40, although they didn’t open up the entire arena.

Fathom Events broadcasted the fight in 532 movie theaters which grossed $2,620,183, which would have made it the No. 3 grossing event that day at the theater, and the two movies that beat it were in 3,377 and 3,565 screens respectively and had multiple airings.

It also set a record for most pirated PPV event in history, as there were at least 2.93 million homes or individual devices watching on pirated streams worldwide.

From a gambling standpoint, the amount of money taken in on the fight was the biggest of any sports event in history, beating the Super Bowl. More people bet on this fight, and, because Mayweather won, it was the biggest single winning event for a lot of gambling sites in their history.

While more than 90 percent of the bets were on McGregor, the biggest money bets, including two of more than $1 million, were on Mayweather.

The prelims on FOX for the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor boxing match did about double the usual level of viewers for boxing on the network.

The two hours leading to the pay-per-view broadcast, airing 7-9 p.m. Eastern time and 4-6 p.m. Pacific time, averaged 2,438,000 viewers. FOX broadcasts of boxing, usually with much bigger name fighters, have averaged 1,427,000 viewers so far this year. It was FOX's most watched boxing show in 20 months, dating back to the Danny "Swift" Garcia vs. Robert "Ghost" Guerrero headlined show, which did 2.5 million viewers.

There were another 130,000 viewers watching the show between Fox Deportes and the Fox Sports Go streaming platform.

FOX also aired the pre-fight show, building Mayweather vs. McGregor, which did 1,463,000 viewers, far more than pre-fight shows for any UFC events have done, although they are usually on FS 1.

FS 1 coverage of the post-fight show and weigh-ins did strong numbers, but nothing that would indicate far more interest than one of the bigger UFC shows.

The post-fight show on FS 1 did 368,000 viewers, which was up from 320,000 viewers that the second McGregor vs. Nate Diaz did.

The weigh-in show on Friday did 287,000 viewers, the third most-watched weigh-in for a combat sports event ever on FS 1.

But as compared with a major UFC event, there were far more platforms to watch the weigh-ins and post-fight coverage, including ESPN, which ran the weigh-ins and extensive post-fight coverage.

HBO competed with Mayweather vs. McGregor on pay-per-view with a show that was headlined by Miguel Cotto winning a 12-round unanimous decision over Yoshihiro Kamegai of Japan. The fight from start-to-finish averaged 730,000 viewers and peaked at 805,000. The main event ended about 20 minutes before Mayweather vs. McGregor started, but the show went against the pay-per-view itself.

After 31 years with the name and with one of the most valuable masks in modern Lucha Libre, Dr. Wagner Jr. unmasked in the ring before about 17,000 fans at Arena Ciudad in Mexico City at the end of the 25th TripleMania.

That number was a disappointment as all the talk coming in, even months back, of how many tickets had been sold appears to have been inflated given the final numbers. There were empty seats visible and the stage (smaller than last year when they did 17,000 fans at lower ticket prices) blocked off some seating. Many attributed the empty seats to people who had purchased tickets but then decided to watch Mayweather vs. McGregor, but based on a paid attendance of 14,000,that probably isn’t the case.

The gate was about $625,000, so they fell well short of the million dollar gate number that had been talked about.

Prices were jacked up and while tickets sold well, perhaps because of a lack of trust of the promotion which has constantly false advertised matches all year, the show didn’t sell out far in advance for what was the biggest match in Mexico in years. The public claim by AAA is that the crowd was a sellout of 22,000 fans. There were visible empty seats on the floor even as the main event was starting. It probably didn’t help the walk-up with the announcement that the main event would air on Televisa, Mexico’s biggest network, right after Mayweather vs. McGregor.

The show also aired for free on Twitch, and peaked during the main event with about 50,000 viewers in Spanish and 10,000 in English. Those were considered really big numbers and a huge success, but given that anyone in the world could access it, and it was a free stream, to me those numbers really show just how limited knowledge was of the event streaming, or interest level, or people’s familiarity with watching a show on Twitch really was.

Still, this will be the most-watched wrestling match in North America of the year, and probably in a few decades, and it’s hard to imagine any match at any time being viewed by so many given both the magnitude of the match itself and the circumstances surrounding the television broadcast.

The match aired right after the conclusion of Mayweather vs. McGregor on Televisa Ch. 5, a national network station. There was talk of delaying the match until after the fight was over, to air live, but the decision was made to start the match rather than keep people in the arena waiting, and it aired on television on about a 20 minute delay.

It did a 22.8 rating in Mexico (which means that out of homes that have televisions in Mexico, about two out of every nine homes in the country, on a Saturday night, airing after midnight, was watching the match). That would be approximately 10.6 to 12.3 million viewers (I’ve been given both figures and they may be from different ratings services), in a country with far less than half the population of the U.S. It would be more than double the viewership of any U.S. pro wrestling match dating back several years and a 12.3 million total would be more than anything in North America in more than 25 years.

Mayweather vs. McGregor actually aired on two stations live in Mexico, with the combined numbers on Televisa and TV Azteca being a 38.2 rating and 24.3 million viewers, but the Wagner vs. Psycho match on Televisa actually grew over the Mayweather-McGregor lead-in, meaning that it didn’t just keep the audience already watching, but also got viewers switching over that weren’t watching, likely a lot of the TV-Azteca viewers of the fight.

As far as Televisa was concerned, it turned out to be a great program strategy to keep the boxing audience for another show and lead the station to a monster night. It was also great for the exposure of AAA, which came off like a major promotion in so many people seeing such a high-profile match and emotional post-match before such a large crowd, making pro wrestling look like it is at a popularity peak to the general public.

Wagner Jr. lost a mask vs. mask match with Psycho Clown in what should have been the biggest match in Mexico since the Atlantis vs. Ultimo Guerrero mask vs. mask match at the 2014 CMLL Anniversary show. It was AAA’s biggest match since the Konnan vs. Cien Caras retirement match at Plaza Mexico at the first TripleMania in 1993, which still holds the country’s attendance record with 50,000 fans.

To the surprise of nobody, Wagner Jr. was revealed as 52-year-old Juan Manuel Gonzalez of Torreon, Coahuila. Everyone has known his identity, as the son of the original Dr Wagner, who unmasked as Manuel Gonzalez, losing one of the most famous matches in Mexican history, to former partner El Solitario, on December 1, 1985, at the bullring in Monterrey.

There was a ton of coverage in Mexico, with photos of the unmasked Wagner and the public revealing of his identity.

But in the U.S., the show got far more social media talk because of an incident in the fourth match, a women’s match involving Reina de Reinas champion Sexy Star, and challengers Lady Shani, Ayako Hamada and Rosemary.

The finish of the match was Sexy Star (Dulce Garcia, 34) beating Rosemary (Holly Letkeman, 33) with an armbar at the 9:55 mark, but Sexy Star put the move on and really cranked on it. Rosemary’s elbow popped and there was fear that there was more damage since her arm was all discolored the next day.

Wrestlers, even more than fans, were furious.

“Let me make this perfectly clear,” wrote Letkeman. “If you take liberties with someone’s body when they are giving it to you, and trusting them to keep them safe, you are not tough. You are an asshole. And you don’t belong in this business.

Sexy Star decided to do just that this weekend at TripleMania. And while I have remained quiet on social media until I was more calm to address the situation, I have now been informed that she is telling people that it is a work. You are all now being informed that Sexy Star is a liar. She was a lair in the locker room when she was forced to apologize and instead cooked up some bullshit excuse that she `didn’t know’ and she is a liar now. You know if you are torquing on someone’s arm. You know an armbar is a real and dangerous hold.

The only reason your face is not broken right now is because a little voice inside my head as I lay on the apron kept repeating, `Don’t go to Mexican prison.’

However, turning to positives, the outreach from the wrestling community has been incredible. I’m overwhelmed with how much love I feel right now from friends, fans and people I have yet to meet in this amazing business. We are a family and we protect our own. If you violate that, you are not welcome here.

I also want to thank the AAA locker room. Multiple people came up to me saying how sorry and disgusted they were. Thank you Hamada and Shani, who had to deal with that bullshit from Star during that match. Thank you Vampiro for professionally trying to calm a volatile situation, though, as you know, once the excuses started pouring out of Sexy Star’s mouth in lieu of an apology, it was over. Thank you to the amazing GFW locker room, both present that night and not. I have so much support from everyone, and talent crew and office have all reached out to show me that.”

A few days later, Letkeman said, “My injury is thankfully less severe than anticipated (and certainly much less than has been reported some places). Strained triceps/biceps with swelling around the area. Returning to the ring will come when the doc is happy with my strength and range of motion, but I am optimistic that time lost will be minimal. Can we take one thing from this entire messy situation, that no matter what is going on in our personal lives, we need to take care of each other out there, and I’m not just talking about in the ring. And if you screw up (and we all do), own up to it. Let’s stop making excuses and take accountability for our actions.”

Many GFW wrestlers were furious on social media about Garcia’s actions, but it spread beyond that promotion.

Joey Ryan, who is under contract to Lucha Underground, the same promotion as Garcia, wrote, “Whether it’s dick flips or submissions, we constantly put our health in each others’ hands. If you violate that trust, you’re not one of us.”

“Sexy Star will never set foot in one of my locker rooms,” wrote Cody Runnels (Rhodes). I hope others follow suit.”

Sami Callihan, who is also under contract to Lucha Underground, wrote, “After seeing what happened to Rosemary last night at AAA, I’m outraged. Our generation needs to band together and end shit like this once and for all. We need to end the time of bullying, hazing and garbage behavior in a sport that’s predetermined. How can people take things so serious when this is a world of undead wizards, cowboys, dancing dinosaurs and anything else our imagination can come up with. Our generation can finally change things. We can be the generation to change things for the better. We can be the generation who stands up for people’s rights. I’m sickened and disappointed at the business I love more than anything. This needs to end now.”

Garcia hasn’t said anything publicly although she has told friends that she was attacked first, and there is evidence of that, but the problem is, Rosemary was the only professional once the match got out of hand.

It appears the problems started about 2:30 into the match when Shani landed a sliding kick to Sexy Star’s head. One person close to Garcia said that Shani is a good friend of Taya, and this stems back to the belief, even though Garcia denied this, that Taya was stripped of the title without her knowledge because Garcia had either insisted on the title to return to the promotion, or had promised her the title to entice her to return after she had claimed she had retired from wrestling in Mexico. It is notable that Taya ended up with no involvement in this show, and if she was going to come back and turn this into an angle this would have been the optimum time and place. Her fiancé Johnny Mundo, and Vampiro are still working an angle from the original story.

The belief if Shani got rough with Sexy Star for that reason.

Sexy Star went to recover, and then stopped selling everything Shani threw. Shani then started swinging for real. Sexy has done some boxing training and was recently in a nationally televised boxing match under her real name. Sexy Star went for Shani’s hair at that point. Ref Piero tried to pull them apart. He needed help from Hamada to do so. They went back to all the planned weapons spots in the match. Evidently at some point Sexy also believed Hamada was shooting on her, and it was clear Hamada was not being professional with Sexy Star either. Hamada then hit one of her finishes and Sexy popped up like nothing had happened. Sexy went to do a finisher on Hamada who also no sold it. Then they went to the finish with the armbar.

Someone close to Garcia said that she felt she was being attacked for real by Shani and Hamada and thought all three were against her. But there was no evidence of Rosemary doing anything unprofessional. Worse, Rosemary gave her the arm for the finish, it wasn’t as if this was a fight and Garcia, while fighting, was able to get the armbar and panicked and hurt her. So even with the claim by Garcia’s sister that she was defending herself, that falls apart. Garcia’s sister said that Garcia was the one attacked first and that everyone is taking Rosemary’s side in this because she can speak English and has gotten sympathy with the American audience. But as noted, there is no evidence that Rosemary was anything but an innocent victim and there’s no defending that Rosemary gave her the arm with the trust inherent in pro wrestling to end the mess of a match.

There had been words publicly in the week before the show when Sexy Star had ripped the other AAA women wrestlers and Shani ripped her back, but AAA may have just viewed this as them building up their match even though the tone was unlike usual pre-match build.

In addition, on Talk is Jericho, in an interview that aired after TripleMania, but was taped before, Taya jokingly wished her friend Shani would beat up Sexy Star in the TripleMania match. It’s noted that there were all kinds of warnings to AAA before the match that something could get out of control between Shani and Sexy, but they didn’t change the match.

In the interview, Taya said she is still under contract to AAA, but said she didn’t know where she stood and right now was taking time off from Mexico. She told the same story reported here, that AAA asked her fiancé to come to Mexico with his belt for some photo shoots and bring her belt as well since they wanted to do some shooting, and then when he got there, they asked if they could keep the belt for more shots.

Taya said that she contacted Dorian Roldan when her fiancé came back without the belt, and he said it was nothing to worry about. She found out the next day, through social media, that she had been stripped of the title.

She said she didn’t like losing it, but if she was going to be stripped of it, she would have filmed a promo or done an angle or did whatever AAA wanted for her to give it up if they had only asked. She said her issues were that

Vampiro ripped on her in social media, claimed she wouldn’t show up to defend the title, which never happened, attacked her professionally and she noted that she stayed loyal to AAA while many of her friends in AAA had left to go to The Crash. Of the key people close to Konnan, Taya was the only one who stayed with AAA.

AAA has said nothing publicly about this. Sexy Star was then pulled from her WrestleCade booking in the U.S. this weekend, and the promotion replaced her with Rosemary making an appearance since she likely can’t wrestle with the injury. She will likely be losing a lot of her American bookings, which pay better than Mexico because of the peso-dollar exchange rate. She’s already only working major shows in Mexico and is done as a full-timer and had announced her retirement in the past.

GFW released a statement on the show and the incident saying:

“It was an honor for GFW to be invited to participate in TripleMania XXV, held this past weekend in Mexico City. The AAA talent that we have worked with have been consummate professionals and the company organized and delivered an extraordinary event, in which both DJZ and Andrew Everett had spectacular showings following their recent surgeries. While the incident with Sexy Star marred an outstanding show, AAA executives have confirmed to us that appropriate measures are being taken in respect of this incident. Both AAA and Sexy Star have apologized to Rosemary.”

The one thing I can’t quite comprehend is this. You can apologize if in swinging, you accidentally land a kick to the face that hurts a guy because his face was slightly closer at the point of impact than you expected. You can’t apologize if you suplex somebody and you slip and he doesn’t land well. But cranking on an armbar, which means deliberate intentions to break an elbow, that is not something you can apologize for.

\ The WrestleCade promotion released this statement:

“The WrestleCade team has read the online reports, watched the video and saw both deleted and still posted tweets regarding the incident between Sexy Star and Rosemary at this weekend’s AAA TripleMania event. We have now heard from Rosemary, who has said it was obvious to her that Sexy Star tried to intentionally injure her after their match had ended.

There is no place for this in professional wrestling. Therefore, we have made the decision not to bring Sexy Star to WrestleCade weekend. We’re sorry for the fans who were looking forward to meeting her, but we encourage you to read the reports and we hope you’ll agree with our decision.”

Saraya-Jade “Paige” Bevis wrote: “Sending my love to my girl Rosemary. The whole wrestling world is behind you. No room for bullies in this business.”

While one can’t disagree with her position, it is notable the situation with the fight her fiancé had in Mexico with a wrestler and the incident with his own brother at the police station in Europe.

For years the idea of Wagner losing his mask was almost unthinkable, partially because of the amount of money he was asking for being something a promoter couldn’t make back given the nature of the Mexican economy when it came to wrestling.

But this was the plan dating back more than a year, before the match was announced and before the year-long build kicked off at last year’s TripleMania show. Wagner and L.A. Park had, for years, been running mates and would issue mask vs. mask challenges with the idea of a major stadium show that some promoter would put together, and promise a giant payoff for the loser. Wagner has had agreements to lose his mask dating back at least 17 years, with the first recipient of it scheduled to be Rayo de Jalisco Jr. in 2000, and many times promoters believed he was in programs that would lead to his giving up his mask, only for him to end up in arguments with the promotion and leaving. There were those expecting a blow-up during the year, or a change, particularly when AAA adopted the policy of changing advertised cards left and right.

According to a source with knowledge of all the numbers of the show, Wagner received 4.5 million pesos for agreeing to lose his mask, which is $255,443.79 U.S., considered a fortune in Mexico and by far the largest payoff in the history of Lucha Libre.

Psycho Clown, on the other hand, earned $4,541.22, and notably, had agreed to a figure of 500,000 pesos ($28,382.64) if they wanted him to drop his mask. Because they could have gotten a clean finish for less money, some insiders have second-guessed the decision, particularly with the crowd so pro-Wagner the night of the show. But the feeling is Psycho is the company’s hottest singles star and losing the mask at this stage of his career would hurt him, because there isn’t a lot of value to an unmasked wrestler with the name Psycho Clown. Wagner is at the end of his career, and AAA got an incredible amount of publicity, because of the legend of the Wagner name, far more than if Psycho would have lost.

That meant the main eventers got 41.6 percent of the gate, which is an usually higher figure, although it’s really Wagner who got the payoff that inflates that percentage.

Regarding the teases and talks about Park vs. Wagner in a mask match, we’d been told that promoters have been approached over the years, but with the amount he was wanting, you couldn’t even make it back and it never made any economic sense, but with jacked up prices and TripleMania, it finally did. In 2012, when Park and Wagner were shopping their masks to independent promoters with the idea of someone risking a stadium show, they were asking $77,710 for the loser and $23,313 to the winner. At the time if they could have gotten that figure, either was willing to lose their mask, but they never got that guarantee from anyone.

In 2007, Paco Alonso was looking at doing an Atlantis vs. Wagner mask match. Wagner at the time was offered $37,000 to lose his mask that year, but he declined that figure. Atlantis was then offered $37,000 to lose his mask, and he also declined. Alonso then decided against doing the match, but never held any grudge or ill feelings toward either guy, just taking it as business.

Because of how many times over the years Wagner had been in talks of losing his mask, and how many times in recent years he’d start programs and walk out, there was always the thought, right up to the last week, of people wondering if Wagner would get cold feet or the ending being changed, or a screw job happening like a late third person thrown in, which after a year of hype, would have been a disaster.

Those fears were seemingly alleviated when both came to the ring. Psycho Clown came out alone, even though his wife and kids were shown many times during the match, and a ton of family and friends were there. Wagner came out with his sons and his extended family, and remembering the closing scenes of the biggest mask matches, part of the past match atmosphere is all the family members being sad in the ring together.

Wagner said he wanted to be known from this point forward as Rey Wagner, as he wants his son to be the only Dr. Wagner. I can’t imagine him no longer being billed as Dr. Wagner Jr., since it is such a famous name in Mexico.

Even though Psycho Clown is the long-time AAA top babyface star, Wagner is a real legend and the crowd was said to be easily 75 percent pro-Wagner. In these types of matches, the fans often think about how long somebody was around and the legend of their mask and status. In this case, Dr. Wagner Jr. started under that name in 1986, and the Dr. Wagner name dates back in Mexican culture to his father, Manuel Gonzalez, going back nearly 55 years.

In fact, one of the most legendary stories in Lucha Libre history dates back to the debut of Wagner Jr. He actually started his career in 1985 under the name El Invasor, because it was felt that as the son of Wagner, it was too much to live up to for a guy just starting. But he improved so quickly that after only one year, they were set for the big debut of Dr. Wagner Jr., on April 27, 1986, in a major match where Dr. Wagner & Dr. Wagner Jr. would face Angel Blanco (the long-time tag team partner of Dr. Wagner, Wagner & Blanco were one of the most famous tag teams in Lucha Libre history, but by this point the two had split and were in a huge bloody program) & Angel Blanco Jr.

While riding to the show, the car carrying Wagner Sr., Blanco Sr., Solar, Mano Negra and Jungla Negra had one of its tires explode, and then lost control and crashed. Blanco Sr. (Jose Vargas) was killed. Wagner Sr. suffered severe spinal damage and ended up wheelchair bound, so Wagner Jr. never teamed up with father, a Hall of Fame wrestler.

Wagner Jr. very quickly became a major star, and in 1990, beat Astro de Oro to win the UWA world junior heavyweight championship. His career record included winning the AAA mega heavyweight title twice, the CMLL world light heavyweight title twice, the UWA world junior heavyweight title twice, the NWA world light heavyweight title, the CMLL trios title four ties and CMLL tag team title four times.

Even though most of the matches on the show were described as a mess, one person who has been attending wrestling all over the world for at least 20 or 30 years told us this was the loudest crowd for any match he had ever seen live.

On June 14, 2004, Wagner Jr. defeated Canek, the perennial UWA heavyweight champion in a match in Mexico City. The UWA promotion actually had folded in 1995, but because it was so big in its heyday, its titles lived on and Canek for years continued to defend the title, sometimes dropping it to other people to set up winning it back. It was always Canek’s belt, dating back to his 1978 win over Lou Thesz, the first champion. Wagner Jr. remained champion since 2004.

Both La Mascara and Maximo were at the show, since Psycho Clown is the brother of Maximo and cousin of La Mascara. Dorian Roldan tried to get them to jump from The Crash and debut in an angle but they turned him down.

Rush was also at the show and he was given a one-year offer to leave both CMLL and Crash, and promised the main event spot at next year’s TripleMania where he’d put his hair at stake against someone, and he also turned him down. Roldan then asked him for one favor, and that was to not go to Crash, which was funny because it wasn’t a secret that negotiations with Rush and Crash were going on. Whether Roldan knew how close they were to making a deal, we don’t know, but there had been people over the previous few days expecting the Rush deal to be announced publicly at any moment.

There were all kinds of issues regarding AAA and GFW, largely based on the disorganization of the event. The GFW talent was never picked up and brought to a press conference. There were a lot of questions regarding Jeff Jarrett’s performance. However, Jeremy Borash is scheduled to be representing GFW at the next several AAA TV tapings in Mexico, so there is no indication at all that what happened this past week is leading to the relationship between the sides ending. There was talk about Jeff Jarrett’s condition in the completely disorganized Rumble type match. The announcers who did the show noted they had no format. People backstage involved in running and shooting the show noted they had no format.

1. In the first match in the Llave a la Gloria tournament finals, essentially a showcase for new talent that had been going on for some time, Ashley & Dragon Solar & Pardux & Solaris beat Bronco Gonzalez Jr. & Chicano & Fetiche & Hahastary when Dragon Solar pinned Fetiche in 6:41.

2. Angelikal & El Hijo del Vikingo & The Tigger beat Angel Mortal Jr. & Tiger Boy & Villano III Jr. In 7:28.

Later in the show, the wrestlers from these matches were brought out. It was announced that Vikingo (who was the standout performer in a lot of people’s eyes), Angelikal and Ashley were winners and I guess would join the roster, but that everyone in the group would be part of a new AAA training school.

3. Hernandez & Hiedra & Mamba & Mini Psycho Clown beat Mascara de Bronce & Big Mami & Estrella Divina & Dinastia in 6:42. This was the frequent AAA big show opener type match with teams of a man, woman, exotico and mini. The finish saw Hiedra hit Mami with a chair and Mamba pinned her. The match was fast paced with a lot of dives and comedy, with the heavy Mami kissing Hernandez. Hernandez power bombed Bronce on the stage, taking him out.

4. Sexy Star retained her Reina de Reinas title in a four-way over Lady Shani, Ayako Hamada and Rosemary in 9:55. This was the most talked about match on the show. It fell apart quickly when Shani started throwing stiff shots at Sexy, who then just walked out and went to the floor. They started using weapons on each other. Once Hamada threw a garbage can from the floor to the ring, but she didn’t throw it over the ropes, it bounced back and almost hit her in the face. Sexy beat Rosemary with the armbar and you know the rest. Martha Villalobos, a woman star with the group in the 90s, came out to present the championship to Sexy Star after the match.

5. Monsther & Murder Clown won the AAA tag titles in a four-way over previous champs Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria, Aerostar & Drago and the GFW team of DJZ & Andrew Everett in 13:23. The big spot in this match was Aerostar climbing to the top of the lighting grid and leaping off onto everyone. Aerostar had to climb on top of Monsther’s shoulders and grab the lighting rig and pull himself to the top. They had lowered the rig so he could get to it, and then when he did, they raised to a ridiculous height, said to be 30 feet above the ring. He stayed up there for several minutes, building up the excitement, until he jumped onto everyone in one of the scariest spots imaginable. An issue with this is the production team didn’t want to miss his dive, so they focused on him just hanging and missed a ton of action going on in the ring. There was a bunch of interference as Poder del Norte came out and attacked everyone. Raptor then made the save and attacked him. Then Dave the Clown and Marty the Moth Martinez, neither of whom were announced, showed up. Marty wore clown make-up and those two helped Monsther Murder win the match.

Next up was Dorian, Marisela and Stefany Roldan coming out to talk about Antonio Pena and Joaquin Roldan. This was a bad deal as this was the family paying their respects to the two people who ran the company during its entire run until Joaquin’s death. And the fans booed and heckled the segment. Marisela, Joaquin’s wife and Pena’s sister, was not happy and even acknowledged it. There was then a tribute video showing people who have passed away over the past year.

6. La Parks won the Torneo TripleMania Rumble style match in 26:14. The other participants were Argenis, Bengala, Australian Suicide, Faby Apache, Pimpinela Escarlata, Averno, Chessman, Super Fly, Bobby Lashley, Jeff Jarrett, Moose, Decnis, Scorpio Jr., Zumbido, Histeria, Maniaco, Psicosis, Halloween, Mr. Aguila, X-Fly, Crazy Boy, Joe Lider, Nino Hamburguesa, Heavy Metal (the 90s star), Lanzeloth, Ricky Marvin, Blue Demon Jr., Cobarde Jr., and Pirata Morgan. It was an unwieldy match. There were teams of three that entered together, but once they got in the match, it was every8one for themselves. Joe Lider had been advertised on the Perros Del Mal team, but instead, he was on the Mexican Powers team. X-Fly ended up on the Perros Del Mal team. Lider then turned on the Mexican Powers and joined the Perros during the match. At ringside as lumberjacks were Sangre Chicana, an 80s and 90s legend, Cobarde, another 90s star, May Flowers, Los Vatos Locos, the original Los Payasos who were a big deal trio in the 90s and Mascarita Sagrada returning after his injury (there were some who thought it was not the Lucha Underground and AAA wrestler under the mask, because his body changed while being out with an injury, but we’re told it is the same guy). When Los Perros del Mal came out, it was Halloween, Damian 666, X-Fly and Khan del Mal, who is not a wrestler, but is the guy who owns the rights to the name and handles the merchandise, the cousin of Perro Aguayo Jr. Histeria was the CMLL wrestler Morphosis, which means he’s left the promotion. When Team GFW was to come out, Lashley came out alone. A minute later they counted down and nobody came out. 30 seconds later Moose came out, with no countdown clock signaling. When the countdown was ready for another guy to come out, Jarrett came out and he looked in bad shape. Near the finish, after La Parka threw somebody out, they played his music. Evidently the guy in charge of the music had it all cued up since Parka was winning, but he messed up thinking it was the finish when it wasn’t. Worse, the ring announcer then announced Parka as the winner. But the match kept going. Parka was then left with Averno, Chessman and Super Fly. Morgan, who had been eliminated, turned on Super Fly and eliminated him. Averno then turned on Chessman and pinned him. Parka then rolled up Averno to win. Latin Lover then came out to present Parka with a new championship belt that the winner would get.

7. Pagano vs. Mesias went to a no contest in 16:41 although the match probably ended about two minutes earlier before it was officially over. The match was stopped when the doctors were checking on Mesias and wouldn’t let him continue after Pagano hit him with a barbed wire bat to the side of the leg when Mesias was on the top rope. This was said to be the worst match on the show. Fans expected a weapons bloodbath and Pagano had talked about using fire. Fans were chanting for “Lucha Extrema,” meaning a weapons match, which is the AAA specialty since CMLL never does that stuff. With Mesias on the ground selling the injury, a security guard attacked Pagano, who turned out to be Rey Escorpion, who had just jumped from CMLL to Crash, and apparently has now moved here. He’s a good worker, but the AAA Audience didn’t even know who he was. Then he knocked Mesias off the stretcher. The crowd booed this. The real big surprise here was no blood.

8. Johnny Mundo retained the AAA Mega heavyweight title, the AAA cruiserweight title and the Latin American heavyweight title in a three-way ladder match over El Texano Jr. and El Hijo del Fantasma in 22:04. The action in this match was really good but there were complaints about it being overbooked. Fantasma did his arrow tope which is maybe the best in the world. He tried to put Texano through a table, but it didn’t break. He tried another spot to put him through a table, which also didn’t break. Fantasma ended up being cut open legit from the table not breaking and was dripping blood all over the place. Then, after a third attempt, they broke the table. Mundo was supposed to take a bump off the top of the ladder through two tables. But he completely missed on table and bounced off the other which looked brutal. Texano was bleeding like crazy, which was from a blade. The crowd was really into it and there was one good spot after another. Fantasma back dropped Texano off one ladder onto another, and was ready to win the three belts. Kevin Kross then came out and he blocked Fantasma from winning. Mascara de Bronce, who was injured earlier in the show, ran in to go after Kross. Next in was Hernandez. Bronce did a dive onto Hernandez. Kross choke slammed Bronce on the apron. Kross then knocked Texano off a ladder and Texano fell through a table. Mundo then climbed to the top and grabbed one of the belts and the music played. It was never made clear that one belt would determine the winner and the thought was you’d have to grab all three. Mundo then called out Vampiro and told Vampiro to put the belt around his waist. He threw another belt at Vampiro. Vampiro went to put the belt around Mundo’s waist, which took longer than expected since he couldn’t figure out how to get the belt to stay around Mundo’s waist. This took forever. Then Vampiro had enough and choke slammed Mundo. He grabbed the mic to encourage fans to chant his name. At first, the fans didn’t, so Vampiro said, “en mi casa cono mi gente, me respecta,” which is one of Wagner’s trademark lines, and with this crowd was going to get a pop. He started leading the crowd in Vampiro chants and it did work. Fantasma and Texano had to just sit there bleeding while all this was going on. Then, after Vampiro left, Fantasma and Texano got chairs and started hitting each other with them over and over and brawled until security pulled them apart.

9. Psycho Clown pinned Dr. Wagner Jr. in 28:42 of a mask vs. mask match. Psycho bled a ridiculous amount early. They brawled through the crowd for a long time. Psycho made a comeback and did two topes. He went for a somersault dive but crashed and burned. He may have not been supposed to miss since he no sold the crash and next did a dive into the crowd and hit Wagner. Fans started throwing beer at Psycho. Psycho started tearing up Wagner’s mask. At the match went on, the crowd sensed the end was near and they were on fire, given the magnitude of the stipulations. They were buying every near fall big. Dr. Wagner III started interfering, and even though the crowd was behind Wagner, they hated his son interfering to help him. Both were beating up on Psycho. Wagner twice hit his Wagner (Michinoku) driver for near falls. The finish surprised fans as Psycho used a superplex, a backbreaker and a Code Red, which was called a Canadian Destroyer and got the pin. Fans were shocked since Psycho doesn’t usually use that move. Most of the crowd was mad except for the 25 percent who were behind Psycho. The post-match was filled with fans crying, some heavily, and most of the Wagner family in tears. La Mascara and Maximo came out, since they were Psycho’s family, and raised his hand and celebrated the win. Wagner announced his name as Juan Manuel Gonzalez Barron, and his age and hometown. He then said that his son would take over the legacy of Dr. Wagner, and down the line would avenge this loss for the family. When he unmasked his hair and beard were greyish and he looked his age. Until a few weeks ago, he had dyed his hair and beard blonde and with his physique, looked much younger than 52, and it’s weird he’d change that for when he was unmasked. Wagner and his family didn’t stick around in the ring that long. Psycho Clown ended the show doing a speech, where he encouraged the fans to sing for the legend of Wagner. It came across like a monumental piece of history, but not at the level of Atlantis vs. Ultimo Guerrero.

Ric Flair remains doing better, but he is still hospitalized in Atlanta at press time.

His fiancé, Wendy Barlow, wrote on 8/28, “I wanted to update everyone on Ric’s progress as so many people have been reaching out and offering their prayers and support. He is doing very well for a man who has been through so much. He will begin physical therapy shortly and will be stronger than ever and back out enjoying all the fans sooner than you would think. I can honestly say I have witnessed a miracle.”

It does appear that the worst part of the situation is over and his situation is no longer life threatening.

There was a tweet from the Ric Flair account that read, “Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been, to stand up taller than you ever were. Natich will be back.”

Flair, 68, is still not closer to 100 percent but has been able to get out of the hospital bed in recent days and his life is no longer in serious danger, but he still has a long recovery. He is expected to be moved to a physical therapy unit within the next few days.

There was a time early in the ordeal where doctors gave Flair only a 20 percent chance to survive surgery to remove part of his bowel, which was obstructed and caused him great pain and his being rushed to the hospital. Even if he did survive the surgery itself, his odds of survival were still not strong.

A good sign is that his daughter, Ashley Fliehr (Charlotte) made her first public appearance since her father was battling for his life a few weeks ago, on 8/25, before starting back on the Smackdown house show tour the next day.

While she wasn’t on television, working the dark match main event against Natalya in a title match on 8/29 in Little Rock, she did a short web site interview saying that her father has nine lives, that she appreciates all the messages she’s gotten from people and the prayers and that she wouldn’t be back on the road if she didn’t think it was okay to be back on the road, noting that it was the hardest two weeks of her life.

What Culture Pro Wrestling featured much of the best pro wrestling in the world this past week, with the last few rounds of their 64-man World Cup tournament, which ended with Kushida beating Will Ospreay on 8/26 in Newcastle.

The result was a surprise, given it’s a U.K. promotion and Ospreay had just lost too Kushida in the finals of this year’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament.

With talent like the two finalists, along with the likes of Zack Sabre Jr., Rey Mysterio Jr., Penta 0M, Ricochet, Hiromu Takahashi and Speedball Mike Bailey in the final rounds, people raved about the action.

The question still remains as far as What Culture and bringing in top stars with its primary method of distribution remaining YouTube, which nets next to nothing in revenue.

The shows were in smaller buildings. Even in the finals, in a small building the likes of which New Japan would run a spot show or NXT would run for a touring show, while the floor was packed, in shots where you could see the balcony, it was empty. It was a very hardcore crowd filled with Bullet Club T-shirts.

The most-viewed match was in the round of 16, where Ospreay beat Mysterio Jr., was a match that came across as like a passing of the torch. The match was ****½, and the post match saw Ospreay, almost in tears, talk about how Mysterio was his childhood hero. He said that as a kid, he wanted to see Mysterio wrestle so badly but his family could only afford for him to get nosebleed seats when he came on a WWE tour, but now he’s sharing the ring with him. He sad that Mysterio is the reason so many of the current stars got into wrestling. The reality is if it wasn’t for Mysterio’s success, the door would have been closed to anyone under probably 180 pounds but Mysterio opened the door for smaller people. He said that all of the evolution of the business that’s going on could have never happened without Mysterio leading the way. Mysterio talked about Ospreay as being the future of wrestling. He said that he had talked to Ricochet before and Ricochet had told him he was going to love wrestling Ospreay, and he said that Ricochet was right. He then gave Ospreay a mask as a token of respect and also for Ospreay to always remember the match by. A lot of fans were crying at this scene, which was really something to see.

That show did about 63,000 viewers live on YouTube and between different sources, it appears that after the fact the match itself did another 343,000 views because of the word-of-mouth, perhaps as much from the post-match.

That dwarfed everything else in the tournament. The finals did 82,000 views live and Kushida vs. Ospreay did another 19,000 after the fact for what was also a ****½ match. It was not as good as their Best of the Super Juniors match, but that was one of the best matches of an already incredible in-ring year.

Kushida reached the finals by earlier in the show beating Joseph Conners, the late tournament replacement for Michael Elgin, who was in Mexico for CMLL and their World Grand Prix. The WWE allowed Conners, who they have under contract, to be in the tournament after previously not allowing their talent to appear on What Culture events since they are streamed live on YouTube.

The week started with an iPPV on a Tuesday, 8/22, from Leeds, UK. 1. Gabriel Kidd beat Lucky Kid with a running knee to keep the Internet title in 5:00.

2. Hiromu Takahashi pinned Mike Bailey with the time bomb in 12:00. Very good match. Darryl got a big reaction. There looked to be a mistake in the finish as it appeared Bailey kicked out, and Takahashi thought so too, but the ref waved off the match.

3. Jay Lethal won a three-way elimination match over Drake and Angelico. Lethal pinned Angelico, whose legs were being held down by Drake. Lethal pinned Drake at 8:00 to take the match. Also good action. Lethal wanted Drake to shake his hands after, which Drake did, but Drake attacked Lethal after.

4. Rampage pinned Penta 0M in 9:00 after a piledriver in a good match with hard strikes.

5. BT Gunn beat Primate to win the hardcore title in 15:00. The match was stopped by the referee when Primate passed out while caught in the crossface. They used chairs and tables. Gunn continued to beat on Primate after the match.

6. Kushida beat Travis Banks with a top rope armdrag into the hoverboard lock in 15:00 of an excellent match.

7. Martin Kirby beat Alex Garcia via DQ in 11:00 when Bad Bones attacked Kirby.

8. War Machine retained the WCPW tag titles over Mark Briscoe & Lethal in 15:00. Jay Briscoe was supposed to be in the match but couldn’t wrestle due to a back injury. Jay Briscoe asked if Lethal could replace him and War Machine agreed as long as the match was under War Machine rules. Said to be an excellent fast-paced match.

9. Rey Mysterio Jr. pinned Ricochet in 17:00 after a 619 and a splash off the top rope. Ricochet after the match was saying that after seeing Mysterio in matches this week and working with him, that he thinks Mysterio is the best worker in the entire business right now.

10. Marty Scurll pinned Will Ospreay in 20:00 with a powerslam. This is the top singles match in the U.K. in the ring and has been for some time. During the entire show there was a show-long story regarding Joe Hendry recruiting Ospreay to join Prestige, his heel faction. The story was that Ospreay would make the decision at the end of the show. Hendry, BT Gunn and Banks came to the ring. They did the typical overdone tease where he’s going to join, before he gave Banks and Gunn a double Oscutter and Hendry ran from the ring to end the show.

The round of 16 took place on 8/23 in Milton Keynes, before a crowd of 1,200 fans. The tournament saw:

1. Bailey (Canada) beat Banks (New Zealand) in what was said to have been a strong match. The two wrestled each other for the first time. Bailey wasn’t known coming out but fans got into him with his great flying moves, with Bailey winning after a shooting star kneedrop.

2. Penta (Mexico) beat Bad Bones John Klinger (Germany) with Bones kicking out of a Canadian Destroyer, but Penta won with a package piledriver.

3. War Machine & Scurll beat Hendry & Gunn & Ligero (Prestige). Fantastic action and the crowd went wild. Scurll pinned Ligero to win. War Machine left and the Prestige group beat down Scurll and took out his leg.

4. Hiromu Takahashi (Japan) beat Lucky Kid (Germany). Kid was a complete unknown but won the crowd over. Not as good as some of the matches but both looked good.

5. Ricochet (U.S.) beat Angelico (South Africa). Less high flying than you’d think from these two. Ricochet won via submission.

6. Joseph Conners (England) beat Joe Coffey (Scotland). The match was scheduled as Michael Elgin vs. Coffey, but Elgin pulled out of the show since he was sent to Mexico for CMLL. The expectation was Coffey would get a bye to the next round, but Conners, who is under WWE contract, was an unannounced surprise. Conners was one of What Culture’s biggest stars through December, when he signed with WWE. WWE gave him permission to work as a replacement and the reaction to the surprise blew the roof off. Solid match.

7. Kushida (Japan) beat Kenny Williams (Scotland) in a good match, using his back to the future finisher. Kushida gave Williams his bomber jacket after the match. Williams, then took off his boots and gave them to Kushida as a present.

8. Zack Sabre Jr. (England) beat Jay Lethal (U.S.) in an excellent match. Sabre was over bigger than ever because of his success in the G-1. Lethal went for the Lethal injection, but in mid-move, Sabre caught the arm and got the submission with an armbar.

9. Ospreay (England) beat Mysterio in about 20:00. Both looked tremendous Really, Mysterio looked like Rey Mysterio in the 90s here. Ospreay won clean with the Oscutter.

The quarterfinals took place on 8/24 in Manchester, before 500 fans:

1. Ricochet beat Penta in a great match. This time Ricochet brought out all the high flying while Penta did the hard hitting moves. Ricochet won with a bridging pin.

2. Conners pinned Takahashi with a small package. Takahashi worked as a heel but the crowd cheered him. It was mostly Takahashi working over the leg, and that was different from the other matches.

3. Ospreay beat Bailey in 22:00. This was excellent. Bailey did a lot of great kicks, and a moonsault double kneedrop on the apron, a shooting star double kneedrop and a great huracanrana out of nowhere. At one point fans were chanting “Five Star Classic.” Ospreay won with his Paul Robinson kick and Oscutter. To many, this was the best match of the week.

4. Kushida beat Sabre Jr. in a long match, with a bridging pin.

The semifinals and finals were on 8/26 in Newcastle.

1. Kushida beat Conners in 17:51, Conners was clearly not at the level of the top guys in the tournament, but Kushida worked well with him Kushida worked on the arm building to armbar and hoverboard lock spots. Conners got a near fall with his Don’t Look Down finisher. The match was good, but the finish was great as Kushida had the hoverboard lock and every time Conners would just about make the ropes, Kushida would hold on and roll to the center until finally Conners submitted. ***½

2. Ospreay beat Ricochet in 16:49. This was very different from their previous matches. They did some of their super athletic stuff, but not as much. It was more telling a story with Ricochet dominating the match and Ospreay refusing the quit. They shouldn’t have done their New Japan match here since they were early in the show, not the main event, and this match was to build the story for the main event. Much of the tournament was about Ospreay selling. The problem is this crowd was expecting the super high spot match. I’m not saying they were disappointed because they got enough of the great athletic stuff here and ended up with a blow away main event, but they also weren’t looking for storytelling in this match. The crowd was definitely into it, but when they were doing the storytelling, the crowd wasn’t reacting and was just waiting for them to do big moves, unlike in the main event that had very different crowd feel. They did a big high spot early while both were still in their robes, and then Ricochet hit a Hijo del Fantasma level tope, a suplex on the stage and another tope, then a springboard 450. But most of it was Ricochet beating down Ospreay and telling him to stay down but he kept getting up. Ricochet did two German suplexes, tried a third but Ospreay reversed it into reverse code red front rolling cradle for the pin. ***3/4

3. Kushida beat Ospreay in 17:58 to win the tournament. Ospreay was selling his neck before the match, similar to Okada in G-1. The idea was that Ricochet damaged him but he squeaked out the win, but this match was about him selling again. He was doing a Ricky Morton caliber job of that. The crowd was much hotter for this than the earlier matches, like they were into the tournament championship itself as a big deal. The first 40 seconds of the match were crazy, as the bell rang and Ospreay hit a space flying tiger drop. He went for a shooting star press, but Kushida got his feet up. Kushida did a flip plancha to the floor. Later, Ospreay did a springboard crossbody to the floor over the barricade with Kushida roughly two rows deep in the seats. Ospreay and Kushida both climbed the ropes and Kushida jumped off the top rope with a flying armbar. Kushida changed it to a triangle. Ospreay escaped with a one arm power bomb that took out ref Steve Lynsky. Bea Priestly, Ospreay’s girlfriend, jumped into the ring and went to hit Kushida with a title belt. He stopped her from doing so. Then she handed him the belt and told him to do so. He refused and ordered her to leave. The idea is he had the opportunity to cheat to win, but refused to do so. Kushida got the hoverboard lock and the crowd went nuts for the rope break. Both men traded Kawada kicks. Kushida went for his right straight punch but Ospreay blocked the punch and hit the rainmaker, but couldn’t finish Kushida. Kushida got the hoverboard lock and went for back to the future, but Ospreay countered into a stunner. He tried the move a second time but Ospreay blocked and used the oscutter off the middle rope for a great near fall. Ospreay hit the Paul Robinson kick and went for the oscutter, but Kushida reversed that into back to the future and got the pin. After the match, Ospreay got the big Japan style trophy and handed it to Kushida and he and everyone in his corner, including his girlfriend, bowed to Kushida. ****½

There is the distinct possibility that the rivalry between Kyle Snyder of the U.S. and Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia may go down as one of the biggest in the history of the actual sport of wrestling.

Both prodigies, world champions as teenagers against adults, gold medalists at 20, and perhaps the pound-for-pound best wrestlers in the world met in what amateur wrestling officials were calling the match of the century on 8/26 in Paris, France.

Sadulaev, 21, nicknamed The Russian Tank, was, until this past weekend, considered the best freestyle wrestler, regardless of size, in the world. He took world championships in his age group at the ages of 15 and 16, even though he didn’t start in the sport at a competitive level until the age of 13. He was competing in the open division by the age of 17, where he took third in the Russian nationals. Competing in the biggest tournaments all over the world, he hadn’t lost a match since the age of 17, winning world championships at 18 and 19, and last year, took the gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Snyder, also 21, about seven months older than Sadulaev, a two-time NCAA champion at Ohio State, came into the tournament with his own set of impressive credentials. Competing internationally at 213 pounds, he won his first age group world championship at 17, became the youngest American ever to win an open division world championship at 19, and also took an Olympic gold medal.

Sadulaev moved up to 213 pounds this year with the expressed purpose of beating Snyder. Both men blew away the competition to set up a championship match with even more at stake.

Not only was the individual title at stake, as well as the unofficial title of the best pound-for-pound wrestler , but as the main event, with the U.S. and Russia tied for first place, the winner would also capture the team championships for their country. Russia has dominated the world freestyle championships, winning every year but one (Iran won in 2013) since 2005. In history, the U.S. has only won two freestyle world championships, in 1993 and 1995 (which Snyder noted was the year he was born), but most experts felt the country was fielding its strongest team in years, paced by Snyder, Jordan Burroughs, Thomas Gilman, James Green and J’Den Cox.

Sadulaev got first blood with a takedown to go up 2-0. The crowd was on fire watching this as Snyder got a takedown to tie the score at 3-3. In international wrestling, a key is that if the score is tied, the person who scores last is the winner. But then Sadulaev got a takedown to go up 5-3 with two minutes left. Snyder closed it to 5-4 with a push-out with 40 seconds left, and then got a takedown with 24 seconds left, and held on to win 6-5.

Given the ages of both competitors, and just how close and competitive the match was, there is a very good chance this could be a multi-year rivalry, with this being the first of many chapters.

“I lost the battle, but not the war,” said Sadulaev, translated to English. “I don’t make excuses. Congrats to Snyder. He was the better man tonight, but I’ll be back. See you soon.”

“Just happy man, I’d have been happy with that performance even if I lost, because I wrestled really hard,” said Snyder. “I’m really happy with my performance. I felt stronger than him. I think he was smaller for the weight class so that was the first thing I thought of.

“This was the match I was least nervous for,” he said. “I was so excited, so thankful for the challenge and opportunity. He was a great opponent. Hopefully we can continue to compete against each other because the match was fun for everybody.

“The only thing that would have made this better was if it was in Moscow, in front of his home crown. No. 2 would have been if it was in the United States.

“It was the greatest moment of my wrestling career, for sure,” he said putting it ahead of winning the Olympic gold medal last year.

Earlier in the day, Burroughs defeated Russia’s Khetik Tsabolov 9-6 to win his fourth world championship to go along with his 2012 gold medal. Like with Snyder, this was a come-from-behind win in the closing seconds as Tsabolov was up 6-5 with one minute left. Burroughs went up 7-6 with a takedown with 47 seconds left, and then got one more takedown seconds before time expired. After not medaling in the Olympics, where he was the gold medal favorite (he’d only lost one match in many years leading up to the Olympics, and that was his fourth match on the day of the 2014 World championships after in his first match, he sprained his MCL).

At 154 pounds, American James Green captured a silver medal, losing the gold medal match to Frank Chimizo by an 8-0 score.

At 125.5 pounds, Thomas Gilman captured a silver medal, losing to Japan’s Yuki Takahashi 6-0 in the finals.

Two other Americans picked up bronze medals. J’den Cox took bronze at 189 pounds and Nick Gwiazdowski, who is expected to sign with WWE in 2020, took a bronze medal at 275 pounds.

Hassan Yazdani of Iran, 22, who has considered pro wrestling and has been mentioned on WWE broadcasts several times as a guy Ariya Daivari was dedicating matches to, captured the gold medal at 189 pounds after winning the Olympic gold last year at 163 pounds. He and Cox were on opposite sides of the bracket and never met, as Cox lost to Boris Makoev of Slovakia, 6-3, in the semifinals, while Yazdani dominated Makoev to win via 10-0 tech fall.

The U.S. women’s team, led by Helen Maroulis, tied for second place with Belarus, behind Japan in the team standings. It was the best finish for the U.S. women since 2003, when they equaled Japan for first in points, but ended up in second based on the first tie-breaker criteria of most champions.

The U.S. had three medalists on the women’s side, with Maroulis winning gold at 128 pounds, Alli Ragan winning a silver medal at 132 and Becka Leathers winning a bronze medal at 121.

The U.S. Greco-Roman team didn’t have any medalists. Robby Smith, in the 286 pound division, has been scouted by WWE and been to the performance center and there has been talk of him after his amateur career is over.

All Japan Pro Wrestling ran its biggest show of the year on 8/27 at Sumo Hall in Tokyo, drawing 6,550 fans, which outdrew what DDT did in the same building last week.

The show was built around the company’s top star, Kento Miyahara, chasing the Triple Crown title that he had dominated, in a rematch with Shuji Ishikawa.

Miyahara held the title from February 12, 2006, until Ishikawa beat him in a tremendous match at Korakuen Hall on 5/21. The main event was said to be really strong as expected. With Jun Akiyama running things, and him remembering the glory days of Japanese wrestling, they have a lot of nostalgia elements in their big shows all the time with the idea that to draw in a building that size they need names more familiar to the general public.

After winning what was said to be a ****½ match, Miyahara talked about giving Ishikawa a rematch. Another potential opponent is New Japan’s Satoshi Kojima, who beat Suwama in the No. 2 match on the show, and in All Japan, you should never beat Suwama or Miyahara without a major reason.

Still, it’s kind of bad when Kojima, who went 1-8 in G-1, comes into your promotion and immediately pins one of your two top stars, but still, a Miyahara vs. Kojima match with Miyahara going over does help him in the major scheme of things.

But it was the leading thing people were talking about leaving the arena, with the All Japan fans thinking that All Japan should stop working with New Japan.

The show went five hours, which was too long, but from the ninth match on, everything was very good except Suwama vs. Kojima. The report we got is that when it was over, the most loyal All Japan fans turned the corner in a bad way on Suwama. The fans have always been patient with him because with his size and background as a top amateur star, and kind of pushed like the modern reincarnation of Jumbo Tsuruta, right down to the Lou Thesz Greco-Roman backdrop finisher, with his size, look and background and long-time push, but he’s also never fully connected with the audience.

Most of the fans were fully aware of how Kojima was positioned in G-1 and saw him as a past-prime superstar and the description was like if they brought back some guy like Matt Hardy and he pinned Roman Reigns. Joe Doering turned on Suwama and beat him down before the match started, which was done to give Suwama an out for losing, but was told it only made the match worse since Suwama sold most of the match and got pinned by a lariat. The feeling is that it made New Japan come across was so much better when a guy they just mainly use as undercard nostalgia, and All Japan has plenty of those guys, comes in and beats one of the top two guys. Fans in the building were openly talking about how New Japan came off as so far superior, as well as at restaurants after the show and on the train station, where fans hated the results and felt New Japan guys shouldn’t come over.

The promotion has had much stronger business since Miyahara started to get established as the group’s top star. Stronger is a relative term, since they really are an indie group, but the ability to do this well at Sumo Hall with Kojima as the biggest name outsider and using Miyahara going after the Triple Crown as your big selling point is a very good sign.

Miyahara said that his first title defense would be on 10/21 in Yokohama. All Japan is doing a single-elimination Oudou tournament in September, so the first contender should be against the tournament winner. Miyahara noted he’s out to win the tournament saying he’s competing in a number of them and has never won.

The attendance was almost identical to the last show the company ran at Sumo Hall on 11/27 (6,522) which featured the return of Atsushi Onita & Masa Fuchi as a team going after the All-Asia tag titles..

Among the news announced at the show was that Manabu Soya would be returning in September and teased a reunion of the tag team “Get Wild” (Soya & Takao Omori) in the annual year-end tag team tournament. They also announced Keiji Muto would return for a show on the 11/19 card in Sapporo.

1. Keiichi Sato pinned Yusuke Okada in 3:04 with a German suplex.

2. In a women’s match, Saori Anno & Natsumi Manki beat Tae Honma & Miyuki Takase in 6:29 when Anno pinned Honma with a blockbuster.

3. Yohei Nakajima & Fuminori Abe beat Tatsuya Nomura & Yuya Aoki in 4:18 when Nakajima pinned Yuya.

4. Ryoji Sai & Masakado & Koji Ishinriki (a 56-year-old former popular sumo in the 80s, known for being a successful underdog type at 202 pounds in a sport of huge guys, who went into pro wrestling in 1991) beat Danny Jones & Sam Adonis & Massimo in 7:50 when Sai pinned Jones.

5. In a legends match, 75-year-old Dory Funk Jr. & Hiro Saito (56) beat Great Kabuki (68) & Masa Fuchi (63) in 10:16 when Funk beat Fuchi via submission with the spinning toe hold. This has to be one of, if not, the oldest straight tag team match on a Japanese major show.

6. Osamu Nishimura retained the BANG TV title in a Battle Royal in 8:24. The idea here is that there would be wrestlers from a number of different promotions in the pinfall only Battle Royal. Others in were Naoshi Sano (Sano promotion), Yutaka Yoshie (free agent), Abdullah Kobayashi (Big Japan), Rikiya Fudo (Land’s End), Kazuhiro Tamura (Heat Up), Rey Paloma (Dove Pro Wrestling), Carbell Ito, Atsushi Maruyama (Free Agent), Aizawa #1 (free agent), Dinosaur Takuma (K-Dojo), Kotaro Yoshino (K-Dojo), Mitoshichi Shinose (Asuka Pro Wrestling, Akiyori Takizawa (Asuka Pro Wrestling) and Great Kojika (the oldest regularly working Japanese wrestler, the Big Japan owner who is 75 years old). Nishimura and Kojika were the last two left and Nishimura pinned him. This match was said to be terrible.

7. Caristico from CMLL beat Diamante from Mexico in 8:16 with La Mistica. Said to be good.

8. Taka Michinoku & Black Tiger VII won the All-Asia tag team titles beating Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato in 10:35 when Black Tiger pinned Sato. The story they had been pushing here was that it was Taka’s 25th year as a pro wrestler, and he wanted to win the oldest existing championship in Japan. Said to be good.

9. Taichi from New Japan beat Yuma Aoyagi in 13:18 with a last ride power bomb. Taka Michinoku and Yoshinobu Kanemaru were at ringside with Taichi. Even though Taichi isn’t that big a deal in New Japan, it was considered a big deal that he was a special guest on this show. The report we got was this was excellent, which is amazing considering Taichi’s usual New Japan matches. But when a New Japan guy, even an underneath one, appears on somebody else’s show, you do get the promotion vs. promotion heat.

10. Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori & Minoru Tanaka & Koji Iwamoto beat Joe Doering & Zeus & The Bodyguard & Kotaro Suzuki in 6:13 when Omori pinned Bodyguard after a lariat.

11. Ultimo Dragon won the All Japan jr. title from Tajiri in 15:51 after a DDT. They introduced a new championship belt on this show. Masa Fuchi and Hiro Saito, who both held this title in the 80s, came out to present the belt to Dragon. Dragon, who is 50, just had his 30th anniversary show last week. This is the second time he’s held this championship and is the first singles title he’s held since holding this one in early 2014. Tajiri didn’t want to keep the title and these two had a very good and unique match. Tajiri was a college student when he went to a show headlined by Yoshihiro Asai about 26 years ago and after attending the show, Asai was not only his favorite but that was the point Tajiri wanted to be a wrestler. Tajiri actually told Asai’s mother the same story a few weeks ago when he met her for the first time and she was stunned, as she really didn’t know how influential her son was or that he inspired a generation of younger wrestlers. The next contender may be Billy Ken Kid, who is another wrestler who as a kid 20 years ago was inspired by watching Dragon and followed in his footsteps by going to Mexico to learn pro wrestling since Dragon started his career in Mexico and was a star there before coming back to Japan. Said to be really good.

12. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi from Big Japan won the vacant World tag team titles beating Naoya Nomura & Kai in 17:31 when Okabayashi pinned Nomura with a splash. Nomura & Jake Lee were the champions, but Lee went in for major knee surgery and the titles had to be vacated. After the match, Akiyama & Omori came out to issue a title challenge. No date was announced but Sekimoto said this would be Big Japan’s best against All Japan’s leaders, so a real top-tier interpromotional battle since Akiyama is the company President and Omori is Vice President. The reactions I’ve heard for this ranged from **** to ****1/4.

13. Satoshi Kojima pinned Suwama in 11:15 after a lariat. Joe Doering attacked Suwama, his former tag team partner, before the match started, so that was the excuse for Suwama losing. So this should lead to Suwama vs. Doering as well. The actual match was really good but it left the loyal All Japan fans with a bad taste.

14. Kento Miyahara pinned Shuji Ishikawa in 24:38 with a German suplex to win the Triple Crown title.

WWE’s string of impressive ratings ended with the 8/29 Smackdown show doing 2,455,000 viewers, down nine percent from the prior week. There was going to be a drop from the first show after SummerSlam, and with no major advertised match on the show. A trend to watch also is this was the first show after it was established to the audience that John Cena is no longer on the show.

It was the lowest audience for the show since 6/13 (aside from 7/4, which really shouldn’t count), which coincides with the period Cena wasn’t on the show.

Smackdown was ninth for the night on cable.

The show did a 0.52 in 12-17 (down 17.5 percent from the previous week), 0.54 in 18-34 (down 21.7 percent), 0.98 in 35-49 (down 6.7 percent) and 0.99 in 50+ (down 11.6 percent).

The audience was 59.5 percent male in 18-49 and 55.5 percent male in 12-17.

The teenage male drop was 21.3 percent from the prior week, but the teenage girls drop was 12.1 percent. The 18-34 drop was even worse.

While down three percent from last week’s day after SummerSlam show, Raw on 8/28 did its second best numbers since 4/17 with a 2.22 rating and 3,298,000 viewers (1.62 viewers per home).

The show is clearly having momentum, even though down three percent from last week’s show in both ratings and total audience, with much tougher competition, doing 3,393,000 viewers. Still, one would expect a drop and the drop was fairly small.

Raw was the most-watched show on cable and beat everything on television except ABC, NBC and CBS programming. It is now two weeks until NFL season starts and with a combination of the new momentum and no presidential election that did so well for news channels, my expectation is Raw will never fall to at least the bottom levels of last year after an early part of the year where they were hitting non-football season all-time lows.

The first hour did 3,384,000 viewers. The second hour did 3,364,000 viewers and the third hour did 3,163,000 viewers.

But most of the third hour drop this week was made up of viewers over the age of 50, as 18-49 men were almost identical in hours two and three and 18-49 women were actually up in the third hour, and there was only a small drop among teenagers in hour three. There was a huge drop in teenagers from last week, but that’s getting back to normal as last week’s teenage viewership was unusually high.

The show did a 0.79 in 12-17 (down 15.1 percent from last week), 0.99 in 18-34 (identical to last week), 1.33 in 18-34 (up 1.5 percent) and 1.25 in 50+ (down 3.8 percent).

The audience was 59.7 percent male in 18-49 and 53.3 percent male in 12-17. That means the male teenagers actually were down 29.8 percent from last week and the male/female ratio among teenagers was among the lowest I can ever recall for Raw. But again, that’s more the unusually high number of last week, as the 8/21 show beat the 8/14 show by a whopping 40.1 percent in male teens.

Paced by lead-in Game of Thrones setting a record with 12,072,000 viewers, Dwayne Johnson’s Ballers was helped up by its gravitational pull and did 2,852,000 viewers on HBO on 8/27, a 21 percent increase from the prior week. Game of Thrones was up 18 percent.

Bellator on 8/25, a show that got little attention given all the MMA interest was on Mayweather vs. McGregor, did 481,000 viewers for a main event of Andrey Koreshkov beating Chidi Njokuani, which peaked at 655,000 viewers. Including DVR viewership, the average was 565,000 viewers (a 17 percent increase which is unusually high for a live sports show) and peak was 825,000 viewers, so the main event itself was up 27 percent with DVR viewership, which is because of the word of mouth that it was an exciting short fight. As far as live went, it was among the lowest rated prime time Bellator shows to date.

Impact on 8/24 dropped to 296,000 viewers, a drop of 7.5 percent from the previous week.

The Johnny Mundo vs. Rey Mysterio match for the Lucha Underground title and Cueto Cup finals with Prince Puma vs. Pentagon Dark did the most-watched first-run episode in the history of the show on 8/23, with 177,000 viewers at 8 p.m., although the replay did a normal 44,000 viewers. The 221,000 total viewers would be up 101 percent, or basically, double, the 8/16 show.

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CMLL: The biggest news of the week is that Rush & Pierroth, in a unique deal, will be working for both CMLL and The Crash. The two have been in talks about jumping to The Crash for a long time, dating back to La Mascara being fired for destroying Ultimo Guerrero’s car. Rush & Mascara are legit best friends and Rush wasn’t happy when Mascara was fired over destroying Ultimo Guerrero’s car. Rush had told CMLL what was up, and that he was looking at leaving. They considered him so valuable they worked out a deal where they could work for The Crash but they would still work dates with CMLL. When Rush was looking at leaving, part of the deal was that Crash would agree to take Pierroth, his father. There was talk he’d only work for Crash temporarily and then return to CMLL, but what we’ve been told is this deal is not temporary and that he and Pierroth will work for both sides, similar to how the superstars like El Santo, Mil Mascaras and Perro Aguayo did in the early 80s. It looks like part of the deal is that Rush & Pierroth will be portrayed as representing CMLL when they work The Crash shows and Crash is hopeful it’ll open the doors for them to be able to get other CMLL talent, similar to how the Elite promotion not only used CMLL talent but had its own television show that aired in the U.S. where they featured some of CMLL’s top talent. Right now Crash has no television but it’s no secret they are in talks, and apparently the deal includes they would have the right to use Rush on their prospective television show. CMLL owns the Los Ingobernables name, and allows New Japan to use it. We’re not sure what the deal is here but with Rush, Pierroth and La Mascara, The Crash has three of the four main members of the Mexican part of the group (the other original member is now Andrade Cien Almas in WWE). However, part of the deal appears to be that Rush and Pierroth are being portrayed as CMLL wrestlers who are also allowed to work for Crash


There is already a ton of resentment among CMLL talent. Just over a week ago Mistico gave an interview with Box y Lucha and claimed the Munoz family gets no special treatment in CMLL. Also, a lot of CMLL talent has lost booking or been told they can’t work on some good paying shows because the promoter had booked talent from The Crash and CMLL had an insistence that none of its talent appeared on shows with Crash talent

The company held a press conference on 8/29 announcing they have worked out a deal with Segura Popular Insurance and that all wrestlers, referees, vendors and everyone who works at the shows at Arena Mexico, would be insured. Atlantis, who was at the press conference, noted that the promotion already covered all in-ring injuries, but this will extend medical coverage for illnesses or injuries outside the ring. In an interesting thing at the press conference, Atlantis was asked about Dr. Wagner Jr. losing his mask. He said he was surprised because he always thought he and Wagner would have a match with their masks at stake because Atlantis said he had the most valuable mask in Lucha Libre. He was then asked if he really thought his mask was more valuable than El Hijo del Santo and Blue Demon Jr., and he said he thought it was. He said he will start rehab after knee surgery on 9/7, and hopes to be back in the ring by the end of the year

The 9/1 show is an iPPV with the World Grand Prix tournament, a one-night single elimination tournament. These type of shows aren’t what CMLL does best, since they have an official two-and-a-half-hour time frame (I can only think of once or twice of late they’ve passed 11 p.m. local time and start at 8:30 p.m.), so it means the matches for the most part will be three to six minutes, rush through a few spots and go right to a finish, perhaps the final match will get a little bit of time. The 16 listed wrestlers are Rush, Diamante Azul, 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. With the tournament being 15 matches, they are going to be rushed like crazy as usual, plus they have three non-tournament matches, meaning 18 matches instead of the usual five. The other three bouts are Blue Panther & Blue Panther Jr. & The Panther vs. Sanson & Cuatrero & Mascara Ano 2000, Marcela & Princesa Sugehit & Silueta vs. Zeuxis & Amapola & Dallys, and Mistico & Caristico & Soberano Jr. vs. Cavernario & Negro Casas & Felino

The big surprise is with Niebla Roja vs. Gran Guerrero as the anniversary main event, that neither are booked on this show

In a big surprise, it was announced that Octagon would be on the 9/4 show in Puebla, teaming with Mistico & Volador Jr. against Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Kojima. This would be Octagon’s first CMLL appearance since 1992

The final Friday night Arena Mexico show before the World Grand Prix took place on 8/25 and drew about 5,500 fans, the lowest in a long time. That wasn’t a surprise for a lot of reasons. It’s the week before the World Grand Prix with high ticket prices, and the night before TripleMania, which had high ticket prices and with the main event, was considered a major historical match. Plus, on 8/26, even though it was against TripleMania and Mayweather-McGregor, CMLL ran a private show sponsored by DHL Express Mexico with all tickets free to anyone who really wanted them or had connections with the sponsors and there were more than 10,000 fans at that show to see Volador Jr. & Angel de Oro & Niebla Roja vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia. Keep in mind CMLL also runs Arena Coliseo in Mexico City every Saturday night, although the Arena Mexico show was to end before Mayweather-McGregor started and before the Arena Coliseo show started

For the 8/25 regular Friday night show, In the top matches, Soberano Jr. had a totally weird singles match with Cavernario. Cavernario didn’t do a ton and it was more about making Soberano look great. He did a twisting stage dive, a double springboard dive and a Fosbury flop all within about 90 seconds toward the latter portion of the match. It had a 10:00 time limit. At one point Tirantes did a super slow count. At another point, Soberano used a power bomb. It appeared Cavernario kicked out and clearly he was supposed to because they kept going like they appeared they were supposed to. Soberano then did a spike piledriver about 15 seconds before time was going to run out. Tirantes didn’t count at all, which looked like a heel ref move, but then raised Soberano’s hand. So at first it appeared Tirantes didn’t count because he was ruling Cavernario couldn’t continue, and he was on the mat selling like he couldn’t. But that wasn’t the case at all. He ruled that he had counted to three well earlier from the power bomb. The finish ruined what was a really fun match. Mistico & Lee & Niebla Roja beat El Terrible & Shocker & Gran Guerrero via DQ in 15:33 in exactly what you’d figure this close to the Roja vs. Guerrero mask match. In the third fall, Guerrero gave Roja a low blow, and then took off his mask. The finish got a big reaction and really it was what it had to be. The problem is that Mistico & Lee were the standouts even though they were toned down a little since Roja and Guerrero were supposed to be featured. It was good, and then Roja and Guerrero did promos for their mask match on 9/16. The main event saw Taven & Robinson & Elgin beat Ultimo Guerrero & Volador Jr. & Diamante Azul in a straight foreigners vs. Mexicans match. The match had molten heat. It really wasn’t that great but the heat was off the carts. In the third fall, Que Monito, the mini did a splash off the apron onto Taven on the floor for an amazing pop. But Elgin then gave Monito a world’s strongest slam. Azul press slammed Elgin which got a huge pop. Taven, Volador and Azul all did dives. The finish saw Idol come out for distraction and Taven pinned Guerrero after a low blow. So Gran Guerrero was a heel doing the low blow in the semi and Ultimo was the face being the victim in the main event. Elgin pulled Azul’s mask off and wiped his ass with it, so that’ll probably build to something later on the tour. Robinson then cut a promo talking about how sexy he was and how he was going to win the Grand Prix and then go back to Japan as champion

The women’s trios match where Vaquerita & Sanely & Princesa Sugehit beat Amapola & Zeuxis & Comandante was a lot hotter than usual, and better as well, with the same type of DQ finish as Zeuxis unmasked Sugehit

In other bouts with the foreigners, on 8/26 at Arena Coliseo, Corleone & Taven & Elgin beat Rey Bucanero & El Terrible & Vangellys so it was the old heels become faces against the foreign team, and Juice Robinson won 2/3 falls over Shocker. On 8/27 at Arena Mexico, Robinson & Corleone & Elgin beat Mephisto & Ephesto & Luciferno again with the Mexican rudos being faces against foreigners, while Taven beat Euforia in the main event. On 9/2, the day after the Grand Prix, at Arena Coliseo, they have Caristico & Kenny King & Valiente vs. Kojima & Shocker & Terrible.

THE CRASH: A press conference was held on 8/29 to announce Rush and Pierroth coming. They noted that Rush was still with CMLL and was working with The Crash via permission of CMLL. They teased a Penta 0M vs. Rush match, and we’re told that they hope to go around Mexico with that program as the main attraction. They also announced a return to Mexico City on 11/11 (that may be in the suburbs

Their first appearance will be on 9/13 in San Luis Potosi, with a four-way tag match main event with Daga & Penta vs. Pierroth & Rush vs. La Mascara & M-ximo vs. Bestia 666 & Garza Jr. That is notable because Rush and La Mascara who had been Los Ingobernables for so long in CMLL, will be on opposing teams. That show also has Rey Fenix defending the cruiserweight title against Flamita, and foreigners Jack Evans, Willie Mack, Sami Callihan, Mr. 450 and Sammy Guevara

Low Ki is off the 9/2 Crash show since he was booked there by GFW, and he’s no longer with GFW. I believe Homicide will be the replacement

The Jack Evans vs. Bestia 666 hair match that’s been pushed for a while is currently scheduled for 11/4 in Tijuana.

ALL JAPAN: New Triple Crown champion Kento Miyahara announced the idea of producing wrestling shows and training seminars around Japan at college campuses. It’s called the Campus Series Project, with the first taking place on 11/4 at the Aichi Medical University. Miyahara will be putting together free shows for students and also offering training seminars. He said the goal is to go to campuses and teach students what pro wrestling really is.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Eddie Edwards won the GHC heavyweight title from Katsuhiko Nakajima on 8/26 at Korakuen Hall on a night with three title changes before what was still a disappointing crowd for a major company show of 921 fans. Edwards became the first American to ever hold the 16-plus year-old championship. Nakajima had won the title from Takashi Sugiura on October 23, 2016, in Yokohama, making it a 307-day reign. Edwards won in 25:41 with the Die Hard. Edwards’ first title defense will be against Naomichi Marufuji, which takes place on 10/1 at the Yokohama Bunka Gym

. The other two title changes on the show saw Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Kotoge beat Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi to win the tag titles in 23:19 when Kotoge pinned Taniguchi after the killswitch (pulp fiction). Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm will be the next challengers also at the Yokohama show. Hayata & Yo-Hey came off winning the jr. heavyweight tag team tournament to winning the jr. tag titles from Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 in 14:44 when Hayata pinned Hi69 with a crucifix hold

The Yokohama show is the next big one. They announced Tatsumi Fujinami, 63, would appear on the show. His son Leona is now working full-time and mostly losing on these shows. Shiro Koshinaka, 58, was also announced along with Garza Jr. from The Crash. Besides the GHC singles and heavyweight tag title, there will also be a jr. title match on that show with Ishimori defending against Daisuke Harada. There is a lot of heat going on because Dorian Roldan got NOAH to cancel Rey Fenix’s tour next month. Roldan claimed that Lucha Underground would not let Fenix do the tour since they have a contract with exclusive television rights to him. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Lucha Underground from giving the okay to guys appearing on Impact in the U.S. of late, let alone Brian Cage on the last NOAH tour, and Taya with Stardom, not to mention NOAH has no U.S. television and they’ve allowed Ricochet on New Japan television. Ultimately, this is about Fenix being booked through The Crash through this tour, which Cage wasn’t, as he was booked by NOAH through himself, and it was Roldan trying to screw with Konnan because of their feud between the two, and Fenix ended up caught in the crossfire. Like so much in Mexico, it’s the talent that ends up as the victims to the power plays. Garza Jr. doesn’t have the same LU contract and Roldan didn’t try and block his tour. Konnan was insistent. Mike Johnson of PW Insider got a statement from MGM, which distributes the series, regarding the contracts, but it really didn’t clear much up. LU performers have, from the start, been allowed to work non-televised events. “There are many performers who desire to work internationally on non-televised shows, and MGM would never improperly block a cast member who is honoring his or her obligations to Lucha Underground from earning that type of income during a long production hiatus.” But the issue here is that NOAH does air on small satellite stations in Japan, which is television, but only in Japan. Whether Roldan is doing this on his own or with MGM, the fact is NOAH didn’t want to risk a legal fight so Fenix was pulled from the tour

Edwards had scored a pin over Nakajima on 8/23 in Morioka in a six-man, but Nakajima got his win back the next night in Maebashi.

NEW JAPAN: The annual tag team tournament was announced as taking place from 11/12 to 12/11. Tetsuya Naito threw out the first pitch at a Hiroshima Carp baseball game over the weekend. He showed a lot of real world charisma out there, doing several of his mannerisms (the fist in the air, the eye, but no tranquillo pose) and was wearing his wrestling gear and a new Los Ingobernables baseball shirt, before throwing the first pitch that was high and outside with a batter there

Taka Michinoku & Taichi promoted a show at Shinjuku Face in Tokyo before a sellout of 509 fans on 8/28. There was a special 21st anniversary of the start of the career of Yoshinobu Kanemaru, where he got a singles match with Suzuki-gun captain Minoru Suzuki, who beat him in 15:12 with a Gotch piledriver. The main event was a Suzuki-gun vs. LIJ tag match where Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi beat Michinoku & Taichi in a 2/3 fall match when Takahashi pinned Michinoku in the third fall

Michinoku is promoting his own 25th anniversary match on 9/4 at Korakuen Hall with features a first generation Michinoku Pro match with the trio of Great Sasuke & Super Delfin & Dick Togo from the early 90s, facing Ricky Fuji & Kotaro Yoshino & Dinosaur Takuma, plus Suzuki vs. Go Asakawa and the previously announced main event of Kota Ibushi & Michinoku vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gedo.

HERE AND THERE: Northeast Wrestling ran what is traditionally the biggest indie show of the year on 8/27 at Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls, NY, the Wrestling under the Stars show. The crowd this year was down, at 2,344, as several previous shows at the same stadium in past summers have topped 3,000. There was talk that perhaps having it on a Sunday rather than Saturday, and being the week after the four SummerSlam (Wappingers Falls isn’t too far from Brooklyn, about 88 miles) weekend shows, or perhaps the fans just saw that the overall star power didn’t match previous years. The big draws were Rey Mysterio Jr., Cody Rhodes, Ryback (who ended up canceling and said he wasn’t 100 percent) and Jerry Lawler, and Rhodes appears on all the major NEW shows and Lawler works for them all the time as well. Ricky Steamboat, Mick Foley, Bob Orton Jr. and Chris Jericho were also there, but Jericho was only there for the meet and greet and was promoting his book, and also taped a podcast with Rhodes. In the main event, Rhodes, who has always played babyface as NEW champion, worked as a heel against Mysterio, in a match with Steamboat as referee. Rhodes opened doing a heel promo, and after a ref bump, Rhodes used a low blow to set up the crossroads finish in 10:37. Lawler beat Robbie E with his feet on the ropes. Foley did a run-in, putting Mr. Socko on Jared Silberkleit, the heel manager of Wrecking Ball Legursky. Tag champs Hale Collins & Vik Dalishus went to a double count out with The Kingdom, of TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia, plus there was a three-way with Flip Gordon over Garza Jr. and Laredo Kid. Also missing were Deonna Purrazzo, due to an injury, and Keith Lee, who had a terrible day. He had an auto accident heading to the airport because he was driving in the heavy rain trying to make his booking and he’s a Houston area guy. He got all banged up in the accident, and even so, still made it to the airport and then all flights were canceled due to Hurricane Harvey. On 8/26, they ran a smaller show in Danbury, CT as part of the Connecticut Taco Festival where they packed the Ice Arena with Mysterio Jr. and Lawler as the key draws and had a Draztick Boy vs. Demus minis match. Lawler judged a taco eating contest and one of the participants threw up. They also ran 8/25 at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, MA. Steamboat refereed a tag match where O’Ryan & Marseglia beat Legursky & Brad Hollister, while in the top matches, Rhodes beat Lawler in what I believe was their first-ever meeting, to keep the NEW title, and Mysterio pinned Gordon

The Battle of Los Angeles tournament takes place 9/1 to 9/3 in Reseda, CA, and because of only 400 seats being available, it is the hardest ticket to get in pro wrestling. The 9/1 show features tournament matches with Brian Cage vs. Dezmond Xavier, Rey Fenix vs. Rey Horus, Marty Scurll vs. Flash Morgan Webster, Penta 0M vs. Matt Sydal, Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Jonah Rock and Flamita vs. Ricochet. Also on the show will be Donovan Dijak & Keith Lee vs. Jeff Cobb & Matt Riddle. The Young Bucks were originally scheduled for this show but they are now off the show as they were to face Banks & Cooper, and Cooper is injured. PWG officials said that the match would take place on a PWG show when Cooper is healthy. There was talk of making it a three-way match with Dijak & Lee and Cobb & Riddle but it didn’t happen. The 9/2 show features tournament matches with Sammy Guevara vs. Joey Janela (replacing the injured TK Cooper), Trevor Lee vs. Dijak, Sami Callihan vs. Cobb, Michael Elgin vs. Riddle, Mark Haskins vs. Travis Banks and Walter vs. Keith Lee. Also on the show will be Ricochet & Sydal vs. Sabre Jr. & Scurll and Young Bucks & Kenny Omega vs. Penta 0M & Fenix & Flamita. The Bucks & Omega are only working this show. The third day lineup depends on the first two days

Santino Marella (Anthony Carelli, 43) had what he insists is his last wrestling match on 8/27 for the Destiny Wrestling promotion that he operates out of his gym in Mississauga, ONT. Marella teamed with Chavo Guerrero Jr. in a 2-on-3 handicap match against R.J. City, Stone Rockwell and GFW booking team member Scott D’Amore. Marella had retired four years ago after neck surgery but they did a storyline in the promotion building up to a surprise return. After the match, Marella cut an emotional promo saying that this was definitely his last match because his neck can’t take the punishment. He said he just once wanted to do a match where he was announced from Mississauga, ONT. Guerrero was a replacement for Alberto El Patron, who was supposed to be Marella’s tag team partner. No word on whether he pulled out or they made the change themselves.

ROH: Even though they shot the angle at the end of the iPPV for Cody vs. Dalton Castle at the end of the 8/19 iPPV show in Liverpool for the next title match, Castle has been bothered for months by back problems. Things got to bad that the decision was made that he needed significant time off. So they shot an angle on 8/20 where Bullet Club injured him to explain his being gone, and to set him up with a stronger angle with Cody down the line. So the 9/22 PPV in Las Vegas will be headlined by Cody defending against Minoru Suzuki. That match is quite the unique clash of styles, given Cody does a WWE style and Suzuki does a shooter style. As noted last week, this will be Suzuki’s first match in the U.S. since 1992 and only his second match in the U.S. ever, and the first ever on a major pro wrestling card. Given they’re running a 900 seat building, one would think this should sell out quickly. The show will also feature two Young Bucks title matches. They’ll be defending the tag titles against Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley and then they and Hangman Page will defend the trios titles against the winner of a match earlier on the show with former champions The Kingdom (Matt Taven & T.K. O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia) vs. Mark & Jay Briscoe & Bully Ray, Kushida vs. Kenny King for the TV title, Jay Lethal vs. Silas Young in a last real man standing match and Jay White vs. Punishment Martinez in some sort of a stipulation match. We’ll see how it goes but as a general rule I wonder about defending two titles in two different matches on the same show given the high action people expect out of Young Bucks matches

The closing angles leading up to this show were taped on 8/26 at Center State in Atlanta before a sellout of 750 fans. They did four hours of television. Marty Scurll did the announcing in the first hour with host Ian Riccaboni, and B.J. Whitmer did hours two through four. The show opened with Cauliflower Chase Brown beating Gladiator Jeremiah in a Future of Honor dark match. The first show opened with Bully Ray doing a promo. He said that he and the Briscoes will be on the same page in Las Vegas, and they will beat the Kingdom and them beat Young Bucks & Page. Will Ferrara beat Cheeseburger with a crossface. Cheeseburger passed out rather than tapped out. Ferrara put the move on again after the match when Rhett Titus ran in. He acted like he was saving Cheeseburger, but instead put the boots to him. It looked like they were going to put Titus & Ferrara together as a team. Silas Young pinned Chase Brown. He continued to beat on him after the match until Lethal made the save.; This set up the angle for the “real last man standing match.” That looked to be the end of the first week’s show. They taped a Women of Honor match with Kelly Klein pinning Brandi Rhodes. King pinned Page. Scurll pinned Rocky Romero using a new finishing move. One report we got had this as the best match of the night. Cody came out and said that he wanted to bring new ideas for ROH. He wants something new, the ring of honor champion having an actual ring. A crew member than brought out a black box and he opened it and there was a ring. Cody put on the ring and said instead of shaking hands before a title match for the code of honor, he wants his opponents to kiss his ring. He also went around the ring and had the fans kiss his ring. The second show main event had the Briscoes beating the returning TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia of The Kingdom. Matt Taven wasn’t there because he’s in Mexico. Bully Ray came out to do commentary for this match. The story was that the Briscoes & Bully have settled their problems and are back on the same page in this preview to the trios match on PPV. Episode three opened with former MMA fighter and college wrestler Josh Woods beating QT Marshall. There was a spot where Woods knocked out a ring attendant with a running knee. The main event on the show was an Honor Rumble with the winner getting a title shot at Cody “next week.” Cody did the announcing here. The match started with Jay White vs. Sho Tanaka. In order of entrance, next were Jonathan Gresham, Martinez, Titus, Frankie Kazarian, Ferrara, Yohei Komatsu, Shelley, Young, Shane Taylor, Flip Gordon, Lethal, Hanson, Sabin, Bully Ray, Ray Rowe, Mark Briscoe, the big surprise being Glacier (Ray Lloyd, who may have gotten the biggest pop of the night with loud WCW chants while he was in the ring) who came in for the final spot. It came down to Kazarian vs. Lethal. Christopher Daniels distracted the ref, who missed Kazarian being thrown out, and then Daniels distracted Lethal to allow Kazarian to throw him out. Daniels & Kazarian vowed that they would get rid of the ROH title after he wins the title “next week.” Next was a Woman of Honor taping match where Karen Q pinned Sumie Sakai. Q then challenged Deonna Purrazzo (who was doing commentary) and they brawled after the match. It was to lead to a tope but Purrazzo’s feet got tangled in the ropes when she went for the dive and she nearly landed on her head on the floor. The final episode opened with War Machine winning a three-way over Coast-to-Coast (Leon St-Giovanni & Shaheem Ali) and Komatsu & Tanaka. The match was said to be really good. After the match, War Machine wanted a shot at the tag titles. They said they got screwed in their last tag title match when a third team (Trent Baretta & Chuck Taylor) were added and they were going to establish world domination. They said people wouldn’t like what will happen if they don’t get a title shot. Given that they are not booked in a match on the PPV and not getting a shot, that is interesting. They are currently tag champs for both New Japan and What Culture in the U.K. Flip Gordon pinned Corey Hollis. Cody beat Kazarian to keep the ROH title. Daniels interfered first. Scurll then came out. Match was said to be really good. Cody cut a promo thanking the fans and brought up the history of Center Stage in Atlanta for wrestling. WCW started using Center Stage for tapings in 1989, after Dusty left for WWF. And by the time Dusty came back, he was retired as an active wrestler. Dusty booked shows at Center Stage but I’m not sure if he ever wrestled there, as the Dusty Rhodes heyday I recall would have been from the smaller TBS TV Studios. But Center Stage was used regularly through 2000 for the TBS Saturday Night show. He brought up how it had been 31 years since a Rhodes held a world title. The final match taped, and I’m thinking this may air in the first hour given there was no first hour main event, saw Sabin & Shelley & White & Gresham, as Seek and Destroy, beating The Bullet Club of Young Bucks & Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa. The Machine Guns pinned The Bucks, which surprised everyone, doing a double-team move, obviously to build the PPV title match.

GFW: I don’t know if this is considered good news or not, but GFW and Pop TV signed a new agreement to continue carrying the show in 2018. It’s good in the sense they have a station that isn’t dropping them and are guaranteed TV for another year. The bad news is the deal is not financially effective and it also means they failed to get a deal that would pay them anything but an ad revenue split which is said to mean little or anything, and also that they are likely spending at least another year at that 300,000 viewer per week mark. It’s bad sign in the sense that pro wrestling does feel like it’s more popular right now, but that popularity hasn’t led to anyone but WWE and to a much smaller degree New Japan, getting any kind of TV deals that pay much of anything. Obviously the company is trying to run on a very limited budget, with the India and U.K. paying deals the main revenue source and they simply can’t come close to covering costs, so it probably means similar long television tapings only a few times a year and with the last house show run not being all that successful, there will probably not be anything close to a regular schedule. Still, I guess because he’s a charming guy and has been around the business his entire life, Jeff Jarrett is able to make deals with other promotions with the idea he can get their stars on television in the U.S. market, which still means a lot when you’re outside the U.S

As noted last week, the situation with Low Ki was that he was programmed with Alberto El Patron for the title, but when Alberto was suspended, they wanted to move him to the X Division multi-person match at Bound for Glory and he saw it as a step backwards and complained and left

Alberto at this point is scheduled to return for the November tapings, so even though they had Jim Cornette wish him the best in his future endeavors and gave the impression he was gone and kind of buried him on the way out, the plan right now is to bring him back. The original idea would be he’d come back as a heel against the company to do the idea he was mad about his suspension

Alberto and Paige are attempting to help out displaced families in the Houston area who can’t afford to stay anywhere and pay for hotels until they are able to return to home

.Homicide wasn’t at the tapings largely as a cost-cutting measure

I don’t know if this will end up with a match at Bound for Glory but they were working on a GFW vs. AAA angle which would be the GFW team of James Storm & EC 3 and a third person against El Hijo del Fantasma & El Texano Jr. & Pagano

There was a lot of backstage stuff shot with the ATT vs. GFW program. I was told that the fans hated the ATT guys and Dan Lambert by the end of the tapings and that Lambert was getting booing so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think and people were amazed he cut his promos without being rattled by all the booing at all, given he’s a first-timer at this. Some of the wrestlers got a kick out of the memorabilia Lambert, who is a pro wrestling collector, had including some of the old territory belts. On the 8/24 TV show, they had a backstage segment with Lambert and Jeff Jarrett in an argument that was done in a very legit manner, and really came across like an old 80s Memphis outsider angle. They were both yelling and screaming about Lashley with Lambert saying to Jarrett that he’s lucky Lashley was even there and that he shouldn’t be there, he should be fighting instead. Jarrett would yell back that he’s paying Lashley more than Lambert and Lambert said that Lashley shouldn’t be doing both and can make more money fighting than working for GFW. To me, angles that come off as believable within the framework of working are usually the most effective, although with every rule of wrestling, there are exceptions. But still, I think in the long-run the more believability the better, as this stuff to me resonates so much better than the Lucha Underground angles, even though Lucha Underground has a cooler feel and the far more spectacular in-ring product most of the time. In the angle so far, Lashley is trying to be a peacemaker, almost like it’s a babyface turn for him in the end when he chooses wrestling ahead of MMA. At least that’s the only logical way I can see this one going

Cornette was great on every segment in his second week in. He did a speech for the boys and then did a segment with Eli Drake and Chris Adonis where Drake was trying to butter him up, talking about how nice his suit looks and it looks like he’s lost weight. The Cornette character is the idea that he’s been around wrestling for 35 years and can see through all the bullshit so he immediately recognized that Drake was looking to get his first entrant spot in the title gauntlet changed. Cornette said that almost every number had been accounted for, but if they would make a deal that he’ll give him a new number, but they can’t complain to him about anything the rest of the week. They agreed to the deal, and Cornette gave Drake No. 2, which of course in a Rumble, is really the same as No. 1. It made Cornette look like a strong authority figure rather than a joke, but in the end didn’t hurt Drake, who went from starting the match to outlasting everyone and winning the title, which made his title win look stronger which was necessary given he doesn’t have the aura or name value of a world champion at this point. The idea is that he’s a take -no-nonsense authority figure who is a babyface and takes no crap from anyone and sees through all of the heel’s tricks. Essentially it’ the opposite of his portrayal when he was an authority figure here years earlier when Vince Russo was writing and Russo was trying to portray him as a geek and undercutting him constantly (and going behind his back to Dixie Carter claiming that the company looks bad with Cornette in that role and that instead they should have a woman like a Tiny Fey character in the authority position)

Matt Morgan, 40, is running for City Commissioner in Longwood, FL, his hometown. Morgan was used prominently at a recent taping after Jeff Jarrett took over, but hasn’t been back since. Morgan has also been competing in bodybuilding contests. His wife, Larissa Morgan, was a competition bodybuilder. He is currently a spokesperson for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) and the Drug Abuse Resistance Program (DARE)

Johnny Impact was said to have been super over at the tapings. Taya was said to have not looked nearly as good as she does in Lucha Underground, but the quality of the people she was working with aren’t close to as good so that probably explains it

Taryn Terrell must have been someone who did a 180 on the religion thing. She went from quitting wrestling and saying it didn’t fit in with her religious beliefs to not just returning, but returning with a ring costume that was essentially negligee with massive implants hanging out and the next thing you know, the outfit she wore on the 8/24 show she was putting up for an Ebay auction, noting that you could buy the outfit unwashed.

UFC: While this is not a direct UFC story, it very much is an indirect story. ESPN and Top Rank have reached an agreement that would include Top Rank fights on ESPN, streaming and ESPN would partner with Top Rank to promote PPV shows as well. The deal makes ESPN and ESPN Deportes in Spanish in the U.S., as well as TSN in Canada and RDS in Canada for French language broadcasts, as the home of Top Rank (Bob Arum’s promotion). Fights will also air on ESPN’s new streaming service. The contract calls for 18 live events. They will also have the rights to the Top Rank library and ESPN will air all PPV shows on a tape delay like HBO and Showtime do with the big fights. The key is that with the UFC television deal up at the end of 2018, obviously the hope was for ESPN to be involved in bidding. The keys to ESPN are not just making a financial deal, but if you are an ESPN sports property, they will push you harder on SportsCenter and when the talking heads on their various talk shows as well as SportsCenter push something as major, like Mayweather vs. McGregor, it greatly helps in terms of buys and making the events bigger. This deal doesn’t necessarily mean ESPN won’t be interested in UFC, which is considered the biggest sports deal up next year, but it does change the dynamics and it could be a sign they went with a much cheaper fight sports deal with Top Rank, given their own economic issues with the huge NFL & NBA contracts for years to come that guarantee bigger money each year while subscribers are falling at a fast rate, meaning shortfalls in revenue. I’ve read some insiders who still believe that UFC will get a substantial increase in television rights fees next year, even with the ratings being way down this year. While WWE, not being sports, doesn’t directly fall in line, I’d still say that a big increase for UFC would indicate WWE will do well when it’s deal with USA is up in September 2019. Television rights fees are the key money driver for WWE and most sports, and second only to PPV for UFC. PPV is a harder and less consistent business these days with people picking and choosing and mostly only ordering big marquee shows. So for UFC, WWE and most everyone, it’s the life blood. In every era there are people who believed the bubble will burst and it would be devastating to the sports franchises, but that never happened. But in a process with media changing so much, the UFC & WWE deals are a lot less secure if television stations have falling revenues, and obviously the deal with Top Rank includes streaming, while UFC and WWE deals would have to be negotiated when it comes to streaming given their own streaming services, or with WWE, the existing Hulu deal

Chael Sonnen on the MMA Hour said that he’s been led to believe that a third fight between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz is being looked at for the year-end show on 12/30. Chael says a lot of things, but McGregor was openly talking about defending his title and a trilogy fight with Diaz in specific after the loss, and everything we’d heard was that if McGregor was to return and Diaz was willing, that would be the next lightweight title fight even though they are doing an interim lightweight title fight with Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee on 10/7 in Las Vegas

Ronda Rousey, 30, and boyfriend Travis Browne, 35, were married in Hawaii on 8/26. It’s Rousey’s first marriage and Browne’s third. The wedding date may have been planned for at least eight weeks even though the news of the wedding didn’t get out until the day before, when Dana White spoke about it on the Rich Eisen show, saying he was called and asked if he could come to the wedding and said he absolutely would, and then was told it was on 8/26, at which point he said there was no way that he could. The two were engaged in April but never announced wedding plans publicly, which was probably for the best. We were told that in early July, Shayna Baszler canceled an indie date on 8/26 and told the AWS promotion in Southern California that Rousey was getting married that day but the news never got out until the day before the wedding, when White talked about it, while some of Rousey’s friends (including Roderick Strong) posted photos of themselves in an airplane en route to Hawaii

Derrick Lewis has been spending this week trying to help people in the Houston area and has shown videos of him helping people out of flood conditions. He said he’s helped at least 100 people to safety and was looking at heading to Beaumont with some buddies to do the same there

Jose Aldo, who has four fights left on his UFC contract, is looking to fight out his contract and then go into pro boxing. His coach, Andre Pederneiras, said Aldo was looking at next fighting Cub Swanson in the fall

Germaine de Randamie pulled out of her 9/2 fight in Rotterdam, Holland with Mario Reneau (who, in a trivia note, will be the first-ever woman past the age of 40 to compete in a UFC event), due to an injury and was replaced by the debuting Talita de Oliveira

The 9/2 show is the first UFC show in several weeks, a Fight Pass card that starts at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time Saturday. Currently scheduled is Abdul-Kerim Edilov (16-4) vs. Bojan Mahajlovic (10-5), Francimar Barroso (19-5) vs. Aleksander Rakic (8-1), Desmond Green (20-5) vs. Rustam Khabilov (21-3), Mads Burnell (8-1) vs. Michel Prazeres (22-2), Mike Santiago (21-9, replacing the injured Nick Hein) vs. Zabit Magomdshapirov (12-1), Felipe Silva (8-0) vs. Mairbek Taisumov (25-5), Darren Till (14-0-1) vs. Bojan Velickovic (15-4-1), Bryan Barbarena (13-4) vs. Leon Edwards (13-3), Siyar Bahadurzada (21-5-1) vs. Rob Wilkinson (11-0), Talita de Oliveira (5-1) vs. Marion Reneau (7-3) and Stefan Struve (28-8) vs. Alexander Volkov (28-6). De Oliveira is a late replacement for Germaine de Randamie, who was really the big local star on the show being from Holland and her featherweight title win got a lot of national media publicity, but she pulled out due to an injury in the last few days

Daniel Cormier was on the MMA Hour talking about the Jon Jones situation. He said that he knew it would be tough, but his goal was to get another match with Jones. Had there not been a drug test failure, that would be extremely difficult since UFC has avoided people who have lost twice to the champion no matter how well they do, most notably Joseph Benavidez not getting another shot at Demetrious Johnson as the clear No. 1 contender, and really that’s why Holly Holm got her title shot at Ronda Rousey even though Miesha Tate had won a match to earn a title shot. But if Jones is suspended, even for two years, by that time Cormier will be 40, and if it’s longer, he’ll be even older. The other problem is that everything has to be on hold. The UFC can’t strip Jones of the light heavyweight title until the Jones gets his due process, and this could take months. They probably could book Cormier with either Alexander Gustafsson and Volkan Oezdemir for an interim light heavyweight title, but no matter who wins, that title from a marquee standpoint isn’t going to mean much. We’ve already seen with Cormier, that with Jones out, he never drew like a usual light heavyweight champion and that’s with a guy who is more visible than most champions and who does work hard at promotion. No matter what, because Jones won the first time, people weren’t buying Cormier as champion in big numbers, even with very legit contenders like Anthony Johnson and Gustafsson. If Jones is suspended for three of four years, the reality is that Cormier is not likely to get that third fight, or that “fair” fight (provided the Jones B sample comes back the same as the A sample) and it really leaves his legacy in a weird state. But it’s going to take years for that division to likely draw again if Jones is on the sidelines

Joe Rogan and Brendan Schaub on Rogan’s podcast talked about the Jones case. Rogan said that he was told Turinabol isn’t delectable in blood, but is in urine. Urine is usually the tests that catch most steroids. Schaub claimed he hard from people in the UFC that USADA had a new test that people weren’t aware of. Schaub said Turinabol is a drug that is used in powerlifting and because it gets in and out of the system so quickly, you can use it right up through competition. Before his fight with Ovince Saint-Preux, Jones was hanging with powerlifters and doing heavy powerlifiting, against the wishes of Greg Jackson, who saw Jones’ showing against Saint-Preux as the evidence the powerlifting was negative to his fighting ability. I don’t know how accurate that time frame is since I was told it can stay in the system and be detected as long as six weeks. But if detection time really is a matter of hours in some cases, that at least could explain someone risking using it, but for Jones, it’s so stupid because why take the risk with so much on the line. Schaub said the drug would have immediate effects on aggression and power. There was an argument from Jones’ side thrown out that since Jones had passed tests a few weeks earlier, with the idea it takes weeks for steroids to take effect, it would make no sense to start using that late before the fight. But even passing tests prior tests being used a defense really doesn’t prove anything. Schaub said the drug is nearly impossible to obtain legally and Jones would have had to get it off the black market. There are a lot of possibilities and the problem is it will probably take a few months before this is all sorted out and the entire light heavyweight division will have to be on hold until it is

UFC and 7-Eleven reached a sponsorship deal where 7-Eleven Big Gulp cups will feature UFC, whether it be gloves, an Octagon and top UFC stars including Tyron Woodley, Cody Garbrandt, Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Yair Rodriguez and 7-Eleven 20 ounce travel mugs will feature the UFC Logo, and there will be contests and prizes and peel-to-win games with various prizes

Francis Ngannou is officially off the 9/9 PPV show in Edmonton. He was to face Junior Dos Santos, but Dos Santos was provisionally suspended due to failing a test for a diuretic. They weren’t able to get a new opponent for Ngannou in time for the show

UFC announced a mostly full card for its 10/17 PPV show in Las Vegas, which is the next PPV after Edmonton. Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight title is the main event, which sounds like a great fight, but it sounds like a 150,000 to 200,000 buy show. The other bouts announced are Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis at heavyweight, Paige VanZant vs. Jessica Eye at 125 pounds, Walt Harris vs. Mark Godbeer, Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham, Will Brooks vs. Nik Lentz, Tom Duquesnoy vs. Cody Stamann, Pearl Gonzalez vs. Poliana Botelho, Lando Vannata vs,. Bobby Green, John Moraga vs. Magomed Bibulatov, Thales Leites vs. Brad Tavares and Matt Schnell vs. Marco Beltran

VanZant vs. Eye at 125 means VanZant is moving up a division and Eye is moving down. I don’t know that VanZant moving up is a good idea as she’s not that big. It could be that UFC wants desperately to get her in a title match, and she’s far away from that spot at 115, plus with Joanna as champion, it’s not like she’d have a prayer of winning. With the talent at 125 almost all unsigned fighters who weren’t in most cases good enough for the roster, that would be a far easier division for upward mobility, at least at first. Still, I’d favor Eye in this fight

The 9/9 show is probably going to be less than 150,000 and could fall well under that given it’ll be only two weeks after almost every regular PPV buyer had just made the $100 PPV purchase. So UFC isn’t doing anything on PPV until 11/4 with Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre’s middleweight title bout from Madison Square Garden. GSP was the biggest draw in UFC when he retired four years ago, but it’s a different era now

A match of two long-time favorites at lightweight with Joe Lauzon vs. Clay Guida was announced for the 11/11 show in Norfolk. Tatiana Suarez returns on that show to face Vivianne Pereira. Suarez, who won the early 2016 season of the Ultimate Fighter, has a great back story. She placed third in both the 2008 and 2010 world championships in freestyle wrestling at 121 pounds, during the era of Saori Yoshida. She was training for the 2012 games when she discovered she had thyroid cancer. She beat cancer, and then started training in Jiu Jitsu to get back into shape. She ended up in MMA, won her first three fights and the TUF tourney and looked to be a future major star, and appeared to be someone who could be one of the top strawweights. She came off like she had star power to go along with her back story that would have gotten her a lot of pub, but she hasn’t fought in 14 months

Thiago Santos vs. Michael Materia has been added to the 10/21 show in Gdansk, Poland.

BELLATOR: Bellator ran a show on 8/25 in Verona, NY that had one of the deepest pre-shows as far as names went in recent memory. Joey Davis, who was an incredible college wrestler (133-0 at Division II Notre Dame College with four national titles) went to 2-0 with a 1:35 win over Justin Roswell with elbows at 1:35. Chris Honeycutt, a two-time All-American wrestler at Edinboro, who was one of the company’s top prospects, but his hype fizzled to a degree, beat former UFC fighter Kevin Casey (the son-in-law of Muhammad Ali) at 2:06 of the second round to move to 10-1, 1 no contest. Colleen Schneider, who has done pro wrestling and was an Invicta title challenger, lost via injury stoppage at the end of the first round to Kate Jackson. Georgi Karakhanyan beat Daniel Pineda in a battle of fighters who have been around for a while at 4:05 of the second round. Talita Nogueira, considered a top women’s prospect, beat Amanda Bell via choke at 3:44. In the TV fights, A.J. McKee (9-0) dominated Blair Tugman (10-7) on scores of 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26. This was McKee’s ninth straight win in Bellator, tying a record set by Ben Askren, who immediately noted that while McKee’s wins were against nobodies, that he had already won the Bellator welterweight title by his fourth fight with the promotion. Bruna Ellen (4-1) beat Veta Arteaga (3-2) via split decision in a women’s fight at 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28. Fernando Gonzalez (27-14) upset local favorite Brennan Ward (14-6) via guillotine at 1:02 of the third round. Ward had won the first two rounds, but when he shot in for a takedown, he got caught. In the main event, Andrey Koreshkov, (20-2), looking to get back in the welterweight title picture as a former champion, stopped Chidi Njokuani (17-5) with a takedown and about two dozen punches elbows on the ground at 4:08

The next show isn’t until 9/23 in San Jose, with Benson Henderson vs. Patricky Pitbull Freire and Roy Nelson’s debut against Javy Ayala.

WWE: Whether this happens or not, the current plans are for the U.K. show to begin before the end of this year. Original plans were to start taping in June and now we’re almost in September and a first date for a taping still hasn’t been announced. There are a lot of things to work out, including that the original U.K. championship tournament was apparently a big money loser

WWE inked a deal with Flow 1 in the Caribbean starting this week. Flow 1 is an English language station and will air Raw and Smackdown live, as well as WWE Experience on Saturdays at 8 p.m. and This Week in WWE on Sundays at 10 p.m

The WWE injury bug continues as Samoa Joe, (Joel Seanoa, 38) and Woods both went down this week after Asuka and Cass went down last week. Joe will be out of action for a short period of time due to a knee injury. It is believed the injury took place in an 8/26 match in Jonesboro, AR, against Cena. He may have been injured prior to that match, but he worked 8/25 and 8/26, but then missed the house show on 8/27 in Tupelo, MS, and the show was rearranged. Cena vs. Joe was the scheduled Raw main event for 8/28 in Memphis. The Cena/Reigns segment was also to be on that show, so that wasn’t a late addition to make up for the loss of the main event. Joe is expected back in about six weeks or less at this point

Woods suffered a sprained left MCL at the 8/28 Smackdown brand house show in Texarkana, AR during a three-way tag title match with the Usos defending against Woods & Kingston and Breeze & Fandango. Woods was doing a tornado DDT and when he landed, it appeared his knee went out. It was immediate on landing that the knee was out. It wasn’t a bad landing or anything. He did the move like he does in every match, and the knee just collapsed. They went to the finish and Dr. Chris Amann came out to examine Woods, and Woods was carried to the back by Amann, E and Kingston. Both Joe and Woods were being evaluated on 8/29 by the WWE medical staff in Little Rock. The injury wasn’t as bad as feared. He was on Smackdown in the corner of Big E & Woods on television the next day, although I’m not sure why since his knee was heavily taped and he was limping badly. The injury probably won’t keep him out of action more than a few weeks. Lynch had a similar injury recently and worked through it

Cass had his reconstructive knee surgery on 8/24 for a torn ACL in his left knee and will be out of action six to nine months

Regarding the high injury rate in WWE compared to almost every other pro wrestling company, including promotions where they do as many or more shows, one ex-WWE talent who has worked all over the world said he believes the higher injury rate is due to fatigue and exhaustion from the travel. He noted that in his WWE period, he rested more than most, but was still constantly tired, the constant flying and constant long drives get you in a road mode and you end up almost like a zombie and don’t realize how tired you really are. He said the key is when you are exhausted and worn out, you are more likely to plant a foot wrong, miss a step, and when the body is tired to begin with, it gives out, you make small mental errors and the body is too tired to compensate for them. He said that those who party a lot would have it even worse because they would be resting even less. Another culprit that was mentioned to me, and actually several people mentioned this to me when we had the plethora of shoulder problems, was Crossfit training, saying that puts added wear and tear on the joints combined with four hard matches a week in the ring. It was also noted that Caffeine and energy drinks can fool your brain into thinking you are awake and alert, but those drinks can’t wash away the physical fatigue. This is basically an argument that has been made for decades regarding the Japanese system of tours, where you go hard for a few weeks, but then get two weeks off completely to heal up. In the 90s, the guys who worked Japan always viewed their schedule as superior and leading to better matches because you peaked for the big shows at the end of the tour and could go all-out, knowing that after the tour ended, you had a few weeks off. Unfortunately, in practice, that wasn’t necessary good, because so many of the All Japan guys destroyed their bodies with that mentality they could go so far physically because they’d have a few weeks off after the big show or shows. There were a lot of guys from that era who ended up with real bad endings and pain pill issues because of how far they took things. Still, if there was a few weeks off mandatory for everyone perhaps once every six to ten weeks, it would help with the nagging injuries and WWE doesn’t have the demand to do the crazy physically hard matches because the crowds aren’t as expecting that caliber and will react to less than in Japan. One of the things WWE has been doing in recent years is training not as much to look good with baby oil under the lights, but training to build up the structure to withstand injuries. That’s the idea, but it’s a work in progress given the number of knee and shoulder injuries

Total Bellas will be debuting on 9/6 on E! with an eight week season built around Brie Bella giving birth to daughter Birdie and Cena proposing to Nikki in what no doubt will be portrayed a shock and something completely out of the blue

Nikki Bella will also be on Dancing with the Stars, which will debut on 9/18 meaning all through the fall Raw will not only be going against the NFL, but Dancing with the Stars with one of its top female performers. It’ll be interesting if that leads to a drop in the female audience that came from Total Divas watching Raw

Asuka has vacated the women’s title after suffering a broken collarbone. The decision was made to move her up to the main roster when the injury heals in about two months rather than have her lose the title in NXT, that way they can keep the undefeated strike gimmick going. Asuka vacating was announced at the 8/24 NXT tapings and WWE announced it immediately, rather than wait until it aired on TV, which looks to be on 9/6. Exactly what the next step regarding the title isn’t clear. It was definitely suggested that the winner of the Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler match in the Mae Young tournament finals on 9/12 be for the championship. That is not official, but it has been proposed

Strowman wasn’t on Raw this week as a creative decision for the Lesnar vs. Strowman program. The feeling was to keep the two of them apart after the physical angle last week. Strowman was taken off this show with the idea you can’t have them both on the show at this point without interacting. On 9/4, Lesnar and Heyman won’t be on Raw in Omaha so Strowman will return. They at this point are scheduled to both be on the 9/11 show in Anaheim

The most talked about thing on the 8/28 Raw show was the Cena/Reigns promo. The promo was exactly what it was designed to be, with the supposed “shooting” and “breaking the fourth wall” and Cena talking about going heel, how Reigns was supposed to replace him but couldn’t get the job done, as well as Reigns talking about how Cena always buries the talent coming up but he’s the one guy on the roster that Cena can’t bury. The only thing in the segment that wasn’t planned ahead of time was when Reigns did forget his script and Cena quickly made fun of him for it. The segment was scripted last week, and Vince personally spoke with both about what he wanted. Both were given outlines of the script by the end of the week. The reality is that Cena came off so much better partly because he was supposed to be the face and Reigns was supposed to be the heel, although with the audience being left to decide and it not being too forced. The other reason is that Cena is great in that environment, as far as being able to command that kind of promo and really there are only a few people who can hang with him in that without getting buried, and the idea was to make it clear Reigns wasn’t one of them. The mentality behind it was the two giant stars against each other, and the format was of the Cena vs. Rock stuff, or the 1997 Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels stuff. But Reigns isn’t Rock, and he’s really not even Bret Hart when it comes to that type of promo. The problem is that in saying that Reigns can't cut a promo at the toplevel, you basically shined a light on his weakness, and while that's finefor anyone else, calling attention to that flaw in the guy you want to bethe top guy in your company over the long haul is counterproductive.

Zayn has now raised nearly $70,000 in his Sami for Syria campaign, trying to raise money for those in Syria, which is in crisis, to work with the Syrian American Medical Society to have a mobile clinic on the ground for Syrians to being health care to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get it. He noted that many people are living in camps, or are displaced, or living in rural areas with no access to transportation and can’t get health care. With a mobile clinic, he noted that many of those people can be helped. Zayn’s idea is for a mobile health care unit with a doctor, a nurse, a midwife, and psycho-social care for those who are dealing with mental health issues which he noted a lot of people don’t think about. He said that people who see the conflict think about the injuries and medical emergencies, but don’t think about the people mental health who either have injuries or deal with the post-traumatic stress and depression, particularly for kids growing up in that environment

On the first day’s release of the Mae Young Classic it was announced that WWE had signed Kacy Catanzaro, 27, who was a star during the 2014 season of “American Ninja Warrior.” Catanzaro was shown in the audience and announced as having been signed. She was a star on the show as the first woman to complete the obstacle course and the first woman to qualify for the finals. Catanzaro is under five feet tall and less than 100 pounds, but was a Division I gymnast while in college. She was also twice on the Sports Illustrated list of the Fittest 50

Also announced as having been signed was Shadia Bsesio, a television personality from Dubai, who grew up in Lebanon. She was background in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and attended WWE’s recent Dubai tryouts

Regarding the show itself, the episodes are easy to watch but I think putting out four in one week was overload. This was an experiment based on the viewership for the cruiserweight classic declining just as the tournament was getting down to its biggest matches with the idea people would rather see it all at once. The episodes are just over 45 minutes so the four released episodes are a little more than three hours. The first round had video profiles and the matches were short enough and the crowd was into it. By WWE standards, the in-ring was not of usual levels for men or women, unlike in the cruiserweight tournament which featured some of WWE’s best matches of the year. They are really lionizing Mae Young as the Babe Ruth of women’s wrestling because she was a favorite among management which controls the history. In fact, in the history package, Mildred Burke, who was really the biggest woman’s wrestling star ever, in the sense she got legit votes for female Athlete of the Year for Years in the national poll and was legit a top ten biggest draw of her era, a top tier money earner of her era and got news coverage equivalent to the top female athletes of her era, has been scrubbed from the story of women’s wrestling completely. In fact, the story of women’s wrestling in WWE consists of only wrestlers in their Hall of Fame and the modern crew, no June Byers, Nell Stewart and the stars in the 40s and early 50s who used to main event major cities before women’s wrestling became a mid-card attraction after everything fell apart in the 50s. It’s really a fascinating story, particularly with major states like California and New York banning it for decades. On the first show, the real standouts were Shayna Baszler and Jazzy Gabert. They went super hard on the Ronda Rousey angle, with constant shots of Rousey, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, pointed out, during Baszler’s short first round win. Baszler carried herself like a star. Gabert, who lost in the first round to Abbey Laith (who was under contract while Gabert wasn’t), got over the best and had a great look and charisma. She was the biggest and strongest looking, and when she no sold a spot, the place went nuts. Even in week one, the high point is that the women all looked different and were presented different as opposed to years of almost carbon copy bodies and preferred looks. In fact, none of the women had that old WWE look, and the presentation was clearly along with lines of them being athletes as opposed to the old presentation where it’s hot women in outfits designed to get you thinking about them being anything but athletes trying to do passable matches. The funny thing is the match quality wasn’t even better, but the presentation and attempted appeal were such that women struggling to compete at a certain level came across more as athletes who are inexperienced trying as opposed to looking like models who are pretending and trying

Cena will be lending his voice to an animated series called “Dallas & Robo” on YouTube Red. Dallas & Robo is a show about a space trucker named Dallas (voiced by Kat Dennings of 2 Broke Girls fame), and self-proclaimed Warrior Robo (voiced by Cena) who are in space trying t avoid cannibal bikers, rival space truckers and vending machine burritos in trying to make a living in the seedy world of interplanetary big rigging. The eight episode series will debut in 2018

The WWE web site had a story about Enzo spending $10,000 for tickets to Mayweather vs. McGregor. He posted photos of himself with Steve Harvey, Jamie Foxx, Chance the Rapper and Jeremy Piven

Ciampa not only had knee surgery, but has had two other surgeries over the past three months. His arm is in a sling. He’s had a bad neck dating back years

Undertaker was in New York for SummerSlam weekend but it had nothing to do with 2K Sports or the video game. Jerry Lawler didn’t know and was asked, said maybe it did, and people thought it did, but it wasn’t the case. In fact, the idea someone would have to do motion capture and came would have been impossible as you need an elaborate studio set up for that and they didn’t have one in New York

Regarding Corbin and his losing the briefcase and having the lackluster match with Cena, that had nothing to do with Cena, well, the match had to do with Cena as his dance partner, but his fortunes falling temporarily was not Cena related. It also had nothing to do with Twitter, although the Twitter stuff did him no favors, particularly with a lot of the wrestlers because it’s considered bad form to go on a blocking spree of your fellow wrestlers. It was an entirely different situation outside the ring that happened a few weeks ago that happened

The company is pushing that Jessicka Carr (real name Jessicka Heiser, 25, formerly known in ROH and indies as Kennadi Brink) debuted on the Mae Young Classic as the first women’s referee in company history. Of course that’s far from the truth as a ton of the women have worked as referees on touring shows when they had an odd number of women on tours, and the first women’s referee in WWE history was Rita Chatterton, known as Rita Marie, in the 80s. She’s erased from history as she had a falling out, to say the least, with Vince McMahon. There are enough different versions of the story told over the past three decades, and the only consistent version from all sides is that it was the result of something that took place in the backseat of a limo. By the time the TV show was done, Carr was being called the first female wrestling referee of recent years, which as far as someone hired to be a referee as opposed to a wrestler acting as a referee, would be accurate

Regarding the 2018 Hall of Fame in New Orleans, one name floated to us as a possible headliner would be Bautista. Obviously Undertaker would be the headliner if he so chooses and The Rock will be the headliner whenever he so chooses

Former wrestler Eve Marie Torres Gracie and husband Rener Gracie were at the performance center this week teaching Jiu Jitsu

Nakamura did an interview where he said that in 2005, he had an offer from UFC to fight in the company. He said he turned it down because he didn’t want to leave New Japan at the time and has never regretted that decision. Nakamura was a strong college wrestler who was recruited by New Japan. His first push in New Japan came early, as he was the youngest IWGP champion ever largely because he did well in losing a 2002 MMA fight to Daniel Gracie on a New Year’s Eve. He went 3-1 with one no contest in MMA fights in Japan, with the last one being a second submission win with a forearm choke over Alexey Ignashov on a K-1 MMA show at the time when Ignashov may have been the best heavyweight kickboxer in the world, or if not, what close to it. They had a prior bout that Nakamura dominated, with repeat takedowns and ground control, then got caught with a shot while going for a takedown and it was stopped. The result was protested based on the idea the stoppage was early and they ruled in Nakamura’s favor, overturned the decision and set up the rematch. While I don’t know it to be true and never heard that story before, the timing does make sense that it would have at least been possible. Nakamura used to train at AKA in San Jose between New Japan tours in that era. He was already a star, but New Japan wasn’t doing well and this was before he really figured out the charisma aspect of pro wrestling. He said that he still trains Jiu Jitsu

The movie “Birth of the Dragon,” about Bruce Lee before he became famous, which WWE Films released this past week, opened at No. 8 at the box office doing $2,702,430 on 1,618 screens

A correction from last week, when it came to the most total WWE tag team title reigns, we had Edge & Christian and the Hardys with seven, but the top would be the Dudleys with nine, so in this day of generally longer title reigns and more booking stability, that’s going to take some time too catch up to

Jericho was on “Busted Open” radio and talked more about the Battleground match with Styles vs. Owens and how he fit into it. While he was originally coming to Smackdown two days after Battleground to film segments for Southpaw Regional Wrestling, apparently this was known in advance. He was going to have a U.S. title match with Styles and put Styles over on the show, for a one time appearance since he was doing book promotions ad touring with his band and he’s not going to be on WWE television for the time being at least. When Styles didn’t get his shoulders up on that weird finish and Owens won the title, the match was changed to a three-way where Styles pinned Owens. The Owens vs. Styles with Shane McMahon as referee direction coming off Owens being screwed on a three count by another ref in a Smackdown match was always planned, so the botched finish at Battleground didn’t change those plans. Jericho also said he’s learned to never pitch ideas to Vince when he’s hungry, or when other people are around. He said that he pitched 2014 SummerSlam idea of he, managed by Michaels, against Wyatt, with the Wyatt family in the corner, and he said it never happened because he pitched it to Vince at the wrong time

This week at the Performance Center they are doing NFL combine like speed, strength and agility tests. Evidently Otis Dozovic did a 775 pound dead lift

Regarding the mention of Mel Phillips and WWE television. We’re told that the attempt is to not show him on the WWE Network. There are plenty of things where he was doing ring announcing or in shots where they’ve edited him out but there are also things that have fallen through the cracks such as the angle in 1985 on a Saturday Night’s Main Event where Terry Funk beat him up and used his branding iron on him. There are some shots of him in the background but all the stuff of him as ring announcer has been edited out. Phillips was a ring announcer at house shows as well as the guy in charge of the ring crew and was fired in 1992 after allegations of his actions with some of the ring boys which included one settlement that was publicized with Tom Cole which included an agreement by WWF that Phillips and Terry Garvin would never work for the company again

Mahal vs. Nakamura for the title was announced as the main event on a 9/16 house show at the Edion Arena in Osaka. They also announced Asuka would be appearing, but I would think that would be not in a match given her injury

Angle will be appearing in his role as General Manager on the Raw tour from 9/13 to 9/16 in Australia

On Raw, they did a match with Mickie James vs. Emma where if Emma won, which she did, that James would have to Tweet whatever Emma told her to tweet, but if James won, then Emma could never again claim credit for having started the women’s revolution. The idea came from the game show “To Tell the Truth,” which in its latest incarnation, the loser of the show has to tweet out whatever the host tells them to and it has to be stay up for at least 24 hours. The way they were explaining it in the angle was almost the identical verbiage as is used on the show. So in great follow-through, it ended at that point, Emma never told her what to tweet, and there was nothing on James’ Twitter page related to the angle after the show

WWE stock closed at press time at $21.27 per share, giving the company a market value of $1.64 billion

For the top ten most-watched shows on the WWE Network over the past week, it was dominated by the Mae Young Classic. The top four spots were taken, in order, by episodes one through four. From there it was: 5. Summer Slam; 6. Mae Young Classic bracketology; 7. NXT from 8/23; 8. NXT Takeover Brooklyn; 9. WrestleMania 33; 10. 205 Live for 8/22 featuring Enzo’s debut

For TV this week, Raw on 9/4 in Omaha has Miz vs. Jeff Hardy for the U.S. title. Smackdown on 9/5 in Sioux Falls, SD, has Orton vs. Nakamura with the winner becoming No. 1 contender for Mahal, plus a non-title match with Natalya vs. Carmella. They also announced Natalya vs. Naomi for the title will take place at the 9/12 Smackdown tapings in Las Vegas, which is also the night of the Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane Mae Young Classic final

Notes from the 8/28 Raw show in Memphis. After losing the main event, the show was built around the Reigns/Cena segment, which was great for the most part although it exposed Reigns’ weaknesses more than I’d do, and Bliss regaining the women’s title from Banks. You can see Vince is in one of those phases now that he wants to change titles as often as possible. Title changes do get people talking, but if it’s a deal like with The New Day, Banks and Tozawa where they change a title for a pop, and then reverse it quickly, it usually makes fans get less behind the babyface unless there is a great angle where they are screwed. In all of the aforementioned cases, it’s clear with hindsight that Vince wasn’t looking at really changing the title as he wanted the heel champions on top, but wanted title changes for TV and PPV. What was bad about the Bliss win back so quickly is that the entire storyline that was pushed was that the babyface, Banks, can win titles, but she always loses them back right away. Then she did, and with Bliss predicting it, it almost made her the babyface since she won clean with the DDT. As noted here for some time, the idea was always to go with Bliss vs. Jax, which is why the SummerSlam title change to Banks didn’t seem to make much sense, and it didn’t because the idea wasn’t for Banks to even have one PPV cycle as champion. Booker T was unable to fly out of Houston due to Hurricane Harvey so Lawler took his place, which ended up working out well for a number of reasons. First off, Lawler was so much better in the spot, and second, being in Memphis, Lawler was ridiculously over when they used him for an angle with Elias. The Lawler/Elias thing was in the original script of the show so they were planning on involving Lawler as the Memphis hero who would get mad that Elias was spoofing Elvis long before they got the word Booker wasn’t going to e able to make it. The show drew 7,500 fans. For Main Event, Brooke pinned Fox with a cartwheel moonsault. It was nice to give Brooke a win after the horrible week she went through. Ali pinned Daivari with the inverted 450. Raw opened with Angle out while Miz was in the ring. Angle was about to announce who Miz would face at No Mercy, but instead announced a Battle Royal for a IC title shot at Miz on the 9/4 Raw in Omaha. Jeff Hardy won the Battle Royal in 16:14. It was like every Battle Royal. Show came out first, clean shaven, and I swear, he’s cut ten to 15 years off his age. Hawkins, who was called Curtis Hawkins over and over, was thrown out in seconds by everyone to be like a joke. From there the guys tossed out were Kalisto, Show (who Balor teamed up with Gallows & Anderson to throw out to try and tease the idea maybe they’ll get back together again), R-Truth, Goldust, Crews, Gallows, Anderson, Matt Hardy (Gallows, who had been eliminated, pulled him off the apron after he’d gone over the top), Balor (who was thrown out by Wyatt, who did his magic appearance, tossed him, and then did his magic disappearance) and it was down to Axel, Dallas, Elias, Jordan and Jeff Hardy. Earlier, Miz prevented Dallas from being eliminated. Axel & Dallas were throwing out prelim guys all match long, and if they were really protecting Miz, they should have let the prelim guys stayed and worked on getting rid of the top tier guys, of which there were only a few. Jordan was focused on as the star of the match, so it felt like they were still pushing him even though the angle with Angle is dead. He was throwing people all over the place with overhead belly-to-bellies. Jordan threw out Dallas, Axel and Elias and then Jeff threw out Dallas, all in about ten seconds. Charly Caruso was backstage with Bliss. She noted that Banks always loses the title right after she wins it. The last time they need to do is call attention to that unless Banks was going to win, which she didn’t. It’s bad enough for fans getting behind faces when they have short title reigns, but it’s another to point it out and tell people that their title wins mean almost nothing. Enzo came out. Lawler, unlike Booker, who knows his role, was praising Enzo. Cole even said that nobody likes Enzo. Enzo talked about Cass’ injury and him beating Cass last week, saying he proved he can compete with lumbering seven-foot giants as well as compete in 205 Live. I’m not sure what he was doing with Cass was competing. He brought up Mayweather beating McGregor and him being there. The crowd booed him since wrestling fans are more McGregor fans than Mayweather fans by a wide margin. Enzo still got a big reaction. He also got his SAWFT that he made up but was given to Cass, back. Amore pinned Dar in 2:54. Neville was watching. This was short but Enzo did actually miss his eat defeat finisher but Dar stayed down for the count anyway. Neville cut a backstage promo saying if Enzo is supposed to be his next challenger, he’ll be champion forever, and ever, and ever, copying Terry Funk’s most famous 1983 promo. Heyman and Lesnar were out. Heyman brought up that Strowman put Lesnar through two tables at SummerSlam. Heyman said that he didn’t believe in monsters, but he does believe Strowman is one. He also brought up Strowman throwing Lesnar around on Raw last week and said that Lesnar now wants Strowman. Lesnar then grabbed the mic and said, “Suplex City, bitch.” Cesaro pinned Rollins in 10:16. They did a good match. The announcers brought up that these two used to train together and travel together. The announcers also teased the idea of a Rollins & Ambrose vs. Usos match. Ambrose and Sheamus were going at it outside the ring and Rollins was distracted. Cesaro hit the uppercut forearm and got the pin. Sheamus then challenged Ambrose to an impromptu match. They came out fast. Sheamus went for his ten Valentine forearms over the ropes but stopped at three. It made sense to try this and he’s a heel, the crowd expects and likes the ten hard hits, so you take it away from them. The fans did boo when he stopped, although it was very light. Sheamus also used a forward fireman’s carry off the middle rope for a near fall. Rollins and Cesaro were going at it. Rollins hit Cesaro with a tope. Sheamus was distracted and Ambrose pinned him in 10:45 after Dirty Deeds. Emma and Mickie James were backstage to set up their match. Emma said that even though she lost to Jax last week, she was the one trending on Twitter. James said what was trending was “Give Emma CPR.” Emma pinned James in 1:40 by blocking a sunset flip and sitting down on it for the pin. Emma, after winning, started screaming over and over that she started the women’s revolution. Next was the Cena/Reigns promo that everyone was talking about. Cena started by saying Reigns was the blue chip prospect who has been protected from anyone and everyone. Cena at first was going back to his 2003 dialect, which was funny. Then he stopped doing it during the promo. Cena said that he knows Reigns doesn’t want t fight him. Reigns came out and was booed heavily. He laughed at the notion he didn’t want to fight Cena and told Cena that he’s not as big a deal as he thinks he is. He said he did something Cena never did and will never do, and that’s he retired The Undertaker. The crowd always boos when Reigns brings that up. Cena then said how people have always wanted him to do a heel turn, which was a line that’s way out of place. There was a small reaction to it. Cena said the people see Reigns as a cheap ass corporately created John Cena bootleg. That got huge “Yes” chants for Cena, who was clearly designed to be the face here. He said Reigns is not the guy, he’s just a guy who is desperately trying to fill shoes that he never well. He said he’s not the Undertaker, a beaten down veteran at the end of his career with a bettered hip. Cena said he’s at his strongest and fastest and hungriest that he’s ever been. You can watch Cena in the ring and how he moves that his body is feeling it. He’s been working of late like a guy protecting injuries. Reigns said Cena can take anything and spin it, and Cena thinks they boo him because they want him to be ab ad guy, but they boo him because he sucks. Reigns then lost his train of thought and Cena said, “It’s called a promo and if you want to be the big dog, you’re going to have to be able to do them.” That was probably the only line that was unscripted, and it was also edited off the Hulu replays and Reigns forgetting the line and Cena burying him I think was edited off replay airings. Reigns said they boo Cena because they see right through him and he’s a phony yes man and called him a part-time fake ass bitch. Reigns said that he busts his ass so Cena can do the Today Show and then show up at house shows if they pay him enough. Then Reigns talked about how Cena is the shovel and he buries all the young talent coming up and that’s how he stayed on top of the mountain for so long. He called Cena a backstabbing shark and said that reason Cena doesn’t like him because he’s knows he’s the one guy he can’t bury and said “You can’t see me” and that he’s the one wrestler in WWE that Cena can’t see. He asked why he would want to lessen himself and his bloodline to be the next John Cena when he can be the one and only Roman Reigns. This hard more of a Michaels vs. Hart feel than a Rock vs. Cena feel at this point, which isn’t a bad thing, because Rock vs. Cena was too smooth while Michaels vs. Hart felt totally real because it wasn’t smooth at all. Cena then said Reigns was a fool, and better to stay quiet and have people think you’re stupid than open your mouth and prove them right. Cena then said he was going to tear Reigns up, and noted that he hasn’t been in the main event in WrestleMania in five years, and was just in the opening match at SummerSlam. He said he took the U.S. title and used it as a way to introduce new superstars like Owens, Zayn and Styles, while Reigns took the U.S. title and called it a demotion. Cena said he blamed Reigns because the reason he was still around is because Reigns can’t do his job. He said that for years he’s been waiting for WWE to find a guy who can keep up with him, and he looks at Reigns, and he can do this better as a part-timer than Reigns could ever do it full-time. They both signed the contract and Reigns threw the table over. They were about to go at it when Anderson & Gallows came out and Gallows called them both nerds. This led to a tag match. Why, after that promo, did they put them in a tag match, and not even have problems, or shoot an angle was beyond me. Cena & Reigns beat Anderson & Gallows in 5:59. Cena was looking mechanical. I mean, he always does to a small degree and it’s just accepted, but it’s been a lot more visible of late. Reigns hit the Superman punch on Gallows and Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Gallows. Reigns then speared Anderson for the pin. The next segment was the comedy that wasn’t the slightest bit funny break. Elias was out there singing. Unlike in New York with the traveling SummerSlam crowd, the fans weren’t cheering him at all. He said that Dusty Rhodes called him the Elvis of WWE and he was right, because he’s the king. He did a song to the beat of “Hound Dog,” which was one of Elvis Presley’s biggest hits, and in Memphis they were not happy. Lawler then stopped him. The place went nuts for Lawler. Lawler told Samson that his voice wasn’t that bad, but he doesn’t know how to relate to his audience. Lawler then called out Pelvis Wesley from Southpaw Regional Wrestling. Slater came out dressed as Elvis. This didn’t work at all. The idea is that Elias would attack Elvis in Memphis and get great heat. But it didn’t work at all. Elias finished Slater with Drift Away. The main event saw Bliss beat Banks to regain the women’s title in 13:55. Banks did a flying knee of the apron and a Code Red for a near fall. Banks got on the bank statement but Bliss cradled her and Banks let it go. Bliss snapped Banks’ neck on the top rope and hit a DDT and got the pin. No controversy. No heat. It just made Banks look so bad. Honestly, if six months ago you came to me and asked me to book Bayley and Banks the worst way possible, I’d have done almost exactly what these guys are doing under the guise of trying to get them more popular. The deal was always to build to Bliss vs. Jax as the big match, which is why Banks winning at SummerSlam made no sense, but they’re in the mood right now where they want to change titles all the time, even if they don’t want to change champions, so that’s what you get. But that’s the stuff that kills babyfaces. Jax came out to congratulate Bliss. She then squashed Banks in the corner and picked Bliss up and carried her around the ring on her shoulder. I think everyone saw the next thing coming, which was her dropping Bliss with the electric chair move. Jax then held up the belt, so that is the next program. After Raw was over, they gave the fans a dark match, a street fight where Balor pinned Wyatt. They used kendo sticks and chair shots. Wyatt set up a chair in the corner and went to throw Balor into it, but Balor reversed and whipped Wyatt into the chair and then hit the coup de gras for the win. Notes from the 8/29 Smackdown tapings in Little Rock. They had to block much of the building off since the crowd was only 3,500, and almost everyone was positioned on one side of the ring right in front of the camera. Considering how empty the building was, they positioned people well as the building looked packed in almost every crowd shot, since they tarped the upper deck and only shot one side. Naomi pinned Carmella in the opening dark match. Smackdown opened with the Singh Brothers introducing Mahal. He did his usual promo about how he’s disrespected whenever he’s in an airport or checking into a hotel. The Singh Brothers went to apologize for screwing up and letting Nakamura lay him out last week. They apologized to everyone in Asia as well as the 1.3 billion people in India. That’s like saying you want to apologize to everyone in California as well as the people in Los Angeles. They said that through their ignorance and lack of skill, Nakamura was able to attack Mahal but they vowed Nakamura would never touch him again. They both wanted to kiss his royal feet, but before that could happen, Nakamura showed up. All three beat Nakamura down and were putting the boots to him when Orton made the save. Rusev then ran in and superkicked Orton and Mahal laid out Nakamura with the Khallas. They had already announced the tag match as the main event making the procession of run-ins more predictable. Gable & Benjamin debuted as a team beating The Ascension in 7:13. It was too early to get a read on them. It was Gable selling and Benjamin getting the hot tag, as expected. They aren’t nearly as good, without the double-team moves and Jordan’s great hot tag, as Jordan & Gable were, but it was also their first match together. One thing about Benjamin is that you really notice how wrestlers are getting smaller. Benjamin probably is the same size, if not slightly heavier than when he was here before. Then he looked normal sized, good physique obviously but not a huge guy or anything. Now he looks huge. Corbin did an interview saying that he’s tired of people asking “Where’s your briefcase,” which is the house show chant. Corbin said he would be cashing in on Styles’ open challenge later in the show. Styles came out and issued the open challenge. He noted that Owens won’t be getting another title shot as long as he’s champion. Dillinger came out to a pretty big reaction. Corbin came out and he wanted the shot. They argued and Corbin attacked Dillinger, but Dillinger came back and posted Corbin and asked for the match to start. Styles beat Dillinger to retain the title in :48 with the calf crusher submission. After the match, Corbin attacked Dillinger and threw him into the barricade. Corbin jumped in the ring and Styles nailed Corbin with a forearm to send him out of the ring. It’s pretty clear this is the new U.S. title program. Singh and Rusev were backstage. Singh talked about India and Bulgaria banding together. Rusev did what came across as a babyface promo saying that this isn’t about India, and it isn’t about Bulgaria, and told Singh that “You’re not my friend. I came to Smackdown to be a champion and after tonight’s win, I’m coming after this,” and pointed to the title belt. Roode pinned Kanellis in 2:48 with a blockbuster off the top and the Glorious DDT. The crowd was way into Roode’s entrance. Kanellis came across as strictly enhancement talent the way this was booked. Maria was in his corner and aside from a kiss at the start of the match, she really didn’t do much of anything. English came out singing when Owens interrupted. To make sure people didn’t cheer him for interrupting English’s singing, Owens immediately called the fans unrefined Arkansas hillbillies. He told English to vacate the ring so he could get to some important business. So English vacated the ring. Owens said he made a deal with Shane that he could pick the referee for his match with Styles. He said he didn’t pick Shane, but Shane counted the pin. He said the three count shouldn’t matter since it was done by a guy who wasn’t the referee. This plays out well later. He said that on Raw, you’d never see the lovely Stephanie McMahon abuse her power like Shane does on smackdown. He said Smackdown has become Shane’s personal playground. Shane came out and Owens said it was just like Shane to take the spotlight away from the talent and making it all about himself. Shane said that Corbin was extremely biased as a referee. Really, if Corbin’s role was to be biased, he wasn’t doing that great a job of it. He said Corbin walked off the threw the shirt at him, he put the ref shirt on and all he did was count the fall. He told Owens to leave the ring and told English to get in the ring because English had a match. English and Zayn had a match. The crowd was dead. Owens was on commentary. He said he couldn’t even put into words what he’s thinking, which makes him as worthless as Byron on commentary. Zayn hit a flip dive. Owens hit the ring, pulled the ref shirt off the ref and took over. Owens then power bombed Zayn, ordered English to pin him, and counted three at 2:12. Shane was backstage and said that the result of that match doesn’t count because Owens wasn’t the referee. He said that he’s heard Owens is in the parking lot leaving and he’s going there to find him. I don’t know that this is the direction, but this would make a clear legal issue in the sense that Shane made a ruling that the result of a match was stricken from the records because it wasn’t the referee on record who counted the pin, and thus, for consistency, his loss to Styles would have to be the same thing and thus he’d be able to get another title shot. Dasha Fuentes was backstage with Ziggler. He did a similar promo as last week. He said he was the best athlete in the company for the best ten years but he’s got nothing to show for it. He said being the best guy in the ring isn’t respected and his talent is taken for granted,, and he’s been an afterthought. He said he’s a star, and then made fun of different gimmicks, saying if he had a special entrance or played the guitar or was doused in paint like Balor to hide that he’s a charisma vacuum, or he could be Zigman, the super hero. He said people would soon see the new Ziggler, all flash and no substance, next week. I think Ziggler telling fans his career has been a failure is a major negative because most want to believe if you’ve won the world title more than once it means you were a big success, and essentially it’s saying winning the world title doesn’t make you a success which renders a key component of pro wrestling, the quest to win the world title, as meaningless. He’s supposed to be a heel as a complainer, but saying you are great but are booked badly is essentially also telling you in the body of the show that what happens on the show has nothing to do with ability and it’s all corporate decisions. Usos beat Big E & Kingston in 4:51. The stipulations of this non-title match was that the winning team could pick the stipulations for the title match the two teams were having. Still, if the champions win this match, why are the challengers even getting a title match. Jimmy did a blind tag in and cradled Kingston holding the tights. There wasn’t much to this match and it appeared they were rushing things and time had gotten out of hand. Ellsworth did a backstage promo. Carmella was mad at him for giving away the plan to take the title from Natalya last week and it was foiled. She said she’s not going to tell him anything anymore. Ellsworth asked Carmella if she’d gotten the flowers he sent. She said the read “With deepest sympathies” and asked if he’d stole them from a funeral. Natalya then showed up and said that Carmella can’t keep her pet on a leash. Natalya vowed to make Carmella the Baron Corbin of the women’s division. So now Corbin has gone from WWE champion in the fall to being a punch line in scripted women’s backstage promos. They announced Natalya vs. Carmella for next week, and then Naomi came out and told Natalya that she wants her title rematch in two weeks. The latest with Lana and Tamina is that Lana is back in her role of cutting promos and doing intros, but with Tamina and not Rusev. Aside from not having her hair in a bun, she’s really back to her original character, including telling Tamina to crush. This comes across like such a lame knockoff as Lana & Rusev. As expected, now both are in far weaker positions without the other. Tamina pinned Tina Stock in :57 after head-butts and a superkick. Tamina is doing the same monster character that Jax does on Raw. After the match, Tamina was supposed to throw Stock out of the ring, and she almost got caught going through the ropes. Lana has promised to lead Tamina to the title. The only difference is that Lana is starting The Ravishing Revolution and had photographers get into the ring to shoot photos of Tamina after her win. After two weeks ago being told that the Fashion Files are done and that they’d be back wrestling, the Fashion Files were back. So we never did find out the mystery tag team and this stuff officially has gone nowhere. I like the delivery of both of them but this felt like they had completely run out of material. There was one cute line where a few objects were on a table including a small light for clues, a belt (like one you’d put around your jeans) and a headphones. When they saw the belt, one of them said, “that’s a title,” and the other one said, “No, it’s a belt.” Nakamura & Orton beat Rusev & Mahal in 7:37. They were way late on time here as they had to cut out the intros and rush through the main event. Orton went for the draping DDT and I’m not sure what happened, but Mahal backed off and Orton just gave him a regular DDT. Nakamura hit the Kinshasa off the middle rope and a second one on Rusev for the pin. After the match, Orton and Nakamura were celebrating together when Orton laid out Nakamura with an RKO. It’s notable that people buy into the Orton character that he can turn on his tag team partner like that and nobody believed he was turning heel or reacted like he was. When they put him in the Wyatt Family last year, nobody bought him as a heel then either. 205 Live opened with Kendrick pinning Gallagher in a street fight in 7:27. Gallagher was a well dressed street fighter, with nice clothes but taped fists. Gallagher dominated almost the entire match. Kendrick tied Gallagher’s feet in the apron and hit him with a kendo stick. Kendrick threw Gallagher into the ring steps and Gallagher’s head was cut hard way. They tried to avoid showing it but the ref put on his gloves right away, which means somebody is busted open. They went right to the finish from there. Kendrick grabbed the ring bell and the idea was he was to DDT Gallagher on the ring bell, but completely missed, but they sold it like he did anyway. Kendrick then used the captain’s hook, and using a kendo stick for the crossface. Gallagher never tapped, but the ref stopped it. Dar, Gulak and Nese did a totally corny promo saying Enzo won’t last in 205 Live. Swann pinned Daivari in4:08. TJP was at ringside on crotches. Daivari gave Swann a hotshot on the announcers table. He then grabbed one of TJP’s crutches. Swann the pinned Daivari with a schoolboy. Daivari blamed TJP for the loss and started beating him down, nailing him in the gut with a crutch. In the ring, TJP did springboard and started doing all these moves off his taped up bad leg. So the idea is that TJP was faking the injury the whole time. One would think if he was faking the injury he should have attacked Swann, since they are building up a program between the two. Instead, Swann just watched him do his comeback, made a face like he saw he was faking the injury, handed TJP a crutch ad walked off. TJP then laid out Daivari with a detonation kick. The announcers were pushing a Swann vs. TJP rubber match. Enzo was backstage with Metalik and Alexander. He said he’s in 205 to be the player/coach, saying he was Bill Russell (the player/coach of the 60s Boston Celtics, who were the dominant NBA team of that era). Enzo said that they were all the ingredients to make a great pie, that Alexander is the dough, Metalik is the cheese and he’s the sauce. The one thing about Enzo is that even though he’s not a good wrestler, he connects with the audience and the show comes across far hotter with him out there. When he came out, it was the biggest reaction in the history of te show and even three hours into the live show, he got pretty much the same crowd reaction he got on Raw, especially with the SAWFT chant. He also called Gulak “Captain Underpants.” They showed Neville backstage watching the main event. Enzo & Alexander & Metalik beat Gulak & Nese & Dar in 9:50. Alexander and Metalik did double flip dives. Enzo teased a dive but was cut off. The whole story is the heel say Enzo isn’t good enough for 205 Live. Gulak totally outwrestled him early, but in the end, this was a good match. The finish saw Enzo hit eat defeat, which they are calling the Jodunzo, or something like that, on Dar. He actually hit it this time. Enzo then pinned Nese with a schoolboy using the ropes as leverage. The closing dark match saw Natalya pin Charlotte using the trunks to retain the women’s title. It’s the first time I can recall them using a women’s match as the dark match and the bout to attempt to keep the crowd there for 205 Live

. Notes from the 8/24 NXT tapings. Here are the results. At times they change the order of matches for television. It opened with a dark match as Jazzy Gabert pinned Leah Knox via a head-and-arm submission. For what would appear to be the 8/30 television show, it opened with a video where several people are laid out in the parking lot included all three members of Sanity and you saw Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly leaving the scene. Drew McIntyre came out and talked about how everything he did for 17 years led to the moment of his winning the NXT title. He’s putting everyone on notice and offers anyone a chance to come to the ring and fight. Roderick Strong came out and said that first he wants to beat Bobby Roode and then he wants the NXT title. McIntyre said that at least he challenged him face-to-face like a man and said that Strong would be getting knocked out like a man as well. Peyton Royce, with Billie Kay in the corner, beat Ruby Riot using a fisherman suplex after Kay kicked Riot in the head. Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight won a squash match with their assisted world’s strongest slam finisher. Strong pinned Roode in Roode’s farewell match. They had a fast-paced brawl and Strong pinned him clean using a backbreaker. The show ended with McIntyre doing an interview and then Cole, O’Reilly and Fish all beat him down. What appears to be the 9/6 show opens with Andrade Cien Almas beating Cezar Bononi with a hammerlock DDT. Zelina Vega did commentary during this match. Aleister Black came out and did his first interview. He was so cool without talking. He talked about his 15-year-journey to get here. He challenged McIntyre for the title. Velveteen Dream came out and cut a promo on him. Black used the black mass to kick the mic out of his hands. Johnny Gargano pinned Riddick Moss after a spear through the ropes. Lars Sullivan won a one vs. three handicap match over wrestlers who weren’t given names. So they are trying to book Sullivan like a monster. No Way Jose came out after the match but Sullivan destroyed him as well. Sonya Deville beat Zeda with a knee and a submission. The TV main event saw Kassius Ohno beat Hideo Itami in a no DQ match. Ohno used a low blow and a rolling elbow to win. The 9/13 show has Riot & Nikki Cross over Kay & Royce. It was actually Riot against both when Cross showed up and tagged herself in. She then tagged Riot who got the pin after a top rope senton. Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins (Street Profits) beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy when Ford got the pin after a frog splash. Pete Dunne pinned Wolfgang to retain the U.K. title. Dunne got the biggest pop of anyone on the show, which is notable since he’s not a regular. After the match, Fish, O’Reilly and Cole surrounded Dunne. They all attacked Dunne. Wolfgang tried to make the save but they laid him out as well. The final show for 9/20 saw Gargano beat Tino Sabbatelli with the Gargano escape. Bianca Belair beat Lacey Evans with a flapjack into a power bomb. Sullivan beat Jose with a diving head-butt and a slam. Fish & O’Reilly won the main event over Tyler Bate & Trent Seven in a great mach where Cole superkicked Bate and they used a total elimination no Seven for the pin. McIntyre ran in and all three backed off. Sanity then came out and they started brawling with Fish, O’Reilly and Cole. The show ended with Asuka out. Even though Asuka’s title reign was 510 days, they announced it was 523 days, meaning this segment would air on 9/6. Regal announced that Asuka has started negotiations with Raw and Smackdown and would be vacating the title. So she’ll start after her broken collarbone heals on one of he two rosters. Everyone on the roster came out to cheer for her. Ember Moon came out and hugged her. HHH then said Asuka is one of the greatest champions in all of WWE and told fans to cheer for the undefeated Asuka

They did a loaded up house show on 8/25 in Tampa before 400 fans. They now have so many women in developmental that they put ten of them on this show in three different matches. Cezar Bononi pinned Marcel Barthel with a power bomb. Mandy Rose & Vanessa Borne & Taynari Conti beat Zeda & Rhea Ripley & Ruby Riot when Rose pinned Zeda with a pedigree. Velveteen Dream pinned Raul Mendoza. Dream reversed a sunset flip into a pin. This was more wide-open than the usual structured NXT matches are in Florida. Belair pinned Evans with a power bomb into a flapjack. Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler came out for a promo and issued an open challenge. Ford & Dawkins came out and it turned into a match. The crowd is way into the Street Profits and they won. Moon pinned Sarah Logan after a spin kick. Gargano beat Moss with the Gargano escape. Sanity, being Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain, retained the tag titles over Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight. While we pretty much knew it, this established any two of the members can defend since it was Wolfe & Eric Young as the team that won the titles. Dain pinned Knight with a running crossbody. Main event saw McIntyre beat Almas to retain the title. Vega does Almas’ ring introductions. McIntyre won clean with the Claymore kick

The other NXT weekend show was 8/26 in Bartow, FL, before 200 fans. Demetrius Bronson pinned Chad Lail with a roll-up. It’s interesting that they’ve got the former Gunner, who is 35, with 16 years experience and spent years with TNA and at times was pushed, and he’s not on TV and at shows he’s just used to put rookies over. Royce & Kay beat Aliyah & Liv Morgan with a double team wheelbarrow by Kay and Royce using a running knee to pin Aliyah. Bononi pinned Reeves with a doctor bomb. The Street Profits cut a promo saying they are after the tag team titles and Sanity. Riot pinned Borne after an enzuigiri. Sanity, this time being Dain & Wolfe, kept the tag titles over Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler. Sanity were babyfaces here and the crowd loved them. Jose pinned Moss with the wind up punch. Sullivan pinned Mendoza with the old Takeshi Rikio slam. It was mostly a destruction with Sullivan playing monster over his much smaller opponent. Deville beat Belair with an armbar submission. Black pinned Velveteen Dream with black mass

The Raw crew opened on 8/25 in Carbondale, IL. We didn’t get an attendance for the show. 8/26 in Jonesboro, AR, drew 3,500. 8/27 in Tupelo, MS, drew 6,000

The Smackdown crew opened on 8/26 in Baton Rouge before 3,200 fans. 8/27 in Monroe, LA drew 3,400. 8/28 in Texarkana, AR, drew 1,500.

The Raw crew opened in Carbondale, IL, which is a college campus. Ambrose & Rollins retained the tag titles over Cesaro & Sheamus. Some comedy early. Rollins made the hot tag and the finish saw Rollins hit the knee and Ambrose followed with the Dirty Deeds on Cesaro for the pin. Neville beat Tozawa to keep the cruiserweight title with the Rings of Saturn. O’Neil & Crews & Kalisto & R-Truth & Slater & Rhyno won a 12-man over Hawkins & Dallas & Axel & Gallows & Anderson & Goldust . R-Truth chased Goldust to the back midway through the match. Crews pinned Dallas for the finish. Cena pinned Joe with the Attitude Adjustment in the first singles match the two had since they started their careers together in the late 90s with Rick Bassman in Southern California. It was the typical Cena house show story. The ref was knocked out as Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Joe and Joe was pinned , but no ref to count. Joe came back and hit a low blow and went outside the ring for a chair. Cena ducked the chair shot and hit another Attitude Adjustment and got the pin. Fox & James beat Jax & Emma with James pinned Emma after a Thesz press off the top rope. Balor pinned Wyatt with the coup de gras. Main event was the same Reigns vs. Strowman match they’ve been doing at the house shows. Strowman was DQ’d for hitting Reigns with the ring steps. Strowman set up a table in the corner to put Reigns through, but Reigns reversed things and ended the show by spearing Strowman through the table


Jonesboro was the same show. There wasn’t a lot of reaction to Neville vs. Tozawa, except for some of the high spots. There were dueling chants for Cena vs. Joe, but in the end, when Cena won, virtually the entire arena was cheering. Balor vs. Wyatt was said to be the best match. Same Reigns vs. Strowman on last

With Joe missing Tupelo with a knee injury, the card was changed around a little. Balor pinned Hawkins in the opener and they worked it like a competitive back-and-forth serious match. Of course Balor ended up winning with the coup de gras. Balor worked with Hawkins since Wyatt was moved to replace Joe against Cena. The 12-man tag from the prior nights was a ten-man, as Hawkins was off the heel side, and O’Neil was used as a manager on the face side. Crews again pinned Dallas to win and R-Truth again chased Goldust to the back. Cena pinned Wyatt in the exact same match with the ref bump, attempted chair shot by Wyatt that Cena ducked into an Attitude Adjustment finish that he did the previous two nights with Joe. The other change is the Hardys were brought to the show so the tag title match turned into a three-way with Ambrose & Rollins defending against both Cesaro & Sheamus and The Hardys. The finish saw Rollins use the knee on Cesaro and Ambrose pinned Cesaro after Dirty Deeds. The Reigns vs Strowman match was the same they’ve been doing. Even though it’s different on television, here the crowd was split almost 50/50

For Smackdown, it opened with Zayn pinning Corbin clean in the opener with the Helluva kick, reversing out of the End of Days. This is a change in fortunes since Corbin had been beating Zayn at all the house shows. Ryder & Rawley beat Epico & English using the double-team Hype Ryder on Epico. Rusev beat Sin Cara with the Accolade in 4:00. Rusev bent him like crazy in doing the finish. It looked great. Styles pinned Owens to retain the U.S. title in a street fight after a power bomb through a table. Charlotte & Lynch beat Tamina & Lana when Charlotte beat Lana with the figure eight. The tag title was a three-way with the Usos over Big E & Kingston and Breeze & Fandango with a roll-up by Jey on Big E. The Usos were said to be cheered more than either of the other two babyface teams. Main event saw Mahal beat Nakamura to retain the title with the same finish as at SummerSlam, with the Singh Brothers distracting and Mahal won clean with the Khallas. Nakamura laid out both Singh Brothers with the Kinshasa after the match

Monroe had a few changes since Orton, Gable and Mike & Maria were added to the tour. Nakamura pinned Corbin in the opener with the Kinshasa. Rawley & Ryder beat Epico & English with Epico being pinned after the Hype Ryder. This time Epico refused to leave and called out anyone in the back. Sin Cara came out and pinned Epico in seconds. Gable pinned Mike Kanellis. The finish saw Mike nearly hit Maria, and he held up, and Gable used a roll through German suplex to get the pin. Styles & Zayn beat Owens & Rusev when Styles pinned Rusev after the forearm. Charlotte & Lynch again beat Tamina & Lana with Charlotte over Lana with the figure eight. Usos again won the three-way over New Day and Breeze & Fandango. This time the New Day team was E & Woods. Main event saw Mahal beat Orton in a last man standing match. It was the same deal where Orton was about to beat the ten count to win, when one Singh brother distracted the ref and the other used a low blow on Orton, and Mahal got up to beat the count. After the match, it was a three-on-one beatdown on Orton until Orton came back with an RKO on one of the Singh Brothers and an RKO on Mahal to end the show

Aside from the Woods injury, the Texarkana show was the same as Monroe, with Woods & Kingston as the New Day team. After Woods was injured, they went right to the finish with Jey Uso pinning Kingston with a quick roll-up.