WWE Extreme Rules:
Seth Rollins' first title defense set
WWE Extreme Rules:
Seth Rollins' first title defense set
Send news: firstname.lastname@example.org
Send questions: email@example.com
PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 April 6, 2015
WWE WRESTLEMANIA 31
Thumbs up 465 (93.4%)
Thumbs down 8 (01.6%)
In the middle 25 (05.0%)
BEST MATCH POLL
Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns 420
Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins 29
Ladder match for IC title 19
HHH vs. Sting 10
WORST MATCH POLL
A.J. & Paige vs. Bella Twins 177
HHH vs. Sting 108
Battle Royal 73
Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt 32
Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 3/31.
Seth Rollins came out of WrestleMania as the new WWE champion, cashing in the Monkey in the Bank briefcase about 16:00 into a brutal Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns title match, and curb stomping Reigns for the pin.
The win by Rollins serves a number of purposes. It gets the title off Lesnar so it can be back in play while Lesnar takes the next few months off, without beating Lesnar and hurting the company’s huge money investment. It was clearly not the time for Reigns to win, more because of crowd reactions because he wasn’t Daniel Bryan. Whether Reigns being booed more than cheered as a face on television will hurt his career going forward, or if he’ll be turned, or if the boos will go away (as they did on Tuesday in Fresno) he was clearly hurt this year by the company’s insistence on not breaking with title plans for the second straight year to acquiesce the vocal portion of the fan base.
And as it was, they did break with title plans. The decision to go with Rollins was not made at the last minute, although few were aware of it. Reigns was originally scheduled to win the title. The impression we have is that Lesnar was fully appraised of the plan for Rollins to win at WrestleMania when he was finalizing his contract. My gut is they had to tell him, because if he signed and then they sprung the change on him, while it wouldn’t hurt him since he knew he was losing the title anyway, it’s a trust thing. Lesnar has already shown he can walk out at any time, gets very mad when things don’t go as he’s told they will go, so you can’t play the usual games with talent on him.
I don’t know when Reigns was told that he wasn’t winning, past the point that it appeared nobody in his family knew. His father, Leati Anoa’i (better known as Sika Anoa’i of the Wild Samoans tag team) was so furious at the finish that later that night there was nearly a bad scene. It appears none of the other family members knew either and all were unhappy, some more than others.
Rollins found out that he was winning late in the show. He was also told that as champion, he would have to fly after the show to New York to appear on “The Today Show” (a victory appearance originally scheduled to kick off Reigns title run) and back to San Jose to appear on Raw the next night.
The last 45 seconds of the match and that he was getting the title was said to be told to Rollins right at the start of the Rock & Ronda Rousey angle. It was at that point when Rollins, Reigns, Lesnar, Paul Heyman and producer Michael Seitz (Michael Hayes) went together into a room to go through the “new” finish and work out how they were going to accomplish it. The rest of the match had already been worked on and formulated.
Rollins as champion was the best choice for the time being. He had to get the title within the next few months because it would hurt him to not win on his cash in. And he was always supposed to get the title before the next Money in the Bank, just a question of when. He’s a guy who the title would elevate, and he’s got a long list of challengers in Lesnar (who right now has the potential to be the closest thing to a Steve Austin-like babyface that the company has had based on his Mania reaction and the Raw angle), Reigns, Randy Orton, John Cena and Daniel Bryan who he could headline with, and perhaps with Dean Ambrose as well.
Orton, who beat Rollins earlier in the show, will headline Extreme rules against Rollins in a title match as the main event on the next PPV show on 4/26 from Chicago. John Cena vs. Rusev for the U.S. title was also announced this week at television. It’s not clear where Reigns fits into the show yet, but it’s looking like Kane, Big Show or Bray Wyatt. Bryan is either facing Bad News Barrett for the IC title or the two will be involved in a multiple person match. Nikki Bella is likely to be defending the Divas title against Naomi, or in a multiple person match that would also include A.J. Lee.
While this has not been told to me, it would appear that Rollins vs. Lesnar would be the SummerSlam main event, coming off Raw.
After a long string of lackluster programming, WWE had a huge week with a great NXT live event, a WrestleMania show that was excellent live and, while not quite as good, was still a strong show watching on television. Live I thought it was one of the better live wrestling shows I’d been to. Rewatching, it was a very good show, with no bad matches, several excellent matches and a great angle involving The Rock & Rousey vs. HHH & Stephanie McMahon, that should in some form lead to a main event match next year at WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. But it was not the best WrestleMania of all-time.
Whether that is Rock vs. HHH with the women in the respective corners, or a mixed tag (which would be the strongest possibility since Rock and HHH have wrestled many times and the real heat and interest in selling the match would be the women) is to be determined. Rousey had made the deal to do WrestleMania months ago, and Dana White approved it. It’s a good business move because it expands her stardom into the pro wrestling fan base, which means more interest in her and in theory, more potential PPV buys for her fights. It’s already proven that pro wrestling fans will buy MMA PPV’s in big numbers with the right dynamic.
It’s notable that Vince McMahon would put over a UFC star so big on his biggest platform, but it’s indicative that WWE sees Rousey as a difference-maker, a huge celebrity who benefits them to be involved with more than puts over competition. Plus, long-term, a fighter has more career longevity if, after their fighting days are over, they can do pro wrestling. You also have a company with several women among its highest ranking officers, and Rousey is probably the biggest woman’s sports celebrity in the country right now. It’s really a win-win for everyone, but the kind of a deal that in the past would have never happened due to jealousy.
Dwayne Johnson did Saturday Night Live, and was accompanied by Rousey (also in New York that week). After the show, they went out to eat, took a middle of the night chartered flight to San Jose and were in the ring that morning at Levi’s Stadium,working out their angle before almost anyone was let in the building. Johnson and Rousey have the same agent, Brad Salter of William Morris Endeavor, and besides appearing in the same movie, the two are real close.
Another aspect to help it along is that it was a great publicity stunt for the release of the movie “Furious 7,” that comes out on 4/3, which Johnson is a main star in and Rousey has a significant role in, with both featured in the trailers. The predictions are that the movie will do between $225 million and $275 million in business on a worldwide basis this weekend.
The WWE reported that the show broke pro wrestling’s all-time gate record with a $12.6 million gross, breaking the mark of $12.3 million at WrestleMania 29 in East Rutherford, NJ, headlined by Cena vs. Rock II, of $12.3 million. Those figures include ticket surcharges at Ticketmaster, which boxing and MMA don’t figure in when calculating grosses. The big numbers were because it was the highest priced tickets ever for a WWE event, since the attendance in East Rutherford, NJ was larger, and this show had a lot of tickets sold at the end at a discount (they were doing heavy discounting late if you bought four tickets you could get them as much as 40% off the regular price) and a lot of radio stations were giving away tickets the week of the show.
The show also set the company’s all-time merchandise record for a single event, with $3.3 million, or an incredible $49.25 per head. The old record was $2.7 million set two years earlier at WrestleMania 29 in East Rutherford, NJ which was $37.50 per head.
Between tickets and merchandise, the average spectator at the event spent $237.31, not including concessions and parking, the highest in company history, breaking the mark of $208.33 set two years earlier.
The company announced 76,976 as the attendance, the basic made up number predicted to be announced since that is more than the Super Bowl is likely to be able to put into the stadium in January. They claimed an all-time attendance record for the new stadium, which it also was not.
The markup was almost exactly 10,000 from the real number. The show wasn’t sold out, as stated on the show. The number in the building was right at 67,000 according to those in stadium management that had the actual number. They had added 5,000 seats the last few weeks so it was set up for 70,000. The paid number should be available in a few weeks.
There were clearly several thousand empty seats, mostly in the upper deck, so it was the opposite of UFC where it was the least expensive tickets that were the ones that didn’t sell. It was expected they would announce the inflated number, and claimed a stadium record on television and in press releases, since they do that every year, but I was really surprised they did so at the Investors meeting the next morning, because you are not supposed to lie about numbers to investors.
It was claimed as the fifth largest crowd in WrestleMania history. The 1987 show did 78,000; the 2013 show did 72,000; the 2007 show did 74,287 and the 2012 show did 64,900 (which in the WWE’s public announcement beat this show, with an announced attendance of 78,363). Legitimately it beat the 2012 show that it’s listed below, but is also below the 1992 Wembley Stadium SummerSlam (79,127 in the building; 78,927 paid) so right now looks to be in fifth place in WWE history.
They are going for the record next year in Texas. Rousey on Twitter made it clear that this was not a one-time appearance with WWE. But whether UFC would allow her to do a match is another question. They have allowed Josh Barnett to do a pro wrestling match, but that was also in Japan, after denying Brock Lesnar and Barnett in the past. They at one time told Tom Lawlor he couldn’t manage. Shayna Baszler managed in ROH but I don’t think that was cleared by UFC and she did it because she wasn’t advertised and wasn’t a match participant. Lawlor then managed this past weekend, which also wasn’t advertised ahead of time and kept quiet. Baszler at one point was going to also manage on the ROH show and that fell through for some reason, although she was in town over the weekend but I don’t believe she was at the ROH show. Clearly everything is set up for such a match. Undertaker vs. Sting makes sense, possibly as each man’s final match. Where Lesnar would fit in is unknown. But they still have a Lesnar vs. Reigns match, since it had no winner, for some time down the line, but I see that for a non-Mania show.
Lesnar and Rock were the biggest stars and biggest babyfaces to the live crowd. Nobody was booed more than Reigns. All the stars got good reactions. Lesnar vs. Reigns and The Rock angle got the most reaction, followed by the Sting vs. HHH match.
Live I thought as an overall show it may have been comparable to the Tokyo Dome show, not for match quality but factoring in presentation. After watching the TV, I don’t see it. It wasn’t as if it was two different shows, but live you get impressed with spectacle and watching on TV the spectacle is part of the show but it comes down more to matches. They were very good, but not in the league of the Tokyo Dome show. It was one of the more balanced WrestleManias in history because there was not a bad match. But it also didn’t have anything close to a match of the year or a candidate for best Mania match.
As far as booking went, things largely went as expected and made sense. Judging from the “smart money” odds that came in, that also indicates very few were aware of Rollins winning (well it couldn’t be many given Rollins himself wasn’t told until the last minute) and it would indicate the key people who make the late bets were told Rollins and Lesnar were winning. Orton beating Rollins made sense with him taking the title later, and then immediately going to Rollins vs. Orton as the next big show main event. One of the positives about the network, especially with April being a free month, is that I don’t think Rollins vs. Orton would have done well as a PPV main event. Now the pressure to have to put on matches people are willing to spend good money to see isn’t there.
The decisions most questioned on finishes were Undertaker over Bray Wyatt; Big Show winning the Battle Royal and HHH over Sting.
There is a rule of thumb that you should protect your full-timers and give the guys on the way up big wins. However, Undertaker coming off the loss in no way should have lost. Thinking any other way is applying rigid booking rules and not looking at things like variables and the big picture. Another Undertaker loss at Mania and he’s done. Not only was the plan to bring him back, but bring him back being a major part of next year’s show.
Big Show winning the Battle Royal seemed to be made to have him fold his arms and stand next to the Andre trophy. They told a story that he had never won a Battle Royal in WWE. Whatever. Nobody gained by it. And somebody could have gained by winning, but it wasn’t going to mean as lot because it was placed on the pre-show, which changes the perception about its importance.
HHH vs. Sting has strong arguments in both directions. You can argue for HHH by saying he was in a major angle later in the show so he shouldn’t lose earlier, and that it may be Sting’s last match while HHH is almost surely in a major match at next year’s show and is a full-time key character on television. Arguments for Sting is that he was making his WWE debut. The crowd was super hot for him in the build-up, and losing his debut after how hot the crowd was for him does hurt him badly. Undertaker vs. Sting is still a big match, but they pretty well killed any suspense about the outcome. And without it, they may struggle in the match. The idea Sting is a supernatural force, the equal of Undertaker, that could have been presented had he won, is gone. Plus, HHH has a year of television to build up his match next year and is established in WWE as an owner, so could easily afford the loss.
In the end, even though Sting himself killed that storyline in his lone televised interview, they played the match up as a recreation of the Monday Night War, and on the WWE’s stage, the WWE had to win. It was stupid because nobody saw it that way. Sting vs. HHH had the second most heat of any match on the show, behind only the main event. But few matches lose so much on second viewing. Everyone coming out was cool live because people didn’t expect Hulk Hogan or Shawn Michaels as well as everyone else. But the announcing just destroyed it. It was a great match live due to smoke and mirrors. It doesn’t hold up at all upon second viewing, but was at least decent. However, the announcing made it come across badly. If you were there live and didn’t see the TV, you’d be absolutely shocked by all the people who called it the worst match on the show. But after watching the show, I’m not at all surprised by the reaction.
They played it up as WCW vs. WWE to the point it came off like a outdated concept of a match in a company that is still living 15 years ago the way the commentary went. The storyline of HHH winning and then Sting shaking his hand was portrayed as the final moment of the Monday Night War with WWE winning. HHH winning and the handshake was fine, except the feud was built on Sting vowing to remove HHH from power and bullying everyone, he failed after getting hit in the head with a sledge hammer and then shook his hand. Just being alive after a sledge hammer shot to the head would be enough. Getting up and being fine was silly. Shaking hands after taking it a minute earlier is totally preposterous. In the end, the portrayal came across as Sting was a big star in WCW, but WWE is far above WCW, and people may cheer for him here but a legend there isn’t a legend here. It was also that he was willing to acknowledge that when it’s all over. The problem is, the war ended 14 years ago and they own the WCW library and archives. Trying to portray it as second rate is counter productive on any level. I realize people are still scarred by the fact they were on the losing end for two years, but you’d think 14 years after the company was put out of business, you’d be able to move past it. Storyline-wise Sting wanting to take down HHH as management oppressing talent made sense. Story-line wise, doing WCW vs. WWE in 2015 was silly, so silly that Sting himself in his lone promo said it was ridiculous. But it’s like Vince McMahon’s inability to get over Montreal, and inability to accept that the current audience watches wrestling for different reasons than they did 10 or 20 years ago.
There was another mishap before the show started as Bray Wyatt was in the ring before the show working on his match when he rolled his ankle. He was apparently hurting pretty bad, to the point they put his ankle in a cast until the match started when he took it off. At no point was there any talk of him not doing the match. The injury couldn’t have been that bad because, while he missed the Raw show, he worked a dark match on Tuesday night in Fresno.
Local officials were very happy with everything. While it likely won’t come for a while, San Jose and Santa Clara officials were talking about putting up a bid that nobody can match to bring WrestleMania back, perhaps in about eight years.
WrestleMania had 1,000,000 searches on Google, the most of any topic on 3/31. That’s roughly the same as usual, so general interest wasn’t down even with the lackluster buildup. It was on par with the top UFC shows of late. As far as the buzz went coming out of the show, with the individual characters, in order they were: Rousey (100,000); Undertaker (81,000); The Rock (56,000); Brock Lesnar (56,000); HHH (52,000); Roman Reigns (48,000); Seth Rollins (46,000); John Cena (41,000); Bray Wyatt (22,000); Rusev (21,000); Stephanie McMahon (15,000); Randy Orton (13,000); Hulk Hogan (10,000); Daniel Bryan (6,000); Kevin Nash (6,000); Scott Hall (3,000); and Dolph Ziggler (2,000).
A few other notes as far as show timing went. When the show was put together, they didn’t have enough time for eight matches, so had to start the show 30 minutes earlier and move a match to the pre-game show. It was either the Battle Royal or Divas tag match. Given they already had the divas match bumped as a Total Divas storyline a few years ago, plus the company feeling the heat from fans for not giving the women opportunities that men have, it was the wrong time to bump a women’s match to the pre-game show.
Originally the main event was supposed to go about ten minutes longer than it did. The Rock & Rousey segment went 24 minutes, longer than any match on the show. Originally they were going to take it out of the Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt match, but given how physical the main event was going to be, it was better for the combatants, and in this case they were combatants, not performers, to have to beat the crap out of each other for ten less minutes.
It’s notable that in a seven match show that had four hours, the longest match was 18:34.
1. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro retained the WWE tag titles beating Big E & Kofi Kingston, Los Matadores and The Usos in 10:07. Good opener. The show was advertised to start at 3:30 p.m., and this started just after 3, so the building was pretty empty. Kingston was working even though his sister had just passed away. Jey Uso really couldn’t wrestle after all due to his shoulder injury, so they threw him into the steps right away and he was taken to the back. Jimmy did a tribute to his uncle doing the Umaga running hip attack onto everyone. There were some dives. Cesaro did his power superplex on E. Torito did some flying. Natalya put Torito in the sharpshooter on the floor. Naomi and Jimmy Uso did a double dive and Naomi then hit Natalya with the rear view. Everyone brawled and hit big moves. The finish saw Jimmy splash onto E from the top rope. Cesaro blind tagged in, threw Jimmy out of the ring and pinned E. ***½
2. Big Show won the Andre the Giant Battle Royal in 18:08. This was the second longest match on the show. It was better than most WWE Battle Royals. Curtis Axel came out and tore his T-shirt ala Hulk Hogan, and then everyone threw him over the top rope. Adam Rose and Fandango were fighting on the apron. Both kicked the other and they both fell to the floor. Damien Mizdow threw out Alex Riley. Riley had nearly thrown Miz out but Mizdow saved him. Miz then took credit for throwing Riley out. Bo Dallas threw out Zack Ryder. Dallas started celebrating and in doing so, jumped over the top rope and ran around on the floor to celebrate, which eliminated him. He refused to leave and got back in the ring, so Hideo Itami kicked him over the top. Itami had a little bit of cool offense until Show rag dolled him and knocked him out with a punch. He threw him out like garbage. The NXT guy should have had a big shine and if not winning (and a strong argument could be made that he should have won), should have at least been there near the end. The guy was the NXT brand rep and he was rag dolled like a jobber. Fans were into NXT all weekend and heavily booed Itami being thrown out so early. Kane dumped both Matadores. Cesaro then threw Sin Cara over the top rope onto Los Matadores to eliminate him. Mark Henry pressed slammed Tyson Kidd and threw him over the top rope onto everyone. The Ascension double-teamed Henry and threw him out. The Ascension started beating on Show, particularly Konnor, and Show sold and went down from them. Ryback then threw both Konnor & Victor over the top. Ryback threw out Darren Young. Ryback pressed Heath Slater and threw him over the top. Ryback back suplexed Titus O’Neil over the top. He gave Jack Swagger the shell shock. Show clotheslined Swagger over the top. The New Day, all three of them, started beating on heel Show. So Show made the dreaded one-on-three heel comeback, and threw Big E out, then knocked out Xavier Woods and threw him out, and then backdropped Kofi Kingston out. Show then shoved Erick Rowan over the top. Ryback threw Goldust over the top. Cesaro body slammed Kane over the top rope. Show threw out Jimmy Uso. Cesaro picked Show up for a bodyslam, but this year he lost him. Show then threw Cesaro over the top rope. Ryback hit Show with a spinebuster. Ryback went to throw Show over. Show was holding on with one hand for dear life. Mizdow attacked Ryback and Show got back in. Show threw out Ryback. It came down to Miz, Mizdow and Show. Miz ordered Mizdow to go after Show. Mizdow refused to team with Miz here. They argued for a while. Show just hung out in the corner doing nothing. Finally Miz yelled at Mizdow, so in the spot built for months, Mizdow threw Miz out. It came down to Show vs. Mizdow. Show pretty much destroyed him, but Mizdow got comebacks in. Mizdow went for a guillotine and to pull Show over the top the way Chris Benoit did when he won the Royal Rumble in 2004 using the guillotine to pull Show over the top. Show broke out of it. Lots of teases but finally Show threw Mizdow out to win. ***1/4
3. Daniel Bryan won a ladder match for the IC title over previous champion Bad News Barrett, Luke Harper, Stardust, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose and R-Truth in 13:47. This was a great match, but not as long, nor was it worked nearly as dangerous as some of the previous WWE ladder matches. Pat Patterson was introduced as the first IC champion. He was the biggest drawing card in the area 40 years earlier. A few fans seemed to know that, but not many. They opened with lots of dives. Ambrose did a tope. Rhodes did a falling backwards Nestea plunge. Harper backdropped Ziggler over the top onto everyone. It built to Harper doing a tope on everyone. Ambrose then climbed a ladder outside the ring and jumped off with an elbow onto everyone. Lots of climbing and being pulled down. Stardust pulled out a bedazzled ladder and Barrett broke the bottom rung of it off and attacked Stardust and Bryan with it. Harper put a ladder around his neck and spun it around doing the Terry Funk spot until R-Truth ax kicked him onto the ladder. Barrett superplexed Stardust off nearly the top of a 12 foot ladder. Harper power bombed Ambrose over the top rope onto a ladder that bridged the apron and barricade. Ambrose busted the back of his head and needed medical treatment and never got back in the match. Crowd went crazy for that. Ziggler had a choke on Harper, but Harper climbed the ladder while Ziggler was in the piggy back position choking him. Near the top, Ziggler let go of the choke and gave Harper a zig zag off the ladder. Ziggler was climbing but Barrett pulled him off and hit the bull hammer elbow. Stardust came off the top rope but Barrett caught him with a bull hammer. Barrett gave R-Truth a bull hammer. Barrett climbed but Bryan knocked him off. It ended with Bryan and Ziggler both at the top of the ladder. Great finish as they traded punches, then traded head-butts, then head-butted each other simultaneously. They didn’t appear to be bonking heads thank God, but were each head-butting the others’ shoulder but gave the impression they were doing ram head-butts full force. Ziggler fell off the ropes and Bryan pulled the belt down to loud yes chants. ****1/4
4. Randy Orton pinned Seth Rollins in 13:15. Well-worked match but this was better live. Orton gave Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble both draping DDTs off the apron. Rollins nailed Orton with a tope and crashed into the announcers table. Rollins went for a curb stomp but Orton turned it into a powerslam. They traded big moves until Orton hit the RKO, but Rollins kicked out. Orton went for the punt. Noble ran in and got hit with the RKO. Mercury came off the top rope but Orton nailed him with the RKO. Rollins landed a spin kick to the gut and a curb stomp, but Orton kicked out. Rollins missed a Phoenix splash off the top. The finish saw Rollins go for curb stomp, but Orton got up and threw Rollins into the air and hit the RKO on him for the pin. That finish was so perfectly timed and looked great. ****
5. HHH pinned Sting in 18:34. Sting came out to a bunch of guys in Sting masks playing the drums. HHH had the elaborate entrance, coming out in a Terminator costume with clips of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new movie. It really would be beneficial with a tie-in like that to give that entrance to someone full-time. HHH was huge. Fans were chanting “This is awesome” before the first lockup. The announcers played it up as WCW vs. WWE, which meant HHH had to win. Michael Cole and JBL compared it to the early Super Bowls with the champions of each league, and Cole said that Sting winning could be like Super Bowl 3 and change the course of history. Huh? If Sting wins, does WCW come back? This is more like bringing back a team from the All American Football Conference 15 years after the league died and having them play the NFL champs and acting like it’s the real world championship. Okay, it’s nothing like that either. Sting did a hip toss and dropkick and fans chanted “You still got it.” He was in good shape and moved well for a guy who is 56 and has been in wrestling for 30 years. He’s remarkably healthy and not beat up. But he has aged a lot even since he left TNA. Crowd was super into this. HHH took a Harley Race bump over the top and came back with a long huge bruise on his right leg. Sting had a bruise under his arm. JBL’s next analogy was that Sting was always a minor league guy and this was like a guy from the D League playing against an NBA player. Dear God, let’s bury the best stuff in our own library even more. Sting got the scorpion deathlock on when the DX music played, and out ran Billy Gunn, Road Dogg and X-Pac. Well, Billy ran down the ramp as fast as he could. That was a bad idea. Gunn is 51, and while he used to run fast, you should never put a 51 year old guy who is as big as Gunn in a position to sprint down a long entrance ramp. It just made him come across slow and unathletic. Sting let go to face the newcomers. HHH tried a pedigree but Sting backdropped out of it. Sting attacked everyone but HHH hit the pedigree and Sting kicked out. Big pop for that. HHH got the sledge hammer. The NWO music played and Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall came out. The NWO and DX brawled outside the ring. X-Pac played DX. Would have been funnier if he beat himself up. Hogan gave HHH a crotch chop. Sting used the scorpion death drop on HHH and he kicked out. Sting got HHH in the scorpion deathlock. He got the sledge hammer but Hogan took it from him. Everyone started fighting outside the ring. X-Pac threw Hogan into the post and he went down. Gunn took out Nash. Hall went for the Outsiders edge on Road Dogg, but he escaped and gave Hall a backdrop on the floor. The guy has artificial body parts and is 56 years old. HHH made the ropes at that point. Shawn Michaels came out and superkicked Sting right in front of ref Charles Robinson. That just looked ridiculous. The crowd was going nuts at seeing Michaels. Michaels crotch chopped Sting but Sting kicked out. Gunn gave HHH the sledge hammer and Hall gave Sting the bat. Sting hit the sledge hammer with his bat, breaking it. HHH was begging off. Sting made a comeback with the Stinger splash, but HHH still had the head of the sledge hammer and hit Sting with it for the pin. They treated it like the wrestling war had just ended and WWE won. Everyone glared at each other for a while. HHH offered his hand and Sting shook it and the war is over. **½
There was a backstage skit where Bryan was being interviewed. Patterson, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair and Bret Hart all came out to congratulate him. Piper kissed him on the forehead. Flair was just going wild and chopped Steamboat. Steamboat was wearing his 1987 Dragon gear with the white headband and talked about his match with Randy Savage and compared Bryan’s match to that. Then everyone did the “Yes” chant until Ron Simmons showed up and said “Damn!” The idea was to elevate the IC title with a legit top star like Bryan holding it, and pointing out that some all-time greats held the title years back.
6. A.J. Lee & Paige beat The Bella Twins in 6:36. Crowd treated this like intermission. The work was fine. Paige kicked out of Nikki’s rack attack. Paige also did a flip dive off the apron onto both. At the finish, Brie grabbed A.J.’s leg and Nikki hit the elbow, but A.J. kicked out. A.J. then got the black widow on Nikki, who tapped out. **½
Next was the Hall of Fame Mania ceremony with Howard Finkel announcing. Larry Zbyszko was still in tears. Butch Miller did his best version of the Bushwhacker walk with braces for both of his hands. Randy Savage got a big reaction. Nash was the only one who got a ring entrance.
7. John Cena pinned Rusev to win the U.S. title in 14:31. Big elaborate entrances for both. Rusev came out to the Russian national anthem, with no Volkoff or even Koslov singing. There were cannons going off and then he arrived in a military tank. Lana was back, holding the U.S. belt as she came down. Great entrance. Good match, but not as good as their Fast Lane match. Rusev did this overhead gut wrench suplex for a near fall. Cena kept trying to get the STF. He had it on and Lana threw in her shoe. Rusev made the ropes. Rusev did an overhead slam and a diving head-butt off the top rope. Cena came back with a springboard off the ropes backwards into a stunner. They traded spots until Rusev got the accolade on. Cena stood up while still being caught in the hold and rammed Rusev backwards into the turnbuckle to break it. Cena went for the STF again, but Rusev made the ropes. Lana was on the ring apron distracting Cena. Rusev went for the charge but Cena moved and Rusev knocked Lana off the apron. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment for the pin. I thought after a one year winning streak that the loss shouldn’t have come across that easy. After the match, Rusev was yelling at Lana, blaming her for the loss, and she looked like she was about to cry, and gave the impression of a face turn. Problem is if she turns face and he stays heel, she could be Ricardo Rodriguez in a mini-skirt. ***½
Stephanie McMahon and HHH came out. She announced the fake attendance figure, and claimed credit for the success of WrestleMania. The WWE wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for her she noted. She noted that they own every superstar in wrestling and own all the fans. The Rock came out and he paused for longer time than most Divas matches as the crowd kept cheering and chanting for him. They were super hot of course. He said that she doesn’t own the fans and damn sure doesn’t own The Rock. He didn’t say she didn’t own all the wrestlers. The Rock said he is an East Bay boy, born in the East Bay (Hayward, CA, to be exact). Rock wanted a showdown with HHH. HHH noted that the two of them had a hell of a rivalry, and he remembers that he kicked Rock’s ass for most of it, and has nothing left to prove. Rock said that he left his balls in Stamford, CT. He took off his jacket. Stephanie grabbed the mic and said that The Rock will take cheap shots to feed his ego because The Rock knows that without the McMahons, there would be no Rock. She brought up Peter Maivia and Rocky Johnson and Dwayne Johnson and said they would be nobody without Vince McMahon, Vince McMahon Jr. and Stephanie McMahon. Maivia and Johnson were main event stars all over the world long before either ever went to WWF. But she said Vince McMahon Jr. Vince McMahon hates the word junior so bad that I’m amazed she said it. He used to protest that he wasn’t Vince Jr. (Because he’s VKM, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, and not Vincent James McMahon Jr.) to the point of comedy. If you notice over the years, Rey Mysterio Jr., Chavo Guerrero Jr., and Ted DiBiase Jr., all had to drop junior. Afa Jr. had to be Manu. Now it’s not an issue since nobody gets to use their real names or their old names anyway. Rock said that Stephanie wouldn’t have any power if it wasn’t for Vince McMahon’s Johnson. She slapped him and said, “What are you going to do about it, your gonna hit a woman.” Immediately the crowd started chanting “Ronda.” Rousey had already been shown on the screen when she came out to sit ringside with Rock’s mom and the other three Horsewomen. Stephanie was great here, saying, “This is my house, my stadium,” and told him to get the hell out of the ring now. He then left the ring and she said, “Bye, bye,” “Hasta la vista, baby.” Nobody booed at all when Rock left the ring like a castrated puppy, because nobody bought it. He started walking around the ring and another Ronda chant started. Big pop when he stopped in front of her and the camera showed her face. He brought her over the guard rail and into the ring. People chanted “Ronda’s gonna kill you.” Rock said he could never hit a woman (although he has given Stephanie a rock bottom in the past) but he has a friend who would be more than happy to. Stephanie said that Ronda and her were friends, that she’s a big fan of Ronda Rousey and knows Ronda is a fan of hers as well, and how Ronda and the Four Horsewomen were at ringside for her match with Brie Bella at SummerSlam. She said that she knows Ronda is the most dangerous unarmed woman on the planet, the queen of the Octagon, and in MMA, she’d never dare mess with her. “But this is my ring.” Stephanie told her to get the hell out of her ring. Rock told Stephanie that if she keeps running her mouth, Ronda is going to reach out and pull your insides out and jump rope with your Fallopian tube. Then Rock started mimicking jumping rope. HHH said he was tired of all this talking and Rock agreed, and attacked HHH. HHH staggered into a hip toss by Rousey and he rolled out of the ring. Stephanie tried to slap her, but Ronda blocked it and grabbed her arm in an arm crank that Jon Jones did to Glover Teixiera and threw her down. Stephanie rolled out of the ring.
8. Undertaker pinned Bray Wyatt in 15:13. The crowd was pretty quiet for most of the match coming off the prior angle. Both got superstar reactions coming out. Undertaker looked like he’d dropped 30 years of age in the last four months. He was in shape. He did the old school rope walk and a leg drop on the apron. Undertaker used the Hell’s Gate. It’s been so long that the crowd didn’t react much to it at all. Wyatt punched his way out. Wyatt used a uranage, a senton and did his crab walk. He went for Sister Abigail, but Undertaker grabbed his throat and choke slammed him, and then hit the tombstone piledriver, but Wyatt kicked out. Wyatt used Sister Abigail on Undertaker and he kicked out. Wyatt did the crab walk and Undertaker sat up. Wyatt collapsed in fear. It was a cool spot and then they did a staredown. They traded punches. Wyatt kissed him and went for Sister Abigail, but Undertaker blocked the move and hit the tombstone piledriver a second time for the pin. Not a great match or anything, but given Wyatt’s injury and all, it was fine. Undertaker was nowhere near what he was a few years ago, but he was a lot better and looked in better shape than last year. It certainly didn’t appear that with another year rest that he’d be unable to work next year. **3/4
9. Seth Rollins won the WWE title in what ended up as a three-way with champion Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns in 16:44. Lesnar came out strong and picked Reigns up and slammed him into the corner. They started fighting and clawing and Lesnar was bleeding under his left eye and from near his mouth right away. He hit a German suplex and an F-5, but didn’t go for the pin. Lesnar was kneeing the body. He hit a fisherman suplex. Reigns threw clotheslines that Lesnar didn’t go down for, kind of like the Japanese Ishii style match. Lesnar used a German suplex and a high angle suplex and another German suplex. The fans at ringside were keeping count and with every suplex, they would yell the number. Lesnar yelled in the midst of all this,”Suplex City, bitch,” which has to be a new T-shirt coming out. People were chanting it the next night. Reigns was in the corner smiling as he was getting pounded on. This was so clearly Paul Heyman trying to rehab Reigns as a face the way he did more than 20 years ago with Tommy Dreamer who was the pretty boy babyface in suspenders people hated. They remade him into a guy who took incredible punishment to entertain the fans when Sandman cane’d the hell out of him and he took it and asked for more. Another German suplex by Lesnar and a front suplex onto the ropes and knees. Lesnar threw an elbow knocking Reigns off the apron. Reigns came back with knees and kicks. Lesnar grabbed a single leg and then clotheslined the hell out of Reigns, knocking him off the apron to the floor. Lesnar used a vertical suplex and an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. He hit a second F-5 and Reigns kicked out. Fans booed that a lot as they wanted Lesnar to win badly. Lesnar was slapping him around, hit two more German suplexes and a third F-5 and Reigns kicked out again. Lesnar threw him out of the ring. Reigns then threw Lesnar into the post and Lesnar was bleeding all over the place. There was a lot of controversy over whether Lesnar, covered in blood at this point, bladed. WWE does not allow blading. I suppose you could say that in the WrestleMania main event, maybe they’d change policy, but Vince did not approve of it. Granted, Bret Hart got away with blading and fooling Vince at the 1992 WrestleMania, and Ric Flair did as well, but Flair nearly got fired over it and Hart was able to fool Vince. But now they’ve got cameras everywhere. The last guy caught blading was Dave Bautista, and he was fined $100,000 for it. All I know is that everyone has told me he didn’t blade. I also know that there were two times that Bret Hart did blade that everyone in WWF said he didn’t because of the shape of the cut, only to later find out that to not get caught, he shaped his cut uniquely and I thought he bladed and later it came out he did. WWE even released a statement saying, “WWE programming is TV-PG and we don’t permit intentional bleeding. The communication or contact between our performers and referees is part of our safety protocol (a shot of the ref grabbing Reigns’ hand a few minutes earlier led people to believe Reigns was being handed a blade which it looked like he put in his mouth, although there’s no point where you can see anything like him handing something to Lesnar). That said, unintentional blood sometimes occurs, and we do our best to minimize.” Usually when there is blood, the cameras are ordered to pull back and not shoot it. This time they were right in the face getting close-ups of Lesnar gushing. Reigns hit a Superman punch and Lesnar didn’t go down. Reigns hit a second Superman punch and Lesnar went to a knee. Reigns went for a third, Lesnar moved and got behind him. Reigns escaped and started throwing head-butts to the cut. Reigns hit another Superman punch that put Lesnar down. Reigns hit a spear, and then a second spear, but Lesnar kicked out. He tried a third spear but Lesnar ducked, got him on his shoulder and hit the F-5 for the fourth time in the match. Both were on the ground selling when Rollins music played and he ran to the ring with his briefcase. He said he wanted to cash in. The bell rang at 16:05 to turn this into a three-way. Rollins used the curb stomp on Lesnar. Rollins went for one on Reigns but Lesnar picked him up to give him an F-5. Reigns then speared Lesnar and collapsed. Rollins gave Reigns a curb stomp and pinned him to win the title. Great main event to end the show. Both Lesnar and Reigns stayed in the ring area for several minutes selling the beating of the match. ****1/2
The WWE announced that as of the morning after WrestleMania, it had 1,315,000 paid subscribers, a number that fell almost exactly where the consensus of expectations was for the number.
The stock market wasn’t impressed, as the announcement of the number led to a major drop in the stock price, closing down $2.43 per share on 3/30, to $14.09 on a day the market was up 264 points, so it actually was lucky it happened on a good day. More than seven million shares changed hands that day, or nearly 10% of company stock. It closed at press time at $13.60, leaving the company with a $1.03 billion in market capitalization.
A lot of the selling was the axiom of buy on hype and sell on results, and this was the day for results, and more than seven million shares, or almost ten percent of the company, changed hands in one day. But evidently, there was also something that worried people in those results. To me, the network number was exactly what should have been expected, but it is the expenses of the network, a new gamble, that could have people concerned.
One major analyst told us the decline was based on the selling on results axiom, that the network number was not considered bad by any means, but that most people don’t see much on the horizon for WWE for the rest of the year now that WrestleMania is over, combined with selling based on news. The feeling was that if the number announced was 1.5 million, the price would have increased, but it’s hard to know what the exact pivot point would be.
They are now spending far more on content for the network with a series of new shows.
The key is that, at least based on figures from three months ago, the company needed to average 1,350,000 paid subscribers for the year to get profitability back to the level it was before they had the network, and that’s with a big increase in television rights around the world figured in, so even then it would be less than they were doing in profits in the PPV sector. Those numbers could change, because the company is being more aggressive in growth by adding a number of new shows based on being bullish, which means higher costs.
During the conference call on 3/30, where they announced a “just over 1.3 million” subscriber figure, they announced a series of new shows. But the key thing announced is that they would be spending $120 million this year on the network. That is the same figure as last year. But what is misleading is that last year so much was spent on the launch, advertising the launch, and so much other spending that was going to lead to major money losses, and did, but would be start-up costs.
At $120 million, just to break even, if we figure WWE keeps, on average, $8.50 of the $9.99 (the approximate figure from last year) , they would need to average 1,176,470 subscribers on a daily basis over the course of the year. Before, when it looked like network annual expenses were just over $50 million, the break-even on the network itself was about 500,000 subscribers.
That expense number shocked me, and I was waiting for WWE to clarify it but Barrios did say on more than one occasion that total network spending would be the same as the previous year, gave that figure, but said the allocation of the money would be different. It appears the allocation has gone from start-up costs that were a one-time thing to a far heavier investment in new programming.
The belief is they are spending $30 million to $40 million on new content and the rest of the $120 million is for technology, network employees, network marketing, talent payoffs (for the PPV events) and other costs.
However, even with that, Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios said that every quarter of this year will increase profitability off the prior one, and the first quarter, the Mania quarter, they are suggesting to be modestly profitable, although nowhere close to traditional Mania quarter level of profitability.
They also released a chart that if they average 1,000,000 subscribers on a daily basis for the year, profits will be between $17 million and $37 million. That would likely not be enough to cover the annual dividend payments of more than $36 million. From 2007 to 2010, profits were $45 million to $53 million. Due to costs associated with the network and the money lost on the movie division profits declined greatly in 2011 and the company barely broke even in 2013 and lost more than $30 million in 2014.
The 1 million subscribers on a daily basis for the year a figure does look like a number they will top this year unless the free months stop working as an incentive to get new people to sign up. Right now I’ve seen Wall Street analysts who are pegging 1.1 million as the figure that will be the average number of paid subscribers on a daily basis in 2015.
However, with the increase in TV rights deals, most likely had they never done the network, they should this year be well above the 2007 to 2010 numbers and not below them. Granted, losses early to build the network are nothing to be alarmed at and it’s when the network reaches the point where it’s no longer growing that you can fairly analyze its success or failure.
However, their estimates are that if they average 1,500,000 subscribers daily, the estimate is $72 million to $92 million in profits, which would be well above what they were doing pre-network. Again, they should be up to near those levels just because of the increases in TV rights fees, so you can’t say even that makes the network itself a success. That said, it would still be part of the package in making the company its most profitable in history. The company’s all-time most profitable period, in 2000 and 2001, saw wrestling division profits at $69 million and $85 million respectively, but since then profits have never topped $54 million.
The network is a success as compared to the previous PPV model when the network profits alone hit $34 million to $46 million, which was the former profits in PPV in 2013 and 2012 respectively, as well as make up any losses in iPPVs and perhaps in home video. If we look at 2013 numbers and the decline of such into 2014, the company was down $35 million. As compared to 2012, they were down $59.8 million. So for the network to be worth it based on 2013 numbers, the subscribers have to average 1,519,608 this year on a daily basis, which won’t happen. But again, it’s long-term and can they reach that in 2016 or 2017 and stay above it after? That’s what I call the true break-even point. To reach 2012 levels, they have to reach 1,764,705 subscribers on a monthly basis.
Because of the TV rights increase, and because numbers aren’t gone into in depth, it doesn’t give a true look at what is lost and what needs to be replaced to make the network category make up for the lost profits of the old PPV, iPPV and video categories.
A 1.5 million average for this year seems higher than it will be. Logic would tell you that the day after Mania number would be the highest of the year. But it may not be a stretch to say they can average that figure in 2016, or each 1.77 million subscribers in 2018, at which point they’ll reach the same level of overall profit from big shows that they had in 2012 with the PPV model.
However, they’ve had such great success, adding 150,000 new paid, in doing the free months with free PPVs included, and they will be doing the specials all the time (the returns will be diminishing of course) that they have found a method to grow numbers significantly that works.
Of the growth from 1,001,000 after Rumble would be broken down as approximately 154,000 from the free February and 160,000 due to WrestleMania.
They continue to talk about three to four million steady state subscribers in a few years, pushing the idea that they were just under double from last year’s WrestleMania. But in claiming they will reach that number they once again source the idea that there are 100 million homes that have a WWE fan in the countries the network reaches, which is a ridiculous statistic.
They admitted the obvious, that even at the 1,315,000 subscribers, even if the outside PPV at a higher price is strong, Barrios said that they won’t be taking in the kind of money that Mania has in the past. However, he said that when they get to three million subscribers they will.
But really, the getting even on WrestleMania is misleading. It’s a year-around thing. The amount of gross revenue coming in for all the other shows is far higher than it would have been before, but so are costs. This year’s Mania won’t bring in the profits of years past, even factoring in the live gate record. But the key is how the year as a whole balances out.
The key is that there is one thing we know and the other that we don’t know. What we know is that the free months work great in bringing in new subscribers, most of whom stay, at least for another month. The subscriber numbers really grew minimally from WrestleMania last year through the free November, with the growth figures strong in November for the free month and again in January, and they did pick up strong with the U.K. launch and are now fully in Canada.
In November, the WWE signed up 242,000 new subscribers and 169,000 didn’t cancel and were charged for a subsequent month. They would not give information on how many of those maintained subscriptions after that. In February, the second free month, they signed up 201,000 new subscribers, and with WrestleMania in March, 154,000 maintained subscriptions after the first month. So the second free month worked almost as well as the first one. So now, in April, they are doing a third one. And they are likely to continue to do them.
What we don’t know is if the subscriber numbers will drop after WrestleMania. Offering another free month means the paid number in April will almost surely drop. The question is, how much. WWE even brought up to stockholders the idea of ups and downs. They said that we will learn now if the network number will be a steadily growing number, or if it will be a number that peaks every year at WrestleMania, but that each year the number will be ahead of what it was at the same time the prior year. Either way is growth but they did prepare stockholders for the possibility the number could decline over the next few months. Even WWE noted that as a new business, nobody knows.
A key is that even though 1,315,000 was the number on 3/30, the average number on a daily basis of subscribers was 918,000,or 83,000 less than they had on the day after the Royal Rumble. But that’s also with good growth leading to the Rumble, a down February as far as paid number because of all the free subscribers, and the big March growth for Mania season. Specifics of the three months were not answered on the call. The key number to watch is the average paid for the second quarter, after Mania, where we’ll really have an idea of where 2015 will stand and probably of the network pattern going forward. That number will be released in late July or early August.
WWE was very vague in answering questions (and did not allow media questions) at the call, so we’ll have to wait until the quarterly conference call, likely in early May, to get a lot more info on the call.
Barrios said he expected increased OIBDA in every quarter this year, meaning that the second quarter will be more profitable than the first. Most years, the Mania quarter is by far the most profitable of the year. He vaguely suggested the OIBDA at $3 million to $8 million for the first quarter.
Without giving any figures, they said the PPV performance of both Royal Rumble and Fast Lane (even with new subscribers being able to get it for free) outperformed their expectations. Rumble numbers were 49,000 buys in North America and 92,000 internationally. Fast Lane numbers are not yet available. He also said they have no idea at all how WrestleMania will do. Based on previous years, WrestleMania usually does about double the Rumble.
WWE sent out a press release stating that NXT is going to go from quarterly specials to live two-hour monthly specials on Wednesday nights. But WWE officials the next day contacted us to say the release was being updated and the specials will remain quarterly.
Vince McMahon on the conference call, when Ronda Rousey was brought up, said that it has become easier to attract celebrities from other worlds to perform at WrestleMania, citing that they have been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and feels that it points to a lot of growth coming down the line.
They said the video stream on the network held up rock solid. We didn’t get a ton of complaints, but we got a significant amount from the U.K. and some from the U.S.
There was also a funny line when Laura Martin, an investor who always asks puff WWE questions at these things and has been noted to make outlandishly outrageous predictions (such as 6 million subscribers to the network), who thought that Sting was someone who they found out from their network data that people watched a lot of on VOD, so decided to use him in WrestleMania.
Vince gave the impression that wasn’t the reason they brought back Sting, but used it to say that, in Sting, they took someone from obscurity and made him a main eventer at WrestleMania. The reference most would take is that they created this compelling new character out of nowhere in a short period of time, although wrestling fans could take it as him saying TNA and WCW are obscurity.
An interesting part of the new programming is that WWE is going to have network content that does not fit into the PG label, hoping the non-wrestling content will make the station cool and talked about by people who up to this point haven’t ordered it for the wrestling content. The idea is to get back into the raunchy and shock TV business, but not do it with the television programming with the current sponsors. The new direction is clear with a South Park like show called Camp WWE, a cartoon produced in partnership with Seth Green’s Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. They also plan to add another 1,000 hours of wrestling programming, mostly older footage, to the network this year, an increase from the current 3,000 hours.
The new shows that were announced for the network were:
*Camp WWE - It’s an animated short-form comedy series that will be adult oriented comedy, about the WWE performers as kids at a summer camp run by McMahon. The press release promises shock value, slapstick humor and social satire. The series will debut at the end of the year.
*Swerved - WWE has hired Jeff Tremaine, who directed both Jackass and Bad Grandpa, for a 30 minute show that will be based on pranks being played on WWE personalities. The show debuts in May.
*Diva Search - This will be a reality show, worldwide in scope, trying to find new women’s talent for the promotion. It will be similar to the old Diva Search except working with modeling agencies worldwide and it being a full television show instead of segments on one of the main shows. It will air in the fall season.
*Jerry Springer Presents WWE Too Hot forTV - With hiring Springer, it shows they are spending money to get well known names to do shows on their channel. This will mostly be presenting clips of “insane situations and racy romps from WWE’s past,” and starts in April as a 30 minute weekly series. This would probably be filled with some of the more raunchy moments from the pre-PG era of programming.
*Live with Chris Jericho - This will be a once a month, one-hour show where Jericho interviews WWE talent after Raw. The format is expected to be similar to the Steve Austin interviews with Vince McMahon and HHH that garnered a lot of attention. The first show will air on 4/6, with John Cena as guest. It’s notable that it’s Jericho and not Austin doing the show. One person close to the situation said that there was a falling out of sorts between McMahon and Austin and that Vince was not happy with Austin’s interview with HHH. He then wanted a change in hosts, and he picked Jericho. I’m not sure exactly what, but the item that seemed to cause the most controversy after the fact was Austin asking about Chyna in the Hall of Fame, and the fallout of Chyna resurfacing, and talking about HHH and the physical abuse allegation.
*Unfiltered: With Renee Young - This will be Renee Young interviewing both wrestlers and other celebrities each week asking them questions about anything except what they are known for. The show debuts in May. Episodes announced include shows with Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Wiz Khalifa and Skylar Grey.
*Culture Shock: With Corey Graves - Announcer Graves goes on tour with WWE all over the world and visits everything from tattoo shops, Marvel Comics headquarters, and when going overseas when WWE tours, looks at places, customs, music and food from all parts of the world. This show debuts in June.
*WWE The List - This will probably be similar to countdown, looking at “the best, the worst, the most bizarre and interesting of everything and anything WWE. If it’s amazing, outrageous, sexy or just plain fun, it just made The list.” This also debuts in June.
They will also continue to produce new episodes of WWE Countdown, Rivalries and WWE 24 (30 minute documentaries on a day in the life of a WWE performer or of a WWE event).
There will also be a special produced on the 2008 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Big Show feud, with the idea that coming out this month will take advantage of all the Mayweather hype leading into the Manny Pacquiao fight, airing on 4/27 after Raw, five days before the big fight. They are also going to upload the old cartoon “Hulk Hogan’s Rock’n’Wrestling,” which aired in 1985 on CBS featuring the top stars of that era like Hogan, Roddy Piper, Lou Albano, Andre the Giant, Junkyard Dog and others.
The Baja California Attorney General’s Office reported on 3/25 that the death of Perro Aguayo Jr., was due to fractures in three vertebrae in his neck, the C-1, C-2 and C-3.
They said that he went into cardiac arrest before he got to the hospital and they spent about 90 minutes trying to revive him before he passed away. Their report stated it was two different impacts that caused the breaks and not a single one, and that after the three breaks, there was nothing anyone could have done that would have prevented the death. They also said that they were unable to determine what the two different points of impact were.
The news story was gigantic in Mexico. El Universal did a survey and found that 98 percent of the adults in the country had heard the news about the death of Aguayo Jr., even though the vast majority have no interest in Lucha Libre.
Konnan and Rey Mysterio Jr., followed a horrible week with nothing but bad luck. They had already had a tough week because Rey de Reyes was supposed to be on 3/22 in Guadalajara, but after it was postponed twice, they had to stay in the city for three extra days. They finally went home on 3/26, and the next night went to Tijuana (a short distance from Chula Vista, CA, where both men live) for the tragic night where Aguayo Jr. passed away.
Konnan (Charles Ashenoff) had a mentor/protégé relationship with Aguayo Jr., who was the top heel in Mexico. The two regularly rode to the television tapings together and discussed strategies. Konnan and Perro Aguayo were tag team partners and rivals during a boom period in Mexico. Konnan was the top babyface in Arena Mexico in 1991, when he and Aguayo as rivals, leading to a mask vs. hair match when Konnan lost his mask, broke El Solitario’s box office record for most straight sellouts in the arena. Even during the peak of the Mistico heyday and his feud with Aguayo Jr., they fell shy of that record business run. They later were the top two babyfaces when AAA started its hot run, and later feuded when Konnan turned heel.
The next two nights, Konnan worked the two Lucha Underground TV tapings, although the reports were he was there in body and not in spirit.
From there, they both went back to Guadalajara for the funeral of Aguayo Jr. Mysterio Jr. teamed with Aguayo Jr. regularly in 1995 when Aguayo Jr. was just starting and is likely the youngest wrestler ever (16) to win Rookie of the Year. When he came back to AAA after two decades this past week, it was Aguayo Jr. that he expected to be his top rival.
The family made both pallbearers, a major show of support since Mysterio Jr., had gotten some horrible press with people blaming him for Aguayo Jr.’s death, which even elevated into death threats. Konnan was also criticized for shaking him, trying to revive him when he saw something was wrong.
Among other wrestlers at the funeral were Latin Lover, Rayo de Jalisco Jr., Rey Misterio Sr., El Terrible, X-Fly (who was Mosco de la Merced, a friend and training partner of his before both became wrestlers) and El Hijo del Santo.
Both came to San Jose after the funeral to fulfill bookings both for Walemania on 3/25 and Wrestlecon on 3/27. Nobody would have blamed them for skipping the bookings but they made it. A few wrestlers, most notably Scott Hall, Kevin Sullivan and MVP came to the Walemania early to try and lift their spirits at a fan get together before the concert put on by Court Bauer.
Earlier in the day, reports came from Mexico on Televisa that Mysterio Jr. was retiring. He didn’t find out until late on 3/25, after those same reports were reported within wrestling.
The Televisa story claimed that Rey Bucanero had talked to Mysterio Jr., and Bucanero said he was told by Mysterio Jr. that he was leaning toward retiring due to the incident. That story ended up being reported that he was retiring. Mysterio Jr. said that he had never spoken to Bucanero in the past few days and was shocked at how big the story had gotten. He said he had not considered retiring, and when asked to elaborate later, said that Aguayo Jr. would not have wanted him to retire under those circumstances.
Konnan, who is usually very outspoken, was quiet throughout. He’s had his own health issues with his anti-rejection medications he’s had to use after kidney replacement surgery.
Both were devastated like I’ve never seen them. Mysterio Jr. got better as the night went on as it seemed talking wrestling in a Q&A with fans, where he was the star, seemed to lift his spirits. Fans were very respectful, not bringing up Aguayo Jr., with the exception of one person who asked a question in Spanish about him and Mysterio Jr. answered it in Spanish. They went through deaths of Art Barr and Eddy Guerrero, who both were close to, as well as Chris Benoit and others, but this was different because they witnessed Aguayo Jr. pass away practically in front of their eyes.
They were supposed to go home on 3/27, but their plane in San Francisco ended up fogged in and they had to stay another night. They flew home on 3/28, but had almost no time at home as they had to catch another plane to Las Vegas, where they were scheduled to be in the corner of WBC featherweight champion Jhonny Gonzales. Gonzales, defending his title at The Palms Hotel on Showtime, had earlier in the week said he was dedicating his title defense to Aguayo Jr. He came to the ring wearing a Perros Del Mal T-shirt and with Konnan and Mysterio Jr. He then lost his title, being knocked out by Gary Russell Jr. in the fourth round.
Dorian Roldan, who was in Tijuana because it wasn’t an AAA event, but a local independent show promoted by The Crash promotions, was in Japan this past week, since AAA had a week off. One major Japanese newspaper had reported that Aguayo Jr. was killed by Mysterio Jr.’s 619 and that the Baja California prosecutors office was going to investigate him for murder.
In reality, there was talk of an investigation, but everyone knew nothing would come of it when doctors stated that nobody was to blame. Roldan said that the death was an accident and Mysterio Jr. was not under investigation.
“Many people believe the cause of death is Rey’s dropkick,” said Roldan while in Japan. “But it is not true. Perro got a huracanrana by Rey and fell down to outside the ring. At that time his cervical neck hit the edge of the apron. Normally, the apron is covered by mat and sponge. But during this match, the cover was slipped off and the steel frame of the ring was naked. So Perro directly hit his cervical neck on the steel frame. That was the direct cause of his death. Of course it is not related to Rey’s 619, as was reported in Japan. The people around the match realized something was wrong. But they thought he just lost consciousness. The match continued for almost two minutes, then medical personnel transferred Aguayo to the hospital.
“Yes, he (Mysterio Jr.) is so sad, so sad. He went to Perro’s funeral. And he met the family of Perro. They really admire Rey and said to him, `It was an accident.’”
El Hijo del Santo had claimed that Aguayo Jr. had previous neck trauma, but many criticized him for saying that, noting that the doctors never said anything like that. It was also noted that until this past week, he had not been in contact with the Aguayo family in several years. Aguayo Jr.’s personal physician said that as far as he knows, Aguayo Jr. did not have any pre-existing issues with either his spine or back.
Dr. Gustavo Zavelta of the Distrito Federal (Mexico City) Box y Lucha commission, as well as Chairman, Fantasma Sr., claimed Aguayo Jr. did not have neck damage and that he had just undergone a complete physical two weeks earlier when he worked an AAA TV taping within their jurisdiction at Juan de la Barrera Gym in Mexico City. Zavelta said that he also believes there was nothing the Tijuana doctors could have done to save his life. Zavelta said that Konnan shaking Aguayo Jr. was not the medically advisable thing to do, but it was understandable given the circumstances. He said the referee not checking on him and stopping the match was because he wasn’t sure what was happening. He didn’t say that the referee at first thought Aguayo Jr. was selling, but that was sort of implied.
The big story on the 3/27 NXT show at the San Jose State Events Center was the crowd.
To the traveling crowd, NXT was the hot brand and it was clear there was a backlash among the fans, and a sizeable amount, against WWE, even though nearly everyone in that building had come to town for WrestleMania.
The show drew a sellout of 4,700 paying $200,000, nearly four times the previous NXT record. This was done without advertising anything but an NXT show, with no names nor matches.
Of course this was a special circumstance. But the success in Ohio earlier in the month showed that NXT can run ROH-sized arenas and sell it out when they get the word out and treat it like it’s a big show. Still, this should make the NXT show on Friday night before Mania a tradition, and it should also be a WWE Network special, as they missed the boat not airing this one.
Vince McMahon was watching the show, the first time he had ever been to an NXT event. He loved the crowd reaction, but those who saw him said he wasn’t thrilled at the “Better than Raw” chants and appeared very unhappy at the “Better than Mania” chants late in the show.
The show started at 10 p.m. local time. The original idea was, due to union costs, to end the show at 11:55 p.m. We were actually told before the show started that it had to end before midnight. But Vince McMahon made the call as it was going on, to give them an extra hour. The show actually ended at 1:03 a.m. local time, and very few people (mostly parents with young kids) left early. None of the matches were announced in advance past the point either Charlotte or Sasha Banks did go on Twitter noting they would be wrestling each other.
It was a great house show type of event. Actual bell-to-bell wrestling at the ROH show that took place 25 minutes away in Redwood City was better overall. But this was so much nicer a venue, with far better site lines, the big video wall, that the overall experience at this show was better.
It wasn’t about unbelievable matches, but how the crowd was into every character and most came off like big stars. There were a couple of peaks of the show, starting with a hot opener where Hideo Itami pinned Tyler Breeze after finally hitting the GTS, which caused the crowd to explode. This was the result of spending months teasing a spot, and finally delivering. It also underscored why this should have been on the network since it was the network programming that had teased this.
When HHH came out after intermission, the place went crazy for him, even though on television he’s a top heel. Everyone now sees him as two people, the guy who plays bad guy on TV but is really just entertaining them with it, and the good guy who gives them their NXT. They chanted “Thank You Hunter” at him. He mentioned people watching the show include Shawn Michaels, Seth Rollins, Cesaro (huge chant), Stephanie (mixed reaction), X-Pac and Vince McMahon (a lot of boos). He then pointed out that Jim Ross was in the front row. The place exploded for Ross with one of the biggest pops of the night. Ross was there with Jacob Ullman, an Executive from Fox Sports (who was also at Ross’ show the next day. Fox Sports 1 is in talks with Ross about doing more Golden Boy boxing), New Japan’s Tiger Hattori and rap star Wale, who performed the night before in San Jose. There is no deal right now between Ross and WWE, as Ross was talking more about doing boxing and other sports, but HHH did not point him out and set up a big pop for him because he used to work for the company.
When Enzo Amore came out, the entire building cut his promo with him. This was the 100 fans in Full Sail that sit in front of the camera, and thousands all over the world trying to be those people. Amore & Colin Cassady were in a three-way elimination match with the Vaudevillains and tag champs Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy. The match was average, really the quality of a mid-level developmental match, but the crowd reacted gigantic to it. The one thing I was thinking is with Vince McMahon watching, if he saw Cassady, who was over like crazy and with his look, being a legit 6-foot-8 with the blond hair and he was in better shape than a few weeks back, that he’d want him on the main roster right away. I’m not saying he’s not ready, because guys who aren’t very good sometimes get over great because a lot of this business is luck and a ton is timing. But there are a ton of people there who are more ready.
The place went nuts when Cassady pinned Gotch, thinking they had seen a title change. Because tons of TV had already been produced with angles past this show, they couldn’t change any titles. But this was the place to change a title. When the match kept going, and people either didn’t get it or did and realized it was an elimination match (nobody knew it was), the place started booing, and they weren’t happy when Blake & Murphy won.
There was a gigantic reaction when JoJo Offerman, the ring announcer, said the next match would be for the women’s title. This same audience that largely went to the concession stand and bathroom during the women’s match at WrestleMania and gave no respect at all and killed the women’s match at Raw, went crazy for the idea of a women’s match here.
Champion Sasha Banks and Charlotte stole the show with a great wrestling match. The finish was very similar to their last Takeover show, with Banks winning with the crossface, or Bank Statement in a **** match. Charlotte got a much bigger reaction than Banks coming out. Banks is such a complete performer. I’ve already thought this for some time, but watching this significantly sized audience react to this match, you would have to be blind not to do a total revamp on WWE women’s wrestling. Things evolve and the whole Nikki Bella shaking her ass act, which with the ring costumes that make you think of the women more as bikini models or strippers who try to wrestle as opposed to athletes had its era. But things evolve. There was a time when women wrestlers headlined shows all over the country and outdrew the men. And it ended abruptly. As noted before, Vince McMahon himself tried something very similar to what they do in NXT now with Alundra Blayze, but it was the wrong time, maybe the wrong person, maybe the idea of two women who only face each other as the entire women’s roster doesn’t work, who knows. Then Sable and Sunny came along and they got over, so experience tells you women in wrestling have to come across as overly sexual, it’s about fake hair, wearing as little as possible and big implants, and the actual wrestling doesn’t matter.
It is notable that in the new “Tapout” ads the three characters featured were Roman Reigns, Dolph Ziggler and Charlotte, and Charlotte was featured as an attractive but hard-training athlete.
We still have the fake hair and implants in some cases in NXT. At one point during this match, Charlotte’s hair extensions came out. If this was a WWE Divas match, everyone would have talked about it, chanted about it, and it would have been the buzz the next day. Nobody did here. They saw it as an important match and respected both performers. Whether Ronda Rousey created the era or she came along at the right time, that is the era we are in.
Whether Vince can recognize this or anyone has the guts to tell him, it’s hard for me, sitting there watching this, to think anyone could sit there and watch this without coming to a similar conclusion. Yeah, you can say this was a specialized crowd not reflective of the big audience. And that’s true. But it’s also the type of crowd that is usually ahead of the pace, not behind, and what they are reacting to now is what everyone else will be in a few months or a year. Sometimes there are reasons, such as danger and psychological things that create a bad environment in the big picture for the product that it’s bad business to placate even if the audience wants it. But this has none of those drawbacks.
If they, next week, announced a change, part of that change should be dropping the term divas because the new era is that of an athlete, then they should bring Charlotte and Banks up. Bringing them up and putting them into the current Divas division is a losing proposition. You can make the change but you have to break from the past.
Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania having never been on WWE television was 20 times more over than any of the women in WWE, even the ones who are on E! weekly in prime time.
It’s so bad that if you could do a Rousey vs. WWE wrestler showdown, it would have to be with Stephanie because nobody cares enough about any of the current women because of how they are used. It’s not like there isn’t talent there or that the women aren’t marketable, it’s the presentation that doesn’t allow for you to take them seriously.
Could you imagine if two years ago Dana White had brought her in to be the star of the Divas division and promoted her using sexuality as the main focus and talked about nothing but her looks and downplayed athletic ability, the announcers focused on looks, do you think she’d have done any business on top? There is no denying looks are part of the package. The most popular and marketable women athletes are generally pretty. We’re not full circle or even close. Then again, the same week WWE announced the new season of Diva Search, which has historically been a T&A contest, so clearly they are resistant to change and are still trying to find some younger versions of Maryse to bring to the main roster.
So in the Charlotte vs. Banks match, the crowd was clearly behind Charlotte. When Banks won by submission, the heel beating the face by submission, the place exploded. Everyone cheered. And then they chanted “Thank you Charlotte” as she was leaving. She got over in losing clean because they’ve presented this as something serious. Your local sports stars don’t always win, and sometimes they even lose clean, but if they are really good, a loss can be good because the chase is a very important part of sports. Very often it’s more memorable than the conquest.
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens came out for an interview segment. Zayn put over that there’s a revolution going on, which is him being the brand face and copying the old ECW marketing. In the NXT version of history, developmental used to be this horrible place that nobody wanted to be at and nobody cared about. Then Zayn wrestled Cesaro in a 2/3 fall match and that all changed. Yeah, it’s not close to true, but that’s the narrative. The reality is there wasn’t a turning point, but each special built upon the other. Maybe it was the story of Zayn’s long chase of the title, although the real clicking point seemed to be the arrival of Owens. Then Owens came out and basically, as the heel, said the same thing. The crowd started giving Owens the “what” treatment and he shut it down by saying “Let’s all go back to 2002 together.” Owens actually said that when he arrived, that’s when NXT blew up. Zayn said he’s been tearing down the house in NXT for two years while Owens was texting him asking how it was in WWE and that Owens was sitting on his couch at home watching as he and Cesaro wrestled. The Cesaro references got a big pop. He said if it wasn’t for him, Owens would have never even gotten a shot in NXT. Owens challenged him to fight, Zayn accepted and then Owens backed off, saying he just had knee surgery two weeks ago. The two were great on the segment.
The main event was Finn Balor beating Adrian Neville. It was close to 12:50 a.m. when they started. The crowd was still hot for it, not like the prior match, and people were tired. They still got into the near falls. These two as far as timing and crispness, were at a different level from everyone else on the show. They had a ***½ match. Really, the opening match with ACH vs. Mark Briscoe at ROH was slightly better than this, even throwing in that they had the benefit of the easier crowd. I’m told this was only the third best match behind the women’s title and Itami vs. Breeze. But it was a better than usual house show main event.
The crowd made the show and it’s the kind of audience you’d love to perform in front of, but the constant “This is awesome” chants that were robotic and not organic and felt we’re doing it because that’s what smart fans do got annoying. If you do it during an extra special match that builds, it’s one thing. To do it all night long, it means nothing. They chanted “This is awesome” when Balor and Neville were doing lock-ups. They did the “We are awesome” chant both here and at Raw as well.
During the week it had been announced that one NXT wrestler would be in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal.
They announced a four-man tournament with Itami, Neville, Balor and Breeze, which took place on 3/26 at the Fan Axxess in San Jose at the Convention Center, walking distance from the arena where they ran the next night.
Itami pinned Neville in the first match after a running kick in a good match. Balor pinned Breeze in the other match with a double foot stomp. The match was short and uneventful.
Before the finals, Michael Cole came out and spoke about Ultimate Warrior and Conor Michalek going into the Hall of Fame. They displayed the new Warrior statue which was shown at the Hall of Fame two nights later. HHH then came out to talk about Warrior, praised him greatly, talked about how the two had buried the hatchet and then introduced his wife and two daughters. Dana Warrior gave a speech here as well, with some similarity to the one she gave a few days later. They then revealed the statue, the Warrior music played and his wife and two daughters started shaking the ropes.
This led to the Balor vs. Itami main event. The match was said to have been better than the NXT Takeover match. Itami twice teased hitting the GTS but both times Balor got away. But Itami won the upset with a running kick. Tatsumi Fujinami then came out to congratulate Itami and the show ended with Fujinami, Itami and HHH in the ring posing together. Unfortunately, they did nothing for Itami in the match. Originally the idea was for someone else to go over, but the decision was changed as they figured it would get them publicity in the Japanese market to link Itami with Fujinami. Plus, given how the Battle Royal was booked, it would have done no favors, and really would have hurt momentum, to have put Neville or Finn Balor as just a guy in the crowd who gets ragdolled and thrown out by Big Show in the pre-game show.
Expect more major events from NXT. There is talk of running NXT shows on Saturday nights in markets that WWE does a PPV on Sundays in. That would mean another head-to-head confrontation with ROH on 8/22 if they do this in New York for SummerSlam. Originally they were going to book smaller arenas, but rumors in Philadelphia is when they debut there, they are no longer looking at the 2300 Arena which holds 1,000, but instead the Liacouris Center at Temple University, a 10,000-seat arena.
1. Hideo Itami pinned Tyler Breeze with a GTS. The GTS was said to look a lot better than when C.M. Punk used to do it. Well, Itami was the inventor.
2. Jason Jordan pinned Bull Dempsey after an exploder suplex. The crowd booed Dempsey. The match wasn’t good and the fans entertained themselves by chanting “Bullshit” at Dempsey and “Let’s go Jobber” at Jordan.
3. Bayley & Alexa Bliss beat Dana Brooke & Becky Lynch. Said to be mostly good and the crowd was super into it, or at least into Bayley. Bayley got a gigantic reaction and lots of chants. Bliss sold most of the way to build to Bayley’s hot tag, and she pinned Lynch with the Belly-to-Bayley.
4. Solomon Crowe beat Kalisto with the stretch muffler submission. I was told this was a well-worked match.
5. Baron Corbin pinned Rhyno with the End of Days. Rhyno was really over. People didn’t like Corbin at all, even though he’s a babyface on TV. There were some “You can’t wrestle” chants at Corbin followed by “Yes he can,” reminiscent of the chants for Banks on TV (and those were done here as well) of “Sasha’s Ratchet, No she’s not.” After the match, Rhyno laid out Corbin with a gore.
6. Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy (if they still have first names) retained the tag titles over Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady and The Vaudevillains, Simon Gotch & Aiden English. Crowd went nuts for Amore’s music, and loved him. Carmella was out with them. Crowd was unhappy when they found out the titles didn’t change, and then even more unhappy when Murphy pinned Cassady to retain the title after Carmella had taken a bump off the apron. This was the same finish as they did on TV. They don’t even get near Carmella. Murphy came off the ropes and Carmella, a few feet away on the apron, took a bump off. Cassady was distracted and pinned.
7. Banks beat Charlotte to keep the women’s title. At one point a few minutes in when they were having a past-paced and crisp exchange of moves, you got the “This is wrestling” chant. There were the anti-Divas chant and the “This is awesome” chant which wasn’t too rank because the match at least was really good by that time. Charlotte did a lot of her father’s stuff including the flip into the corner, the chops, the Whoo’s and the figure four. Lots of near falls and then Banks kept using the crossface, and it was a very similar finish to the last Banks vs. Charlotte major match.
8. Finn Balor pinned Adrian Neville. Balor did his big elaborate ring entrance with the body paint that he only uses on big shows. Balor should be on the main roster but I almost like the idea in his case of being here a little while to build anticipation for his debut and do a long buildup of him before he starts. This where the “Better than Mania” chant started. There was also a “Slobber Knocker” chant beacuse of Ross being there. Neville used a superplex off the top and went for the Red Arrow, but Balor moved and Neville crashed. Balor then got the pin with a double foot stomp off the top rope.
Ring of Honor has usually had a major presence on WrestleMania weekend, usually running two iPPV shows. This year it was, for whatever reason, down to one event, the Supercard of Honor, on 3/27 in Redwood City. And since they are out of the iPPV business, it was just done as a stronger than usual house show.
They ran at The Sports House, an indoor soccer facility, selling out in advance with 1,100 fans and turning away some. The place was jammed and the negatives were with no bleacher seating, most of the fans couldn’t see the action when it was outside the ring. The crowd was really hot, and respectful. They fully recognized that it was time Jimmy Jacobs and Samoa Joe would be in ROH, with both WWE-bound (Jacobs’ career as a wrestler may be over, or at least it is for now since he’s going to WWE as a writer). The crowd was really respectful to both on the way out.
Jay Briscoe, who also may be on the way out (both Briscoes are being advertised for the 8/22 show at Brooklyn’s MCU Field the night before SummerSlam), retained his ROH tile over Joe in the main event. The crowd was tired after a long show, so it did drag early. Plus, Joe injured his knee on a hip toss in the first minute of the match,. He still worked very hard. Every match was good, most very good but when people were talking about the best matches of the weekend, none of the ROH matches were mentioned.
1. Mark Briscoe pinned ACH with a roll-up. This was a pretty great opener. Super heat. Briscoe physically looks the most impressive I’ve ever seen, kind of looking like he’s working on his WWE body. He did a Mick Foley elbow off the apron, and then said, “Bang, Bang.” Hard chops. ACH has a lot of potential because his stuff looks good and he’s super athletic. ***½
2. Michael Elgin pinned Frankie Kazarian in 10:56 with a spinning back chop and twisting power bomb. After the match, Christopher Daniels came out to check on Kazarian. Elgin left the ring, but came back and destroyed Daniels with chair shots, leaving him laying as well. ***1/4
3. Matt Sydal won a six-way over Caprice Coleman, Cedric Alexander, Moose, Tommaso Ciampa and Andrew Everett in 10:26. This was one of the best matches of the weekend. Everett is going to be one of the next big indie stars. If Moose isn’t a major superstar in two years, there’s something really wrong because he’s got size, charisma and can fly. Sydal pinned Everett with a shooting star press. ****
4. B.J. Whitmer pinned Jimmy Jacobs in 15:41. Jacobs was super over coming out because everyone knew it was his last match with the company. They came out strong. They did a lot of stunts. They lost the crowd late. It was really good but they peaked several minutes early and lost the crowd by the end. Whitmer pinned Jacobs after an exploder suplex through two chairs. Whitmer wouldn’t shake his hand and left. Colby Corino, Steve’s son, (Steve wasn’t there, nor was Kevin Kelly, even though we’ve been told that some of this show will air on ROH TV on the weekend of 4/11), attacked Jacobs after the match. Lacey ran out to make the save and threw Corino out of the ring. I don’t think almost anyone knew who Corino was and most of the audience didn’t know who Lacey was at first. It was this delayed reaction and then she got a big pop. It ended with Jacobs and Lacey hugging to end their storyline of many years ago and they played the song Jacobs would play for Lacey years ago. She’s living somewhere in Asia now. **½
5. Roderick Strong beat Christopher Daniels in 11:57 with the strong hold, which is the old Lion tamer Boston crab. Strong just looked fantastic here. It was weird because Daniels had been brutally laid out earlier and I figured this would be a match where Daniels would come in “hurt” and lose. But it was like the incident earlier in the show never happened. Daniels worked it like a normal match. ***3/4
6. Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly retained the ROH tag titles beating Michael Bennett & Matt Taven in 17:47. Tom Lawlor of UFC was back in Fish & O’Reilly’s corner. He had done this before, but then was told by Joe Silva he couldn’t. I guess with so many other UFC fighters doing pro wrestling, well, who knows what happened. Earlier in the week Shayna Baszler was also going to be in their corner like at the PPV, but that was dependent on how she did in her fight, and she got beat. Still, she was in town for the weekend. This is a battle of usual heel teams, but Bennett & Taven were the clear heels here. Maria Kanellis interfered and then Lawlor picked her up and carried her to the back. Neither came back out. Fish appeared to injure his knee on a moonsault. Last we’ve heard he’s not hurt seriously and is scheduled to work this weekend. A masked man attacked Fish at one point, but the champions retained. Fish & O’Reilly always look good and Bennett & Taven have good tag team chemistry working with Maria. ***3/4
7. Jay Lethal pinned Jushin Liger in 15:02 with the Lethal injection to retain the TV title. Liger was super over. He and Joe were probably the most over on the show, which is a problem when it’s outside talent that the fans see as the bigger stars. Liger is so much better in the U.S. than in Japan, where he usually works tag matches and may do a few basic things. As far as the professional aspect when it comes to ring presence and carrying yourself as a star, Liger has it big-time. At 50, when he wants to go, he can still go, as he’s great with the psychology. Lethal looked great working with him. ***½
8. Jay Briscoe retained the ROH title pinning Samoa Joe in 19:58. Joe hurt his knee in the first minute of the match. He was limping a little on it during the match and even the next day. He pulled out of a scheduled match the next day. But he still did what appeared to be everything including a tope. Crowd was a little tired early. It picked up. They were pounding on each other with the sweat flying and it had the feel of a big time fight. Briscoe retained his title with the Jay driller. Crowd then started cheering for Joe loudly with “Thank You Joe” chants because they knew that was it for him here. ***½
There was also a ton of other activities in San Jose during Mania week. WWN ran seven shows at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Fiesta Hall in San Jose, two from Evolve, the two-day King of Indies show, a Shimmer show, a WWN super show and Kaiju’s Big Battel.
Even though WWE has attempted to keep other promotions from running in the market, and ROH was 25 minutes away, WWN has already booked a building across the street from where Fan Axxess is expected to be for next year in Dallas.
The most talked about wrestlers from the weekend were Timothy Thatcher and probably Ricochet.
Thatcher is a ground-based wrestler who reminds me of the well-conditioned type of British wrestlers that would come to the U.S. during the 60s and 70s. He does a cross between a UWFI Japan based style and a British scientific style. He works around here all the time and you always wonder how a new audience will react to him. His matches usually have a quiet fan reaction for several minutes where you almost think his style isn’t connecting, and then, boom, something hits. He got raves for matches with Chris Hero and Tommy End. I didn’t see the Hero match, but some talked of it like it was the match of the weekend. His match with End that I did see was the second best match I saw of the weekend behind the WrestleMania main event. It was worked as a grappler (Thatcher) vs. striker (End) match mostly worked in a solid, believable fashion.
The WWN Super show on 3/28, drew a near full house of 550 fans going head-to-head with the WWE Hall of Fame, that drew 10,000 fans at the SAP Center. The two Evolve shows drew 500 on 3/26 and 600, pretty much a full house, for a Friday afternoon show at 3 p.m. I didn’t find one person who went to the movie open of “The Marine 4" with Miz and Summer Rae, which played a few blocks from Fan Axxess at 7 p.m. It’s also the reason the NXT show didn’t start until 10 p.m., because they didn’t want the head-to-head conflict.
The Highspots show featuring Sabu & Rob Van Dam vs. Matt & Jeff Hardy drew a sellout of about 800 fans. Mick Foley’s comedy show at the San Jose Improv sold out. Jim Ross’ show right before the Hall of Fame drew about 800 fans, including several celebrities such as Daniel Cormier and Michelle Beadle. Ross did a meet and greet with Observer readers that went so long he actually missed the early part of the Hall of Fame.
There were a couple of injuries as Rich Swann injured his rib on 3/27 and Johnny Gargano injured his knee on 3/26. Gargano worked the rest of the weekend, which built to a 3/28 unification of his Open the Freedom Gate title and Drew Galloway’s Evolve title, which Galloway won.
By and large, every show got good reviews, other than the first night of King of Indies was said to be so-so but the second night was said to be really good. The Evolve shows were all solid. Some said the Shimmer show was the best show of the weekend before WrestleMania, but really when it comes to just bell-to-bell wrestling, a lot of shows were as good or better than NXT. The NXT show was great more for the atmosphere, as it came off as the “in” thing while everything else was just your best indie guys putting on really good matches.
Other highlights included Ultimo Dragon reunited with former WCW manager Sonny Onoo, for a match against Juventud Guerrera. Onoo & Dragon used to do the Polaroids together, but in 2015, it’s the dual selfie shot. Austin Aries & Roderick Strong reunited the old ROH Generation Next team, beating modern indie stars Ricochet & Uhaa Nation when Strong pinned Ricochet.
The former Justin Gabriel, now PJ Black, was said to be near **** in every weekend match, particularly his match with Ricochet.
Adam Thornstowe won the King of Indies tournament beating Willie Mack in the finals. Mack had beaten Jeff Cobb in one semifinal (Cobb had eliminated Brian Cage) while Thornstowe had beaten Thatcher. Thornstowe then put on an “I’m a Roland Alexander guy,” as the tournament was dedicated to Alexander. Alexander promoted the original King of Indies tournament in 2001 which was so spectacular that Rob Feinstein and Gabe Sapolsky watched it on tape and it created the idea of Ring of Honor, using the stars of that tournament such as Bryan Danielson (the winner of the 2001 version), Low Ki, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, A.J. Styles, Doug Williams and Brian Kendrick, who became the nucleus for the promotion in its early years.
Kay Lee Ray won the Chickfight tournament on 3/28, in a three-way final over Cheerleader Melissa and Evie.
New Japan Pro Wrestling was officially renewed for a second season on AXS, with the official announcement expected later this week.
The current run of shows ends on 4/10 with the 2014 show from the Yokohama Arena where A.J. Styles won the IWGP title from Kazuchika Okada.
There will be a break until 5/22, when a second 12-episode season will start, that runs through 8/14, with it running weekly on Friday’s at 9 p.m. except for a 6/19 preemption.
This season will run main events from June through August of 2014, climaxing with the match voted Match of the Year for 2014 in most Japanese polls, the Okada IWGP title win over Shinsuke Nakamura at the Seibu Dome in the G-1 finals. Unlike the first season which jumped around picking various weekly TV shows that aired over the course of nearly a year-and-a-half, so you’d get a show, and the next would be months later, this airs the TV shows in weekly order the way they aired in Japan on BS-Asahi, the satellite channel that airs the one hour version of World Pro Wrestling.
The second season is based largely around coverage of the 2014 G-1 Climax tournament, which may have been the single greatest tournament of its kind in pro wrestling history.
AXS is airing festivals on Friday nights from 4/17 to 5/15, with the exception of 5/8, so won’t be airing any New Japan or MMA events during those weeks. On 5/8, they will air a repeated show from the first season as a lead-in to an MMA show.
The announcement of the second season indicates the first season was a success. New Japan has not done a good job with attempting to build off this platform. It’s a deal through TV-Asahi, but with a weekly slot, New Japan should be trying to work in some commercial buys to push things like Bullet Club T-shirts, and in particular, the New Japan World streaming service, and pushing its major live events as big shows like on a traditional pro wrestling show, in commercial form, pointing people to watch it either live or on delay on New Japan World. The audience watching New Japan on AXS isn’t large, but they are people already liking the product and only a tiny percentage of them get New Japan World (which has probably less than 2,000 U.S. subscribers, and I’d guess a huge percentage of those would be Observer subscribers). It’s also probably incumbent on them to direct people to the New Japan English language web site, and create an English language sign-up version and web site for New Japan World.
The schedule is:
*5/22 has Kushida vs. Taichi, Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Ricochet and the Kushida vs. Ricochet finals in the Best of the Super Junior tournament from June 8, 2014
*5/29 has matches from June 21, 2014 in Osaka, with Alex Shelley & Kushida vs. Young Bucks for the IWGP jr. tag title, Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka and Kota Ibushi vs. Ricochet for the IWGP jr. title. This will be an awesome TV show because the Bucks match and the Ricochet match were incredible.
*6/5 has matches from the same Osaka show, with Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. for the NWA tag title, and Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe for the IWGP tag titles.
*6/12 is the third hour from Osaka with Yuji Nagata & Tomoaki Honma vs. Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata and Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bad Luck Fale for the IC title.
*There is no new show on 6/19
*6/26 airs matches from July 22, 2014, from G-1 with Tanahashi vs. Honma, Okada vs. Styles and Nakamura vs. Shibata.
*7/3 airs matches from July 26, 2014, from G-1, with Yuji Nagata vs. Nakamura, Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito, Okada vs. Karl Anderson and Tanahashi vs. Shibata (an awesome match).
*7/10 airs matches from July 28, 2014, from G-1, with Tanahashi vs. Fale, Nakamura vs. Honma and Okada vs. Naito.
*7/17 airs matches from August 1, 2014 G-1 show at Korakuen Hall, a super card with the 2014 Observer match of the year with Suzuki vs. Styles, Tenzan vs. Goto and the incredible match with Nakamura vs. Tomohiro Ishii.
*7/24 airs matches from the August 3, 2014 G-1 show in Osaka, another incredible show with the Honma vs. Shibata match, Okada vs. Yujiro Takahashi and Tanahashi vs. Nakamura.
*7/31 airs matches from the August 8, 2014 G-1 show in Yokohama, with Nakamura vs. Fale, Togi Makabe vs. Styles (this was the match where Styles got his neck injury from a German superplex), Tanahashi vs. Smith Jr., and Okada vs Suzuki.
*8/7 airs matches from the August 10, 2014 Seibu Dome show with Naito vs. Honma, Ishii vs. Anderson, Goto vs. Shibata and Tanahashi vs. Styles.
*8/14 is the final show of the series, airing the Nakamura vs. Okada G-1 Climax final from the Seibu Dome.
The Raw after WrestleMania on 3/30 exploded with 3.67 rating and 5.35 million viewers, the largest number of viewers for an episode since the July 23, 2012, 100th episode of Raw that did a 3.86 rating and 6.04 million viewers. 6,019,000 viewers.
Last year’s Raw after WrestleMania did a 3.69 rating and 5.14 million viewers, going head-to-head with the NCAA basketball finals that did 17.79 million viewers. So really, last year’s number was more impressive because this year they had the advantage of not going against the NCAA finals. The Raw after WrestleMania tradition of big ratings is weird. It is usually the most-watched episode of the year, but it’s still always hurt by the NCAA finals.
In 2013, they did a 3.43 rating and 4.61 million viewers going against a basketball game that did 23.43 million viewers, and in 2012 they did a 3.43 rating and 5.02 million viewers, going against a game that did 20.87 million viewers. This year did the most viewers for a Raw after Mania since 2011, which did a 3.84 rating and 5.62 million viewers.
Last year’s show also drew a lot of attention due to Undertaker’s streak ending and Daniel Bryan’s title win. Still, even if last year’s number would have been significantly higher if it wasn’t going against the basketball game, this shows that the interest in the product the next day was probably not that far off the day after breaking Undertaker’s streak, which was huge.
The three hours were 5.23 million viewers for the first hour, 5.60 million for the second hour and 5.27 million for the third hour.
The Hall of Fame ceremony after Raw did 2.15 million viewers, down from the 2.40 million for the same show in 2013.
World Series of Fighting on 3/28 featuring Justin Gaethje retaining his lightweight title over Luis Palomino, said to be a match of the year candidate, did 216,000 viewers, which is at its usual level.
Impact on 3/27 increased significantly to 444,000 viewers for the first run show and 164,000 for the first replay. It was a replay show record and the best first show in five weeks. For whatever this is worth, the audience in the prime demo was 82% male, which is almost an unheard of split, especially when you consider half the audience was above the age of 51, because at that age, a lot of people are married and you’d think at least some would watch with their wives. Okay, drop that thought.
Bellator on 3/27 did 607,000 viewers for the show headlined by Marcos Galvao winning the bantamweight title from Joe Warren. That is not a good showing at all, particularly for a title match and given Warren has been one of the company’s signature stars since it got on Spike.
Smackdown on 3/26 did a 1.86 rating and 2.51 million viewers, finishing fifth for the night on cable, behind three different NCAA basketball games and Pawn Stars. The Thursday before Mania Smackdown usually doesn’t do big numbers because it’s almost done as a throw away show since the closing big angles are on Raw. But overall, for Mania season, the ratings on Thursday this year are lower than the ratings had been on Friday last year, and that is very disappointing.
This is the second issue of the current set. With last week being a double issue, if you’ve got a (1) on your address label, it means your subscription will expire in two weeks.
Renewal rates for the printed Observer in the United States are $12 for four issues (which includes $4 for postage and handling), $22 for eight, $31 for 12, $40 for 16, $60 for 24, $80 for 32, $100 for 40, $130 for 52 up through $160 for 64 issues.
For Canada and Mexico, the rates are $13.50 for four issues (which includes $6 for postage and handling), $24 for eight, $34 for 12, $44 for 16, $66 or 24, $88 for 32, $110 for 40 issues, $143 for 52 and $176 for 64.
For Europe, you can get the fastest delivery and best rates by sending to Moonsault, P.O. Box 3075, Barnet, Herts EN4 9YR, England, or by sending e-mail orders to firstname.lastname@example.org. Rates are £9 per set of four issues. U.K. readers ordering at least six sets can get them for £8.50 per set.
For the rest of the world, the rates are $15.50 for four issues (which includes $9 for postage and handling), $30 for eight, $43 for 12, $56 for 16, $70 for 20, $84 for 24, $98 for 28, $140 for 40 issues and $182 for 52 issues.
You can also get the Observer on the web at www.wrestlingobserver.com for $10.99 per month for a premium membership that includes daily audio updates, Figure Four Weekly, special articles and a message board. If you are a premium member and still want hard copies of the Observer, you can get them for $8 per set in the U.S., $9 per set in Canada and $11.50 per set for the rest of the world.
All subscription renewals should be sent to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, P.O. Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228. You can also renew via Visa or MasterCard by sending your name, address, phone number, Visa or MasterCard number (and include the three or four digit security code on the card) and expiration date to Dave@wrestlingobserver.com or by fax to (408)244-3402. You can also renew at www.paypal.com using Dave@wrestlingobserver.com as the pay to address. For all credit card or paypal orders, please add a $1 processing fee. If there are any subscription problems, you can contact us and we will attempt to rectify them immediately, but please include with your name a full address as well a phone number you can be contacted at.
All letters to the editor, reports from live shows and any other correspondence pertaining to this publication should also be sent to the above address.
We also have copies of our latest book, "Tributes II," a 293-page hardcover full color book which features biographies right out of the pages of the Observer. Those featured are Wahoo McDaniel, Lou Thesz, Miss Elizabeth, Freddie Blassie, Road Warrior Hawk, Andre the Giant, Curt Hennig, Johnny Valentine, Davey Boy Smith, Terry Gordy, Owen Hart, Stu Hart, Gorilla Monsoon, The Sheik and Tim Woods. The book is available for $12.95 plus $3.50 for postage and handling in the U.S., $20 for postage and handling in Canada and $25 for postage and handling for the rest of the world.
This publication is copyright material and no portion of the Observer may be reprinted without the expressed consent of publisher/writer Dave Meltzer or Chief legal counsel and deputy managing editor Scott Williams. The Observer is also produced by John F. Raad.
Fax messages can be sent to the Observer 24 hours a day at (408) 244-3402. Phone messages can be left 24 hours a day at (408) 244-2455. E-mails can be sent to Dave@wrestlingobserver.com
After being fired in January after messing up on the Japan tour, Mr. Niebla was brought back by CMLL and is booked in the main event of the 4/5 show at Arena Mexico. You screw up constantly at work and get multiple suspensions and they’ll keep bringing you back, but you leave for a better money offer and they’ll never take you back.
Rey Cometa will be out of action for at least another five months after knee surgery due to an injury on the January Fantastica Mania tour of Japan.
They announced the two blocks and the lineups for the Global Tag League tournament, which takes place from 4/19 to 5/4. The A block has Takashi Sugiura & Masato Tanaka, Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka, Naomichi Marufuji & Katsuhiko Nakajima, Maybach Taniguchi & Maybach II, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste and Daisuke Sekimoto & Kazuki Hashimoto. That’s a hell of a block. The B Block has tag champs Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr., Takeshi Morishima & Mitsuhiro Kitamiya, Mohammed Yone & Daisuke Ikeda, Akitoshi Saito & Quiet Storm, Chris Hero & Colt Cabana and Brian Breaker & Shelton Benjamin. They open at Korakuen Hall on 4/19 with Morishima & Kitamiya vs. Yone & Ikeda, Archer & Smith vs. Hero & Cabana, Suzuki & Iizuka vs. Maybach & Maybach II, and Sugiura & Tanaka vs. Nicholls & Haste. Those two teams in the main event have had some killer matches. The final show is also at Korakuen Hall. This is the match order and it’s Jado booking which means it’s going down to the last day and the final match in each block is deciding it. It usually means one of the two teams in that final, which in the B block is Archer & Smith vs. Yone & Ikeda and the A block is Sugiura & Tanaka vs. Sekimoto & Hashimoto, goes to the finals. However, either of those look to be where the first mentioned team is winning the block and needs a win at the end, and the other team may end up the spoilers and one of the teams that wins an earlier match takes it, which is also a Gedo & Jado tournament booking specialty. The other final day B block matches are Saito & Storm vs. Hero & Cabana and Morishima & Kitamiya vs. Benjamin & Breaker. In the A block, the other bouts are Maybachs vs. Nicholls & Haste and Suzuki & Iizuka vs. Marufuji & Nakajima.
Kenou, Hajime Ohara and Quiet Storm, who have all been working full-time here as independents, were announced over the weekend to be officially NOAH contracted talent.
They ran Korakuen Hall on 3/28 built around an elimination match with NOAH vs. Suzuki-gun off the 3/15 show where they got mainstream publicity when Suzuki-gun ended up with all the belts. NOAH’s team of Marufuji & Yone & Taniguchi & Taiji Ishimori & Atsushi Kotoge beat Suzuki’s gun team of Suzuki & Iizuka & Taichi & Taka Michinoku & Desperado in 23:22. Marufuji was the sole survivor when he pinned Taichi after he had also thrown Iizuka over the top rope. They pushed Taniguchi helping NOAH big, as he eliminated Desperado and Michinoku by pin, and then threw the key member, Suzuki, over the top rope all in a row. This likely sets Taniguchi up for a possible title shot at Suzuki’s GHC title. After the match, Yoshihiro Takayama showed up and attacked Suzuki and joined up with NOAH in the war. Takayama & Suzuki had been allies years back as a regular freelance tag team. The show drew 1,140 fans, so the new booking and focus of the company behind Suzuki as top heel still isn’t turning business around.
The Invasion Attack show on 4/5 has sold out Sumo Hall in advance, making it the fastest non-G-1 or non-special show to sell out the arena in more than a decade. That speaks volumes because none of the big three (Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada or Shinsuke Nakamura) were in the main event, which is A.J. Styles vs. Kota Ibushi for the IWGP title. And it’s not all that loaded of a show. The show airs live on Saturday night/Sunday morning at 3 a.m. Eastern and midnight Pacific.
Also sold out is the 4/2 and 4/17 Korakuen Hall shows.
The G-1 Climax schedule will be announced the first week of June.
Jim Ross was talking to New Japan officials in San Jose this past week and made a suggestion, which he talked about at his show, that New Japan broker a deal with WWE to send Kazuchika Okada to NXT. Ross said that with his size, look and ability, he’d make the main roster quickly and be a U.S. superstar and then could return to Japan having been a WWE success, and he said he could be another Antonio Inoki. Nobody is going to be another Inoki. It is true that being a WWE success will help him be more of a star to the Japanese people, but there’s no lock that will happen, plus you have the issue that if WWE gets a talent on loan for a certain amount of time, how much are they really going to invest in it? Okada as a middle of the pack guy in that mid-card WWE purgatory, then going back to Japan and having to be the anchor of the company could go either way as far as his ability to lead. It usually doesn’t hurt Japanese guys to go overseas and not be used on top, but those are young guys, not one of the company’s big three established stars. Plus, New Japan needs Okada right now more and more, because he’s already one of the big three and they are trying to grow their business now. He’d get over to the NXT audience, probably huge, but the main roster is a tough one to navigate.
They did a New Japan World show on 3/29 in Hamamatsu, but it was a one camera shoot house show with no announcing. The show drew 2,900 fans, a sellout, with nothing but tags and just basic stuff. Usual New Japan house show style card with all multiple person matches. Everything was above average to good, but nothing was great. A.J. Styles & Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi beat Kazuchika Okada & Gedo & Yoshi-Hashi when Styles pinned Gedo. Styles, after the match, said that Okada will be destroyed by Fale at Invasion Attack, and he’ll do the same to Kota Ibushi. He dropped the mic twice during his promo. They are doing a Styles winning streak gimmick on this tour in all the main events, so in a sense they’re putting the heels over every night. They’re also putting Trent Baretta & Rocky Romero strong as Roppongi Vice on their debut tour. After a multiple-person match, there was a big pull-apart between Tomohiro Ishii and Togi Makabe, so they are headed toward a singles Never title match. Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata & Tomoaki Honma beat Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows & Tama Tonga when Shibata pinned Tonga after a penalty kick, but Honma and Shibata argued and were about to go at it and Goto played peacemaker. They also gave Captain New Japan a rare win in the second match, when he and Mascara Dorada beat Kenny Omega & Cody Hall, when he pinned Hall.
Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling, after more than one year of press releases and talk, announced three events, billed as television tapings, at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The three dates are 7/24, 8/21 and 10/23, all Fridays. No talent was announced for the shows nor a broadcast partner. He is in talks with three different cable networks although we don’t know which ones. I do know from other sources that FS 2 was being talked with but don’t know if they are still in play and one of the three. Jarrett, as of a few weeks ago had been talking about running at the South Pointe Casino, which holds 1,500. The Orleans has a small 1,000 seat arena which is where ROH ran its 3/1 PPV from, but this being run at the larger Orleans Arena, which would hold about 7,000 with a normal pro wrestling television staging setup. It’s part of a partnership with Boyd Gaming. The key to this company, and quite frankly any television pro wrestling company today, is all about the broadcast partner and the deal. If the broadcast partner is behind you and wants to see you succeed, you get enough money in rights fees to run a promotion and have good enough production, and some talent, wrestling usually will do better than most programming in the time slot, but wrestling also has to battle its negative stigma. That is going to be the main revenue stream because you can’t make significant money on house shows because you can’t run enough of them, nor draw enough. You can say there is a void in PPV, because TNA is out, ROH only runs a few a year and WWE is largely out, but don’t kid yourself, WWE running monthly NXT PPV like shows as part of the $9.99 monthly package once again lessens the value of a pro wrestling big show to the public and now gives people 24 big shows per year from WWE alone. That’s enough to fill the demand for most because people’s lives have time constraints. The dates tell an interesting story. It’s possible you can shoot four one-hour shows at one taping, although that is pushing it. Looking at those dates, the first two are okay but the third is too far out. One idea Jarrett had talked about with one network was irregular live specials where he’d bring in a lot of international talent. He has good relations with AAA and New Japan, which were both listed as people he has working agreements with on his web site. People close to the situation have noted to us potential political issues because New Japan works with CMLL, which hates AAA. New Japan also has a current American deal with ROH. When Jarrett started, there was a ton of U.S. undiscovered talent, but with Lucha Underground, WWN and ROH having all its key talent under contract, the question is what kind of access he can have to it. There are true indie guys like the Bullet Club in New Japan without U.S. contracts. Guys like Ricochet that a year ago I’d want to build around, have U.S. TV deals. Good relations with AAA may help him get Lucha Underground talent, but one wonders what the higher-ups at Lucha Underground will think about its contracted guys on somebody else’s show if they have regular TV. At this point, we haven’t even heard any top indie talent contacted.
The actual money for the New Japan Wrestle Kingdom show is due this coming week so Jarrett will actually know for the first time the real numbers on how the show does, or close to it. Everyone in business estimates based on various early numbers, but the actual cable numbers which make up the bulk of PPV, come in on a several month delay. Even after four months, limited revenue and numbers will trickle in. Early indications have been good, with the insider talk being in the 14,000 to 15,000 buy range. Anything over 10,000 was considered a success with no TV in the market and pure Internet advertising. This had the handicaps of the bad time slot, many systems (including almost all cable systems) not airing it live to run the UFC replay instead, and satellite systems not running the replay in the prescribed slot. That number beat every ROH show on PPV, which has weekly television and an American presence, as well as most TNA shows over the past two years, which had Spike and far bigger names to American fans. Win, lose or draw, this is the first successful pro wrestling PPV based on Internet marketing, but it’s also the current ceiling because they did as good a job of promoting it through viral means, had the strongest non-WWE show in the world and had Jim Ross as announcer.
Regarding the death of Greg Daves, better known as Cincinnati Red, on 3/20, Daves, who has been in bad health due to diabetes, suffered a heart attack shortly after being a pallbearer at the funeral of another former Southern California wrestler, Bobby Bradley Sr. Daves, Jesse Lizzaraga (Jesse Hernandez), Adam Croom and Bobby Bradley Jr. were all pallbearers. After the funeral, they all want to the Bradley home in Pinion Hills, CA and Daves wasn’t feeling well. Croom drove him to the hospital. While in the car, Daves suffered an apparent heart attack and Croom called for an ambulance to rush him to the Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville, CA. He was rushed into open heart surgery as they found his arteries were clogged. After surgery, he suffered a second heart attack and the doctors couldn’t revive him.
Chris Jericho has a new comedy series called “Nothing to Report” that debuts on the Comedy Central web site on 4/13. The show is about two neurotic police officers who try and analyze their inner feelings while doing stake-outs.
Rey Mysterio noted to us that he hasn’t signed a Lucha Underground contract but felt the deal was pretty close.
From what we understand with several name and not so big name signings is that they are on hold for most due to the amount of money lost in the first season. I don’t know the figures, but if you look at various costs that I’m aware of, it would have to be $20 million in losses minimum. That’s a number they all knew going in because they weren’t expecting to open the revenue streams this early. There are two key things they are looking for. One, as noted many times, is a television upgrade. Lucha Underground is partially owned by Robert Rodriguez, the owner of the El Rey Network, with the idea it would help build the network. We haven’t heard the English language ratings in some time past those in the company saying that they have gone up since El Rey started being carried recently on The Dish Network, so that makes sense. The two key deals we’ve been hearing about is an attempt to upgrade from Unimas to Univision, which would be a game changer (think of it like upgrading from NBC Sports Network to NBC) if it’s in a good slot. Even on Unimas the time slot is Saturday afternoon, which at one point was a great time slot for wrestling all over the country, but wrestling fans are different now and it’s difficult to draw much of an audience not in prime time. The second is an attempt to get the show into Mexico on Televisa. If they get those paying deals, and the reason they are spending so much in production is to have a show that looks good enough that those stations will be interested, that would help both with both money coming in and exposure to where things like touring and merchandising could be better. Touring is a weird one because it’s the Hispanic market. Of late, we’ve seen with ROH, NXT (outside Florida) and a lot of the indies that you can draw better crowds now for non-WWE product than a few years ago, and those who come will be super enthusiastic. But you’re still talking 1,000 people being a great crowd so it’s completely unproven the ability to draw in a 5,000 seat arena or larger for anyone (NXT in San Jose was a fluke of WrestleMania weekend). This is an Hispanic audience. Lucha Underground doesn’t have enough English language viewers to me to look like it can tour without it mostly being an Hispanic product. As far as how well it can do, until they make the move, you don’t know what the true level of interest and excitement is. I think they can draw hundreds, maybe 1,000 who will go crazy, but the key is the ability to draw thousands, and only WWE has been able to do that for years in this country.
They have four more dates on the schedule, tapings on 4/11, 4/12, 4/18 and 4/19. I believe the 4/19 taping will be for the two-hour special that ends the first season in early August and then the plan is to go into returns. After that, they are shutting down. There’s no word on when they’ll pick up again.
On Alberto El Patron fighting in Glory, the basic gist is that Glory has talked with him about doing a celebrity kickboxing match. No deal has been signed and Alberto has not been training for kickboxing past the point in his regular workouts he incorporates boxing training. They had suggested the Bill Goldberg fight for 5/8, but as noted, Goldberg felt it was a bad idea and Alberto was told Goldberg had turned it down. Jose Canseco’s name was thrown out but the belief was he couldn’t get licensed. There was also talk of trying to match him with a former NBA player. We do know that Preston City Wrestling is really upset about him missing his 3/13 date once they found out Alberto was working hard in Australia and apparently showing no sign of an injury. They apparently spent a considerable amount of money on his flight, even though they didn’t have to pay his salary cost for the show.
Because of the success in selling so well in Philadelphia and with the four dates, with the two shows in Toronto, New Japan and ROH have reached an agreement for seven wrestlers to come over. Among those coming are Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Jushin Liger, Kushida and booker Gedo. As noted, ROH, because of budget issues, at one point was only going to use three Japanese stars and lots of Bullet Club guys, but now it’ll be talent similar, if not better, than last year, since the Bullet Club will also be on the shows. The show on 5/13 sold out almost immediately and the 5/12 show is almost sold out and is a lock that it will be. Neither Toronto date is sold out but the expectations are that both will end up selling out. One would think the talent announcements would help Toronto sell out quickly.
Tommaso Ciampa, who was in the main event of the last PPV, has given notice. They were doing an angle where he’s at odds with the company but this is said to be legit and he’ll finish up on the 4/4 show in San Antonio. According to those in ROH, the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a new contract. The belief is that he doesn’t have a WWE offer and will end up with Evolve and working other indies and Europe, but only he knows for sure.
Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith are debuting as a team on the 4/4 show, facing Hanson & Raymond Rowe. The announced main event on that show is Alberto El Patron, in his final ROH match, teaming with ACH (Alberto and ACH are both from San Antonio) & Matt Sydal vs. Mark & Jay Briscoe & Roderick Strong. At press time the main event is scheduled to be Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly defending the tag titles against Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian, which is weird because Daniels and Kazarian both lost (granted, in singles matches) in Redwood City. Other matches confirmed are Dalton Castle vs. Donovan Dijak and Michael Elgin vs. Cedric Alexander.
Castle has signed a deal here. TNA was also after him as a unique character.
TNA officially announced an English language Canadian television deal, as they start this coming week on The Fight Network in a 9 p.m. Friday night slot. They will have three hours on Fridays, with an 8 p.m. show called TNA Wrestling’s Greatest Matches. Xplosion will also on Saturday nights at 11 p.m. The Fight Network is a subscription based channel, costing about $3 per month, and it’s penetration is largely to MMA fans, although it focuses on MMA, pro wrestling and boxing. So as far as visibility of the product in Canada, it’s very much limited to really hardcore MMA fans and this may help get some hardcore pro wrestling fans but as far as expanding the fan base in Canada, this would be far less significant than Destination America in the U.S. as far as reach goes. And even with TNA’s big improvement as a product, due to the reach issue, the buzz hasn’t been there in the U.S. at all of late. TNA has always been on in Quebec in French on RDS.
Regarding the idea I’ve written about for TNA to become more of a U.K. based product, there are a couple of problems with that. The first is the cost of flying everyone to the U.K. is much larger than to Orlando and cost of taping is more. Granted, there is a live gate in the U.K. which there isn’t in Orlando. But they have local promoters in the U.K. who help bring them in. While they absolutely could go there more than once a year, it requires people they work with in the U.K. wanting to bring them in. Just the fact they only did three dates on the last tour, because they didn’t draw well in the other arenas the year before, indicates the people they work with only wanted to run a few cities. The other problem is Destination America. Destination America is calling a lot of the shots with the mentality that they are paying TNA and running so many hours. They don’t know pro wrestling at all, but they didn’t like the idea that on the Destination America channel that the TV was taped outside of America. Since it was only for a few weeks and the plans for those shows as TV tapings went back to before the deal with the station was made, there wasn’t an issue. And they may not have an issue with one tour a year, but it has been made clear they want the show taped most of the time in the U.S. Destination America was also part of the reason for going with Kurt Angle as champion, as they like the idea of their champion being an American gold medalist. They also favor Taryn Terrell as Knockouts champion, because of her look. When you watch the TNA women’s matches, for the most part, the matches are good when Gail Kim is involved, as she’s usually the glue who holds matches together and makes everyone in the ring with her look better.
Destination America has dropped all Saturday TNA programming as of this past weekend. I guess they felt that the Friday night rating, which was the key rating, was being hurt because of the Saturday replays, because there’s no way they were putting any programming on in that time slot that did 100,000 viewers. The Unlocked show in its current form with it being the same basic show, only adding the Mike Tenay insider interview (which was one of the best things on TNA programming, particularly the recent ones with Kurt Angle and The Wolves), has also been dropped. The show title may or may not remain but if it does, it’ll be a new form show.
TNA signed a major broadcasting deal in Brazil on Esporte Interactivo, a free-to-air sports station that reaches about half the country. Esporte Interactivo has the Brazilian rights to the NFL, the UEFA Champions League as well as World Series of Fighting, ONE Championships, Legacy Fighting Championships and Bellator. Esporte Interactivo, owned by Turner Broadcasting, is the largest sports station not owned by Globo, which basically owns the TV business there. Esporte Interactivo has little clearance in the country’s two major markets, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and are stronger in small cities. Esporte Interactivo used to have exclusive rights to WWE. WWE got a good money deal from Fox Sports in Brazil and wanted to run on both stations, but Esporte Interactivo told them “see ya” and signed TNA to take their place. WWE viewing numbers were five times higher on Esporte Interactivo than they have been on Fox Sports. Ironically, Esporte Interactivo kept Bellator (which does big ratings in Brazil) even though they signed a second deal with Fox Sports. From people in Brazil, the feeling is that WWE and pro wrestling are the same thing and there is no knowledge or interest at all in anything pro wrestling that isn’t WWE, so it will be difficult for TNA to get an audience. Impact will be airing every Sunday at 10 p.m. and Xplosion will air every Monday at 7:45 p.m., plus they will also air all the monthly taped PPV shows.
TNA will also be starting on Eurosport Finland in a Thursday night time slot. What’s notable is that WWE has two shows on that station, and it’s expected that the same announcing crew that translates the WWE shows will be doing the voice-overs for the TNA shows.
TNA’s German TV deal on DMAX has been extended.
Although he hasn’t been used in a long time, Garett Bischoff was just recently removed from the TNA roster page, meaning his contract must have run out without being renewed.
The PPV numbers for 7/11 will be interesting because it appears UFC has never spent the kind of money promoting a fight as they have for the Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor bout. Aldo has never been a draw in the past. McGregor helped his last PPV, which would have probably done 125,000 buys to 140,000 buys without him, to hit 205,000 which is significant movement for what was a third from the top fight with Dustin Poirier. Against Dennis Siver, who was just a journeyman fighter, he set the all-time FS 1 UFC TV ratings by a wide margin (that was helped by promotion during NFL broadcasts including the championship game that day). They just did the world tour. Aldo was promoting hard, having learned about the difference in paychecks between the guys who promote hard and the guys who don’t. It’s funny because I’m getting people asking me if they can hit 1 million buys for that show, and on the surface, that number sounds ridiculous. Even with the Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald fight as support, I don’t think it will be bigger than Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier as a U.S. PPV show, but McGregor is an amazing promoter and it’s all about hype and buzz over the last week. The featherweight record is 330,000 for Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar, and that number was really drawn by Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Alistair Overeem (coming off his high-profile win over Brock Lesnar) vs. Bigfoot Silva. Aldo of late has been hovering in the 180,000 range. No matter how you slice it, McGregor’s TV rating for his fight with a journeyman shows he’s a star in the U.S. at the level no featherweight has approached, and the second title match of a significant belt will help significantly in the U.S., and even more so in Canada with MacDonald going for GSP’s old belt. The McGregor reality show, “The Notorious,” starts on FS 1 in April. It’s going to be big, and should blow away the featherweight record. Live tickets sales have greatly outpaced every show so far this year, although it is not sold out, but they priced the thing at the Anderson Silva/Chael Sonnen II scale which is unbelievable for an Aldo main event. We’ll see the value of the worldwide promotion of this past week and more how much they can get out of the last week. It’ll be two months after Mayweather-Pacquiao, and Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez, which wasn’t as big, seemed to have lingering negative effects on PPV for about that length of time.
The UFC has spent more money promoting this fight than any fight in history. It’s gigantic in Ireland and big in Brazil because of the nationalities of the fighters. McGregor is a star in the U.S. based on how his last fight drew but exactly how big a PPV star he is isn’t determined because he’s never headlined one. The press tour that went all over the world, finished on 3/31 in Dublin. They held the press conference in a 3,000-seat venue, and there were 66,000 people who tried to get tickets. McGregor talked about how they needed to build a 150,000 seat stadium. Fans were chanting “We Want Croke Park,” (a show in the 80,000 seat stadium in town). Dana White said he promised they’d get a show there if they can get past the ordinances. That’s the big hold-up, as they aren’t allowed to have a show that ends after a certain time and that wouldn’t fit into the PPV window. Plus, it’s actually more profitable for UFC to run a show in Las Vegas before 13,000 fans than in Dublin before 80,000. At its climax, McGregor stole Aldo’s title belt.
White said, which we’ve noted, that from a business standpoint, the first three months of 2015 outpaced the first three months of any year in company history. He said the second quarter is also looking great. He said the 6/13 show in Mexico City for Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum is sold out again with 21,000 and the gate will beat the first show. He also said that the 5/23 show in Las Vegas with Jon Jones vs. Anthony Rumble Johnson and Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort will do a $6 million gate, which would be among the biggest in company history, and talked that the 7/11 show with McGregor vs. Aldo, his prediction will do $7 million, which if that’s the case, would be the second largest gate in company history. He also said that if MMA is legalized in New York, the Madison Square Garden debut show will be in December. That’s notable because they have the stadium in Melbourne booked for November and are going to need a ton of marquee fights to run two shows of that caliber in a row. I was told that Melbourne may be at the Rod Laver Arena instead of the stadium if they can’t put together a stadium-caliber show. They have to be begging for a McGregor win with all the big shows and the difference between his drawing power and everyone else in the division.
White also mentioned that UFC is opening up new headquarters in Las Vegas. The new headquarters will include all the offices, having the Ultimate Fighter gym on the property as well as an injury rehab center for fighters. They are breaking ground in June and hope to move in sometime around the summer of 2016.
Michael Mersch, the company’s Senior Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs and Assistant General Counsel, was let go on 3/15. This shocked the office since he’d been one of the highest ranking people in the company since his arrival in 2007, and he was specifically listed as one of the defendants in the various anti-trust lawsuits (Cung Le, etc.) that have been filed against the company. I believe this is part of the Burt Watson fallout, as Mersch was believed to have been the executive never named that yelled at Watson when Watson hadn’t gotten transportation to get Mark Munoz back to the hotel for the 2/28 show in Los Angeles after Munoz had to stay late at weigh-ins because he missed weight and made it on a later attempt. UFC had attempted to get Watson to reconsider his quitting.
This was pretty much well known weeks ago, when her Invicta pay for 2/27 turned out to be $90,000 that Cris Cyborg is under contract to UFC in some form. It was confirmed on UFC Tonight not only that Cyborg is under a UFC contract, but has been for two months. Basically, the deal was to keep her away from Bellator, which decided to open up a 145 pound division with the idea of building around her, since she wasn’t making much with Invicta. However, once she signed with Bellator, all hopes for the Rousey vs. Cyborg fight are dead, and UFC has spent more than two years on-and-off trying to put that fight on. The contract is that she will fight in Invicta, get paid by UFC (the same deal UFC proposed to her at the end of 2012 and early 2013) and as soon as she proves on an Invicta show that she can make 135, they’ll schedule her to get a shot at the title. A key to the deal is UFC has also hired George Lockhart for her to be her weight coach, with the idea of him getting her down to 135.
This week is the early show due to NCAA basketball, as on 4/4, they are on FS 1 from 11 a.m. Eastern (8 a.m. Pacific) until 4 p.m., from the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA. The entire show is on the station with a main event of Chad Mendes vs. Ricardo Lamas. The rest of the show has Al Iaquinta vs. Jorge Masvidal, Michael Chiesa vs. Mitch Clarke, Milana Dudieva vs. Julianna Pena (the former TUF winner in her first fight since a horrible knee injury in training where every ligament in her knee was torn), Clay Guida vs. Robbie Peralta, Diego Ferreira vs. Dustin Poirier, Liz Carmouche vs. Lauren Murphy, Gray Maynard vs. Alexander Yokovlev, Samil Abdurahimov vs. Timothy Johnson and Justin Jones vs. Ron Stallings.
With all the good news, there is bad news in the sense the next PPV on 4/25 has very slow ticket sales, and now it’s lost the main event with the T.J. Dillashaw broken rib. Renan Barao has been pulled off the card. White told Barao’s management they are looking at booking the fight as soon as they can. The 8/1 show in Rio de Janeiro looks like the best bet, both from a timing and location standpoint. With the Rousey-Correia fight as the main event, you’d have the storyline of two Brazilians chasing Americans for world titles. Barao was told to taper off training for about six weeks (the amount of time before Dillashaw is expected to be able to start back), and then start back strong. Based on that time table, Dillashaw could be ready in early July. So they could put it on the 7/11 show, but that would make three title matches on the same show. The idea is to create the July show as the big show like a WrestleMania where fans come, including upgrading the Hall of Fame, and tons of shows all week including Invicta and maybe even a kickboxing show or getting sports like Jiu Jitsu, wrestling or judo to come to Las Vegas and hold major national championship meets. That is the long-term goal. For this year, it’s shows on Friday (Invicta) and Saturday & Sunday, plus the Fan Expo, with all the speeches by key people and the Hall of Fame inductions. So it is possible for this match to either load up a gigantic Saturday show, or maybe a better bet is put it as an FS 1 main event for the next night. But of the possibilities, I’d pick having it as a No. 2 show in Rio.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Glover Teixeira will headline a 6/20 show in Berlin, Germany. Teixeira has lost two in a row, while Gustafsson lost his last fight to Rumble Johnson.
Brendan Schuab announced that he’s moving to 205 pounds. He said he needs to take some time off as he went back to training and his neck was bothering him. But he said he’ll fight at 205 before the end of the year. He’s lost four of six, and Joe Rogan, who is a good friend of his, told him to retire saying he’s just not a good enough fighter to beat the top heavyweights. In his last fight, he was 244 pounds.
CABMMA, the Brazilian commission, surprised people and ruled that the Leandro Silva vs. Drew Dober result was being overturned and ruled a no contest. Referee Edouardo Herdy has stopped the fight and awarded the win to Silva based on Silva having Dober in a guillotine that wasn’t particularly dangerous, and that Dober was just escaping from when the call was made. Last week the commission gave the impression they couldn’t overturn the decision. UFC was pushing really hard for them to change it to a no contest. At first they were negative about it but UFC had commission heads Larry Hazzard of New Jersey and Andy Foster of California talk with them and both said in the same situation they would overturn a bad referee call like that. In the end, this to me was an open-and-shut case of a fighter who simply didn’t deserve the loss and the commission should be there to do the right thing, and it was very clear what the right thing was. And in the end, they did it and have been applauded for it. Also, it has been said that Herdy will never referee a UFC event going forward.
Dober was on MMA Junkie radio and said that Dana White pranked him after the fight with Silva. He said he was in the locker room and he was told White wanted to see him. White told him that he couldn’t believe he tapped to that guillotine and that he shouldn’t be a UFC fighter tapping to that. Dober thought he was about to be cut and then White told him he was kidding, that he thought the stoppage was ridiculous, that he’d be paid as if he won and he would work to get the decision off his record.
Dober vs. Silva is not being redone right now, as Dober was just signed to face Efrain Escudero on the 6/13 show in Mexico City. Also announced for that show is Gabriel Benitez vs. Clay Collard. While not signed yet, UFC Tonight also announced they were working on Henry Cejudo vs. Chico Camus for the 6/13 show in Mexico City. Hector Urbina vs. Albert Tumenov, Johnny Case vs. Francisco Trevino and Alejandro Perez vs. Patrick Williams were also added to the show. Case vs Trevino was first scheduled for 1/18 in Boston but Trevino was injured. Perez won the first season of TUF Latin America.
Marina Shafir, the only member of the Four Horsewomen not in the UFC (beacuse she fights at 145 and the UFC doesn’t have a weight class there), has signed with Invicta. She has a 1-1 record after being like Ronda Rousey and going 5-0 with five first round armbar finishes as an amateur. She got her sixth straight armbar in the first round in her pro debut, but was knocked out in 37 seconds by Amanda Bell (who was then signed to Invicta) in her second fight on 8/10. Shafir was a world class judoka from Moldova who came to the U.S. and ended up as Rousey’s best friend. The interesting promotional note on this is that if she gets a few wins at 145, the natural for would be Cris Cyborg. However, I expect Cyborg to face Rousey before Shafir will be ready for a title shot at 145.
Nick Diaz has hired a law firm to claim irregularities in the Nevada Athletic Commission testing after he tested positive for marijuana on 1/31.
Dennis Bermudez vs. Jeremy Stephens was added to the 7/11 show in Las Vegas.
Paul Felder suffered a knee injury in training and is out of his 4/18 fight in Newark, NJ, with Jim Miller. Beneil Dariush, who has looked really good in his last few fights, is taking the fight on a few weeks notice.
Both Roy Nelson and Josh Barnett have openly talked about wanting to fight the other in their next fight. Barnett, who is 37, hasn’t fought since December 28, 2013, when he was knocked out in a vicious manner by Travis Browne.
Claudia Gadelha, who many, including myself, see as the top contender for the womens’ strawweight title held by Joanna Jedrzejczyk, has pulled out of her fight on the 4/11 show in Krakow, Poland, where she was to face Aisling Daly of Ireland off the recent Ultimate Fighter season. A win by Gadelha, who lost a controversial split decision to the current champion before she won the title, could have gotten her the title shot. She still may get it based on lack of viable contenders. Daly will now face another TUF season alum, Randa Markos. Gasan Umalatov is off the show as well. Umalatov was scheduled to face Sergio Moraes. Mikael Lebout, a 27-year-old French fighter with a 13-3-1 record, makes his UFC debut on short notice as a replacement.
Josh Thomson returns on the 7/15 show in San Diego, facing Tony Ferguson, who has been on a roll of late, having won his last five. Thomson opened a new gym and has been preparing for life after fighting as he knows his time is limited. Also on that show is Igor Araujo vs. Sean Strickland.
John Hathaway vs. Gunner Nelson has been added to the 7/11 show in Las Vegas.
I don’t know what Cris Cyborg’s deal is about the weight issue, but this week she posted a photo of her from behind, showing her ass with her shorts hiked up totally and wrote, “People are saying if I trade my Brazilian bootay for a White Girls bum, I can make 135, but I wanna know coach, can I make135 and keep these Brazilian curves.”
The 4/24 Invicta show on Fight Pass from Kansas City had a nine-fight show announced. The undercard features mostly new fighters. The main fights are a strawweight title fight with champion Katja Kankaanpaa against Livia Renata Souza. Ediane Gomes vs. Raquel Pa’aluhi, Jenny Liou vs. Lacey Schuckman, Amanda Bell vs. Faith Van Duin and two fights with former TUF fighters, Roxanne Modafferi vs. Vanessa Porto and Peggy Morgan vs. Latoya Walker, are the top bouts.
Jussier Formiga vs. Wilson Reis, where the winner could be under consideration for a shot at Demetrious Johnson’s flyweight title, and Wendell Oliveria vs. T.J. Waldburger have been added to the 5/30 show in Goiania Brazil, which is the show headlined by Thiago Alves vs. the returning Carlos Condit and Juliana Lima vs. Jessica Penne.
Marcos Galvao (17-6-1) won the bantamweight title from Joe Warren (12-4) in the main event of the 3/27 show in Thackerville, OK. It was a good action fight which saw Galvao catch Warren with a kneebar at :45 of the second round and Warren screamed as the hold was locked on and referee John McCarthy stopped the fight. Warren got up and started protesting that he had never tapped, which he hadn’t, but screaming in pain is considered a verbal submission and McCarthy did Warren a favor because the way Galvao had the hold he was going to hyperextend Warren’s knee. Warren, who has been one of the company’s few signature stars, is now 38, and had beaten Galvao on April 16, 2011. The semifinal on the show was a great fight where L.C. Davis (23-6) beat Hideo Tokoro (32-28) via split decision. Tokoro, who was never a top fighter when it came to rankings as his 28 pro losses show, was a big favorite in Japan, known as the Japanese Volk Han because of a style where he was always going for cool submissions and fought at such a great pace. But his big period in Japan was years ago and even then, he had great fights, but the sport has evolved. But he looked great here, staying competitive with Davis. Both guys were landing and Tokoro was constantly going for submissions in a fight of the year candidate. Davis clearly won the second round and I thought Tokoro took the third. The first saw Davis dominate most of the way, but Tokoro scored two quick knockdowns late and you could argue that round either way. A key in the fight was a blown call as Tokoro nailed Davis with an up kick that knocked him silly. Instead of being able to follow up, ref Jason Herzog stopped the fight and ruled it an illegal blow because Davis’ knee was touching the ground. A replay showed the kick landed just before the knee touched, so it was legal. The actual rule is that it’s not the time of connection, but the point of throwing the blow, because if someone throws a kick at your head, you can’t drop to a knee before it lands and have it ruled a foul. But the stopping the fight for a time out to allow Davis to recover from what Herzog thought was an illegal blow, kept Tokoro from following up while Davis was in rough shape. Former UFC regular Francis Carmont (23-10) won via decision over Guilherme Viana (6-2) in his Bellator debut. The TV opener was Ryan Couture (10-3) win his fourth in a row over Dakota Cochrane (18-8) via submission with a choke in 3:23.
Scott Coker is in talks with Tyson Fury, a top-ten ranked heavyweight boxer from Manchester, England. Fury, who is 6-foot-9, has in the past challenged MMA fighters. He’s 24-0 with 18 knockouts in boxing.
The next show is 4/10 from Irvine, CA, headlined by Will Brooks vs. Dave Jansen for the lightweight title.
Patricio Pitbull Freire defends his featherweight title against Georgi Karakhanyan on the 6/19 show in St. Louis, which is the Kimbo vs. Ken Shamrock card.
Brandon Halsey defends the middleweight title against Kendall Grove on 5/15 in Temecula, CA. Grove, who was bounced from UFC four years ago, and has gone 9-5 since, did beat Christian M’Pumbu on 10/3 in his last fight. He was a name off season three of Ultimate Fighter but that was also in 2006. Mike Richman faced Eduardo Dantas, likely with the winner facing Marcos Galvao for the bantamweight title, in the semifinal.
Lesnar’s schedule in his new contract from a scheduling standpoint was described as largely the same as in his previous two contracts. There were a few things added but nothing significant. His first contract was for three PPV dates per year (as in Mania-to-Mania) and his second contract was for four. They suspended him on television for destroying Michael Cole, hurting JBL and Booker T, and giving two F-5s to a camera man (played by Northern California indie wrestler Dylan Drake).
During Raw, they announced Cole’s injury as a cervical fracture (broken neck), which, of all injuries they could say, they picked the most insensitive. It was only a few days since the medical examiner came back with the report that Perro Aguayo Jr. died due to three cervical fractures. It’s possible that the person who originally came up with the idea to use that verbiage wouldn’t have known that, but the idea with all the channels a script goes through, and that HHH and Stephanie both tweeted about Aguayo, that nobody would have known is impossible. If nobody spoke up, it would be telling about the culture, unless somebody did and Vince made the call anyway. I mean, they could have made up any injury in the world but they used the injury that just caused a death of a major international star. Granted, they believe they are the only wrestling so it doesn’t count, but that wrestlers’ death was a worldwide major news story and seen by a huge number of people all over the world that make up their fan base.
The storyline broken neck idea should keep Cole out several weeks. Don’t know if they’ll do that, but he still should be off next week. I haven’t heard that there was a reason to take Cole off and this was a cover reason for it, as much as a big-time angle to turn Lesnar into Steve Austin.
A lot of people, seeing The Rock hooked up with Ronda Rousey and setting things up with HHH & Stephanie, that Rock vs. Lesnar won’t happen next year. If there is no Rock vs. Lesnar, then Austin vs. Lesnar becomes a clear huge match, but those close to the situation indicate Austin right now appears unlikely to do that.
Johnson was meeting this week at Disney Studios to sign contracts to play the lead in an animated musical movie called “Moana.”
A number of the Anoa’i family members were furious at the main event result at WrestleMania, because of the change, with Reigns not getting the title. In particular, Reigns’ father, Sika Anoi’a was, according to one person in WWE, they said, “Sika forgot this business is not real life, and was legit pissed at the finish and looking to start a war. A lot of the younger (family members) were rallying around Sika, but the other 45 or 50 of them talked some reason.” Another person who was around the family said they were furious. While they came for Rikishi’s Hall of Fame, they came far more to see Joe win the WWE title. He noted to us that they were very mad and disappointed, but not out of control, and those who were in the business told the others that is how the business can be and some were sort of braced ahead of time for the possibility it wouldn’t happen. It’ll be fine in time because they are still high on Reigns, but it became clear that this just wasn’t the right time to make that move. He’ll either turn it around with the fans, go heel, or he’ll be the WWE’s version of Lex Luger of this generation, as the guy who was supposed to be the guy, was Vince’s handpicked next superstar, and for whatever reason, it didn’t happen.
One thing notable coming out of WrestleMania is that of the current male champions, all but two (Cena and Kidd) came from ROH, which had Rollins, Bryan, Cesaro and Owens.
Minneapolis is said to be the front runner for WrestleMania 33, in 2017. The show would be held at New Minnesota Stadium, which would hold about 63,000 for a WrestleMania show. Once again WrestleMania would be in a stadium less than a year before that same stadium hosts the Super Bowl. The weather won’t be an issue for the show since it has a retractable roof. The stadium opens for the 2016 NFL season. That’s not a lock, but they are said to be the frontrunners right now with Philadelphia and Orlando among the other cities believed in the running.
We’ll have Hall of Fame coverage in next week’s issue. Quickly, it was very enjoyable. I thought Larry Zbyszko’s speech was nice with his constantly breaking up and talking about his admiration for Bruno Sammartino. Butch Miller and Madusa were also highlights as far as pro wrestling entertainment went. Dana Warrior, who is not a trained public speaker, did a great job as did Conor Michalek’s father Steve. Bryan had the best speech of all because while everyone to a degree was in pro wrestler mode during the night, he wasn’t in the slightest. You could really see what Michalek meant to him. I know there is skepticism whenever WWE links itself to a cause, and there should be, because it’s so often transparent they are trying to get themselves over by linking to the cause and even in this case, putting him in the Hall of Fame was likely in some part a marketing decision. But in the big picture, it will cause Michalek to live forever, or at least for a while, as a celebrity poster boy with all kinds of cool footage to help raise money for a legitimate cause. Stephanie McMahon’s sending out a tweet right before the Hall of Fame saying, “Philanthropy is the future of marketing. It’s the way brands are going to win” in a sense was far too honest in exposing the reality that everyone in the business knows. Wrestling is far from the only business that does this. Real charity work I admire are the people who donate their time to do stuff and get upset when you tell people they did it, and there’s not a long list of people who fall into that category. With Michalek, there is a dual reason. It’s hardly all altruistic from WWE, but I didn’t get one iota of feeling from Bryan that he was trying to enhance his image by this speech, that there was an iota of worker mode or taking advantage of the situation. This wasn’t a quiet behind the scenes thing by any means, but he’s either great at making real when he’s not, or he’s as real as real can be when he gave this speech. There is a bigger picture here and while WWE is certainly doing this for its own image enhancement, this segment was great and their work in promoting Michalek to raise money to combat children’s pediatric cancer is a strong positive, and to raise money, you have to be public. At the same point, the amount of money raised in total from this is a figure that the company could have written in a check without blinking and done quietly. And they have written those checks, but when they have, it’s been pushed for all it’s P.R. worth. Vince years ago told me the same thing, when he was deluged in bad publicity, he said they were going to combat it by increasing and publicly playing up charity work. But to tweet that out to the world right before this show wasn’t the best timing at all. The big spot at the end with Madusa pulling the women’s title belt out of the garbage can was said to be the reason she was asked this year and the company was insistent on it being part of the presentation. Even though that is the most overplayed part of the Monday Night War, in a sense because it benefitted only WWF (WCW was put in a bad legal position for using WWF intellectual property on its broadcast and led to more unfavorable terms in a lawsuit settlement, WCW gained zero from it) and because the WWF version of the story never brings up that she was fired as champion because Vince McMahon made the decision to drop women’s wrestling and she was offered a job based on Eric Bischoff wanting her to do that. It’s stuck in their craw for decades and they play it up like crazy, but never bring up in 1991 that they used the WCW belt as part of a storyline (also struck down in court in mid-angle). The company wanted the show over in three hour and it went an hour long, so Flair, Nash and Michaels were told to speed it up. Nash, as noted before, was insistent on going in under his real name. WWE wanted him to go in as Diesel. Madusa, who didn’t care, went in as Alundra Blayze, even though she only used that name for two years out of her 17 year career, and was far more famous under the other name. WWE really wasn’t happy that Michaels flagrantly violated company policy using terms like wrestler and mocking sports entertainer and using the term strap.
At the Hall of Fame, the security people were alerted at every entrance and told that if Scott Steiner came to the show, to not under any circumstances allow him in. People who were backstage noted, and a photo reached social media taken at one of the entrances to the arena, which instructed security to keep him out with a photo of him. I don’t know all the details, but it stemmed from what was reportedly an ugly incident, that may have been on an airplane with Jennifer Bollea, Hulk’s wife, and it became a huge issue.
At least three documentaries were being shot over the past week.
At the final tapings in Los Angeles, besides the signs we talked about being confiscated, they were also taking anti-Roman Reigns stuff.
Toy State has reached a licensing agreement for WWE remote-controlled vehicles that will hit stores later this year.
There is now heavy interest in WWE in ACH. The standards regarding who they are interested in has changed with the idea of NXT as the cool touring brand and guys they used to dismiss are now guys they want. Too bad they missed on Ricochet the first time because he’ll be tough as I believe he signed a seven year deal with Lucha Underground. But I see them making a play at a lot of the ROH talent when their contracts expire. Adam Cole seems to me to be as almost a no-brainer when it contact is up as far as someone they’ll pursue as well.
A correction from last week. The 7/2 WWE show at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore was not the site of the Ric Flair NWA title win over Harley Race. The Flair vs. Race tour where they did the quickie title change in 1984 that nobody was supposed to know about (it ended up making news in Japan and we reported it in North America–all the talent on the show were told never to tell anyone it happened) saw Flair regain the title from Race at Gay World Stadium.
E! noted that Total Divas would return for its new season in the summer, although that’s been well known since they’ve been filming of laet. Ariane Andrew/Cameron and Summer Rae are being dropped as characters on the new season, but Trinity/Naomi is being brought back.
Jimmy Jacobs is not moving to Orlando, but to Connecticut, so he’ll be one of the two dozen writers for the main show, and not one of the two writers of the NXT show.
Heyman did an interview with The Sporting News and said found out Lesnar was staying at 5 a.m. on 3/24, the day that Lesnar later made the announcement on ESPN. He said the deal was signed very late Monday night after Raw when McMahon upped the offer. He said that Lesnar had originally made his choice to go to UFC and started his training camp. Heyman said that he still always believed Vince would sign him at the 11th hour. He said Bellator was not in play, saying they were never going to outbid Lorenzo Fertitta. Those in UFC had told me that they didn’t believe Bellator had a shot because if Lesnar wanted to fight, it was to take on the best because if he didn’t want to take on the best, he’d stay with WWE rather than to go Bellator. He said in recent weeks that Lesnar had a number in mind and certain provisions in mind and that if WWE would meet those provisions, he was going to stay. That’s probably the impasse from the prior two weeks. Lesnar gave the impression that it was about five weeks ago while doing his MMA training camp that he started to feel his heart wasn’t into it.
Bryan was on Talk is Jericho and said he felt the negative reaction to Reigns was over-reactionary. He said if the plan was to go with Reigns this year that the company made the right decision. He said he considered the circumstances completely different than last year. He said that last year, the fans weren’t getting behind Batista while he was on the house shows with Reigns and said that Reigns was cheered at all the house shows and most of the TV tapings. He said he felt last year was a rebellion against the booking and this year it was people booing Reigns because he was working against him. Actually, I think the Reigns and Batista reactions were similar. Batista was also getting cheered wildly when he did work his few house shows, had mixed but normally negative reactions at TV until he did his full-fledged turn. Rey Mysterio even brought up how he got booed out of the building at last year’s Rumble because he was No. 30 when everyone wanted Bryan, so it’s really not so much the guy but the fact they are considered not Bryan when the fans wanted Bryan. All of these reactions are the super loyal Bryan fans who believe he deserves the top spot and that if he doesn’t, they aren’t listening to the audience and are mad at everyone that gets in the way. But now that he’s IC champion and clearly being booked with the hard workers to make those fans happy, the hope is they don’t take it out on the real main eventers. Jim Ross, at his talk show, when it was brought up, noted that when it comes to choosing, one guy (in choosing between Reigns and Bryan) is older and already has a bad neck, and praised Reigns, but also said it was too early and that Lesnar should retain. Time will tell, but the resolve to stand up for Bryan in booking really took a turn after he lost to Reigns. It was amazing to us at the Ross talk show, and granted, that’s a limited audience, but when he asked about top guys, people hated Reigns, were lukewarm for Bryan at best, negative for Cena and loved Lesnar. At Mania, Bryan got a really good reaction, but it was anything like the previous year and Lesnar and Rock were clearly the stars of the show to the live crowd. Bryan said that he was disappointed he didn’t get to main event Mania and said it must be frustrating to some of his biggest fans that he’s accepting the decision and easy going about it, but that’s just his personality. He said his goal now is to get guys over and work with guys to bring them up closer to the top, and even said he wanted to do a program with Slater to help get him over.
He said at the time of the interview (a few weeks ago) that he was feeling rundown but wasn’t sure if it was his age or his body readapting to wrestling. He said his neck injury first surfaced in July of 2013 during the match on Raw where he suffered the stinger (and HHH stopped t from backstage and Bryan was furious about it) against Orton. He said it was a tope into the barricade that caused the injury. The MRI showed a compression of a disc onto a nerve. He said the problem got worse during the fall tour that year of the U.K., as he’d get shooting pains down his right arm due to a pinched ulna nerve (elbow). He said he was in pain and led to problems sleeping. He said he got an epidural shot at first which worked and he had no pain for a while. Bt he said he had a bad experience with a second epidural shot and it did nothing to alleviate pain that had come back and decided against a third one. He said in late 2013 Dr. Chris Amann talked to him about getting surgery, saying they could do it but it wasn’t necessary at that time. He told him the shooting pains down is right arm were fine, but if he was to feel actual weakness in the arm, he’d need surgery immediately. He said a couple of weeks before he had his surgery, he started having problems with strength in the arm, when he couldn’t unlock his car with keys and would start dropping things. He was then tested and said he was told that he needed surgery immediately. However, he said since he was champion, he wanted to keep wrestling. He said he called Cena for advice and also called Vince. He said that the only people who knew about the extent of his problems were Amann, himself and his wife. He didn’t say this, but in hindsight, if he had told Vince McMahon about the problem, it’s possible Vince would see it as too much of a risk to put the title on him, although last year it didn’t appear they had another strong alternative. He said that when Vince found out and talked to the doctors, it was Vince who made the call for him to have surgery. If you recall, the original belief is he’d be back in six weeks to two months and only miss one PPV. He said after surgery, things were improving until he lifted up a backpack in his wife’s mother’s car. He had been told not to lift anything more tan five pounds. He said then he felt a twinge in his arm and that’s when things got worse. He said at that point he was in the most pain of any point. He said the pain was so bad that he used pain killers for the first time in his life. That tells you something with all the injuries he’s had where he has said he didn’t use anything for pain and how bad this must have been. He said the doctors were dumbfounded with his condition and he missed his scheduled Money in the Bank return and then vacated the title, which was awkward, since they had just done a storyline with Brie and Stephanie based on the idea that he wasn’t going to have to vacate the title. He said he felt they should have stripped him right away after surgery feeling it didn’t make sense in storyline to keep the title on him.
Jericho will have a WWE Network special live interview, which will later play on his “Talk is Jericho” podcast, with Cena. This was the spot that they had been using with Austin.
Bill Goldberg, who has been doing a lot of interviews promoting Glory (he’s really enthusiastic when it comes to pushing the product and in his interviews pushes the idea that at some point he’s going to fight, but at 48, I just don’t think it’s a good idea, especially since he doesn’t want a joke fight). He was asked about Vince McMahon and HHH’s feelings on him by The Sporting News and said: “I think there’s a great disdain for me because I wasn’t one of their boys because I didn’t want to play their game because felt like I was part of the team and all I needed was to come and play my part and I didn’t have to fraternize and just play that game. I came from the NFL. I wanted to treat this as a business an I’m going to come in, do my thing, and leave. I didn’t take things personally until they brought it to a personal level. I think that was cheesy and I think it’s carnyish. It’s like being a carny. I just chose not to deal with it because life’s too short. I don’t want to have to look over my shoulder for my boss. That’s ridiculous. I’m 48 years old. I’m not a kid. I don’t need to crawl back to anybody for anything. I’ll dig a ditch before I do that. I had a lot of fun digging ditches.”
The entire Bellas/Paige & A.J. Lee promo taped Monday night aired with no editing on Smackdown, which tells me either the lines were all scripted (very good scripting, usually not a direction they go in) or they liked what they saw because it did get a good crowd reaction. They left in the part where Nikki said how A.J. Lee works less dates that Lesnar. While not true, it’s weird they’d bring that up, especially with Lesnar having just signed, because they are so adamant about not bringing up Lesnar when he’s not on TV. But then they exposed it just to take a shot at A.J. As noted, that is what some people in the company say about her when she’s not around.
Right now Heyman and Lesnar are supposed to be off television for a while, most likely until probably a month before SummerSlam. Keep in mind they are the hottest act in the company and plans always change.
Samoa Joe is clearly WWE-bound, which has been obvious for some time. He’s not allowed to outright say it but everyone knows. Whether it’s NXT at first or main roster, that I don’t know but most likely NXT first. At the Walemania he was asked and just said you have to watch television every week. He also appeared as a special guest with Jim Ross and Ross put over that next year he expects Joe to be in a major match at WrestleMania. Joe talked about wanting a match with Lesnar, which is what he should say his goal is. When asked about going to NXT or the main roster and which he’d prefer, he gave a very political answer that he’d be fine wherever they put him. Kevin Owens also made a public remark about wanting to wrestle him.
The WWE originally was going to run a split crew on 4/13 while on the U.K. tour, with both Raw in London and a house show in Leeds, England. That would have made Reigns, Bryan, Wyatt and Ziggler, among others, unavailable for Raw. This past week the Leeds card was moved to Sunday, 4/12, with a 1 p.m. start so they’ll be able to use all the top guys on Raw. The Leeds crew for the most part will have to then do an evening show in Manchester that night.
Rikishi never brought up Scotty 2 Hotty and Brian Christopher in his Hall of Fame speech on purpose. There was a falling out between he and the other two over an issue with an independent booking. Scotty went on Twitter to complain about it, saying, “In December 99, three guys that were pretty much obsolete in the wrestling biz came together and made each other. One apparently doesn’t remember that.” Neither of his former partners were at the Hall of Fame because he made it very clear he didn’t want them there, and Scotty was very upset by that.
Phil Baroni, a colorful MMA fighter, who turns 39 in two weeks, went on Twitter this past week and claimed he was being flown to San Jose for WrestleMania and would be signing with WWE. I don’t know what it is with MMA fighters claiming to be offered a WWE contract but the rule of thumb is that they go on social media and say they got an offer and then if you ask WWE, they say there is no truth to it, and the story fades away. Baroni, who was 15-18 in MMA, hasn’t done his first match with Future Stars of Wrestling, the group he was affiliated with. Baroni is a former competitive bodybuilder with a lot of charisma in MMA and who could talk. Every organization would have wanted him except he was always losing. Baroni claimed he was 225 pounds and steroid free (he fought at 170 and 185). WWE officials denied there was anything to the story. Baroni said he was offered the deal by Gerald Brisco. The big issue with Baroni would be obviously age, as well as questions regarding concussions from all the wars he fought.
There was a ton of stuff shot all week including lots of Total Divas stuff since they flew in the families of everyone in the cast for the weekend.
C.J. Parker (real name Joe Robinson, 25) gave notice this past week and finished up over the weekend. A lot of people thought he was good, but he had a really lame gimmick that made it impossible for him to be taken seriously. He played it well, but it was a temporary career destroyer, and from the booking, it didn’t seem like they were doing anything with him but being a guy to be fed to the guys they were pushing. He felt they had no interest in doing anything with him. He’s trying to get into New Japan but is looking at continuing his career. When he left he was apparently told that he would be welcomed back. Robinson broke in at Truth Martini’s House of Truth school and worked Michigan area indies first. He was very well liked by most in the locker room and Joey Mercury was high on him when he was a trainer and Rollins would tell people he was a future breakout star. He was said to be a good promo. The gimmick was killing him, plus, he wanted to make a name for himself in wrestling and he’d been in developmental for four years and was not on anyone’s list of someone to be called up, and his role in developmental was as an enhancement guy who could do promos to build up his being squashed. He was telling everyone goodbye at the post-WrestleMania party. He was pretty funny about it, going on Twitter and wishing WWE well on its future endeavors. He then thanked the talent, the coaches and the fans.
A funny note at one of the WrestleMania Today shows on the network. Michael Cole was interviewing a few people, including Flair and Booker T. They talked about the Sting vs. HHH match. Cole did the WWE storyline in saying that Sting hasn’t wrestled a match since WCW closed 14 years ago. Flair said, “He was wrestling once a week down there, Booker, you know, you were there.” An embarrassed Cole then quickly changed the subject.
WWE studios and Gene Simmons of “Kiss” fame have signed a three picture deal to finance and produce horror movies. They have formed a company called Erebus Pictures. The first movie they will be working on is called “Temple.” There will be a second movie that starts production later in the year. Erebus Pictures will shop around for the worldwide rights for all the movies and the WWE will promote the movies on television and all its other platforms. The first movie will follow a team of highly trained operatives who find themselves trapped inside an isolated military compound after its intelligence is suddenly shut down. They begin to experience strange and horrific phenomena as they attempt to uncover who or what killed the team previously stationed at the compound.”
Another WWE movie was announced for Christmas called “Santa’s Little Helper,” which will feature Miz and Paige.
Notes from an extremely crazy Raw on 3/30 in San Jose. This was your day after Raw crowd which did all the crazy chants, loved Lesnar, hated Reigns and Cena, chanted for NXT talent all night. It was the perfect show to debut Kalisto and Neville, who both looked great. The story was the chants which ranged from hilarious, as when Lilian Garcia was giving information on the next WWE event in the building, a Raw show on 8/3, a loud chant started “We don’t live here,” since most of the immediate sold out crowd of 11,000 fans were from out of town. Even she started laughing. There was also the crude “You suck Cena” at Nikki Bella which led to “You suck Bryan” at her sister. They didn’t seem to like that and the crowd pretty well killed that match and the main event with the chants live. They turned the crowd noise way down on TV because those who were there told me about chants that I never heard and you could tell, particularly in the main event, it sounded like loud chants for the NXT guys and singing Sami Zayn’s entrance music, and that it had been turned way down. They chanted New Day sucks so loud and for so long that Layfield and Booker tried to put it over like they have found something for those guys and they were getting over huge, with Layfield saying that any reaction is a good reaction. That’s not necessarily the case, but that unique chant of “New Day” because of how it’s different can be their calling card, and they did turn them heel the next night. The gimmick itself seems so outdated and a major stereotype that you’d think nobody would do today, and is dying on its own something fierce. Kingston has been popular at a mid-card level for years and now he’s dead as a character. But I’ve noticed at local indies that if a black wrestler comes out, there are fans chanting that unique “New Day” at them (and you can imagine how much that would annoy them legit). They were chanting for random NXT guys all night, especially in the main event which the crowd was too busy doing chants and even a wave that they paid little attention to it past chanting things like “Worse than Cena” at Reigns, “Please retire” at Show were singing Sami Zayn’s entrance music. The one thing about this show is that you can’t draw any conclusions from it. A few years ago, everyone was singing Fandango’s song and it looked like he was going to be this huge superstar, and it quickly became evident that the day after Mania show crowd reactions mean nothing by the next week.
Show opened with Superstars as Young & O’Neil beat Rose & Slater. Fandango pinned Swagger with a leg drop off the top rope in 4:30. R-Truth pinned Harper in 6:20. Match was filled with “Let’s Go Harper” chants. After the match, Harper chased Michael Cole around. Lots of “NXT” chants.
Raw started out strong, mostly due to the Lesnar angle and some very good matches, but dragged late. Lesnar and Heyman opened. Lesnar was cut under his eye, between his eye, on his cheek and had a big gash at the hairline on his forehead which was the cut that was bleeding everywhere. Heyman said that his client laid a beating on the Samoan badass the likes of which nobody has ever seen before at WrestleMania. Heyman talked about suplex, superplex, superplex, right through the canvas, which led to a “Suplex City,” chant. Heyman was also a super babyface before this crowd. He put over Reigns, noting that he was smiling at the pain, liking the taste, but then said that’s the end of his Roman Reigns praise and now he’ll have to sink or swim on his own. He said that Lesnar almost respects him, but he’s got a ways to go. He said the slimy, disgusting Rollins cashed in, curb stomped everyone and scored a pinfall on the challenger, not the champion. He said that Rollins is the most undeserving WWE champion in our lifetime. Let’s not get silly here. He said that everyone knows his father was a lawyer and he could go to the Seventh Circuit Court in Sacramento and tie WWE up in litigation and make them hold up the title and tie things up for months. Heyman then said that his client thinks all lawyers are scumbags and he will not go to the Seventh Circuit Court, because he’s invoking his rematch clause tonight. They pushed that this would be the first time in more than ten years that Lesnar wrestles on Raw. Stephanie came out and talked about how unbelievable WrestleMania at Levi’s Stadium was and how they set a new attendance record. Stephanie said Lesnar vs. Reigns was one of the greatest main events she’s ever seen. She said that Lesnar took it to Reigns, but from the look of Lesnar, Reigns also took it to him. There were loud “Ronda Rousey” chants. She asked if people want to see a rematch tonight and everyone cheered, of course. Stephanie then told the crowd not to make her angry or you won’t get what you want. She said that Rollins wasn’t there (he actually was, but this is storyline) because he had to fly from San Jose to New York to do “The Today Show” and then fly back for Raw. He actually did have to fly cross country and back after winning the title. She said that when he gets back, he’ll accept the challenge. Heyman said that he’s either going to pin or tap out Rollins. The fans tried as hard as they could to do Heyman’s promo with him, and got a few lines with him that he uses a lot. It’s so much easier to do that with Enzo Amore who does the same promo word-for-word every time out.
Bryan pinned Ziggler in 11:52 to retain the IC title. Real good match. I had through that after Ziggler got two TV pins on Ziggler that they’d build for a PPV match at Extreme Rules, but Bryan getting the pin and Barrett being on commentary and getting involved seems to foreshadow Bryan vs. Barrett. Barrett said that Bryan has a history of neck problems and Ziggler has a history with concussions. You notice they never saw HHH has a history with tearing his quad? They traded head-butts, and then both head-butted the other simultaneously (it looked like they were head-butting shoulders instead of cracking heads on the ram head-butts, or at least I hope they were). Bryan then hit the Busaiku knee fro the pin. Barrett attacked Bryan and then Sheamus ran in. He’s got a new look, with a Mohawk and a newly designed beard. Sheamus teased that he was making the save for Bryan, but laid him out with a Brogue kick. Ziggler fired back, but Sheamus laid him out with a Brogue kick. In reference to his new look, fans were chanting, “You look stupid,” at Sheamus.
Kingston & Big E & Sin Cara & Kalisto beat Kidd & Cesaro & The Ascension in 10:02. The star of this match was Kalisto with his acrobatics. This was the night to debut the Lucha Dragons because this audience all chanted “Lucha” really loud. They look lame trying to get crowds to chant it because they usually don’t. Lots of “New Day Sucks” chants. Cesaro was really over to this crowd, Kalisto jumped onto Cesaro’s shoulders and did a backflip, which looked cool and the crowd went crazy. Fans were chanting “NXT” here. Most of this crew, except for Kingston, came out of Orlando. The finish saw Kalisto pin Viktor after the Salida del Sol (sliced bread but not out of the corner). Everyone did big moves at the finish.
Heyman and Lesnar were backstage. Heyman told Lesnar that Rollins is in the building.
They showed a video of Neville. He’s no longer Adrian Neville as they’ve dropped his first name.
Lesnar came out for his match. Rollins also came out, but said he had spoken with Stephanie and he was feeling a little jet lagged, plus his foot hurts from curb stomping Reigns and Lesnar last night. Rollins said he’d give Lesnar a rematch, but not tonight. Lesnar attacked him and gave Rollins a German suplex, but Rollins landed on his feet. Rollins then hit him with an enzuigiri, which Lesnar no sold. Rollins tried to run away, but Lesnar caught him and was about to give him an F-5,but Mercury and Noble saved Rollins. Lesnar then turned the table over onto the announcers. This was supposed to have hurt all three of them. JBL and Booker sold like they were crushed and ended up taken out. Lesnar threw Noble & Mercury into the table. He then pulled Cole out from the turned over desk and gave him an F-5. He then picked up a camera man (Dylan Drake, a Northern California independent wrestler) and had him on his shoulders. Stephanie came running out and told him to put the man down. She told him he would get this rematch, but to put the man down. So, of course, Lesnar gave him an F-5. Stephanie told him that he was now suspended indefinitely and to get out of her building. Lesnar then gave the camera man a second F-5. They showed Booker and JBL out cold as they picked up the table. Cole went out on a stretcher.
Stephanie did another interview saying Lesnar will get his rematch when she says he gets his rematch. She said that she doesn’t think suspending him is enough, and said she’s going to have to fine him due to the property damage he caused, and emotional distress. She said if Brock thinks he’s can go back to MMA, he just signed a contract with us like he said on ESPN, and said, “I own that son of a bitch.”
Saxton came out to announce next.
Mizdow pinned Stardust in 2:23. Crowd loved Mizdow, but once the match started, they weren’t into it. Mizdow won with the skull crushing finale and was doing Miz spots. Miz attacked Mizdow from behind and gave Mizdow a skull crushing finale. Miz was yelling at him after. This wasn’t a good sign, beacuse they had the rowdiest crowd of the year, which liked Mizdow, and once the bell rang they really didn’t care.
Axel came out for his Axelmania gimmick. He said it took 29 men to throw him out of the Battle Royal. Neville came out. The place went nuts for him. Neville won in 1:11 with the red arrow. Neville didn’t get the Mighty Mouse character thankfully, although the new cape he wore was said to have been an idea for the Mighty Mouse character.
Cena came out. The crowd heckled him and he put over the crowd, saying this was the best audience of the year. He then challenged anyone from the bac k with the title being at stake. The announcers expected it would be Rusev. Then Ambrose came out.
Cena pinned Ambrose in 14:21 in a good match to retain. Ambrose kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment. Cena kicked out of the rebound lariat. Ambrose jumped off the to rope to the floor with an elbow on Cena. Cena went for an Attitude Adjustment off the middle rope, but Ambrose got out and tried the sunset flip power bomb spot out of the corner. That got messed up, as he and Cena mistimed it and he lost him. So he had to back and power bomb him off the ropes. Ambrose used an STF on Cena, and then hit Cena with Dirty Deeds, but he kicked out. They constantly reversed until Cena rolled through on a crossbody, hoisted Ambrose on his shoulders and hit the Attitude Adjustment for the pin. The match was so good people, who hated Cena, were clapping for him when it was over. The two slapped hands while the announcers pushed a rematch.
Rollins was backstage cutting a promo with Renee Young. He said that Lesnar was an out of control animal and should be fined seven figures. Rollins said he was going to keep the title for a long time. Orton showed up. Orton said that Rollins may have won the title, but he beat him and nearly ripped his head off with an RKO earlier that night. He said one of Rollins’ problems may have been indefinitely suspended but he’s got a second problem, which is him. He said he never got his one-on-one rematch after he lost the title last year at Mania and he wants the title now. Show & Kane showed up. They told him they’d give him until the end of the show to get two partners for a six-man tag.
Paige & A.J. & Naomi beat Bella Twins &Natalya in 13:01. The crowd turned on this one, chanting “You suck Cena,” “You suck Tyson,” “You suck Bryan” “You Suck Punk,”, “You suck Jimmy” and on and on. Luckily, Paige’s boyfriend isn’t a wrestler so she was spared. A.J.’s fans overrode the chants. There were also the “No more Bellas” chants which they weren’t appreciative of. They also chanted for NXT Divas, and loud chants for Bayley. They had turned the crowd noise down so none of this was very audible at home, and for good reason. Naomi pinned Nikki with the rear view, so that should set her up for a title match as well.
Ryback came up to Orton and said that if he was looking for a tag team partner, to feed him more.
Rusev beat Goldust in 2:16 with the Accolade. Lana was back on the movie set, after being given a day off to do Mania. Fans were chanting “We Want Lana.”
Orton & Ryback & Reigns beat Rollins & Show & Kane in 12:59. You couldn’t hear all the chants, but you could hear them singing Zayn’s entrance music, chanting for Zane, for NXT, chanting “Please retire” at Show & Kane, “chanting “same old shot” when Orton was in with Kane. They did the wave which took all attention away from the match. They chanted “We are awesome.” The booed the hell out of Reigns, although did cheer when he opened with match doing an incredible running dive over the top onto all three opponents. While some of the guys like Orton weren’t exactly thrilled that the crowd was paying no attention to the work and the match these guys were busting their asses trying to do, Ryback was loving it. He actually turned to the fans and told them chants to start, including telling people to chant “Please retire” and then the fans chanted “Tell us more” and he told them to do the wave, so they started the wave that much of the building then followed along with. The finish saw Reigns hit Kane with a Superman punch, Show speared Reigns, Ryback used the shell shock on Show, Rollins curb stomped Ryback, and then Reigns went to spear Rollins, who leapfrogged out of it. But Orton hit the RKO on Kane and Reigns pinned him after a spear.
After the show went off the air, they taped the Sting interview for the network. They teased on the show that he’d announce his retirement. He just said he didn’t know what was next while the crowd chanted “Undertaker” at him. Seriously, there is only one chance for these guys to do a match and people have wanted to see it for years and doing a double retirement match with Sting vs. Undertaker next year would be a great special attraction for the show, perhaps putting one or both in the Hall of Fame as well would be a great high profile final appearance on next year’s show. There was also a “Thank you Sting” chant and he said that he always wanted to do WrestleMania, he came up short, but he was glad he did it. Sting said he didn’t know the future or what WWE wanted. He gave every impression of doing another match saying if he doesn’t get another chance it would be a crying shame. The show ended with Dallas coming out, calling him “Steve,” and saying how Sting was his favorite wrestler growing up. He said that when he was a kid, Sting personally painted his face (he was the son of Mike Rotunda who worked for years in WCW) and asked if he remembered that. He claimed that he didn’t wash his face for days. Dallas said Sting finally came to WrestleMania, lost, and destroyed his entire legacy, but can rebuild it if he Bo-lieves. This led to Sting laying him out with a scorpion death drop so they could end the show with everyone happy. Not that this necessarily means anything, but Undertaker and Sting were together on 3/31 at the San Jose airport.
Notes from the 3/31 Smackdown tapings in Fresno. Even though this was less of a tourist crowd and more of a local crowd, the combination drew 11,000 fans, which is the largest Smackdown crowd in recent memory. Time will tell how long this lasts but those there said it did feel like a promotion with a lot of momentum and interest because given the size of the market and it being a Smackdown taping, that’s an excellent crowd. It was very different from San Jose, without the chants and the audience trying to get themselves over. It was more a family crowd that heavily cheered both Cena and Reigns.
It opened with a dark match as Ryder pinned Rose with the Rough Ryder.
For Main Event, it opened with Stardust pinning Swagger with crossroads. Fans were chanting “Cody” at him. Paige & Emma beat Summer Rae & Cameron when Paige made Cameron submit to the PTO. The Lucha Dragons beat The Ascension when Sin Cara pinned Konnor with a swanton. Cesaro & Kidd were on commentary, so it looks like some Cesaro & Kidd vs. Lucha Dragons matches. The one thing is Cesaro is a great base so he can make Kalisto and Sin Cara look better than most, and Kidd’s an awesome worker. If they want to do something with the Dragons, it’s a good program for making them look impressive. The crowd was into them as well, but Fresno is a strong Mexican-American city. O’Neil & Young beat Big E & Woods. The New Day are now heels without a turn. They came out and talked about how they love being in San Jose, and then O’Neil told them they were in Fresno. O’Neil pinned Woods with Clash of the Titus. Crowd was chanting “New Day sucks” at them.
Smackdown opened with Team Authority minus HHH & Stephanie who usually only work Raw. With Cole injured from Lesnar, they had Lawler, Saxton and Tom Phillips as the three-man announcing crew. Rollins was talking when Orton came out to interrupt and set up a title match. He said he still hasn’t gotten his title rematch in a singles match after losing the title last year. Rollins told him that he’s still living in the past. Orton said that Show & Kane were former monsters who have turned into lap dogs. He said Kane went from being the Big Red Machine to being Little Red Riding Hood. Kane then announced and Orton vs. Show match. This was short and typical. Orton won via DQ when Kane, Noble and Mercury all attacked Orton as he was ready to give Show an RKO. Rollins attacked Orton after he was beaten down, but Orton made a comeback until Kane choke slammed Orton. Ryback then ran in for the save. Ryback laid out Kane, Noble and Mercury.
Naomi pinned Natalya after the rear view. The Bellas were on commentary. When they came out, everyone cheered, so this was the opposite of all week.
Backstage, Kane told Rollins that he thinks Rollins vs. Orton sounds like a good main event for Extreme Rules. Rollins wasn’t happy with that and then started talking about how this office stinks. At this point Ambrose came out of Kane’s personal office bathroom. They want to be classy entertainment and they do toilet humor and then complain why car companies won’t sponsor them. I mean, if this toilet humor was drawing money I get it, but it’s just writing shit for Vince that is so beneath the audience. Kane got mad and told Ambrose that for that, he’s facing Harper later in the show.
Reigns did a taped interview (afraid to put him in front of the crowd) saying that he’s beaten Rollins before and he’ll beat him again. He can and will beat Rollins and he’s not mad at what Rollins did because that’s the game. Love that we have another babyface who gets screwed but doesn’t get mad about it.
Miz pinned R-Truth quickly with the Skull crushing finale, so it appears whatever push R-Truth had is gone. There was a big chant for Mizdow. Mizdow ran out and got the biggest pop of anyone thus far and laid out Miz with the Skull crushing finale. He then put on Miz’s sunglasses and left.
Cena came out. He got 90% cheers, and a really big reaction. He said that he is going to be a fighting champion, so every week he was going to put the U.S. title on the line against anyone who wants a shot. He said that Rusev represents the American Dream. Is he Dusty’s lawyer or something? He said he meant that the American dream is a foreigner coming to the U.S. and succeeding, but Rusev was ungrateful about it. Rusev & Lana came out. Rusev said that he never lost the title and blamed Lana. He said he would crush Cena at WrestleMania. Lana started talking but Rusev interrupted her and wouldn’t let her speak and did the rest of the interview himself. So she’s going face. Hopefully this breakup works out better for her than Ricardo. Rusev said to drop the Russian flag, but instead, a U.S. flag dropped and the crowd popped big for that.
Harper put Ambrose through the announcers table. Ambrose was helped to the back. Ambrose beat Harper via DQ when Harper put Ambrose through the announcers table. Ambrose was helped to the back by EMTs.
O’Neil & Young did a promo on The New Day. They made fun of now nobody cares about them, nobody does their chant and how you can hear crickets chirp when they wrestle. They made fun of E sweating, of Kingston’s chest and of Woods’ hair. Historically, making jokes about how not over people are usually doesn’t work well.
Sheamus came out. He’s got new music. The crowd cheered him when he came out, so I guess they didn’t know he turned or just liked him. His new gimmick is saying that there are no more real men in pro wrestling, just little guys. He said Bryan and Ziggler were vertically challenged runts. Fans were chanting “You look stupid” at him. He said he’s not here to put smiles on people’s faces, he’s here to crush dreams. Sheamus beat Bryan via count out. Just one day earlier they advertised Sheamus & Barrett vs. Bryan & Ziggler, but plans change. Ziggler never even appeared on the show. Barrett was doing commentary and he KO’d Bryan with a bull hammer elbow and Bryan couldn’t get back in the ring to beat the count. Bryan was bleeding and needed seven or so stitches to close a cut in his forehead. I heard a few comments from people about Sheamus working too reckless here in spots.
That was the TV main event. Dark match was Cena & Reigns over Rollins & Wyatt. So Wyatt wasn’t that badly hurt. He was kept from wrestling on Raw with the ankle injury. Reigns speared Wyatt for the pin.
It's already well established that 1997 was a big year for American wrestling. Just how big? Both WWF and WCW reached high marks for the past six years when it came to attendance. WWF increased attendance by 19.4% over 1996 and television ratings by 1.1%
Including a look at the economy of WrestleMania weekend plus all of the usual reviews and international news.