By Bryan Alvarez
It's the calm before the storm, the final weekend before pro wrestling's biggest weekend of the year.
We're looking for reports from tonight's WWE Raw house show in Lakeland, FL, headlined by C.M. Punk vs. Dolph Ziggler and John Cena vs. Kane. tonight's TNA show in Elmira, NY with James Storm & Garett Bischoff (seriously) vs. Kurt Angle & Bully Ray, Gail Kim vs. Mickie James for the Knockouts title, Crimson vs. Gunner, Austin Aries vs. Zema Ion for the X title, Mr. Anderson vs. Robbie E and RVD vs. Magnus.
Tonight has both Bellator on MTV 2 at 8 p.m. and Ultimate Fighter on FX at 10 p.m.
Bellator lost its main event as already reported when Thiago Santos missed weight by 12.8 pounds for his heavyweight tournament final bout from last year against Eric Prindle. Prindle was awarded the win via forfeit and will face Cole Konrad for the heavyweight title later this season.
Spike.com fights starting at 6 p.m. Eastern time
Douglas Frey (145.6) vs. Rad Martinez (145.8)
Dave Jansen (155.8) vs. Jacob Kirwan (155.4)
Sean Spencer (170) vs. Joseph Daily (173.2)
Chris Jones (145.8) vs. Steven Peterson (145.2)
Luis Vega (158.6) vs. Sonny Luque (162.2)
Live on MTV 2 - All fights first round matches in the lightweight tournament
J.J. Ambrose (155) vs. Brent Weedman (155.8)
Thiago Michel (154.8) vs. Rene Nazare (155.8)
Ricardo Tirloni (155.2) vs. Rick Hawn (155.6)
Patricky Pitbull Freire (155.6) vs. Lloyd Woodard (154.8)
Ultimate Fighter will have Dustin Lawrence of Team Cruz vs. Cristiano Marcello of Team Faber in a first round tournament fight. It will be interesting to see if they air the footage of Faber reaming out his team for looking so bad when nobody would volunteer to face Lawrence.
Saturday has Raw in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Smackdown in Bowling Green, KY (Daniel Bryan vs. Big Show vs. Randy Orton, Sheamus vs. Mark Henry) and TNA in Indiana, PA.
Sunday has Raw in Charlotte, Smackdown in Nashville (which includes a Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole match) and TNA in Erie, PA.
Monday is WWE's final show before WrestleMania, in Atlanta. They will be taping Smackdown matches before the live Raw. Raw will include all the names that will be at Mania including Rock, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and HHH. In addition, USA Network will be debuting the Rock vs. Cena countdown show at 8 p.m. before Raw.
Between coverage of the build to WrestleMania, WWE developmental, the sad results of week two of the Friday night wars, and coverage of Victory Road, All Japan at Sumo Hall, Rey de Reyes as well as part two on the life of Doug Furnas, we've got a double issue of the Observer out this week.
The issue is up on the site today along with a back issue from early 1995 also up on the site this week,
Our lead story runs down the lineup and the promotion of The Rock vs. John Cena match and WrestleMania 28, including notes on the special as well as updates on the show.
We also look at the whole WWE developmental story, how it went down, blow by blow, a look at the FCW history as well as a look back at WWE pulling out of other territories and long-term goals of developmental. We look at the decision that have been made and experimental tapings that have been done, as well as changes in the current TV structure.
In our feature on Friday night wars part two, looking at Smackdown, Ultimate Fighter, Best of Ultimate Fighter and Bellator, we look at competition, the drop in each show from week one, which show is it worse for and more.
We've also got a look at the Victory Road PPV, looking at what made the show good, what made the show annoying, the Bobby Roode show-ending angle, a look at Lockdown and match-by-match coverage with both star ratings and poll results on the show.
We look at All Japan's biggest event so far in 2012, with the Sumo Hall show headlined by Jun Akiyama vs. Keiji Muto for the Triple Crown, as well as a look at the next Triple Crown match, and notes on the upcoming Champion Carnival tournament.
We also look at next year's WrestleMania, CFO George Barrios talking about company future plans in the TV and movie business as well as talks UFC. We look at the new WWE movie business strategy, John Cena's car accident, the debut of Lord Tensai and his background and Japanese tenure, a second WWE wrestler says he has gone vegan but won't say it on TV and an update on Ric Flair and the WWE Hall of Fame.
We also look at a new themed PPV, a show that is going to be on a UFC weekend and may suffer for it, Rock's training to get back in wrestling shape, Rock's movie gross, entertainment plans for Mania, Edge talking Hall of Fame and what he had envisioned when he would retire and who he would have been working with this year. We look at an example of why Undertaker is so respected, as well as Daniel Bryan's road to the world title starting in high school wrestling in his backyard, WWE stock, WWE gets commended by legislature, DVR watching on Raw and does Rock have an effect and more on introducing new characters. We also look at a WWE star appearing in a foreign movie, notes on more developmental talent and who William Regal says is the best pro wrestler he has ever seen, and it's a name that almost nobody in North America would have ever heard of. Plus we have notes on all the WWE weekend house shows and business notes.
We also have part two in our look at the life and career of Doug Furnas, talking to his wife, his brother, legendary powerlifter Ed Coan as well as some anecdotes of my own interaction with Furnas during the height of his career in the 90s. We look at him growing up, college football, powerlifting, WCW, WWF and especially All Japan Pro Wrestling with milestones achieved, why he never headlined Budokan Hall, what he was known for in Japan and the All Japan boom.
We look at the tragedies of that All Japan period, Furnas' life before and after wrestling. We look at his auto accident that doctors said would end his sports career, and his coming back. We look at the various choices he made about sports careers and life, whether it be bull riding, football, powerlifting and wrestling. We look at his training methods to become one of the strongest men in the world, how that hampered his attempts to play in the NFL and what he learned from that and changed to become a pro wrestler. We look at his foray into the World's Strongest man competition, and where he could have gone in powerlifting if he hadn't retired from the sport at the age of 27.
We look at a unique allergy that actually hurt him as a powerlifter, and why his philosophy on pro wrestling was so different from what pro wrestling was in the American market. We look at Jim Herd's idea for him, as well as the famous Furnas story from the 1994 Champion Carnival tournament. We have his career title history, why he left All Japan, what happened in WWE and his unique reaction to what happened at the 1997 Survivor Series.
We've also got a 2011 rundown of every wrestler who wrestled in WWE for the year, even if it was only one match, with win/loss records, who was the busiest, how many matches did everyone have, who was booked to win and lose the most and what two wrestlers worked the most with each other during the year.
We also look at what will be one of WWE's biggest house shows of 2012, the Madison Square Garden show from Sunday.
We've also got a look at the event that is likely to draw the second biggest wrestling crowd of the year in the United States, the NCAA tournament finals and why the names Kyle Dake and David Taylor both have a chance to go down in history as two of the best collegiate wrestlers of all-time.
We've also got coverage of the AAA Rey de Reyes match, featuring Jeff Jarrett, The Rey de Reyes tournament and the road to babyface of L.A. Park.
The Wrestling Observer ranges weekly from 35,000 to 50,000 words covering pro wrestling and MMA internationally. Each issue has coverage and analysis of all the major news, plus every issue breaks major news stories before the Internet sties and has the most complete look at the pro wrestling and MMA business anywhere, plus history pieces available nowhere else.
The Observer is now in its 29th year of being the leading insider pro wrestling publication in the world. The biggest and most influential names in the pro wrestling and MMA industry, from bookers to promoters to Hall of Fame wrestlers and fighters to the biggest names on camera and behind the scenes, along with thousands of readers in all 50 states and more than 30 countries subscribe. Many have subscribed for 20 years or longer consecutively. They get the most detailed and inside coverage of what is going on all over the world. Everywhere from Wall Street to the major offices to television networks in the U.S. and Japan turn to the Observer for what is going on in the business.
You can also subscribe via check, cash or money order, as well as credit card by mail, by sending to Wrestling Observer Newsletter, P.O Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228.
We also have our in-depth look at the ratings of the national shows, including how every segment of Raw and Impact did, what gained in audience, and what lost in audience.
We also have our weekly features with the results from the major events held around the world over the past week, as well as reviews of the major television shows.
Also in this week's issue:
-- As noted on the front page, Bruce Prichard of TNA suffered two heart attacks recently. The Facebook post from JBL with info on the situation reads: Very happy one of my best friends Brother Love (Bruce Prichard) is ok after suffering two apparent heart attacks this past week. He's got two new stents and doctor says that according to his research he actually does have a heart. Very, very happy that my pal is ok. A few years ago Gerald Brisco, who hired me at WWE and is also good friend of mine and Bruce's, had a heart attack--so apparently both of them have a heart--who would have believed it?We wish Prichard the best in his recovery.
-- Bjorn Rebney said he wasn't giving up on Thiago Santos despite the fact that he missed weight by 12 pounds last night, causing the company to have to cancel their main event for the second straight week. He said Santos, a Brazilian with a rough upbringing, was a good kid, but he'd never done American wrestling and had shockingly little knowledge of weight cutting or good nutrition (Rebney said he was trying to cut weight while eating stuff like mashed potatoes), and that they want to set him up with a nutritionist and put him on the right path in terms of weight-cutting.
-- This Cena videoended up on the front page of reddit.com, meaning millions of views already today.
-- News on Eric Bischoff's latest TV project up here.
-- Layla, who has been on the injured list for some time after tearing both her ACL and MCL, returned at the FCW show last night. She was said to have looked good, both in the ring and otherwise.
-- Can anyone confirm whether or not Comcast is airing WrestleMania live in HD? Brian emailed saying they weren't, that it was only available in HD for the replay, which sounds ridiculous if true. I've been to Mania the last four or five years so I never ordered the show. I know all the other PPVs air live in HD.
-- You can check out the official list of FCW wrestler Twitter handles here.
-- Smackdown tonight has Punk & Sheamus vs. Miz & Daniel Bryan, Mark Henry vs. Truth, AJ vs. Brie Bella, Zack Ryder vs. Jack Swagger, Kane vs. Big Show, Brodus Clay vs. Heath Slater and Dolph Ziggler vs. Great Khali. The women's match is a rare battle of Fake Daniel Bryan Girlfriend vs. Real Daniel Bryan Girlfriend.
-- RVD returns to the house show loop this weekend for TNA. At least he has an excuse for not saving Dixie Carter at Victory Road.
-- First-ever interview with Maffew from Botchamania is up here.
-- Tomas writes: I just wanted to let you know there's an article in the 3/19-25 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek (pgs 99-101) about the Smashing Pumpkins and Resistance Pro.
-- Chris Jericho on Jimmy Fallon here.
-- Next UWF PPV is titled TURF WAR~! (no tilde, sadly) and premieres Sunday, May 27th 2012. "Next" as in "after the one this Sunday", which is RUTHLESS REVENGE.
-- Lucha notes from Kris Zellner:
AAA announced today that Psicosis would be returning to their promotion but it will be someone new under the mask as Nicho is there already and the 2nd one is currently in EMLL so they are bringing the gimmick back fresh.
Speaking of Psicosis II, he promoted a show in Tijuana last Friday using mostly local talent and EMLL guys in the main event but there was one issue as he supposedly didn't pay any of the local talent, the costs to clean the arena after the show, ticket printing costs, or for advertising. He used the license of Promociones MV who has run shows in Tijuana for years and this could be a fake because all of this went down on the official CMLL Facebook page but it's interesting nonetheless.
Daga who suffered a badly injured left hand that was closed with 10 stiches a couple of weeks ago at the AAA TV taping in Ecatepec visited his doctor on Tuesday and was told that his injury hasn't healed nearly as good as it should and he is still out of action indefinitely. Daga could only move 5 of the 10 points of his hand due to the depth of the wound and he has about 50% mobility in his fingers. Daga couldn't move any of his fingers when he was injured so he considers this a minor victory but he is going to take the time he needs before making a return.
-- Information on the WrestleMania Reading Challenge taking place next weekend is up here.
-- Ted DiBiase updates us on his health status here.
-- King Kong Bundy had harsh words for Miz on Twitter: I hear the Miz is a top guy in WWE, 6 ft nothing 200 pounds. Yeah he would definitely kick my ass . You #turd. #FIVE
-- Prince Devitt, who was on injured reserve in Mexico, returns tonight.
-- NWA Smoky Mountain returns to Kingsport, TN on Friday, March 30 at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium. Bell Time is 8:00 PM… This event will feature the 2nd Annual NWA Smoky Mountain Cup Tournament. Bell Time is 7:00 PM.
-- 3XWrestling has two live events, both taped for television, coming up - March 30 in Des Moines, Iowa at the Baratta's@Forte Center and March 31 in Ottumwa, Iowa at the National Guard Armory. The Des Moines event features 3XW Heavyweight champion Mark Sterling vs Jeremy Wyatt in a historic 60-Minute No DQ Iron Man match. The Ottumwa event features a battle royal, with the winner challenging either Sterling or Wyatt for the Heavyweight title later that evening.
-- Ultimate Warrior appearing in Oak Lawn, IL on Saturday night. It's the Ultimate Event hosted by Pro Championship Wrestling (PCW). It's being held at the Oak Lawn Pavilion, doors open at 5:30, bell time is 6:30, and admission is $15. More info can be found at pcwwrestling.net.
-- "Memories, Moments & Mayhem" Friday, May 18, 2012 8:00pm America's Best Value Inn 10 Market Street, Amsterdam, NY (To coincide with Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame Weekend)
-- East Coast Wrestling Association (ECWA) LIVE! 16th Annual SUPER 8 Tournament Sat, Apr 7th, 2012 Greater Newark Boys' & Girls' Club 109 Glasgow Drive, Rt. 40 & #1 Positive Place Newark, DE 19702 Doors Open: 6:00 PM Bell Time: 7:00 PM All ECWA events are FAMILY FRIENDLY!
-- Johnny Gargano and Lance Storm both on Over the Top Radio today here.
-- Who was the biggest ever territorial star?
Bruno Sammartino 42.4%
Ric Flair 26.2%
Hulk Hogan 7.2%
Dusty Rhodes 6.8%
The Sheik 5.8%
Junkyard Dog 2.8%
The Crusher 1.9%
Fritz Von Erich 1.9%
Verne Gagne 1.8%
Dick the Bruiser 1.4%
Ray Stevens 1.1%
Fred Blassie 0.9%
What are your viewing plans for tonight?
Smackdown only 38.5%
Ultimate Fighter only 10.5%
Bellator only 2.0%
Smackdown & TUF 11.6%
TUF & Bellator 5.7%
All three 7.9%
Smackdown & Bellator 1.4%
That works out to 59.4% for Smackdown, 36.7% for Ultimate Fighter and 17.0% for Bellator.