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Daily Update: Ronda Rousey, Raw, Francis Ngannou

More on Ronda Rousey, Raw tonight, Francis Ngannou talks to Ariel Helwani.

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MONDAY NEWS UPDATE

francis

Bryan and I will be back tonight with Wrestling Observer Radio covering Raw, WrestleMania, GCW and other notes. You can send questions to the show to mailbag@wrestlingobserver.com

Regarding the Ronda Rousey stories, she is definitely on the books for WrestleMania and being in the Rumble would set it up. Fightful reported her as a surprise in the Rumble and it certainly wasn't denied to me, and some notes about Mania were confirmed, but also confirmed plans are on the table for her return.

Raw tonight is from Toledo. Earlier today they were 343 tickets shy of a sellout even with bad weather so it will almost surely be a sellout. It's a smaller building than they usually run and Brock Lesnar is advertised. Announced so far is the Lesnar-Bobby Lashley weigh-in, Maryse's birthday celebration and Chad Gable & Otis vs. Randy Orton & Riddle in an academic challenge. Roderick Strong and LA Knight are there, likely for a dark match or to do something for Main Event. They just opened up two upper deck sections.

This is the first week that Raw doesn't go against major football since September. By all rights it should do the best numbers since early September. Based on usual bounce back levels I'd tab 1.775 to 1.825 million viewers as "expected," and anything lower as not good, and anything higher as good. For 18-49 I'd say 0.46 to 0.48 as expected, and anything above as good for the current time frame.

AEW on Wednesday has on paper a more loaded than usual show with Cody Rhodes vs. Sammy Guevera in a ladder match, Santana & Ortiz & Chris Jericho vs. Daniel Garcia & 2.0, Leyla Hirsch vs. Red Velvet and Orange Cassidy vs. Adam Cole in a lights out match announced. C.M. Punk and Britt Baker are scheduled for promos. It's being tabbed Beach Break. AEW is coming off a very strong rating for the advertised return of Jon Moxley. With no football opposition, it would seem a longshot for AEW to beat Raw, although the race for men could be interesting. Men 18-49 has seen AEW win five weeks in a row, but WWE has had tougher competition. Plus WWE is a week from the Rumble which is its No. 2 event of the year. The gap in men was 358,000 to 330,000 with Raw going against an NFL playoff game last week and 570,000 to 562,000 overall, so based on that you'd have to expect Raw to end that streak.

Francis Ngannou was on the MMA Hour today and noted UFC has offered him a new contract. But he wants freedom to fight in the UFC and do other shows (likely boxing against Tyson Fury). He said he'll only sign if the promotion makes concessions on its usual business practices as he said he wants to be a real independent contractor free to fight wherever he wants. He said UFC tried to sign him to a new long term deal before the fight with Cyril Gane. He said the new deal offers him more money, but they didn't offer him the freedom he asked for. He said right now this is about more than money. He said he doesn't care if he's stripped of the title because if he is, that ends his ties to UFC and he would be a free agent. Ngannou also noted that he and his team got an email from the UFC on the way to the show threatening a lawsuit for talking with Nakisa Bidarian, the promoter of Jake Paul fights who is also the former UFC CFO.

Looking for reports from last night's WWE show in Huntington, WV. We're doing polls on both UFC 270 and the GCW PPV show last night, so you can leave a thumbs up, thumbs down or thumbs in the middle along with a best and worst match to dave@wrestlingobserver.com

Smackdown did 2,255,000 viewers and 0.64 in 18-49, its best number since 9/10 with the cross promotion of Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Big E from Raw. Rampage on Friday did 594,000 viewers and 0.24 with the big draw being the Jon Moxley match that opened the show. Both shows had significant increases with women over usual levels.

Bobby Lashley is one of the people named Bob signed up for commercial purposes for Bob's Discount Furniture. They had an ad campaign scheduled with Lashley, Rob Schneider, Rob Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice), Roberto Hernandez and a likeness of Bob Ross.

UFC

  • Oddsmakers have opened at SportsBetting.ag with Francis Ngannou as a -220 favorite if he were to defend the title against Jon Jones.
  • Chris Barnett vs. Martin Buday is set for the 4/16 show.
  • Gunnar Nelson is set to return against Claudio Silva on 3/19.
  • Dan Hooker vs. Arnold Allen at featherweight is set for 3/19 in London.

OTHER NOTES

  • Notes from Deadline on a movie called "Phoenix" starring Natalie Eva Marie (Eva Marie in WWE) and Randy Couture. Also listed as stars in the movie are former pro wrestler Oleg Prudius (Vladimir Kozlov in WWE) and UFC Hall of Famer Rashad Evans. Eva stars as a U.S. Army Sergeant who teaches hand-to-hand combat and finds out that her father, played by Couture, was killed via suicide. She doesn't buy it and investigates and believes that the Russian (played by guess who) drug kingpin took her father out and she goes for revenge.
  • PFL Challengers Series will run on 2/18 and 2/25 on the Fubo Sports network television station as well as Fubo streaming. The 2/18 show will feature eight fighters looking to get into the $1 million light heavyweight tournament later in the year. The 2/25 show will have eight welterweights. The show will be held live at Universal Studios in Orlando. Over 500 fighters submitted applications. There will be an eight-person tournament in eight divisions with the tournament winner getting into the PFL tournament or getting a developmental contract with the promotion.
  • Metro Pro Wrestling from Saturday night in Southgate, MI: Donte Casson won over Rod Lee, Dean Hendrix, Niles Grey, Big Murph and Ronnie Deyo, Juntai b Alex Van Zant, Landon Sanders & Forever Young & Ryan Sin b Justin Dream & Royce Carney III & Haizen Beckett, Guttter b Joe Demaro, TJ Meyer b Adam Wick, Lamario Starr b Soultaker, Cold Brothers b LJ Lawrence, Top Gun and Iron Eagle & Roadhouse, Jason Hotch b Alex Shelley (thanks to Leonard Brand)