Week in Wrestling #17
Wrestling News From the week of
November 14 - November 20, 2015
The Life of Nick Bockwinkel
There were few men in modern pro wrestling who had the amount of respect among their peers as Nick Bockwinkel, who passed away on 11/14 at the age of 80.
He was a four-time AWA champion, the dominant champion from 1975 through 1987, and the most widely traveled champion in the history of what was considered during that period as one of the big three titles in North America.
But he had a sense of humor about it. In the business, through at least the end of 1983, most considered the NWA championship as the leading belt in the industry. Bruno Sammartino was the biggest drawing card in wrestling during his heyday and the WWWF title he and Bob Backlund dominated covered the Northeast, including the most populous cities and Madison Square Garden, the NWA belt was recognized in far more places. Bockwinkel's AWA title belt was the king in the Midwest, where he, like Verne Gagne, The Crusher, Baron Von Raschke and others, were symbols of a golden era, household cultural names, for people who grew up in cities from Chicago to Denver, Winnipeg to Omaha, and most points in between.
Bockwinkel, as champion, wrestled at times in a number of NWA and unaffiliated territories as champion, including strong wrestling markets like Houston, San Antonio, Tennessee and in Alberta, where his title supplanted the formerly recognized NWA belt as the key title the local stars would chase. Many would consider the Bockwinkel & Bobby Heenan duo as champion and manager to be the best all-around package of its type in at the time, and arguably ever, as far as a top star/manager combination.
He worked 17 straight years as a main event heel in the same territory, and was effective in that role until the promotion fell apart, never getting stale. Largely due to the emergence of Hogan as pro wrestling's biggest drawing card, the AWA caught fire. While Hogan was the big draw, the main events usually featured Bockwinkel, with Heenan by his side, defending the title, often against older babyfaces and making them look young again.
May he rest in peace.
Disgusting Charlotte/ Paige angle
In an attempt to put more focus on the women's division, given the timing of the UFC event and record setting crowd, the WWE scripted a pull-apart brawl with Charlotte and Paige to set up their Divas title match.
That was all well and good, but to set it up, they exploited the death of Reid Fliehr, the younger brother of Charlotte (Ashley Fliehr), who passed away at the age of 25, on March 29, 2013, of an overdose of heroin and prescription drugs on a morning he and his father were set to leave for some weekend events.
The segment was awkward even beforehand, because Charlotte, who obviously knew the direction this was going, seemed way off and on the brink of crying early in the segment, and even more when talking about how she is living her little brother's dream. Reid had always wanted to be a pro wrestler while Ashley had never shown any inclination in that direction, but due to her athletic ability, gave it a try and the company was impressed enough to offer her a deal. Ashley was signed by WWE before Reid's death, but she very much had talked about her success once she started appearing on NXT television and having good matches, was living her brother's dream.
The segment continued with Charlotte talking about how Paige was there for her as a friend when Reid passed away, climaxing with Paige insulting Reid for being weak, and the insinuation is that led to his death, which caused the brawl to start. The incident didn't get heat, and it was uncomfortable to watch, and anything but entertaining. It was actually revolting.
Response to the angle
Ric Flair spoke about it some on his podcast, but was very careful. It was clear he didn't like it, and spoke volumes by not saying anything, saying he would not give his opinion because he doesn't want to do anything that could hurt his daughter's career. But he did say that he didn't know about it in advance, that it was a sensitive issue to him, that he cried when he watched the segment, and also mentioned that both beforehand, and the next day, that nobody from the company had called him.
From those close to the situation, we were told the script was given to her the night of the show, she did it, she was obviously uncomfortable doing it, and also that there were some scripted lines that weren't recited exactly as they were written, but that didn't affect the attempt.
Her mother, Elizabeth Fliehr, went on Twitter and complained about it. She knew nothing of it ahead of time and sent to Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Paul Levesque a message asking if the writers are really that lazy. Ric mentioned that Ashley's mother was furious.
What's so bad is that to make the air, this had to go through several channels, as a writer had to come up with it, the head writer had to submit it and write it, and Paul Levesque and Vince McMahon had to see it, and in the end the blame lies with Vince as he has the final say-so. It's not anything new for the company, because they did this and worse in 2006 after the death of Eddy Guerrero, and in 2013 after the death of Bill Moody (Paul Bearer).
Ric Flair noted it was less than three years ago and in the family it's a very sensitive issue. Co-host Conrad Thompson seemed shocked Ric would go as far as he did, clearly very sad about the situation, but Flair tried to stay political and repeatedly saying how HHH, Stephanie McMahon and Michael Hayes have his daughter's back.
WWE's Official Response
“Subject matter this personal is only approved as a result of the strong advocacy of the talent themselves. Notwithstanding that, WWE is ultimately responsible for what airs in its programming.”
WWE's championship tournament came down to the expected final four going into Survivor Series on 11/22 in Atlanta. Survivor Series is built around a final four in the title tournament of Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio, and Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens. The expectation is that Reigns will face Ambrose in the finals.
The original plan was Reigns winning, but nothing is definite until it happens, and it seems like one of the two should go heel because there is nobody to fill the top heel spot right now. There is no obvious direction for Reigns if he wins the title and Ambrose doesn't turn. Del Rio isn't getting over and Owens isn't being portrayed right now at lead heel level.
Besides the semifinals and finals of the tournament, Undertaker & Kane against two members of the Wyatt Family that won't be announced until match time, and Charlotte vs. Paige, no other matches have been announced. There will also be a traditional Survivor Series match, a five-on-five elimination match with participants that have not been named at press time. The only other match being programmed right now is Dolph Ziggler vs. Tyler Breeze, but they could also be participants in the elimination match, which would also figure to have The New Day, Ryback and the Usos as participants. At one point Natalya vs. Sasha Banks was scheduled as the pre-show match, but neither appeared on Raw or Smackdown, so that would seem to indicate the idea was dropped. But WWE has also not announced a preshow match, and with the exception of something involving Neville and partners against Stardust & The Ascension, there is no program that has gotten any television time for that slot.
TNA moves to POP TV in January
TNA announced Thursday morning that it has signed a deal with POP TV for Impact, which will start on the station on January 5th, 2016, in a Tuesday from 9-11 p.m. time slot. Dixie Carter announced the news on Twitter stating that they are now on a station that reaches 85 million homes.
It is an upgrade as far as reach is concerned, POP TV is in closer to 75 million homes right now as compared to 57 million for Destination America. Finances were not disclosed which is the key when it comes to TNA, because there is little revenue coming in with the exception of selling the television show, since they almost never do live events that tickets are sold to, and PPV numbers are weak. TNA wil remain on Destination America through the end of 2015.
ROH Moves to COMET
ROH on 11/16 then issued a release stating that the show would begin airing on COMET, a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting, starting on 12/2, and that the finale episode of the show on Destination America would be on 11/25.
COMET is Science Fiction oriented network as a part of a deal between Sinclair and MGM, which debuted on 10/31. ROH will air at midnight on Wednesday nights nationally (on the Eastern and Pacific time zones, 11 p.m. Central) in many of the markets already in, but in some cases adding a new market station. They will also be adding new stations in a number of larger markets, including reaching into New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and Honolulu, where they previously didn't have local television.
The new deal gets them into about 60 percent of the country. The previous Sinclair deal reached 40 percent of the country, while Destination America reached about 49 percent of the country, but many of the homes overlapped. Essentially, they will have theoretically more penetration in bigger markets being on local channels (although he jury is out to what once considers true penetration because these days, even if you can get a station with an antenna where you live, if it's not on the local cable package, very few are going to be aware of it or watch it). Many of the new digital stations may also reach the small existing hardcore fan base that want to find them will, but making new fans on stations that have low viewership is pretty difficult.
Rock may not be on Mania
Regarding Dwayne Johnson and WrestleMania this year, from those close to him, right now it's doubtful, but that's not 100 percent. There are many factors involved, some of which we noted last week. He is actually right now unlikely to even be able to take part in the show as he's got a movie shooting that takes place during that time, but the word used was it would be challenging to do it, and it was made clear that could change.
The WWE has been more aggressive of late when it comes to contacting contracted talent in both ROH and Lucha Underground. All the names you'd expect they'd want that are great workers are being contacted, without the previously held "looks" and "size" limitations because the plan is to load up on NXT and they're looking to add lots of new top workers in early 2016 for more extensive touring with what would basically be a WWE branded and WWE production type of show but with ROH level main event matches.
A key, as was explained to me, is that Vince McMahon didn't want ROH and TNA talent on the main roster if they were exposed on national cable first, and if they could be merchandised. The issue with ROH talent and is changing was ROH getting on Destination America, which blind sided WWE. But that is not an issue when it comes to that talent working in NXT, where there is more of an emphasis on it being a workrate promotion and the big issue of the ability of the wrestler to pass the background check.
Lana has more Problems
There is more heat on Lana right now. She wrote something on Twitter about Paige saying, "I actually wanted to write a longer paragraph about you. We both know you bullied me in NXT." Paige wrote back, "Don't talk crap and then delete it." Paige responded that she was only in NXT for two months and how if it was true you wouldn't have deleted it, and then wrote "Stop trying to get a storyline."
One WWE source said they weren't happy with Lana, which they haven't been since she went public with her engagement, screwing up their storyline with Rusev and Summer Rae. The web site was told to turn the story into an angle feeling that was the way to cover it up and just make people think it's storyline.
Billy Gunn busted for Roids
Billy Gunn was fired on 11/13, due to the company becoming aware that he had tested positive for steroids while competing as a powerlifter in a meet over the summer.
RAW Rating Up
After two weeks of record lows, Raw rebounded somewhat on 11/16 with the quarterfinals of the WWE title tournament doing a 2.27 rating and 3,281,000 viewers (1.51 viewers per home), beating the 3.16 million and 3.24 million viewer numbers of the prior two weeks.
The number was up even though the NFL game where the Houston Texans knocked the Cincinnati Bengals from the ranks of the unbeaten did 12,185,000 viewers, up from last week but slightly below two weeks ago.
The three hours saw the 8 p.m. hour do 3.54 million viewers, the 9 p.m. hour did 3.29 million viewers and the 10 p.m. hour did 3.05 million viewers. Among adults, the hour one to three drop off was 19 percent from hour one to three among women, but only two percent among men, so a show built around women in the final segment lost the women viewers but not the men, which isn't that different from the normal pattern.
A.J. Styles Contract Situation
Styles has no contract with New Japan or ROH, so would be free to take any offers from WWE now. The way I look at the Styles situation is the ball would be in WWE's court. He's got a great gig as the top foreigner here working with the top guys. However, at 38, and with kids, he's going to go where he can make the most money, and WWE has the ability to offer more money than he can make on the outside. But him coming in on a "hope" and for less than he's making, which a lot of guys do, like big name indies guys, based on wanting to be there, the idea it's the place to be, he is probably not going to be as apt as many to do that.