Week in Wrestling #24
Wrestling News From the week of
January 12th - January 19, 2016
WWE has largely built the 1/24 Royal Rumble show in Orlando up as Roman Reigns against everyone for the WWE title.
As far as other matches go, Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens last man standing match for the IC title and Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto, who have traded the U.S. title back-and-forth, looks set as of writing this. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch has been done a few times, but only once for the title and they are building for a return. The Usos beat The New Day, so that should set up a tag title match. But it also appears the New Day will be in the Rumble as well, particularly since “The Kofi Kingston spot” is not part of the annual event.
As for who will be in the Rumble match itslef, that isn't fully known. We know that Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, and Brock are all in the Rumble as featured acts. The Big Show declared weeks ago, and of course many suspect the return of HHH, but who knows on that one. is in the Rumble, Big Show wasn’t there on stage, and with Lesnar, that makes 35. Plus, you have to have a few usual surprise spots.
Hall of Fame Class of 2016
As we reported last week, Sting will be inducted into this years WWE Hall of Fame. Sting is scheduled to be inducted at this point by Ric Flair, his career rival, who put Sting on the map as a star in their March 27, 1988, main event at the first Clash of the Champions.
The class is expected to include the Fabulous Freebirds, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts and possibly Jimmy Garvin, who were the lead heels during the 1983-84 boom period of wrestling in the Dallas area.
A lot of other names have been batted around, with John Layfield, who grew up in Texas and is a company legend as a weekly voice on Raw, being a strong possibility.
Sometimes they go with historical figures, but it’s tough with Texas since the key ones are not alive, and two of the Freebirds passed away young so it’ll be tough to get Vince McMahon to agree to someone else who isn’t alive.
For Dallas area history, probably the biggest names of the somewhat modern era besides the Von Erichs, already in, would be Bruiser Brody and Gary Hart, but neither of the two is still alive.
Wrestlemania Main Event
As of right now, the WrestleMania main event is scheduled as Reigns vs. HHH.
Rock not Wresting at Mania
Dwayne Johnson is not wrestling at WrestleMania over the same insurance issues regarding the “Baywatch” movie that we’d written about. That still hasn’t changed at this point. This isn’t to say it won’t be worked through but right now they have a card and he is not wrestling on that card, although he is a key part of the show in some form.
Rest of the Mania Card at the Point
Undertaker and Lesnar are likely the other two main events, not against each other, with each needing an opponent, so you can go down your list of heels and plug them in for those two opponents, whether you have Sheamus, Strowman, Rusev, Del Rio or Owens in the slots. I suppose it’s possible for Lesnar to go against another face, but it’s not going to be Reigns or Undertaker.
If Cena comes back early, and he seems to always do that with his mutant healing powers, then Cena vs. Undertaker can always be done. After Rollins went down, taking the HHH vs. Rollins match away, the Cena vs. Reigns match was changed to Reigns vs. HHH.
Cena vs. Undertaker, pushed as The Battle of Legends was absolutely on the books when Cena went down. Because nobody expected a Cena injury, there were no thoughts to a backup plan for Undertaker. At the Brooklyn Raw, they did do a Reigns vs. Cena tease that was dark, so there was still an idea for that at some point.
Owens has thrown his name into the hat as far as Undertaker goes. “WrestleMania is synonymous with the Undertaker. Regardless of what’s happening with the streak, I’d like to throw my name in the hat and see if he’s still the phenom that he claims to be.” We did hear that as of last week, Owens was not ever suggested when it comes to a Lesnar opponent.
Raw Ratings Solid
Raw on 1/11 did better than expected given the competition, doing a 2.36 rating and an average of 3,320,000 viewers (1.47 viewers per home) going head-to-head with the Alabama vs. Clemson college football national championship game, that did 25,667,000 viewers. The number for the football game was 15 percent down from last year’s record setter, but the number it did was almost exactly as predicted going in (25 million).
Raw did right at what was its fall average against the NFL, even though the college championship game drew far more viewers than any NFL game this season.
As compared to the prior week, with no football competition, Raw did a 1.00 among teenagers (down 10 percent), 1.12 in 18-34 (essentially even), 1.24 in 35-49 (down 7 percent) and 1.31 in 50+ (down 4 percent). The men/women split was 65/35 in the 18-49 demo.
The other good news is that they actually gained viewers in hour three, so whether it was the lure of Brock Lesnar (the only person advertised and he was pushed hard, acknowledged he was there, but never appeared until the final segment) or the McMahons push of everyone vs. Reigns in the main event, the third hour held up even against a close and exciting game.
New Japan Pro Wrestling announced on 1/12 that they were stripping Shinsuke Nakamura of his IC title, rather than having him lose it in the ring to Kenny Omega. One can argue that because the word is already out, as Nakamura did an interview last week with Tokyo Sports noting he was leaving for WWE after his contract expires at the end of this month, that it served no purpose to book a lame duck title match because people would “know” the outcome.
He is expected in the U.S. in February and to report to Orlando at that point. Nakamura has been thinking about going to WWE for some time now. This wasn’t a sudden decision. With the other three, the talks and decisions were far more recent. One of the things people don’t know is that Nakamura both understands and speaks English fairly well. I was told that if people think Nakamura’s charisma shows up only in his entrances and in the ring, it actually also continues with his promos. Of course that doesn’t always translate into a new language, but he’s not going to have to learn English at all.
Cena’s surgery, for a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, under Dr. Jeffrey Dugas in Birmingham, AL, on 1/7, was said to be successful. Dugas spoke to the WWE web site and said, “He (Cena) had a complete tear of a small portion of the rear rotator cuff tendon, the infraspinatus–toward the top-back of the shoulder–which I repaired. And there was also a large piece of loose tissue in his shoulder that needed to be removed.” He also said Cena had some deterioration in the AC joint.
Rusev Injury Update
Rusev suffered what we’re told was a minor knee injury on the 1/9 show in Bossier City, LA, which is why he missed Raw and Smackdown this week. It’s not serious enough that he’ll need surgery and he’ll be back relatively soon, perhaps as early as this week, or if not, possibly next week for the Royal Rumble.
Backlash over Injury reporting
As we reported last week, Randy Orton did an Instagram post saying that he doesn’t need neck surgery, went off on Dave Meltzer's report and said his recovery from his shoulder surgery is ahead of schedule. The report on his needing neck surgery was from November, at which time that was the case and it’s been out there for months and given his profile in the company, something inaccurate on a star of his level would have been brought to our attention immediately had it not been accurate and we were given pretty solid details from an excellent source. Plus, the story had been reported everywhere in November, including one of Orton’s mentors, Ric Flair, had noted on his podcast that Orton needed neck surgery.
Sasha Banks’ injury has been reported in a number of places, likely originally by PW Insider, as an MCL injury stemming from her match with Lynch on the 12/28 Raw in Brooklyn. For reasons I can’t ascertain, even though she’s been off the last two weeks and the injury has been confirmed by multiple people in the company, she’s gone on social media claiming it wasn’t true. Actually, she’s gone on social media doing plays on words about it not being true without actually ever denying that it isn’t true.
Rusev said his knee injury wasn’t true and he’s going to India this week for the tour. I do know there is a ton of paranoia right now regarding public acknowledgment of injuries and I’m not exactly sure why other than multiple people have confirmed it being the case.
Paige is out of action due to a concussion suffered on the 12/28 house show in Allentown. Unlike the others, Paige and Natalya this past week both did publicly reveal they are (Paige) and were (Natalya) injured.
Daniel Bryan Update
Bryan wrote, “Can WWE clear me already,” which some believe to be in response to the news that Shinsuke Nakamura was coming. My impression is it’s more an overriding thing of just wanting to wrestle after being off for so long. Bryan has talked about dream matches in his own mind including possible matches with Lesnar and Nakamura.
Regarding his situation, what we know is that as of today there are no plans for him to make a secret return at the Rumble or Mania and it’s not like they are holding him off until a certain date. It’s all an issue of being cleared by Dr. Joseph Maroon, who is WWE’s head of medical and that hasn’t happened yet, and then it being okayed by Vince McMahon. While obviously the issues are a lot more complicated, at the end of the day, that’s where it stands today. If Maroon gives the okay, Vince McMahon likely would as well but the idea is that there’s some hidden story that they are either punishing him, or afraid to use him because he’ll get over more than Roman Reigns, right now neither is true. Right now it is unlikeably for him to be cleared at this point, but the door is not shut on it happening. But this is no conspiracy theory on this one.
Mike Sharp Passes
"Iron" Mike Sharpe, passed away over the weekend at his apartment in Hamilton, ONT, at the age of 64.
Billed as "Canada's greatest athlete," Sharpe was a perrenial job guy in the 80's and 90's for WWF. He had his last televised match on June 6, 1995 losing in a tag team match to The Smoking Guns. After retiring from the ring, Sharpe made his living as a professional wrestling trainer, at his own school, Mike Sharpe's School of Pro-Wrestling.
PW Insider first reported the death of Sharpe, a second generation wrestler, whose father and uncle were one of the greatest tag teams in pro wrestling history in the 50s, and are best known for legendary matches in Japan with Rikidozan & Masahiko Kimura.
Sharpe was raised in a wrestling family. His father and uncle tagged together in the 1950's. At age 25, Mike decided to follow his father's footsteps and was trained by Dewey Robertson, and began working for Gene Kiniski's NWA All-Star Wrestling in the 70's.
Like his father, Sharpe Jr., took the ring name Iron Mike Sharpe. He started wrestling in 1976 in Canada, and worked smaller territories for several years, including runs in Stampede Wrestling. At close to 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, Sharpe was a big powerhouse who was known as a tough guy because of his amateur boxing background. But he was missing the element that would make one a big star, when it came to the charisma.
He did decently well in territories like Mid South and Georgia in the early 80s, but was beat known for is run in the WWF from 1982 to 1989 as a lower card regular.
He started out getting a push, with Lou Albano as his manager, and having a loaded forearm brace, built for matches with champion Bob Backlund. But he never got a shot in Madison Square Garden (he did work with Backlund in some other cities) and his push ended, but he had a long tenure with the company as a reliable enhancement wrestler. He was treated as a job guy with some credibility, nicknamed "Canada's Greatest Athlete," which was the nickname that Gene Kiniski used in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Within wrestling Sharpe was known for being obsessively clean, and for always perfectly folding his clothes. He would be constantly washing his hands while at shows and taking showers, and was known as Mr. Clean. He was also compulsive when it came to training, and was known as a very well conditioned big man.
But in a cruel fate, with all that training, his health started to want over the past decade. For years he was largely confined to a wheelchair and had lost one of his legs, and had been suffering from constant health problems.
Total Divas Return
The new season of Total Divas debuts on 1/19, and will go head-to-head with one of the hours of Impact. One of these shows will suffer due to that and it won’t be Total Divas.
Matt Hardy Heel turn
TNA finished five nights of tapings in Bethlehem, including a very curious live PPV match on 1/8. News from the tapings includes the taped a title change for the 1/19 episode of Impact where Matt Hardy, with help of Tyrus, captured the TNA title from Ethan Carter III in a last man standing match that was also a double turn.
Matt’s wife Reby ends up as part of the heel group. It ended up leading to a Matt vs. Jeff feud, although the match pushed never happens when a group of heels, that also includes Eric Young and Bram, injure Jeff and put him out of action.
Matt's contract expires in less than two months, and the fact they put the belt on him and turned him heel seems to indicate he’s looking at staying. It makes no sense to turn him, put he, his wife and Tyrus together in a stable, and then have him leave so soon. Then again, if you think back at the last weeks of A.J. Styles and Hulk Hogan, this promotion isn’t exactly the best and creating situations where top stars leaving aren’t abrupt.
The Matt vs. Jeff program was tried a couple of times in WWE, always with Matt as the heel, and it never worked. The first time people didn’t buy it because brother vs. brother programs historically are tough and only work if one brother is such an awesome heel that fans can buy that even his brother hates him.
The second time they went to great extremes to get Matt over as a heel, but it got so over the top when they tried to have Matt take credit for setting Jeff’s house on fire, which in real life killed his dog, which again was something so ridiculous and the feud ended up nixed pretty quickly when fans didn’t respond well to it. Still, wrestling has changed greatly even in the few years since then, in the sense nobody buys any of it to the emotional degree of suspending disbelief even a few years ago.
Plus, it’s TNA, where no angles have any emotional connection with the audience and it’s just wrestling product thrown out. It’s not going to be any worse or any less plausible than anything else they do.
It was awkward because they taped a title rematch for an upcoming PPV, with Matt Hardy vs. EC 3 the night before the title change, and in that match, Hardy was working as the heel and EC 3 as the face, which sort of telegraphed that both would be turning. But since it’s TNA and nobody really cares, it didn’t appear that anyone caught on.
Jeff Hardy Update
This injury to Jeff may be for him to take care of his knee, which was thought to need major surgery. After Jeff had been told he needed major surgery, which would put him out for most of the year, apparently he’s seen other doctors who have given different opinions and that he may only need minor surgery, or can work with a brace. He did some wrestling this past week, and because the next six weeks of television after these tapings will be done in the U.K., where Jeff isn’t allowed in due to a drug trafficking felony conviction, they always need an angle to take him out.
Jeff had told friends he was looking at trying to go back to WWE, and said as much in an interview with Ric Flair. But he hadn’t made a decision to not renew. There looks to be a program set up with Matt, and that couldn’t take place until after his current contract expires.
Davey Richards to WWE?
Davey Richards on Twitter wrote that he’s not taking any indie bookings after 5/1. His current TNA contract, which allows indie bookings (as long as they aren’t ROH, Lucha Underground or WWE), expires on 4/30.
The only place one would go that doesn’t allow indie bookings would either be a full-time ROH deal, and he left ROH with a lot of heat over the nature of his departure, or a WWE deal. While he obviously can’t sign with WWE until after his TNA deal expires, given the type of performer Paul Levesque is trying to get for NXT, Richards fits the bill and a number of sources are all but saying he made that clear on the belief that’s where he’s headed. There is no word right now on Eddie Edwards, whose contract with TNA also expires on 4/30.
He and Edwards had some NXT tryout matches that aired before they signed with TNA. WWE decided against signing them before the tryout was over after a match with The Ascension didn’t go well (even though it was a much better match than the majority of NXT matches at the time). It was at that point they went to TNA.
That was a completely different era of mentality when it came to what types of people WWE wanted in developmental and before they were looking at NXT as the touring brand with all the top indie style workers. There has been interest from WWE in both he and Edwards, and like with so many, both have lost a lot of their “buzz” during their period in TNA even though they have continued to have good matches.
Richards & Edwards left the tapings still as TNA Tag champions.
TNA Paying Good Money
Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that James Storm came back because he was offered a two year deal at 250 percent more than WWE offered him. No actual numbers were given past the point that the WWE deal offered was less than $100,000 per year.
TNA is starting to increase money on talent spending and is making offers to talent again as well as looking at resigning talent and upgrading merchandise. We do know that WWE has had contact with some TNA talent whose contracts have expired, but WWE isn’t offering anything money wise. The Storm situation is not unique to Storm but also to others where deals are due coming due and talent would be considering leaving because TNA has the feel of being dead, but TNA’s offers are considerably higher than WWE’s.
The Real Story of How TNA lost Spike TV
Vince Russo told a story about his TNA run. He blamed Eric Bischoff for his being dumped by TNA years ago. He claimed Bischoff buried him to the Spike executives. What I do know is that the Spike top brass were not fans of Russo. He said that after Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett left TNA, he called Dixie Carter, who put him in touch with John Gaburick.
They reached a deal where Russo would be a consultant for creative, but everyone had to swear to not tell anyone and they actually told Russo he had to lie if asked. Russo said he was getting paid $2,000 a month for the gig. Russo said he would suggest things, but since he never went to the shows, a lot of times they didn’t get done. Russo also said that Gaburick didn’t like being challenged.
Russo claimed that when he accidentally sent the e-mail to Mike Johnson that was supposed to be to Mike Tenay, which revealed to Johnson that Russo was working for TNA (which many people knew but there was no actual proof and TNA could deny it but at this point they could no longer deny it), that Gaburick saw this as his chance to fire him. Russo claimed Gaburick told him that Scott Fishman of Spike was told he was working for him, so he denied that it being found out was a surprise to Spike.
So here is exactly what happened. When Gaburick found out about Mike Johnson getting the e-mail, he panicked and called Russo and was furious because Spike didn’t know and that they were afraid this could cost them Spike. Everyone has denied it, but that is exactly what happened and it was within a week or two that Spike canceled them, which Dixie Carter admitted to a few people in the inner circle even though publicly they denied it to talent and everyone else and acted like they were just doing contract negotiations.
Now, Spike very well may have canceled them anyway. The real reason is the show was on the downslide and they were looking at adding programming that would appeal more to women, but it was made very clear to me if TNA’s ratings were what they had been a few years earlier, even with everything that happened, they probably wouldn’t have been canceled. What Gaburick thought of Russo, I don’t know, but after what he did led to that mess, Dixie Carter did tell Gaburick that he could fire him, but if he didn’t do it within 24 hours, then he couldn’t fire him, so I guess he rushed to fire him at that point.
The IC title situation is the most interesting. The original idea was to put Tanahashi & Elgin as a regular team, to allow Tanahashi to heal up until he’s needed for big singles main events later this year. But he looks to be the only logical guy who can face Omega, both for the prestige of the title, but also for Omega to beat to elevate him. The problem is that would make two losses in a row for Tanahashi, and maybe three, because the next thing is the New Japan Cup, a single elimination tournament, where either Tanahashi wins the tournament or suffers another singles loss. If Tanahashi is to win the New Japan Cup, that goes right back to Okada vs. Tanahashi in April at Invasion Attack. That’s one of the few viable Sumo Hall main events they have. But it also feels like overkill for the company’s two biggest stars to headline again. But there’s no great idea that can avoid some kind of booking issue or another due to the departures.
It’s not the right time for an Omega loss at all. But Tanahashi being strong on top is now more important than ever. Plus, it’s not just Omega as champion, but he and Tanahashi probably have to go back-and-forth to re-establish the belt because of a total lack of viable IC contenders now, with only Goto and Elgin there, neither of which are PPV headliners with Omega, since Ishii, Makabe and Okada are with other titles and Kota Ibushi is still injured.
JR to Announce NJPW
Jim Ross will be returning to the broadcast booth for the newest NJPW on AXS TV season, starting on Friday, March 4th.
Ross replaces Mauro Ranallo, who recently started with WWE and is now the lead voice of Smackdown. Color commentator, past NJPW competitor, and UFC heavyweight Josh Barnett will remain on the team.
Ross told Fox that he will head to Los Angeles between 8-10 times a year to do his play-by-play for two-day sessions where they will record six shows at a time, beginning with action from Wrestling Dontaku 2015. The duo will also call matches from the 2015 New Japan Cup, Invasion Attack, HINOKUNI, Best of the Super Juniors 22, Dominion 7.5, G1 Climax 25 and more.
This isn't Ross' first time calling NJPW action as he and Matt Striker were the American announce team for Wrestle Kingdom 9 in 2015.