Week in Wrestling #29
Wrestling News From the week of
February 19th- February 25, 2016
Shane vs Undertaker at Mania
WWE pulled a rabbit out of its hat from far left field for this years Wrestlemania, Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. If Shane McMahon wins, he gets control of Raw, and as it was explained, control of the destiny of the company. If he loses, he gives Vince the key to the safe deposit box where the evidence of whatever it is Shane has been blackmailing Vince with all these years can be destroyed and Shane goes away.
Until the day of the show, very few people were aware Shane McMahon was returning. The deal between Vince and Shane was legitimately struck about four weeks ago, when Vince believed that the original plan of John Cena vs. Undertaker wasn’t going to happen.
But it’s said that when Cena went down, Vince was devastated, because he had his heart set on the “Legend vs. Legend” match to carry the big show. This led to him going way out of the box for a deal amidst criticism that this WrestleMania was going to have the weakest lineup and least interest in years. The reality is, while the show would not have had the special thing to create record interest, WrestleMania as a brand name is so big, like a Super Bowl or Final Four, that even with an admittedly uninspiring lineup, it already had sold a ton of tickets (although they are very far from a sellout right now) and would significantly increase network subscriptions.
At this point, the deal is just for Shane to be a short-term performer and work through WrestleMania. But even those closest to the family and near the top recognize the way Vince thinks. Already people are noting that the family soap opera behind the scenes is likely to become far more interesting than the one playing out on the screen.
A Shane McMahon win, tough to swallow, could lead to all kinds of different scenarios. Shane McMahon is positioned as a babyface in this feud, with Vince, Stephanie and HHH as heels.
Undertaker could lay down for Shane after destroying him and proving he could win, with the idea he would sacrifice a WrestleMania win for the good of the company in getting HHH & Stephanie out of power. Or Stephanie & HHH could help Shane win, and they band together, with the idea they outsmarted and stole the control of the company from Vince and were now running it. Or it could be another Undertaker win, Shane goes away and everything continues like it has. Or, Shane could get Raw, and they could split the roster, using a lot of the NXT stars on HHH’s Smackdown show, thus upping that show’s profile, building to the eventual family feud matches.
It should make this show, at the least, a lot more interesting.
Raw vs WWE?
The company may have tipped their hand a bit. There was also a bunch of commotion regarding the Raw on 5/23 in Baltimore, where it was billed as Raw vs. WWE, which made people think there was going to be a post-WrestleMania brand split. While we haven’t heard that, and even though it seems like the depth isn’t there for such a move at this time, they are getting Cena, Rollins, Cesaro and Orton back soon, plus there are a lot of top level talent they could elevate from NXT if they want.
However, WWE officials said that the Raw vs. WWE tag was something typed incorrectly by Ticketmaster. Even if there is to be plans like that, they would be kept secret and the people in charge of advertising working with Ticketmaster would not know about it for fear it would get out.
HHH Reigns Supreme.... like always
HHH’s planned role for the next several weeks is supposed to be as the heel who gets Roman Reigns over as the new top face of the company. The reality is he was anything but a top heel in the final segment. He not only destroyed Reigns in pretty much a fair fight, but played to the crowd, including doing a crotch chop at the laid out Reigns. It’s been noted by many was clearly him going for a babyface pop to accentuate the cheers he was already getting as opposed to being the heel who can help get the crowd behind Reigns, which was his supposed role.
HHH smashed Roman Reigns’ head into the announcers table over and over again, and Reigns’ face was covered in blood. Even though the company has for years had a strict no blood policy (although obviously in some recent main events that has been relaxed to a degree), this was planned. We were told it was expected, but that they were surprised that it looked as graphic as it was and they didn’t shoot close-ups of it.
The crowd in Detroit, like the crowd in Cleveland the night before, booed Reigns heavily. At this point there is no doubt that the several year long build to Reigns having his coronation moment before a stadium-sized WrestleMania crowd to cement him as the company’s biggest star is looking the same as last year.
WWE’s plans for the top matches at what they had hoped would be the biggest WrestleMania of all-time look set and in some cases, reset.
Roman Reigns is still set to be the star of the show, in essentially the same position he was in a year ago. Reigns will be going against a WWE champion who is going to be cheered like crazy over him, even though the object of the match is for it to be his breakout performance and solidify him as the top babyface in the company. As of right now, the plan is for Reigns to go over and be the top babyface in the company for years to come. Vince McMahon wants this to be the springboard for several years of Reigns in the position formerly held by John Cena.
WrestleMania will do whatever it’ll do, and perhaps slightly better if people get into the battle for control of the company, or believe it’s a can’t miss because they’re told it’s the greatest WrestleMania of all-time and they believe it.
Currently, this is the top of the card:
*HHH vs. Reigns for the WWE title
*Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon in a Hell in a Cell match for control of the company
*Lesnar vs. Ambrose in a street fight
The original Lesnar plan was for Bray Wyatt to cost him the title at Fast Lane and face him at WrestleMania, following up on the Royal Rumble. The decision was made to instead go with Ambrose. The idea is that Lesnar is there to take Ambrose to a higher level. That doesn’t mean Lesnar loses. I’d be surprised if he does, although him destroying Ambrose so strongly in every angle so far would make you believe he’s going to. But the problem is as much as the crowd likes Ambrose, Lesnar is the one guy with the dynamic that cuts through the cartoon and tinges with reality. He’s the guy they are really behind.
A few other matches are pretty much set:
*Charlotte will defend the Divas title against the winner of a match with Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch on 2/29 in Nashville on Raw. It’s very clear from booking, with Banks being protected, that she was the planned opponent. The Royal Rumble also made that clear. However, Lynch is the one who was the key to the initially failing “Divas Revolution” turning around. Her program with Charlotte may have been the best booked on the main roster. And it worked. I don’t see Charlotte vs. Lynch. That’s been done over-and-over. Charlotte vs. Banks was done constantly in developmental, but they’ve stayed away from it. They could do a three-way, doing a double pin type finish. But anything but Charlotte vs. Banks would be a change in plans.
*New Day vs. League of Nations. Even though there hasn’t been any follow-up from the segment they worked together at Fast Lane, this match was on the books.
*The Andre the Giant Battle Royal
From there, it’s anyone’s guess. Steve Austin, Dwayne Johnson, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and perhaps Mick Foley are all slated for appearances in some form.
A segment with Austin has been apparently been decided on. Johnson’s role doesn’t appear to have been. It’s far from a lock he’s in Reigns corner to offset Vince McMahon. In fact, if Vince McMahon has an involvement now, it’s feels more likely it would in the build for Undertaker vs. Shane. With Johnson, he has tremendous input on what he’s going to do because he’s doing it for fun, in the sense he doesn’t need to do it and he doesn’t need the money, but he loves coming in and having fun. I’ve heard two different scenarios discussed for Michaels, neither of which involves him wrestling in a match.
There seem to be a ton of tag teams put together right now, with the Usos, Dudleys, Chris Jericho & A.J. Styles, Social Outcasts, Lucha Dragons, the impending R-Truth & Goldust and possibly a Wyatt Family team and Kane & Big Show all getting regular television time.
Jericho & Styles being made a team is a surprise if only because either of them would seem like natural opponents for Kevin Owens. Sami Zayn eliminated Owens from the Royal Rumble and there’s a natural rivalry there from NXT, so that’s another possibility.
Fast Lane Review
The show got mixed reviews. I thought most matches were good, but the period from after the ending of Jericho vs. Styles until the main event, a long segment involving The New Day, Edge & Christian and the League of Nations, and an R-Truth vs. Curtis Axel match, took the show down. It’s completely baffling the idea of the “cool down” before the main event that takes people out of the show needed to be so long, or even needed to be there at all. Almost no other promotion, whether it be in MMA or wrestling, tanks the period leading to the main event. On this show, they moved a very good Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio 2/3 fall match to the pre-show, while putting Truth vs. Axel on right before the main event.
The main event was fantastic and most matches were good. I would have expected more things to build WrestleMania, but they saved that until Raw.
Check out our full review here.
Next Hall of Fame Inductee
Charles Wright, best known as The Godfather, was the second person officially announced for this year’s WWE Hall of Fame on 2/22.
Wright got a WWF tryout in 1991, doing some dark matches on television as Sir Charles, before debuting with a monster push as Papa Shango in early 1992.The Papa Shango character was a voodoo gimmick brought in for a main event run with Ultimate Warrior. The gimmick wasn’t well received. It was considered too cartoony, plus Warrior couldn’t lead and Shango was green, although match quality was not a big deal in that era like it would be today. Business wasn’t good, but that was the period where business pretty much collapsed all over the country due to scandals and Hulk Hogan, who really carried the business, stepping away.
His second character, in his 1995 return, was Kama, The Supreme Fighting Machine. This was clearly a knock off of Kimo, who became a star in UFC in 1994 by being a tattooed up street fighter type who gave Royce Gracie his toughest fight in that era. Kama was supposed to be a UFC star, except with the name being the Supreme Fighting Championships. In one of his early matches, he actually pinned Undertaker clean in the middle in a television match on Raw with a uranage, to dead silence, to set up a house show run. But overall, that gimmick didn’t get over all that well and he finished up at the end of the year, returning for the 1996 Royal Rumble.
There was talk in 1997 of bringing him back as Papa Shango, but instead he was Kama Mustafa of the Nation of Domination, part of an at first all-black heel group led by Faarooq (Ron Simmons) which also featured The Rock. He was first nicknamed, The Godfather, Kama Mustafa, until becoming The Godfather.
He was at first a heel, and got over more because they recruited women in every city from local strip clubs to be his ho’s, but given the nature of the strong younger crowd, he became a babyface because of the women he was with, and was a popular undercard wrestler.
He was a strong character as a babyface to open shows. Like a lot of the wrestlers, he came out and had a catch phrase, talking about rolling a fatty (a joint) with this pimp Daddy, which the crowd knew by heart and would chant with him, similar to Enzo Amore today, and the crowd would chant “Pimpin Ain’t Easy,” which became his catch phrase.
Wright, Sting (as the headliner), The Freebirds, John Layfield, Jacqueline and Regis Philbin were all listed is a story by James Dixon as this year’s class, reports that were also confirmed to us as all being planned for this year. However, the announcement that Wright will be inducted by Ron Simmons and Layfield may take Layfield off that list. There has been no word regarding Daniel Bryan, who would seem to be a natural, although because he was not in the original plans. If he’s not put in this year, he would probably be put in next year, as a headliner, unless next year Undertaker were to go in.
Raw on 2/22 with the return of Shane McMahon and coming off a PPV was up 11 percent from the low mark of the prior week, doing a 2.72 rating and 3,869,000 viewers (1.49 viewers per home).
The show featured a strong first and second hour, and a pretty major third hour drop off. The first hour did 4,201,000 viewers, with the second hour falling to 4,055,000 viewers and the third hour to 3,396,000 viewers. The 16 percent drop from the second hour to the third hour was the largest hourly drop by percentage in recent history. The drop was significant in every demo, but it was stronger with women than men.
Raw was easily the highest rated show on cable for the night, as except for Major Crimes on TNT, which did 3,192,000 viewers, no other cable show topped 2.5 million viewers. It’s hard to say how much McMahon’s return affected the ratings since it wasn’t advertised, nor teased publicly (there were stories about a big surprise return in the first segment but WWE didn’t release that information directly). There would have been an expected bump coming the day after the PPV since the hardcore push for WrestleMania was to begin on the show. It was the most watched show since the day after the Royal Rumble. The first two hours were stronger than I would have expected just from the PPV bump.
The company held a press conference on 2/22 in Tokyo for the announcement of Nakamura signing. In Japan, it was pushed big as Nakamura signing with WWE, and was a major sports story there. There were more than 100 reporters, photographers and videographers at the Tokyo Hard Rock and the feeling in Japan is that it was a major press conference.
On the WWE’s web site, in photos with HHH, Vince and Stephanie, the cutline and article stated that Nakamura has signed with “WWE NXT.” It’s not really a new story past WWE itself pushing him as an NXT signee. Nakamura was already announced as facing Zayn in his first match on the 4/1 NXT show in Dallas, and this was done before that episode with that announcement airs. At his press conference in Japan, Nakamura said that he asked to be able to keep his real name and his same ring outfits. That would be notable because for main roster guys, WWE has been switching names, although they didn’t with Styles, so maybe there is a change in philosophy. He said he would not be keeping his entrance music and he’s already working with people in WWE on his music.
If Nakamura spends significant time in NXT, and based on the way the story was written, it appears he will, he will become the first person to get WWE headliner money for wrestling in NXT.
Cena Cryptic Social Media
Cena did some Twitter teases over the weekend, first putting a photo of Paul Newman in Slapshot up, which people took as a tease of the return of Punk, who has the same photo on his Twitter account. He was just messing with people as the situation with Punk and WWE is the same as it’s been, Punk just underwent back surgery and is under contract to UFC until he either fulfills eight fights or the organization releases him. So there’s nothing at all to that. He also posted an Undertaker photo. Obviously if Cena is able to come back at Mania, he’ll no longer be wrestling Undertaker. Cena wrote, “Back to work. Putting in 12 hours a day for the past six weeks to try and defy science. It’s time to make or break.
Daniel Bryan Appreciation Night
The 3/25 show in Madison Square Garden has been announced as “Daniel Bryan Appreciation Night.” He will be added to the show. Also announced thus far are Reigns vs. Sheamus, who will be managed on this night only by HHH, Ambrose vs. Owens for the IC title in a 30 minute Iron Man match, the MSG debut of Styles, Show vs. Wyatt, Kalisto vs. Del Rio for the U.S. title as well as an appearance by Ric Flair. It’s possible they are doing that in more than one city as Bryan is also being advertised for house shows on 3/26 in Trenton and 3/27 in Washington, DC.
New Japan signs Elgin
Michael Elgin signed a two-year-deal here which, this deal and the proposed five-year deal with Kazuchika Okada (which hasn’t been signed) are based on the loss of A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows to WWE. The company realizes now that WWE is into signing as much top talent as possible, even if it means stockpiling the talent. New Japan had traditionally done one-year deals because that’s what they always did since the beginning of time. Elgin had not been under contract there previously.
This means Elgin will be on almost every tour as a regular, and would work indies, as well as for ROH and PWG, only between tours. It’ll mean less ROH dates this year. WWE and TNA had contact with him over the past several months. TNA had interest but he was looking for either a WWE or New Japan deal. WWE had at one point several months ago wanted him to appear at NXT in a similar role as Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, doing TV as a tryout for a deal. He was also offered spots in camps, including a very select camp they are doing in a few weeks, but everything they offered coincided with dates in Japan he’d agreed to. For New Japan in a sense, Elgin from a contract situation would be replacing Karl Anderson’s contract.
Hogan vs Gawker
The Hulk Hogan lawsuit with Gawker is headed to trial in two weeks, something a lot of people figured would never happen. This will be a gigantic case and probably get significant media coverage because of the nature of the story, the involvement of Hogan, and its possibilities of financially destroying a well-known major web site. The potential is there for a jury to award a large decision in Hogan’s favor. He’s asking for $100 million.
A lot of jury trials can go with sympathy and that’s a weird one here. You’ve got a sleazy media source which people aren’t going to be sympathetic with. But with Hogan, you do have a guy sleeping with the wife of his best friend, and there are a lot of contradictions in testimony out there. But he still didn’t know he was being filmed having sex and never gave anyone the okay to market or air the tapes. Some of the comments on the tape that led to the bad publicity to me are legitimate news because he is a public figure.
But no matter what you may or may not think of him personally, video of him having sex that he didn’t allow the release of and putting it on a site under the guise that it is news is a tough position to defend, let alone defend to a jury