Week in Wrestling #31
Wrestling News From the week of
March 5th- March 11th, 2016
Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker lawsuit
The biggest news this week has to be the Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker lawsuit trial which opened on 3/7. Check out our coverage of it here.
Rest in Peace Hayabusa
Hayabusa, one of the great flying wrestlers of the 90s whose pro wrestling career tragically ended when he was paralyzed in an accident in the ring in 2001, passed away on 3/3 at the age of 47.
Hayabusa’s smooth high flying moves, most notably his firebird splash (a 450) and Phoenix splash (currently used by Kota Ibushi and done by Neville as a tribute on Raw this past week) inspired many of the current generation of high flying wrestlers who grew up watching his matches on tape.
On October 22, 2001, in a match with Mammoth Sasaki, Hayabusa did a simple quebrada, or lionsault. It was a move he did in nearly every match, the same move Chris Jericho does in almost every match. But he slipped on the ropes, landed on his head, and cracked two vertebrae and left him paralyzed. He was the top star of the FMW promotion at the time, and his career ending directly led to the company folding a short time later.
He was thought to be a paraplegic for life. In time he regained some movement in one arm. He took on a new career as a night club singer while being wheelchair bound. It took him nearly 14 years, but eventually he was able to walk a short distance with use of a cane. This led to his emotional televised appearance on August 5, 2015, where he got out of his wheelchair at Korakuen Hall, and with his cane, was able to walk to the ring, and after some help going up the steps and getting in, walk again to the center of the ring before an audience of teary-eyed wrestling legends.
He was singing at a small Tokyo night club and bar last week. He did his show on 3/2 and seemed fine, saying nothing that led anyone to think he was sick. When he didn’t show up for his 3/3 concert, and didn’t answer any phone calls, the owner of the club went to his home and found him dead. The belief is that he passed away in his sleep from a subarachnoid hemorrhage, bleeding on the brain.
New Attendance Record for Wrestlemania
The WWE has officially broken the company all-time attendance record at WrestleMania 32.
Tickets are almost sold out, and according to sources with access to the direct numbers, the number of tickets out was 84,000 as of 3/8. Unless they open up standing room tickets, the final real number will be very slightly over that amount.
The number breaks the actual real WWE company record of 79,127 tickets out for the August 29, 1992 SummerSlam show headlined by Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith and Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage at Wembley Stadium in London. WrestleMania III was the largest U.S. crowd in history with 78,000 as the legitimate attendance.
The company is guaranteed to announce a number greater than the mythical 93,173 that WrestleMania III from the Pontiac Silverdome was announced at. On Raw on 3/7, there was a brief clip of Vince McMahon on the phone talking about 93,000 and how they were going to break the record this year. Traditionally WWE exaggerates the WrestleMania attendance by 10,000 to 13,000 and it wouldn’t surprise me for the number to be announced as more than 100,000.
Like so many big events these days, so much of that is because ticket brokers when they feel a show will have great demand, scoop up tons of tickets. I don’t know the number but previous WrestleManias had 25,000 or more tickets bought for resale and not to attend, and this show the number was likely higher since that industry is stronger than the past.
There are about 20,000 standing room seats that have been sold for Super Bowls and NBA All-Star games where you get those 100,000 attendance figures that people have been throwing around for this show. Because of the stage, I’m not sure how that affects what they even could sell. With a few weeks to go, one would think if they were going to put those tickets on sale, they would have done that already.
The secondary market is soft. You can get a Mania ticket on Stubhub at press time for as low as $14, while to get into the Hall of Fame (sold out) it would cost $55. The NXT tickets have the highest demand as a $25 NXT ticket goes for $360 minimum. The demand would have been high anyway because of running a 7,000-seat building with tons more than that wanting in.
That show’s ticket demand exploded when word got out about Nakamura vs. Zayn being on the card, and all seats had been sold by the time of that announcement. That shows just how much things have changed given Nakamura has never appeared or been pushed on WWE TV, yet he’s meant for more ticket demand for shows than anyone in the company.
Wrestlemania Card update
As of right now, this is the lineup, and there could be changes based on decisions made this week regarding Roadblock:
1) HHH vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE title. At this point nothing has been announced regarding a guest referee, but that was the original plan.
2) Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon in a Hell in a Cell match for the control of Raw. Most figure on a match where Undertaker destroys Shane, but in some form allows Shane to win, sacrificing himself for the good of the company. That is if Shane is going to win. It will be very interesting which match goes on last, because it is very clear this match has the most interest and that the battle for control of the company is a bigger deal than a WWE title match.
3) Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose in a No DQ - Street Fight style match.
4) Kevin Owens defending the IC title in a multiple person match. The original plan was for six people to be in this match but the participants continue to change. The plan was to load the match up with workers. Sami Zayn has been in from the beginning. Dolph Ziggler, Neville and The Miz were also expected in although they were not all planned names at the start.
5) The New Day vs. The League of Nations. This was originally scheduled as a six-man tag with Sheamus & Rusev & Alberto Del Rio as the League team, but Barrett is now fully cleared and back in action. There was also a pitch to make it a tag title match and use Freebird rules for both sides, but haven’t heard that is going to be how it ends up. There is talk that with a New Day vs. League match being in Toronto that this spot may turn into a different match with a multiple team format. If that’s the case, that also changes a lot of other plans built around this match. There are key people pushing now to change the match feeling New Day can have a better or more effective match with a different dynamic and right now it may be in a state of flux.
6) A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho
7) Kalisto vs. Ryback for the U.S. title. This is scheduled right now as a singles match and not a multiple person match.
8) Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks for the Divas title
9) Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
10) A second women’s match
There will likely be at least one more match, even if that is a preshow match.
Even though it’s WrestleMania season, on television this past week, WWE was pushing Roadblock, its WWE Network special in Toronto as the focal point of this week’s show. The top matches on that show are HHH vs. Dean Ambrose for the WWE title, Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt, The New Day vs. Sheamus & King Barrett for the tag team titles and Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady for the NXT tag team titles.
A scheduled match with Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus is off because Reigns hasn’t yet recovered from his recent nasal surgery. Sami Zayn is also scheduled for the show. According to those in WWE, the entire card will not air on the network, as there will be some dark matches.
Cena and Orton Update
John Cena said this week that he’s not going to be on the Wrestlemania show. Cena’s surgery for a torn rotator cuff would have precluded a normal person from wrestling by Mania but Cena has come back in less time from other surgeries that would have similar time off.
Randy Orton, who is said to be recovering nicely, and hasn’t been talked about, was also not expected to be back in time for the show.
Vince McMahon vs. HHH Issues
The Vince McMahon vs. HHH dynamic is something that everyone is talking about internally, even more since Shane McMahon appeared on the scene. The feeling is that if Shane McMahon actually does come back into the company in an executive capacity that it’ll be Vince playing Shane against HHH and Stephanie.
Shane vs Vince Angle Changes
The storyline for WrestleMania has changed in the last few days. The original script for the opening segment on Raw on 3/7 was to be Shane responding to everything Stephanie said in her great promo the week before. The key line that was supposed to be said was Shane saying that HHH & Stephanie better make good on their promise to quit the company if he beats Undertaker, because if they don’t, he will fire them on Raw the next night. The entire promo was rewritten just before show time as if Stephanie’s promo the week before never happened.
It should be noted that segment one changes almost every week, usually an hour before the show goes on the air because that’s the one Vince is so hands on with, and internally it was also said Shane got lost on his promo.
We’re told two weeks ago he got lost and that Vince did a great job of covering for him in that one although to the public, that wasn’t noticeable at all.
Vince resents HHH's NXT Success
For months it’s been an underlying theme with the idea that Vince doesn’t like how he’s perceived as this old and out-of-touch guy. He also hates the perception that the company needs Vince to step away and let HHH run it and things will be great, citing NXT as the example. Vince isn’t going to step aside, but there is a lot of concern about the rigid decision making and limited viewpoint on who can be real top stars.
While publicly HHH will say Vince loves NXT, the internal perception is very different, seeing it as a touring brand filled with so many guys Vince doesn’t believe are money.
The one point that everyone talks about is the treatment of Tyler Breeze on the main roster. It created an issue that a lot of NXT talent, while the goal is the main roster and the money on the main roster, they are loving it in NXT, and they see Breeze as someone who was an NXT star who was ready to be a WWE star and then got treated the way he did. It led to a lot of questions regarding whether people wanted to be brought up.
Don’t get me wrong, people do because the money difference is huge, but there’s also the feeling that NXT is really fun and the main roster is the culmination of a lifelong dream but very frustrating. In particular there was the heat because of the timing of the “Breaking Ground” show on the network where they made it such a big deal how Breeze was moving to the main roster, and that by the time that segment aired, he was getting buried like a job guy on the main roster.
HHH sabotaging Reigns?
We do know there was a lot of heat on HHH and complaints for not selling the Reigns beating in public, because he had to get his face on the NXT show in London knowing it would be a super show in front of that crowd and he didn’t want anyone to not know it was his creation and baby.
The questions regarding Reigns given how he’s not gotten over with HHH as his adversary for so long has led to plenty of finger pointing, although a lot of people pointed to the crotch chop on Raw as the sign HHH is no longer really behind the cause of getting Reigns over as a face. Perhaps that’s just paranoia and frustration, but the way Reigns was eliminated at the Rumble and the HHH/Reigns interaction with him has been curious to say the least.
WWE Hall of Fame Induction Update
The rest of the class of the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame is now official with the Big Bossman (Ray Traylor) announced on 3/7, and the WrestleMania 32 magazine being out which also listed Jacqueline Moore and Stan Hansen.
Bossman was something of a surprise for a number of reasons. Vince McMahon has had a quota in the past on the number of deceased wrestlers in, because of the paranoia of wrestling’s stigma with young deaths. With Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts both having passed away, Gordy at the age of 40, it didn’t seem likely it would be the year to put in Traylor, who was 41 at the time he passed away from a massive heart attack.
The rest of the 2016 class, already announced, are Sting, The Freebirds (Gordy, Roberts, Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin) and The Godfather.
WrestleMania 33 in Orlando
WrestleMania 33 was officially announced for April 2, 2017 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the same location as in 2008, but with a completely renovated stadium.
The announcement was made on 3/7, before a press conference was held in the city the next day.
Orlando had been expected to get the show for a few months, once word got out that Minneapolis was no longer under consideration.
Orlando actually had a relatively difficult time in 2008 filling the stadium, as the show was the most papered WrestleMania in recent memory with 11,300 free tickets out of the 74,635 in attendance. The WWE didn’t exaggerate the announced attendance for the show that year.
Orlando is almost a home market for WWE and likely to be a regular site for WrestleMania. For one, the Performance Center is located there, and NXT television is taped there. John Saboor, the WWE’s Executive Vice President of Special Events, the point man for WrestleMania, came from Orlando. Saboor negotiated the 2008 deal for the city and did such a good job that he ended up being hired by WWE and put in charge of taking bids from cities.
More than a dozen cities put in bids for the show, which originally was awarded to Minneapolis. It’s not known why the change was made.
Saboor noted that the renovation of the Citrus Bowl was a major factor in getting WrestleMania this year. Officially announced is also the Hall of Fame on April 1, 2017, at the Amway Arena, as well as the live Raw on April 3. It is likely there will be an NXT show on March 31, 2017, perhaps at the arena or at the University of Central Florida Gym, although that hasn’t been announced. Fan Axxess will take place at the Orange County Convention Center.
Physical WWE Hall of Fame
WWE will be opening up a restaurant and physical Hall of Fame in Orlando at Universal Studios in conjunction with next year’s WrestleMania.
WWE officials and those at Universal have negotiated for years on a deal where WWE takes over what used to be the location of NBA City at the Universal City Walk for a museum and Hall of Fame.
Paul Levesque in recent years has gone to older wrestlers and others who have memorabilia connections to get items for the proposed Hall of Fame.
The new restaurant will be set up similar to “The World,” the Times Square restaurant that WWE ran from 1999 to 2003 before it was shut down after losses of nearly $36 million.
The new complex will be a combined museum and restaurant, with the museum as the physical site of the Hall of Fame. Like “The World,” it will have a merchandise store and video screens that would constantly be playing WWE broadcasts. The idea is to build it to a location both for locals and tourists to hang out and watch Raw, Smackdown and other major events with other fans. The World suffered because unless there was a WWE event playing, the restaurant was fairly empty.
WWE Business Update
WWE attendance for January was down from recent years, with an average of 4,682 paid per domestic house show, down 16 percent from last year. The prior three years saw an average of 5,563 paid in 2015, 5,178 in 2014 and 5,409 in 2013.
For a breakdown, of the non-TV tapings, shows advertised around Roman Reigns averaged 3,140, shows advertised around John Cena (he wasn’t there due to injuries but the tickets were sold based on him) averaged 4,300 and shows built around Kane vs. Bray Wyatt averaged 2,750.
Last year the Cena and Reigns’ numbers were both in the 5,000 range.
Raw in January averaged a 2.55 rating and 3.60 million viewers. That was a 13.6 percent drop in ratings and a 10.9 percent drop in viewers from a 2.95 rating and 4.04 million viewers. The 2014 numbers were a 3.26 rating and 4.58 million viewers and the 2013 numbers were a 3.26 rating and 4.63 million viewers.
Smackdown, with the move to the USA Network, was very close to last year’s numbers on Syfy. Smackdown in January averaged a 1.84 rating and 2.64 million viewers, down 2.1 percent in ratings and 1.9 percent in audience from the 1.88 rating and 2.69 million viewers in January 2015. The 2014 numbers, on a harder to draw Friday night were a 2.05 rating and 2.92 million viewers, and the 2013 numbers were a 2.02 rating and 2.94 million viewers.
DVD shipments, a category that had declined badly last year, actually doubled this year, with 131,000 DVDs and Blu Rays shipped as compared to 65,000 last year. But it was 272,000 in 2014.
Daily online merchandise offers continue to be at the highest pace ever, averaging 1,290 orders per day this year, up 25 percent from 1,032 last year and from 831 in 2014.
HBK at Mania
Shawn Michaels was interviewed by ESPN and teased being a part of Mania, and indicated he would be part of the show. There were at least two suggestions for Michaels that we’ve heard. One was to be the referee in the HHH vs. Reigns title match, as the concept (Batista being the original choice) was to put in a guest referee to stack the deck against Reigns for him to overcome.
The other was to do a run-in similar to the DX and NWO deal last year in one of the matches. In that instance, he’d be part of a group scene with legends similar to last year. Michaels said he retired because he wanted to focus on raising his kids and that he felt he needed a clean break from wrestling because wrestling can infiltrate every aspect of your life.
Reigns off TV
Reigns will still be off the shows this coming weekend and at this point is now scheduled back for a 3/18 house show in Schenectady and the 3/21 Raw in Pittsburgh. It’s possible he could be on Raw this coming week but isn’t advertised. He has been advertised for the house show run this weekend including the Roadblock show in Toronto, but we were told that he is no longer on those shows in recovering from nasal surgery. Reigns was advertised for Raw in Chicago on 3/7 and wasn’t there, and the Montreal lineup was a release made four days before the event that still listed him in the main event.
New Day Mania Entrance
There has been a push for New Day doing a major entrance at Mania. What we are told is that they wanted to fly around the stadium on unicorns, but the company has not approved it and we’re told it’s less than 50 percent that it will be approved.
WWE is expected to make another round of aggressive talent signings from Japan, Mexico and the U.K. over the next few months. The name we heard they are most interested in is Kazuchika Okada, as apparently the key people in charge just found out that he’s tall. New Japan has offered Okada a five-year contract. We don’t know if the deal has been executed and Okada has publicly said he’s loyal to New Japan. They are said to be looking past New Japan, which was their previous target, and now looking at talent in other Japanese groups.
There is a top name from AAA and Lucha Underground they are after as well who has never worked for a mainstream U.S. promotion before and is unhappy with the Lucha Underground creative. Because of the weakness of the peso vs. the dollar, everyone who works Mexico is looking for as much American work as possible. There was a time where if you were a top wrestler in Mexico, you could earn more than in WWE unless you were a pushed guy in WWE, but now any kind of a decent WWE deal is going to pay better than a Mexican deal for just about anyone.
Seth Rollins Update
Rollins is back doing limited training in the ring, although heavily icing and protecting his knee. Six months after surgery would be mid-May.
Upcoming Austin Podcast
Names under consideration for future Austin podcasts include Undertaker, Sting, DDP and Shane McMahon. His next podcast will be with Foley.
Kurt Angle met with HHH...
HHH met with Kurt Angle this past weekend when both were in Columbus, OH for the Arnold Fitness Expo. HHH was producing the NXT show and Angle was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame.
TNA Tapings Announced
Just eight days before the shows were to take place, TNA finally announced its next set of tapings as well as got travel itinerary for the tapings to talent. The tapings will be 3/15 to 3/19, with the TV show on 3/15 being taped about two hours before it’ll air. The top matches on that show will be Matt Hardy defending the TNA title against Ethan Carter III and Jeff Hardy returns from his storyline injury for a grudge match against Eric Young
They will be doing evening tapings five straight nights as well as one afternoon taping on 3/17 at 1 p.m. at Universal Studios in Orlando. They will be taping Impact at least through the end of April, as well as taping at least one One Night Only PPV show. The names TNA is advertising as appearing are Matt & Jeff Hardy, Ethan Carter III, Bobby Roode, Bobby Lashley, James Storm, Drew Galloway, Eric Young, Gail Kim and Tigre Uno
ROH Booking Changes?
There is a lot of talk about changes in the power structure when it comes to booking. I’m not sure why as Hunter Johnston (Delirious) is still the guy in charge of creative and those rumored to be part of the new committee, Christopher Daniels, B.J. Whitmer and Kevin Kelly, are in the case of the former two, agents as well as performers, while Kelly also contributes ideas, but the ideas are still to be pitched to Johnston. Truth Martini and ref Todd Sinclair probably also belong in that category. Daniels may be more influential now but several have said the structure isn’t any different and has been this way for more than a year in some cases.
Lucha Underground on iTunes and maybe Netflix?
iTunes is pushing the first season pretty hard, putting it on the front page of the movie section. The first week was very successful. From what we’re told, the deal they have, which is about a 40 percent revenue split with iTunes, can make the company some money but it’s not a savior and it’s probably a short-term deal.
A deal is very close to selling season one to Netflix, and if that deal happens, it makes the iTunes deal obsolete because why would people pay a few dollars for an episode or a higher figure for the full season when they can just get it for a Netflix subscription? The idea as it stands right now is if the deal happens, the Netflix deal will only be for the first season and iTunes would still get the second season.