Week in Wrestling #33
Wrestling News From the week of
March 26th- April 8th, 2016
Wrestlemainia Weekend Reaction
I was in attendance in Dallas for Wrestlemania as well as multiple wrestling related shows over this past weekend. For my full review and thoughts, please check out my Wrestlemania review here, RAW review here, and my overall Dallas Live review here.
In the past, when they had to sell PPVs, promotion of celebrities was a big part of the hype. Other than commercials mentioning The Rock, there was little push for him. In the past, if Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Foley, Cena and Shaquille O’Neal were on the show, they’d have been promoted like crazy. None were promoted at all. The feeling is they were looking for surprise pops. With the network low price, the idea is that people who may have missed it not knowing they were there, would then want to see it.
Plus, aside from the fact they could have promoted the Battle Royal around Show and Shaq and actually made it a big deal mainstream, with the other guys, if they told you the others’ roles ahead of time, people wouldn’t have been that excited. A few years ago, Shaq was telling everyone he had a deal for a match with Big Show at Mania, but it never happened. Now, the WWE is already pushing the idea of Shaq vs. Show in a singles match for next year in Orlando.
John Cena didn’t even bother to make it a surprise in the sense he was strongly hinting involvement in the show and said he had been cleared. At one point there was talk of Cesaro debuting in the Battle Royal, but it was for the best that he wasn’t one of the geeks and instead debuted in a Raw main event where he could shine a lot more.
Never have more fans attended more events, nor has more talent been in the same place then in Dallas last weekend. WrestleMania took over Dallas. You couldn’t go anywhere without the signs of it in town. The show itself drew the most fans of any pro wrestling event that can be verified outside of North Korea. The gate broke the previous all-time record.
The attendance as would be normally announced for an event was 93,730 people, breaking the WWE’s all-time total attendance (paid plus comps) record of 79,127 set at the 1992 SummerSlam show at Wembley Stadium, which barely beat out the 1987 WrestleMania III show which did more than 78,000. The actual number in the building was 97,769.
This year’s show looks to have sold somewhere around 30,000 or so tickets than last year, even with ratings far lower, higher ticket prices, and all the complaints about the weak lineup and bad build. The reality is they charged higher prices and drew far more then last year. Perhaps part of the lure was being part of history, and breaking the mythical 93,173 number from WrestleMania III.
The WWE announced the number at 101,763, which is the mythical number “for entertainment purposes” as Vince McMahon told me about the difference between real numbers and announced numbers years ago. It was announced as the fifth largest crowd ever in the stadium. Stadium officials confirmed it was legitimately the fifth largest.
The five biggest of all-time are now WrestleMania 32, SummerSlam in Wembley Stadium, WrestleMania III, WrestleMania 23 (74,287) and WrestleMania 29 (72,000).
WWE Network Number
The network numbers on the surface were disappointing when released on the day after WrestleMania. But to properly evaluate the numbers you probably have to wait until the next number is released at the end of June.
On 4/4, the WWE network had 1,824,000 subscribers, broken down as 1,454,000 paying subscribers and 370,000 free subscribers. In the U.S., the paid subscribers were listed at 1,109,000 and free at 281,000. Outside the U.S., the paid subscribers were listed at 345,000 paid and 89,000 free.
The usual percentage of people who sample the network for free than then either decide they like it, or in many cases, simply forget or decide against the hassle of canceling, is about 70 to 75 percent. So in theory, in one month or so, they should have a bump of somewhere between 259,000 and 277,500 new subscribers stemming from the free month offer.
As far as the number itself goes, the company right now is projecting OIBDA of between $70 million and $85 million for 2016. That would be in the range of what the company was doing from 2005 to 2010, so essentially this year should be back at pre-network levels. With continued network growth, they should be above those levels in 2017, so while it is taking longer than expected, they are going to be ahead at some point.
WWE announced the live gate at $17.3 million while other sources with access to actual numbers said it was almost $17 million. The number destroyed the record of $12.6 million set last year in Santa Clara at Levi’s Stadium.
No number was released at press time, but it almost surely broke the all-time merchandise record for a WWE event of $3.3 million set in Santa Clara last year at WrestleMania. According to building sources, it broke the all-time record for food and drinks ever served at the stadium “by a mile,” which has to do with the length of the show being six hours and 10 minutes, much longer than any other event in that stadium that drew a comparable attendance.
Next PPV: Payback
The next WWE PPV show will be Payback on 5/1 from the All-State Arena in Chicago. The main event will be Reigns vs. Styles for the WWE title. It’s an interesting match up because it does get Styles into the PPV main event position, which he belongs in based on his ability and crowd reactions. But given that, it makes absolutely no sense that he was pinned clean by Jericho at Mania. (Stupid).
The other title program set up that may be on the show include Charlotte vs. Natalya. Natalya is probably Charlotte’s best opponent the way the two gel together. One could argue Sasha Banks as they tore it up constantly in NXT together. But most likely they are saving Banks for a bigger show down the line and not beating her until they get there.
Other matches include, Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose and Owens vs. Zayn. They also started a Wyatts vs. League of Nations (who eliminated King Barrett from the group on Raw) program, Dudleys vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass and Emma vs. Becky Lynch.
NXT Call Ups
The debuts from NXT after WrestleMania were Enzo, Cass, Apollo Crews, The Vaudevillains and Baron Corbin. Corbin sucks in my opinion, but whatever. Crews has potential if they let him be himself and stop scripting dumb promos for him. The Vaudevillains will become the Ascension pretty soon, and Enzo has ridiculous charisma and presence and Cass has size, and with their promos, they’ll do fine because the crowd will get behind the entrance.
The guy on the show that fans thought was the least like a star, Baron Corbin, was the one being brought up with a push to the main roster. Corbin has potential and he’s the exact type of guy who should be touring in developmental so that when he comes to the main roster, he’s ready for a top spot.
It’s pretty clear that Balor, Joe, Nakamura, Zayn, Asuka, Bayley, Austin Aries, Jordan & Gable should all not only be on the main roster, but most should be top tier stars. Balor should be one of the top guys, and as a high flier who is 34 with a lot of miles on him, he shouldn’t be wasting his remaining bump card for a salary with one less zero at the end.
In a company weak on top heels today, the idea of bringing up Corbin instead of Joe, who at 37, also shouldn’t be wasting his remaining best earning years both for himself and for the company when he’s probably the best opponent on the entire roster right now for Brock Lesnar, as well as a strong opponent for Roman Reigns, and even a viable opponent for The Rock, as well as every other top babyface. Joe, just standing there, has a face and carries himself the closest to Lesnar as anyone.
WWE just called up two women from developmental, Emma and Eva Marie, while leaving Bayley and Asuka here. Asuka is easily the best woman wrestler in the company, and is as good as any of the men as far as the wrestling aspect goes. There’s also a really good chance the talent evaluators who see Eva Marie as a top star even though she’s got nothing but a killer body and very limited talent will totally miss the boat on Bayley. She’s a very good wrestler, but her key is she’s got the perfect face for her role and if they play their cards right she has more value to the company than any woman on the roster.
Jordan & Gable are a fantastic team. They are the best team in the company. Jordan & Gable can be a tag team that main events and carries a show. But they were left in NXT because its not really developmental, its HHH's pet project.
ROH, Evolve, and WWN in Dallas
Everybody did huge business over WrestleMania weekend. Evolve and WWN sold out the 1,075 seat Eddie Dean’s Ranch for three shows, with tons of standing room for the 4/2 afternoon show to see Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay, which ended up with more than 1,500 in total in the building, the all-time record for the promotion.
The Wrestlecon show and the two ROH shows sold out Hyatt Regency with 1,400 fans paid for each show. ROH sold out going head-to-head with NXT, while both Wrestlecon (1,500 total and 1,350 paid) and WWN (1,200) sold out going head-to-head with the Hall of Fame. All could have drawn significantly more in a larger location as the secondary market tickets prices were huge for almost all the shows, easily the biggest in ROH history.
Evolve did a Friday late afternoon show and did about 1,200 for that one. The numbers for Evolve were roughly double what they were last year in San Jose.
The WrestleCon show had the widest variety of talent, using indies from everywhere. Lots of guys worked multiple shows in one day. For example, Evolve had to do its tag team title change where Tracy Williams & Drew Gulak (the tag team of Catch Point) beat Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano (a team of the TNA champion and a WWE contracted wrestler) in the opener because Gargano had to rush down the street for NXT. Gargano, Chris Hero, Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay all worked three times on 4/2.
Hero and Sabre Jr. worked the opener for WWN and then late in the show for Wrestlecon. Ospreay worked the second match for Wrestlecon and came back for the main event for WWN.
Evolve’s business is way up on iPPV ever since WWE started making mentions of the brand in social media, and the big increase came after HHH ended the Evolve show in Florida the weekend of the Royal Rumble. The bad news is that on their two biggest events in their history, the iPPV crashed.
Those who ordered the live show the first night were allowed to get it on VOD, and those who ordered the VOD service (for a higher price you get it live and can watch it over and over) were allowed to get one more show via VOD. On the second show, for those who ordered live plus VOD, they were given the choice of getting five more shows from the past via VOD at no extra charge. Other shows from the same location over the weekend streamed fine
The Raw after WrestleMania on 4/4, which has been the highest rated episode of the show each year for the past several years, did a hugely disappointing 2.92 rating and 4,079,000 viewers, actually lower then the show after the day after the Royal Rumble (2.93 rating, 4,091,000 viewers).
For a comparison, last year’s Raw after WrestleMania did a 3.67 rating and 5.35 million viewers, or a 20.4 percent ratings drop and a 23.7 percent audience drop. Last year’s show didn’t go head-to-head with the NCAA basketball championship game.
For a comparison, last year’s Raw after WrestleMania saw the audience grow 1.2 million from the go-home show. This year’s growth from the go-home show was 318,000 viewers.
Highest Paid WWE Wrestlers
Forbes had a story this week on the highest paid WWE wrestlers. They cited using court documents, SEC filings, WWE booking contracts and industry sources. Chris Smith did the story and he talked with people who know how WWE handles its payoffs. These numbers would be for 2015 and they are estimated as the only people who actually know would be the company.
Nikki Bella May be Done
Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that Nikki Bella’s career as a full-time wrestler is over as she got bad news from her doctor this past week. She was scheduled to appear on Raw this week but her doctor ordered her to stay away from the ring. Even though she wasn’t booked to do anything physical, but was to be at ringside for an angle, that any kind of accident could severely set her recovery back. Her next important appointment will be in July where she will find out how well the bone in her neck fused after surgery.
She was told that even the best news, she shouldn’t return to wrestle full-time, but may be able to wrestle on a lighter schedule in a few months
Total Divas Changes
With Total Divas having by far its lowest rated season, with the past five weeks being the five lowest rated episodes in the show’s history, they are making some major changes for next season.
Even though Brie Bella has retired as a wrestler, since the Bellas and Natalya have been focal points from the start and are the most popular characters on the show (along with Paige), they are staying.
They are getting rid of Mandy Rose, Mendes and Alicia Fox. They are adding Maryse (which explains her return as a character), Lana (since they can do the Rusev and Lana wedding episode), Renee Young (which would reveal that she and Ambrose are a couple living together in Las Vegas) and bringing back Trinity (Naomi).
Ricochet to WWE Soon
Independent promoters looking for summer dates on Ricochet (Trevor Mann, 27), have been told that he isn’t taking any dates after June. It appears to be a lock he’s signing with WWE, although one person close to him said it’s not his immediate next move, but it is where he’ll wind up.
WWE has wanted him as soon as he was contractually available after they missed on him the first time, which was a series of weird situations. We had already heard New Japan was looking for a new partner for Sydal. His Lucha Underground deal gave him an out after the third season, and the third season finishes taping in mid-May. It’s unclear if his Prince Puma character will be viewed as dead, or if he’ll come back in mid-May to finish.
The contract with Lucha Underground actually wouldn’t allow him to go to WWE until six months after the season finishes airing, so that would be late 2017, but I can’t see a situation where somebody stops being paid in May and they aren’t allowed to get work elsewhere. When WWE holds people to non-competes, they pay them during the period for non-compete so that’s the difference.
Daniel Bryan Update
Over the weekend, a lot of people in wrestling expressed concern for Bryan since he disappeared and it was reported as being a health issue, although him doing media and his training Jiu Jitsu several times this past week would seem to indicate it was more he just didn’t want to be around wrestling just yet.
Bryan did an interview on 3/11 that appeared this week in the Middle East version of Esquire. In that interview, he said, “I really didn’t want to do the retirement speech. I wasn’t ready for it. Raw just happened to be in my home city of Seattle, and two days earlier, I had heard from doctors that for the sake of my health, I probably shouldn’t wrestle again. I didn’t want to retire, but if I had to, at least all my friends and family could be there to see it, so I just sucked it up and did it.”
As noted on the WWE 24 special from Bryan’s interview, it was Vince McMahon’s original idea and based on everything said, it would have been suggested to him the Saturday before the Monday of the speech. “Ultimately, I think that it helped me focus on the reality of my situation, and helped me move on.”
He said part of him wants to stay in wrestling, saying he loves the travel and interaction with fans, but doing so with being unable to wrestle would be tough. He also talked about interest in environmental and ecological issues, so he may go in that direction.
Orton, Rollins, Neville Injury Updates
Orton this week was estimating it would be three more months before he could return to the ring. Nothing has been said regarding the return of Rollins, but he was in Dallas and still noticeably limping, so he’s probably not returning right away. His return would have been delayed anyway since he’s going to be based in New Orleans for several weeks filming a WWE movie called “Temple,” a horror movie that will star Wesley Snipes and Anne Heche.
Neville said to IGN this week that he broke his ankle in two places but they were clean breaks. “The bone has remained in position. I don’t require surgery. I will have to rest it, though. It’s a broken ankle. I can’t put any weight on it. That’s gonna be the case still for a few weeks to come. I’ve started trying out a little bit of rehab. I have a light bit of mobility, but it’s very difficult.
New Foley TV Show
When he was on the “Stone Cold Podcast” on 3/31, Foley pushed that he’s got a new family reality TV show on the network called “Holy Foley.” It was pushed during WrestleMania and will star Mick and Noelle Foley. People have jokingly already called it “Foley Knows Best,” given the retired wrestler father and hot young daughter.
The main storyline of the show will be that Noelle is trying to become a pro wrestler and the show will track her training. Noelle was also a guest on the podcast. Mick’s son Mickey did a video interview that went around where he said how everyone knows that HHH hates his father and talked openly about it. Given that Mick has a TV show on the network, that his son Dewey works in creative and Noelle does wrap-around segments for the network and is trying to get into the promotion as a wrestler, well, that probably wasn’t the best thing that ever happened.
MITB in Vegas
Money in the Bank is confirmed for 6/19 at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It means they are beating the UFC into the new MGM Arena by a few weeks, and also because it’ll be one of the first events at the arena, means they’re almost guaranteed a big crowd and you can charge more in Las Vegas then anywhere
Global cruiserweight tournament
Two more promotions will be working with WWE and holding qualifying matches for the Global cruiserweight tournament. Progress Wrestling out of London announced they will be holding two qualifying matches, which are expected to take place on their 4/24 show. Revolution Pro Wrestling, which is based out of Portsmouth, England, and headed by Andy Quildan, and promotes in the Southeastern part of England with big shows in London, announced they also had a deal with WWE. They are expected to have a qualifying match shortly, although the date and place as well as participants have not been announced.
The 32-man tournament that will air on Wednesday nights, starting 7/13, on the WWE Network at 9 p.m., right after NXT, is expected to be filmed in its entirely from 6/20 to 6/24 at Full Sail University in Orlando. They will be taping two episodes per night over the five nights, with the finals airing on 9/14. The plan is to make this the first of what would be an annual tradition with the company.
At this point the qualifying matches are all to be taped, but probably not air in their entirety on the WWE Network as at this point production is of the belief that no WWE production people will be involved in shooting the qualifiers and they will just use the footage that the promotion itself would be filming.
What’s noted is that Revolution Pro does have a relationship with both New Japan and ROH, and that’s where things can get sticky. Revolution Pro has brought the biggest New Japan stars to the U.K. and were instrumental in Will Ospreay getting his New Japan deal, as Ospreay is geared for a push there due to his being introduced by Kazuchika Okada and being added to the Chaos stable.
It will be interesting how politics play out since ROH is obviously looked at as a competitor to NXT and it’s pretty much inherent that New Japan and WWE are going to be major competitors in the Japanese market going forward, not to mention WWE stripped New Japan of four major stars in January.
HHH at a media press call prior to NXT Takeover announced Zack Sabre Jr., Rich Swann, Tommaso Ciampa, Noam Dar, Johnny Gargano, Ho Ho Lun and Akira Tozawa as the first seven names for the tournament.
Later, Lince Dorado was added. Swann, Ciampa and Gargano are under contract to WWE. Dar is a U.K. independent wrestler. Tozawa is a top star with Dragon Gate, which is notable because it shows Dragon Gate didn’t block his participation. While not announced, the belief is that Kota Ibushi will be involved since he spoke in Japan about being interested and he’d be one of the first guys you’d want in it.
Cedric Alexander’s name has bounced around for the tournament. He isn’t under contract with ROH and recently had a tryout. Lun, 28, wrestles for Middle Kingdom Wrestling out of Hong Kong, a small promotion barely on the radar. He’s been wrestling for about seven years. He’s thin, and his gimmick is that he sings on his way to the ring. My gut on him is that they are looking for someone from that part of the world and he’s the best they could find. The standard of Middle Kingdom Wrestling is really like backyard wrestling and Lun does the moves that the smaller guys in Japan do and that seems to be his influence, but he’s like a guy copying moves from Japanese junior heavyweights
Announcements regarding the qualifying matches in Evolve, Progress and Revolution Pro are expected in the next week or two
WWE Scouting Indy Shows
Canyon Ceman, Matt Bloom and William Regal attended an Evolve training seminar and tryout camp in Dallas and there were people from WWE that were there for both the Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay and Ospreay vs. Sabre matches. The things we’ve heard about the scouting is that one person felt Ospreay vs. Sabre was the best thing of the weekend and that a scout was at the Shimmer show and the person they were said to be most interested in was Nicole Savoy
Gawker wants Hogan ruling dropped
Gawker attorney Gregg Thomas filed court papers on 4/3 saying that the $140 million awards to Hulk Hogan should be dropped to no more than $1,875,000, claiming the jury was guided by passion and prejudice rather than the facts of the case. Thomas claimed the $140 million verdict would be ruinous to Gawker, claiming the company is only worth $83 million
New Japan News