Week in Wrestling #38
Wrestling News From the week of
May 7th- May 13th, 2016
WWE Financial Business
The company had 1,454,000 paid subscribers as of WrestleMania and another 370,000 free subscribers. Regarding the growth from four days earlier, the number at the end of March was 1,357,000 paid subscribers and 112,000 free subscribers, which means 258,000 people signed up for free and 87,000 new subscribers paid (they were likely returning subscribers from the past who couldn’t or didn’t know how to get the free option) in the final few days leading to the event.
Since it has now been more than a month since the event, the company has said that of those 370,000 free subscribers, a number consistent with the past from that group has signed up. Since the rate of retention of free subscribers has been 70-75 percent, that would mean there would be between 259,000 and 278,000 new subscribers at this point, although no current number was given.
The company has said that they believe they will average 1.5 million paid subscribers in the second quarter, meaning that unlike last year when there was a big post-WrestleMania drop, they are projecting an increase due to the free people not canceling. In this case, the key number isn’t the average for the quarter but the how many will be there at the end of the quarter and stick around.
For the three month period, WWE took in $171,100,000 in revenue and posted a $13,885,000 profit. For the same period last year, the revenue was $176,178,000 and the profits were $9,773,000.
But that is misleading in terms of revenue because WrestleMania came in the first quarter of last year. If you factor our WrestleMania revenue, last year’s number would have been $151,300,000 and profits would have been $10 million.
Overall, almost every aspect of the company’s business is either the same or stronger than last year from a profitability standpoint except home video and PPV, the two categories that were going to be hurt by the network.
Vince McMahon said that Seth Rollins, John Cena, Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton would all be returning shortly. The Wyatt family members have started tweeting teasing a return to television. Cena and Wyatt are already booked on house shows in June. Rollins is expected back after filming the movie in New Orleans. Cena will be back on 5/30 and Orton will be back at this point in late June or sometime in July. Neville also should be returning shortly.
Vince McMahon, when asked about all the injuries, denied the injury rate is higher than in the past, and just gave the impression there was bad luck in the timing of injuries to WrestleMania. He said the injury rate seems higher because the news gets out more.
“We always have the injuries,” said McMahon. “I think that they are more visible now than ever, and most of the injuries that we have are three months, probably three, maybe four months in terms of coming back after an injury. And again, what we’ve done there is nothing is any more risky or what have you in terms of what we’re doing. We manage concussions and stuff extremely well. We’re way ahead of everybody else. We feel good about that. We feel good about all of these things that we’ve built into our health and Wellness programs and better than ever.”
He noted the injuries to Cena and Orton have given opportunities for new talent coming in. He said the roster when the stars return from injuries mixed in with the stars that have had opportunities to get focused on more due to them being out of action would make it the stronger roster in a long time.
8 WWE Releases
WWE announced the release of eight performers on 5/6, most of which weren’t being used. Those announced as being let go were King Barrett (Stuart Bennett, 35), Santino Marella (Antony Carelli, 42), Damien Sandow (Aaron Haddad, 34), Cameron (Ariane Andrew, 28), Hornswoggle (Dylan Postl, 28), Alex Riley (Kevin Kiley Jr., 35), Torito, 34, and Zeb Coulter (Wayne “Dutch Mantell” Keown, 66).
Others released from their contract include Steve Lombardi, 55 and Christian (William Jason Reso, 42). In the case of Christian, it is more of a technicality of no longer having an active performer contract, and the release did not include his agreement to do the “Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness.” WWE confirmed the details of the Christian story but had yet to respond regarding Garcia.
Barrett had been with WWE since 2006, and on the main roster since 2010. His leaving was his own doing. He had already given notice to the company he wouldn’t be renewing when his current contract expired next month, and apparently wanted out early for whatever he is planning on doing next. There is no word on his plans but he had spoken last year about eventually returning to the U.K. and trying to get a job as a soccer analyst.
Marella had retired two years ago from the ring due to neck issues that led to surgery. He had made occasional comedy appearances but has been running a martial arts and pro wrestling gym, the Battlarts Academy, in Mississauga, ONT. He was basically gone.
The most questioned would have been Sandow. He was rarely used of late, but people liked him from the Mizdow character and would react big when they saw him. Because he wants to continue wrestling, he has already started booking himself on the indie scene. He’s the best fit long-term for that scene of those let go. He wouldn’t figure to be a good fit with ROH. It’s certainly possible TNA would take him. I don’t think he’d be a fit for New Japan but that’s not impossible either.
Cameron’s break was when she was chosen for the cast of Tough Enough in 2011. She had virtually no knowledge or understanding of wrestling and was an early cut. But because of her looks, she got a developmental deal, and was brought up to the main roster as a dancer for Brodus Clay I January, 2012, making her the fastest to make the main roster. She was a regular on Total Divas, but never developed as a worker. Once she was dropped from the show, there wasn’t much done with her.
Riley is an interesting case. He ended up announcing in NXT but then came back to wrestle, and then had knee surgery. When he came back, it was clear by how he was used that they had given up on him. It’s possible TNA would take him.
Hornswoggle had been with the company since 2006. Matched up with Finlay, he got off to a strong start as a popular comedy character geared toward young kids. He was used as part of the 3MB act, but that act was dropped and he had shoulder surgery, and then a drug suspension last year, and hadn’t been figured into anything.
Torito, 34, worked for AAA from 2000 to 2007 as Mascarita Sagrada, and then 2007-2011 for CMLL as Mascarita Dorada. He was considered the best mini in Mexico when WWE signed him in 2013. With no minis division, he was more a comedy second. He had no opponent on the roster other than Hornswoggle.
Colter had a great act with Jack Swagger, which clicked as a heel to where Swagger was the hottest he’d ever be. He was brought back with Alberto Del Rio, which was a disaster of a pairing that was quickly dropped.
In addition, Steve Lombardi, 55, who has been with the company for more than 30 years, in a backstage capacity, was also let go. Given his tenure, Lombardi was the biggest surprise on the list.
Adam Rose Issues Worsen
One person not let go was Adam Rose (Ray Leppan), who is on a 60 day suspension, and was then arrested on 5/11 and put on an indefinite suspension.
So he was on the bubble given everything that had gone down. He was then arrested on charges of a misdemeanor domestic violence battery and felony tampering with a witness in an incident involving his wife at their home in Lutz, FL, at 1:30 a.m. by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department. He was booked at 3:30 a.m and released at 11:08 a.m. His mug shot link listed him at 6-feet tall and 190 pounds.
The police report stated that Leppan and his wife, Cassandra, were in an argument regarding their marriage when he allegedly grabbed her face, pulled her closer to his mouth and started screaming at her. She called 911 but the claim is that Leppan than pulled the phone away from her and didn’t allow her to say anything, which would be where the tampering with a witness charge comes from. Officers were able to trace the location of the call and came to the residence. When officers arrived, they said he admitted taking the phone away from her.
The company stated: “WWE has zero tolerance for matters involving domestic violence, and per our policy, Raymond Leppan has been suspended indefinitely following his arrest.”
Leppan had posted a letter from Dr. Charles DeVine stating he was prescribed Aderall for the past year to combat ADHD. Aderall is banned by the Wellness policy. This left a ton of unanswered questions such as why was he suspended? There are plenty of potential answers, as WWE doctors have to approve the usage of any banned substance, even if the talent gets a prescription from a doctor. If Leppan had not gotten approval, then a suspension would be in order at least based on the wording of the policy. The overseers can always make decisions against the letter of the law, so to speak, if they feel there is a valid reason. WWE gave no response to questions on the subject, but Leppan pulled the doctor’s letter and a tweet regarding the subject shortly after putting it up. He then put it back up and said he wasn’t sure if he would be let go.
Extreme Rules Update
The update on the 5/22 Extreme Rules show from Newark, NJ, doesn’t have anything different from last week. It’s Reigns vs. Styles for the title in an extreme rules match, Jericho vs. Ambrose (no special stips announced but they used a straitjacket as a prop in an angle on Smackdown), Miz vs. Cesaro vs. Zayn vs. Owens for the IC title, Charlotte vs. Natalya in a submissions match with Ric Flair banned, New Day vs. Vaudevillains for the tag titles and Kalisto vs. Rusev for the U.S. title. They started an Emma & Dana Brooke vs. Lynch program and have R-Truth & Goldust vs. Fandango & Breeze set up, and Usos vs. Anderson & Gallows continues as active programs. Corbin may need something new as his TV match on Raw with Ziggler felt like a program ender.
Foley not Austin to Interview Shane
Regarding Shane McMahon, the original plan was for him to be involved only through WrestleMania, but the reaction he got and the way tickets moved once his match was announced led to the idea of keeping him as a weekly television character and this post-Mania feud with Stephanie.
The reason McMahon is being interviewed by Foley instead of Austin for the WWE podcast on 5/26 is because Austin is recovering from shoulder surgery and his arm will be in a sling for another month. He had extensive shoulder surgery, which included issues with his rotator cuff, a torn labrum, cleaning up the AC joint as well as re-attaching the right biceps. He was told he needed to rest the arm to be healed up in time for the new season of Broken Skull Challenge. He said that he can probably start doing some cardio work this week.
They created a ton of new buzzwords this week including constant mentions of The New Era, pushed heavily throughout Raw, as well as Reigns & The Usos as “The Family,” (a name taken from Dusty Rhodes & Blackjack Mulligan & Barry Windham in Florida in the 80s) and Styles & Anderson & Gallows as “The Club,” which is notable because now WWE, New Japan and ROH all have top factions called Clubs. It’s interesting because they had pushed Balor Club for some time, but they gave them a name without bringing Balor up.
New NXT Head Writer
Joe Belcastro is the new head writer for NXT working under Paul Levesque, and is also working with him on the Cruiserweight Classic and was also involved in the pilot of the NXT Kids show. He replaced Ryan Ward, who did a great job with the show. Ward is now exclusive to Raw and Smackdown.
Cruiserweight Classic Update
The Global cruiserweight series has been renamed the Cruiserweight Classic. There may be some changes in how the tournament is done. Originally they were going to tape the entire tournament over a week at Full Sail University. Now there is talk of doing matches both on the separate Global cruiserweight show that will air on the network, and maybe air some matches on NXT and tape them as part of the NXT tapings. Levesque and Belcastro are expected to be the people largely in charge of writing the cruiserweight show.
Wrestlers in the cruiserweight tournament were given dates of 6/20 to 6/25 for taping dates to at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. Most, if not the entire ten week season, is scheduled to be filmed. There is also an NXT TV taping on 6/24 when they are there, so if there’s a taping that they’ll all be at and some would be on, that would be the one.
Lesnar is currently scheduled to return to television in August, presumably to build for a major match at SummerSlam. Wyatt and Strowman were the names originally talked about for his next match, but that was before they decided to cool their jets on Strowman and he was pulled from winning the Andre Battle Royal and being pushed as a monster all summer.
Stephanie asked about Chyna
TMZ went up to Stephanie McMahon on 5/7 and asked her of Chyna would be put into the Hall of Fame and she said, “I’m sure that we will see Chyna in the Hall of Fame at some point in the future. I’m not sure exactly what year that will be, but there’s no denying her contributions to WWE.” She’s part of that era and was pushed as a major star. Some will get mad that WWE didn’t honor her when she was still alive, since it was clearly important to her, but I don’t think they could trust her and didn’t want all the WWE Hall of Famer gets arrested or whatever stuff that would embarrass them. Now it’s a different deal.
Bullet Club Grows on ROH Shows
War of the Worlds ended with a scene where Adam Cole joined The Bullet Club, and the next night in Dearborn, Adam Page also joined, when he looked to be making a save for the team of The Briscoes & Motor City Machine Guns & Colt Cabana against Bullet Club. Earlier in the show, he had come in to help the Briscoes & Machines Guns to even the odds. But when the match started, he wasn’t there, with the story that the Bullet Club had given him a personal superkick party backstage. Cabana, unannounced, then showed up to join the team. Later in the match, with the Bullet Club having an edge, Page showed up with a chair to look like he was going to help, but then laid out Mark Briscoe and joined.
Cole will be going to Japan as a Bullet Club member shortly.
It was New Japan’s decision have Adam Cole and Adam Page join The Bullet Club on shows they were involved with, and both will be working Japan as part of the club, both starting this summer.
The other members of The Bullet Club were the ones who made the suggestion for Cole. Primarily The Young Bucks asked and pushed for it. Matt Jackson was one of the key people as far as the design and layout of the angle at the end of the PPV. Cole makes sense since Bullet Club lost key people and with Kenny Omega moving to heavyweight, there was a spot open for a singles junior heavyweight.
Page was a surprise. ROH has tried to elevate him from being a nobody, but it’s not like he caught on in a big way with the fan base. It was almost like one of those NWO additions that felt like it weakened the concept. But ultimately, Page was a New Japan call and had already been booked as part of the group on an upcoming tour, and it was Gedo who wanted him there.
It’s notable Page was chosen and not Roderick Strong, given Strong has the long association with the Bucks as part of Mount Rushmore in PWG, and is the far better wrestler.
Fans Angry over ROH/ NJPW Booking
There have been questions raised about ROH having too much reliance on New Japan. There is the issue of so much of ROH booking being controlled by New Japan. While there is give-and-take, in the end, New Japan owns and controls Bullet Club, even though they are positioned as the leading faction in ROH.
New Japan’s booking philosophy, where wins and losses are important and top guys only lose when it’s necessary for storytelling means that certain guys aren’t going to lose singles matches on ROH shows.
The complaints about New Japan domination becomes an interesting point. The reality is that New Japan’s biggest stars like Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi come across far more like major league stars than anyone on the ROH roster. New Japan also protects its top stars from doing jobs, as they only do them when it’s necessary to get someone else over to their level or in G-1. The fans also take to them as bigger stars on the show.
Next Big NJPW show
The top three matches for the 6/19 show at Osaka Jo Hall are, as expected, Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP heavyweight title, Kenny Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi in a ladder match for the IC title and Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuyori Shibata for the Never title.
They are taping through June, and the idea is to finish 100 episodes, which is a number that foreign distributors like to sell. One of the reasons there is a hold up on house shows is the feeling from the people running the company that Lucha Underground has to run in a venue that looks like the Temple, which rules out major arenas, or at least have a traveling that would look similar. At least that was the idea a few months ago. Right now there are no plans for live shows. It’s not a lock they would be a success, as NXT is hot by today’s standards and hot means doing 1,000 to 2,000 people at big shows and 150 to 450 at small shows.
Add Jessie Godderz and Eli Drake to the list of people having signed new deals. The things to watch out for are if/when they get the key guys like Ethan Carter III, The Hardys, Drew Galloway and Bobby Lashley signed. As noted, TNA is trying to get everyone onto deals where they control all of their bookings, and given the Hardys ability to draw and make a lot of money on indies, particularly with merch money, it’s a tough deal, and Lashley has his MMA career and is currently doing pro wrestling all over the world and not sure what they would ask of him.
Evolve big Cross Promotion Angle
Evolve did an interesting angle that sort of involved WWE on the 5/8 show in Queens, NY. The angle came during the grudge match main event with Johnny Gargano, who is under a WWE contract, against Drew Galloway, under a TNA contract and the TNA champion. This stemmed from an angle over WrestleMania weekend where the two broke up their tag team when Galloway went heel essentially claiming he helped build Evolve and the indie scene only for Evolve to be getting into bed with WWE.
Gargano had Galloway in a crossface when Ethan Carter III ran in for the DQ. EC 3 then cut a long and very good anti-WWE promo basically saying that when Gargano made the remark about how Galloway blew it and that’s why he’s not in WWE, EC 3 said that Galloway became a world champion and he’s become a world champion, so it was the 203 (Stamford area code) and “King of Kings” (Paul Levesque), who blew it. WWE and HHH were never mentioned in the promo.
TNA was also never mentioned in the promo. Galloway is never mentioned as TNA champion in Evolve, but there is the implication as EC 3 mentioned both have been world champions. He then mockingly talked about how WWE (without mentioning it by name) is supposed to be the place to be and talked about the old version of NXT (the one on Syfy) where he talked about being in obstacle courses and wheelbarrow races. He also talked about being on NXT and doing six minute matches where you’re not allowed to do your cool moves. He also said how they weren’t former models, failed football players, bodybuilders or sons of wrestlers but they were two guys who loved wrestling.
This all led to a 6/10 show in Ybor City with Galloway & EC 3 vs. Gargano & TJP as well as Galloway vs. Page on 6/11 in Orlando on an Evolve show. The angle is not meant to be TNA vs. WWE cruiserweight tournament guys, although some will take it that way. Neither TNA nor WWE are ever mentioned. The idea that Galloway & EC 3 were guys screwed in their minds by the WWE and now they’re mad that Evolve is aligned with WWE. Obviously they are careful and everyone involved doesn’t want to do anything that would cause WWE to get mad or nix the angle.
From a TNA standpoint, Galloway and EC 3 have the contracts where they are in control of their indie bookings so they can do this without approval. TNA is trying to sign everyone to new deals where they’d book all their indie dates, which could be a problem down the line as TNA may ask for a lot more money since really Galloway likes doing Evolve because he likes the hardcore reaction and he has a lot of freedom in what he can do. Where EC 3 came in was that he suggested to Galloway that he’d like to do a show, it all worked out. EC 3 did make a reference to Bill DeMott (he was one of the trainees who had problems with DeMott) and talked about an “obese sociopath,” and then said, “Hey Bill, I won.