Week in Wrestling #42
Wrestling News From the week of
June 4th - June 10th, 2016
Vince Lets Lesnar fight at UFC 200
In a shocking twist of events, Brock Lesnar will face Mark Hunt at UFC 200 on 7/9 at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The question that hasn’t been answered is why WWE would risk the aura of the person who is either their biggest or second biggest star, and their second highest paid performer, in a realistic setting.
As for why WWE let him do it, and no matter what has been reported, that the hold-up to making this deal has been getting WWE’s approval, that’s a business deal between WWE and UFC. Evidently UFC wanted it bad enough and made a deal that WWE considered worth the risk. Perhaps McMahon approving was simply UFC making it the right business move for WWE, that whatever they are getting out of the deal makes up for whatever the risk is. It also opens the door for WWE to use UFC talent, or at least to negotiate to do so.
Lesnar described his getting approval to do the fight as having “a big guy conversation with the boss.” He said that the billionaire businessmen worked it out because he’s big business, and called himself the modern-day Bo Jackson. Lesnar claimed that he got the right to do the fight by asking Vince McMahon to arm wrestle and if he won, he’d get to fight in UFC, and then claimed he won.
As part of the deal, WWE will be helping promote the fight. They’ve already pushed it on social media and on their web site, and did a press release on the subject, calling the fight a one-off and Lesnar would return at SummerSlam. However, on Raw, even with all the mainstream hype including Lesnar all over ESPN that day and it being a major sports story, there was no mention of it at all on the show.
As far as questions as to whether an injury could affect SummerSlam, that all depends on the nature of the industry. What is unique, is that pro wrestling is still regulated in New York. In theory, a medical suspension in Nevada for MMA should carry over into pro wrestling. Now, medical suspensions are routinely overturned if a doctor clears you. WWE itself has very strict rules regarding concussions, so in theory, if that’s the issue and he’s not able to pass WWE testing, they wouldn’t let him wrestle and wouldn’t have to be told by the commission. But all of these are theoretical.
NXT Conference Call Notes
HHH did a conference call on 6/7 to promote the NXT Takeover show. He didn’t get into a lot of specifics, mostly talking big picture things. The indication was that NXT would change significantly with the brand split, but tempered that by saying that’s what he thought, but he doesn’t know that.
“I think it will. Do I know? No.” He noted they will need new talent for both rosters, so it makes sense, and that there are 70 to 80 guys in Florida training and this will be their chance to step up and give them more opportunities. He noted that NXT will be doing about 180 shows this year and with WWE doing more than 300, that means 500 total live events, noting that he doesn’t know of any touring company who does that. Sports leagues do, but regular touring companies don’t.
Even though HHH made a comment as though he thought it would happen, but didn’t know, among those involved with NXT we’re told “NXT is being raided for the draft big time” and that a lot more will be known shortly. It only makes sense given they need to add to the talent depth to have two strong rosters.
He praised a lot of the guys but mentioned Nakamura as a key player for the future of the company and you’ll be seeing great things from Dillinger, who shows perhaps he’s opened some eyes with his work.
He heavily pushed the cruiserweight classic saying it will be different in the way it’s presented. He pushed that it will be presented as if it’s a sports event, saying tournaments lend themselves to a sports presentation.
He noted that the announcing will also be something totally different from what they’ve done. He said it’ll be different from top to bottom in the way it’s presented. He didn’t mention any names, but said there would be a lot of surprises. I’ve got to think Kota Ibushi will be in it, given his being shown on the last Takeover and that he’s doing nothing in Japan. He also indicated some time back wanting to be in it.
Hunter said given who will be in the tournament and the way it’s presented, that this can be an “Oh, wow” moment in the history of the business. When asked about Bobby Roode and Eric Young, he wouldn’t get specific just saying that they’re working things out. Based on people close to them, the belief is they are in, as they aren’t looking for outside dates and again, WWE wants to announce it or surprise people with them.
He also indicated that by saying, “I’d say stay tuned.” Regarding Hideo Itami, it was noted that Itami recently on Twitter said, “See you soon.” He said that after surgery Itami had scar tissue issues and mobility issues and he wants to see him return healthy and not almost there, but there. The indication we’ve had is Itami will be returning very soon and they’re just trying to come up with ideas and a date when he’ll be fully ready, if he isn’t fully ready right now.
He was asked about the women’s tournament idea that we wrote about. He said it was something in discussion that got out, said it’s not confirmed, but they are talking about it. He said it would be a great way to look at and evaluate talent, and for talent, it would be a chance to be seen on a global basis. He called it an idea that’s on the table.
The company has been aggressively pursuing talent to start in NXT in September. They’ve also been telling people who they’ve signed not to let anyone know. There have been reports regarding Tommy End being one of those people. He’s scheduled to undergo medical testing and will be offered a contract if he passes.
Much has been said about the fact that Seth Rollins should have returned as baby face, and while I agree he could have been a great top face, I don't think its needed to rush to it right now. They can tale their time and build to it down the road. The special on the WWE Network fantastoc and you should see it.
Rollins was on Talk is Jericho and told the story of the curb stomp being banned one year ago. He said they were putting together film footage for The Today show when he was to appear after his surprise title win. Well, his title win and most of his wins came via the curb stomp. Vince McMahon decided that the curb stomp had both a violent name and connotation, and that the move was also very easy for kids to duplicate and imitate and he didn’t want that to be associated with his world champion.
Rollins noted that he argued to keep the move, saying that it is not a dangerous move. He said he suggested a superkick to the knee and a springboard knee to the side of the head, but he said he’s happy with the pedigree since only he and HHH are allowed to use it. He said he texted the idea to HHH, who didn’t approve of it, and then suggested it to Vince, who loved the idea.
Money in the Bank
For Money in the Bank on 6/19 in Las Vegas, besides Reigns vs. Rollins for the title, Cena vs. Styles and the Money in the Bank match, official is now a four-way for the tag titles with New Day vs. Gallows & Anderson vs. Vaudevillains vs. Enzo & Cass. Rusev vs. O’Neil looks to be the direction although Raw teased the possibility of adding Swagger and making it a three-way. Other programs are still Charlotte & Brooke vs. Natalya & Lynch and R-Truth & Goldust vs. Breeze & Fandango, Corbin vs. Ziggler and Sheamus vs. Crews.
The show may not sell out the new T Mobile Arena. Although the arena holds 20,000, it’s set up for a sellout to be 13,000 people and there were 11,000 tickets sold, so it depends on the walk-up. There is a house show the night before at the Staples Center in Los Angeles that is selling slower than usual, although they expect 8,500 or more, but that’s below what is usual for the Los Angeles market.
Raw on 6/6 did a 2.27 rating and 3,240,000 viewers (1.52 viewers per home). The rating was up from the record tying low of 2.19 the week before, but viewers were almost identical. Viewers per home on Raw the past two weeks have been up which means an increase in family viewing.
The competition was easier than in recent weeks, with no NBA or Dancing With the Stars. The Stanley Cup Playoffs game four on NBC did 4,234,000 viewers. I think it’s pretty clear that John Cena’s return last week saved them from a very bad number. The number would have been well up, except this week had an unusually big third hour drop of 587,000 viewers from hour two to three. Nothing was promoted with Cena or Roman Reigns going into the third hour, and it was built around Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens and New Day vs. A.J. Styles & Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, and it resulted in a big drop.
Also notable was that the show was stronger than last week with older viewers, but way down from even last week’s total with younger viewers.
The show did 3,371,000 viewers in the first hour; 3,490,000 viewers in the second hour (which included the Cena/Styles angle) and 2,903,000 viewers in the third hour.
WWE is interested in using Paige VanZant of UFC for SummerSlam. PW Insider first reported the news, and a WWE source confirmed it to us. Mike Roberts, who is VanZant’s manager, told Fox Sports that the WWE reached out to inquire about using VanZant “in some capacity.” VanZant came across tremendously well on Dancing With The Stars this past season, and every week she was being seen by audiences of 11 million or more. She placed second on the show.
Bray Wyatt Update
Wyatt didn’t start back this week, although he has been medically cleared and his return is imminent. The original plan for Wyatt was to work with Lesnar at SummerSlam, but that was changed and the Wyatt family were being turned faces to feud with the League of Nations when Wyatt got hurt. The decision was made to take all of them off television until he got back, but they've also disbanded the League of Nations, so it’s not clear what type of role they’ll have. I’d expect a run-in at some point in the next two weeks.
The lineup for Slammiversary this week is Drew Galloway vs. Bobby Lashley for the TNA title where you can only win via count out or submission, Jeff vs. Matt in a Full Metal Mayhem match, Abyss & Crazzy Steve (with Rosemary) vs. Robbie E & Jessie Godderz (babyfaces managed by Raquel), Trevor Lee defends the X title against Eddie Edwards, DJ Zema Ion and Andrew Everett, new King of the Mountain champion Eli Drake defends against Bram, Ethan Carter III vs. Mike Bennett, Gail Kim vs. Maria Kanellis and the new tag team of The Tribunal, which is Basille Baracca & Baron Dax, formerly Sylvester Lefort & Marcus Louis in NXT, now managed by Al Snow vs. Grado & Mahabali Shera.
Crazy Matt Hardy
The new Matt Hardy character is by far the hottest thing in the promotion right now. They did a segment on last week’s Impact show where Matt invited Jeff Hardy to his big house where he’s got a ring in the basement and Jeff wanted to fight him. Matt has totally changed his look with crazy wild hair and a promo delivery like an insane preacher. He calls Jeff “Brother Nero” (Nero is Jeff’s middle name). Reby Hardy came out and threw what appeared to be the baby at Jeff, who caught it. It was actually a doll. Matt attacked Jeff from behind and gave him a uranage off the apron, and onto a round table that broke.
The segment has been applauded for being so bad its great and the performance of Matt Hardy has been spectacular.
The situation with Matt Hardy, is that they were to talk again at TV this week about signing him to an exclusive contract. As noted before, TNA has been attempting to sign talent to contracts where TNA controlled all their bookings. The key people would be The Hardys, Bobby Lashley and Drew Galloway, none of which have signed yet. It will take sizeable money to get either Hardy to give up booking themselves on indies, and Galloway seems to be doing well, particularly in the U.K. market, in handling his own bookings. But it’s the weirdest thing because of the obvious cost cutting, such as only doing two days of Impact tapings (6/13 will be tapings for Xplosion and one not only) to save money now even though it’ll cost more in the long run for having to schedule another set of tapings in just a few weeks. Plus, they are still making aggressive offers for at least some talent whose contracts are coming due.
Moose and Strong Leaving ROH?
The talk continues involving both Roderick Strong and Moose. Moose wrote, “I will always have a special spot in my heart for ROH,” which read to me like he’s leaving. WWE or TNA would be the obvious choices and all kinds of things that happened at the last minute would indicate WWE as the favorites.
In theory, there was interest from both sides in him although even today based on the contract, which is still in existence, any direct negotiations would be considered tampering. As noted, that kind of stuff happens all the time in wrestling no matter the legalese. TNA is offering higher numbers for most at his level, if they want them, than WWE. WWE is obviously the goal of most wrestlers, and internally in WWE people were talking about him debuting there as part of the September incoming class. Moose himself said that he can’t say anything until his situation is final.
Moose was in Orlando for Takeover backstage and tweeted a photo going to the show with Apollo Crews. I do know that even as of last week, ROH thought they had a good chance of keeping him and his winning a multiple person match over the weekend would indicate that even as of the weekend they believed that. He’s still scheduled for the 6/24 PPV even after a Tweet where people look at it and are going to naturally speculate, and it’s not a secret his contract is up in a few weeks.
Both were put over this weekend, and Strong got a win over Jay Briscoe, who is one of the most protected singles wrestlers. Strong has been with the company for 13 years and is a fixture, called Mr. ROH the past year, and is one of the best workers on the planet. He’s not the type of guy who a few years ago that one would think WWE would take, but the landscape is different now. When someone like Austin Aries has been to me very successful in NXT, that should open eyes to Strong, although Aries is the better promo of the two. The key is that NXT is looking to replenish in the fall as some of its top people start being brought up.
Still, when it comes to what Strong is going to do next, it’s been kept pretty quiet. The fact that both were still being put over in key matches this weekend makes me think ROH thinks there’s a chance both are staying. With Moose, given his age and size, it does feel like it’s the time to go to NXT. With Strong, really, the best fit may be New Japan, but he’s at the point of his career where the money and the exposure have to be the top priorities.
Best of the Super Juniors
Will Ospreay became the first British wrestler to win the Best of the Super Juniors tournament by defeating Ryusuke Taguchi in the fails on 6/7 at Sun Plaza Hall in Sendai.
The match was far more basic wrestling, as Ospreay landed on his feet and in the impact, sold like his left knee went out. Ospreay legitimately worked the tournament and did all his high flying on a torn meniscus. Most of the rest of the match was Ospreay selling his knee, doing an amazing job, including clearly favoring it while doing his flying moves, including springboard moves using only the right leg.
The match was excellent. I gave it ****1/4. The key is he worked a match that showed his versatility in doing a match that would be described as outstanding from a storytelling perspective, while keeping in enough of the athletic elements to where it would fit into the parameters of what a Best of the Super Juniors final would be.
Ospreay cut a promo in English and called out Kushida. He said that Kushida was one of the best in the world but that Kazuchika Okada brought him into Chaos for one reason, and that was to win the IWGP jr. title from him. Kushida, first in English, agreed to the match. Ospreay then thanked everyone watching in the building as well as on New Japan World.
New Japan’s third biggest event of the year, the Dominion show on 6/19 at Osaka Jo Hall. The show, which starts at 3 a.m. Eastern time on a Sunday, or midnight Pacific on Saturday night, announced a match order of: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Jay White & Juice Robinson & David Finlay; Togi Makabe & Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan vs. Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Adam Page, Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Seiya Sanada & Bushi, Hirooki Goto vs. Evil, a four-way for the IWGP jr. tag titles with Ricochet & Matt Sydal defending against The Young Bucks, Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta and Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly, Kushida vs. Ospreay for the IWGP jr. title, Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa vs. Mark & Jay Briscoe for the IWGP tag team titles, Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuyori Shibata for the Never Open weight title, Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin in a ladder match for the IC title, and Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP heavyweight title.
Hiroshi Tanahashi announced at the 6/3 Korakuen Hall show that he would be unable to wrestle in Osaka due to his shoulder injury. As noted here before, Tanahashi is in far worse shape than was let on, and if you understand the mentality of a Japanese main eventer, let alone Tanahashi, the fact he’d miss this show tells you just how badly damaged he is. Elgin will replace him.
They will be taping near the end of season three this coming weekend. Two weeks later will be the final scheduled shows for a long time, probably until 2017 as things stand, with Ultimate Lucha being taped on the final weekend of the month.
Cody Rhodes Update
Cody Runnels is expected to be working a number of dates for Evolve going forward. Runnels is also confirmed for the PWG Battle of Los Angeles tournament. That was expected given Runnels put that on his bucket list. A number of his bucket list guys are PWG regulars and most would be expected in the tournament including Adam Cole, Dalton Castle, Chris Hero, Trevor Lee, and Roderick Strong, plus he has The Young Bucks on his list and they do all the PWG shows unless they are booked in Japan.
Brandi Runnels, formerly Eden Stiles in WWE, is not planning on doing a lot of wrestling. She was announced for an 8/26 Northeast Wrestling show at the local baseball stadium, Wahconah Park, in Pittsfield, MA. She’ll appear with husband Cody as he does another bucket list match against Mike Bennett. Brandi will be there to counteract Maria Kanellis. We’re told that this is her only booking right now. It’s possible she’ll do others but isn’t looking at it full-time, as she left for another occupation.
WWE to Purchase NWA Classics?
Bruce Tharpe, who has the rights to the NWA Classics subscription site with the Paul Boesch Houston tape library, was in Orlando meeting with Levesque. According to Tharpe, Levesque invited him to visit the Performance Center and they had a great meeting discussing the NWA and future plans and he said they treated him very well. He said the NWA On Demand service regarding the Boesch library “will most definitely continue.