Week in Wrestling #49
By: Larry Causion Jr. CausionCreations.com
Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2016
Credit: Dave Meltzer
Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2016
Credit: Dave Meltzer
Wrestling News From the week of
August 26th - September 8th, 2016
KO Mania on Top
Kevin Owens captured the WWE Universal title in a four-way elimination match on 8/29 in Houston as part of the company’s latest reset.
HHH returned for the first time since WrestleMania, single-handedly winning the match by giving both Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins pedigrees and basically handing the championship to Owens in the latest version of The Authority handing out the championship instead of talent winning it.
Owens, 32, has been wrestling 16 years, most of it on independent shows. He signed with WWE two years ago, and his career path and title win are the very definition of the changes in the industry.
Owens has had the talent for more than a decade, as well as the interview ability and the ability to get over. He had everything but he was hampered by a bad physique. That physique kept him out of WWE until 30 and under the old standards that WWE, and to an extent TNA, judged talent by, he’d have been a career indie star. But when those standards changed, the idea that he came in and was rushed through developmental, immediately put in a program where he beat John Cena, and now has what is being pushed as the company’s main title belt and is the real-life favorite of Paul Levesque, himself a bodybuilder, says everything about the modern business.
So a guy they had little or no interest in, and who had told people that he never thought he’d be in WWE, is now champion.
As you know, Finn Balor suffered a dislocated right shoulder (which he popped back in himself immediately and continued the match) and torn labrum from taking a power bomb into the barricade from Seth Rollins at Summerslam.
The injury required surgery, which he got on 8/23 in Birmingham, AL, and he’ll likely be out of action about six months. The statement from Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, who performed the surgery, stated, “Finn’s injury was pretty severe, more severe than normal, a really high energy injury. It did more damage than a standard shoulder dislocation where you simply tear the labrum. The prognosis is excellent, however. We were able to fix it all and put it back where it came from. I’m anticipating him getting back at full speed.”
He had the surgery on 8/23, which was scheduled for a one hour operation but ended up being a four hour operation because he had not only the labrum tear that they knew about, but also a torn right biceps, pectoral tendon cartilage damage and a fractured glenoid neck socket. It’s possible he can return for the Royal Rumble but that would be pushing it significantly given those injuries. March is a more likely target.
With Finn out, this led to a complete change of plans. Balor was to defend the title against Kevin Owens at the Clash of the Champions show on 9/25 in Indianapolis. Plans were made to have a finish that would lead to a Balor vs. Owens vs. Chris Jericho three-way on 10/30 in Boston. The idea was to keep both Reigns and Rollins away from the title picture for several months. The Balor injury and surgery required changing all plans.
HHH, Center of Attention
Many have been saying that HHH once again made himself the star, and not Kevin Owens, in the way Owens won the championship. Dave Meltzer wrote this, "Still, the big picture story of the title win was more about getting HHH over as the main star. In the four-way with Owens, Rollins, Reigns and Big Cass, it was all about big moves and saves while the four men emptied their arsenals. Then HHH arrived, hit two moves, and single-handedly beat the two most heavily pushed full-time guys of the last year."
Meltzer isn't wrong, but how the title was won by Owens, who is a heel, really shouldn't matter in a worked sport. He's a heel, who cheats. All is fair.
Del Rio Done with WWE
Alberto Del Rio, has officially cut ties with WWE less than two weeks after he was suspended for a drug test violation.
Rodriguez, 39, had signed a contract last year in mid-September, which he kept secret until making a surprise debut as John Cena’s mystery opponent, winning the U.S. title on 10/25 in Los Angeles. He had just gotten a release from Lucha Underground and his contract with AAA had expired, and while he held their Mega heavyweight title, he had not lost the title.
Rodriguez’s contract with for several years, but both sides had an option at the one-year mark, which would be in a few weeks, to opt out. Negotiations had been going on and WWE offered him a similar deal, but essentially a raise by making him a regular character on “Total Divas.” He had a huge money downside and claimed to have had a big year, but he’s had a track record of not being happy with the companies he’s worked for.
WWE was aware because of a letter his lawyer sent that he was opting out of the rest of his contract in late June, but negotiations had continued since then. When he was announced as having failed a drug test on 8/17, a suspension that went into effect the next day strangely enough, it didn’t quite shut the door on him staying with the company, but certainly greatly decreased the odds. On 8/29, WWE, which had been advertising him for Smackdown brand shows, including some main events after 9/19, pulled him from all bookings going forward.
His leaving is very different from the situation in 2014, where he was fired and it turned into a legal battle. WWE had attempted to enforce a deal where he couldn’t do any pro wrestling, MMA, kickboxing or boxing for one year as a non-compete. He fought it and there was fear it would turn into an ugly public war regarding racism and racist remarks that he and others had claimed had been said.
Originally, things were supposed to be huge. He was promised a main event push with Paul Heyman as his manager, with the idea of ending up as the big Hispanic superstar babyface the company has lacked since Rey Mysterio stopped working full-time. Early on, Vince McMahon treated him so well that the two would fly together and even sat next to each other on some trips on the company jet. But his pairing with Zeb Colter, a McMahon idea, was a mismatch for a number of reasons. When that pairing didn’t work, McMahon moved on to his next toy, so to speak. His next run as part of the League of Nations was no better and he was just a guy on the card, even though he had a top main eventer contract. He had been openly leading the crowd in “Si, Si, Si” cheers in working to make himself a babyface, but no angle to follow up was ever shot.
Obviously when he and Paige, his girlfriend, were split up and put on different brands, that was clearly meant as a message that they were pushing back after he his lawyers had written about opting out of the deal in September.
What’s notable is that with this departure, there was not even an attempt at any kind of a non-compete and at least right now the departure, while strained, is publicly amicable. He obviously did fail a drug test, and there were complaints of a double standard given Brock Lesnar got the pass, but there are always double standards in wrestling. Del Rio was always said to be a Vince McMahon guy, and his issues privately were with Paul Levesque, but at the end of the day, if McMahon wanted him, he’s have worked harder to smooth them over. He had a major contract, although he was in a situation where he could make money with or without WWE.
In agreeing that he wouldn’t return after his 30 day suspension expired, he is allowed at this moment to take any bookings outside the U.S. The agreement is that he can start taking bookings in the U.S., anywhere he wants, as of around 9/30 (that date could be off a day or two in either direction).
Regarding Paige, nothing is clear. She is under contract through 2019 and even though she was out due to injuries before her suspension, she is a regular on Total Divas and considered a key member of the cast. The ratings for the show, which were falling, picked up strong when he was added to the show and that isn’t lost on the company. Right now WWE hasn’t offered her a release so from a legal standpoint she could quit, but wouldn’t be allowed to go to Lucha Underground, which would probably love to get her, or perhaps anywhere she could get regular work. But at this point, nobody knows what is going to happen with her other than the two of them are very close.
This time, even though it was his decision to leave, he’s coming off a very lackluster run, and was leaving behind a far more lucrative contract, and with far less opportunities available for anywhere near the same money that he’s making now on the outside.
The first Smackdown only PPV, Backlash, on 9/11 from Richmond, VA, has Ambrose vs. Styles for the WWE title, Orton vs. Wyatt, Miz vs. Ziggler for the IC title, a six-way elimination match to crown a Smackdown women’s champion with Nikki Bella vs. Naomi vs. Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Carmella & Bliss, and the crowning of the first Smackdown tag team titles.
With Jordan & Gable doing an injury angle and being kept off the show, it’ll be Ryder & Rawley vs. Usos (who turned heel on the 9/6 Smackdown show) and the winning team then faces Slater & Rhyno for the titles. If Slater & Rhyno win, as they probably will, then Slater gets a Smackdown contract. Of course they can always do the Mania angle all over again, and have Slater lose but he gets the contract anyway.
WWE Clash of Champions
The Raw PPV will be 9/25 in Indianapolis, Clash of Champions. Right now the main event is Owens vs. Rollins for the WWE title, although that could be a three-way with Reigns. Reigns faces Owens on the 9/12 Raw in Baltimore and if he wins, he’s added to the match. If he loses, he’ll no doubt face the person who costs him the match by interference. They also announced Charlotte vs. Banks for the women’s title. The New Day once again defend against Anderson & Gallows, and this really should be the title change, since they’ve avoided doing that for months. Cesaro vs. Sheamus match seven will be on the show
Sasha Banks Returns
Sasha Banks made her return to Raw on Monday night and announced that she would face Charlotte for the Women's championship at Clash of Chmapions.
When Banks won the women’s title from Charlotte, it wasn’t to be a quickie title change. But she suffered a significant back injury. The plan was to drop the title at SummerSlam and then get it taken care of.
Her injury was not disclosed, but she did far more in her match than she probably should have given the injury. At one point something went wrong when she was supposed to be slammed on the top turnbuckle and mostly missed. She seemed shaken up and the match looked bad until she regained her bearings. The last few minutes were very good, with “this is awesome” chants and Charlotte regained the title.
Her diagnosis after the match was that her back wouldn’t need surgery, which was a major break. Bayley was brought to the Raw brand to feud with Charlotte and taking Banks’ spot as top babyface. Bayley was always supposed to be brought up right after Takeover, although had Nikki Bella not been cleared, it could have been for Smackdown.
Daniel Bryan vs The Miz
The most talked about aspect of Smackdown revolved around the segment on 8/23 on Talking Smack where Daniel Bryan walked out on The Miz when Miz cut his promo about how his style has enabled him to work a ten year career without a serious injury and said how Bryan had promised the people he’d be back after his last injury but didn’t come back.
Bryan had been knocking Miz constantly, saying that they never wanted to draft Miz to Smackdown, but only wanted the IC championship. He’d also called Miz a coward based on his character. So on the show, Miz showed up “unadvertised” and complained how the Smackdown TV show was all about the tag teams and the women, but he holds the IC title, a belt held by Hall of Famers like Shawn Michaels and Pat Patterson. He then complained that Bryan called him a coward and knocked his wrestling.
Bryan called Miz the epitome of what they used to call the soft WWE style. Miz brought up that he just beat Apollo Crews to retain the title. Bryan said he was proud of them and they had a good match, but he thought Crews looked better than Miz. Miz said that he won the match clean in the middle with no interference with the skull crushing finale. He then noted that the IC title was the last title Bryan had, and that Bryan had promised to elevate the title. He said when Bryan vacated it, he promised everyone he would come back and win it and he never came back, and said that Bryan was the coward. Bryan noted that he wasn’t allowed to come back.
Miz said if he likes wrestling so much, why doesn’t he just quit and go back to the bingo halls (in reality, Bryan actually did attempt to do that but WWE wouldn’t allow him to quit and work anywhere else and were freezing the time frame on his contract meaning as long as he was injured, the time frame was frozen and thus essentially until they decided to fire him, he couldn’t work anywhere else). Miz then talked about how he’s been wrestling for ten years and has never had a serious injury, and he’s there every day.
Bryan ended up walking off the set and Miz cut a promo that you could tell were his feelings on fans and wrestlers who knock him that he had bottled up for a long time. It was a hell of a promo and Renee Young treated it like it was an unplanned shoot and then rushed the show off the air about eight minutes early to make it look like people saw something they weren’t supposed to see and they had to get out of there. It was very well done and got people talking. It was clearly a work because the set-ups were obvious and so much of it was storyline such as talking about the win over Crews being real but there was reality mixed in to where people could take it more seriously than most promos.
Regarding the Bryan situation, nothing has changed. The Talking Smack thing was a way to get Miz over, but they are separating them and tried to blow it off on Smackdown because they realized they were getting people excited about a match that isn’t going to happen, and tried to transfer the heat to a Ziggler match.
The Forbes article that WWE was considering clearing him is inaccurate, and there’s been no talk in that direction. Bryan feels great and obviously loves wrestling and would like to wrestle if it is the smart thing for him to do. But nobody knows for sure what the smart thing is. He has had doctors clear him and other doctors not clear him, and the key is the WWE head of medical, Dr. Joseph Maroon, didn’t clear him. Under normal circumstances, if you saw how things were handled, you’d think it was a slow-building angle for a WrestleMania match with Miz. And it’s possible they could do something safe, along the lines of what Bret Hart did when he did his series of matches years ago, where he never sold anything and took no bumps, but that is not the plan right now. I can’t see Bryan wanting to do that and I also doubt WWE would okay it either, because fans would have an expectation of the match that they couldn’t deliver on.
Bryan being a television character does change the situation with his contract, in the sense it’s no longer frozen. He’s under contract until 2018.
Much of the way the subject was portrayed was legit, aside from Miz saying Bryan if he wanted to wrestle should just quit and go back to the indies. Obviously, he can’t do that unless WWE fires him, which they aren’t going to do.
On Talking Smack, they noted that Miz and Bryan were going to be kept apart. In pro wrestling under normal circumstances that means angle alert, but that isn’t the case here.
Bryan noted on the show that he feels great and he loves wrestling and wishes he could, but he and his wife were going to start a family. He had been looking at a life after wrestling, going to Arizona State for classes (which his new duties with WWE preclude doing that for schedule reasons) and moving to a new phase in life. He gave the impression on the show that he won’t be wrestling, noting that if he would, he’d be doing Tokyo Dome shows and not “bingo hall shows” and even brought up what A.J. Styles had been doing before signing this year with WWE.
Orton vs Brock Fallout
The story behind Lesnar vs. Orton was to create a scenario where nobody knew where reality ended, and preferably where people thought Lesnar was breaking the code or script.
Orton wasn’t told until he got to the arena, as he was planning for a usual main event. He was told when he got there that he was not going to have a normal match, and that the match wasn’t about going back-and-forth and keeping both men strong, but about making Lesnar stronger. The original idea was to be a total destruction for Lesnar, where Orton would be on the ground bleeding. It was supposed to look like Lesnar “went against the script” on him and hurt him. There would be confusion and the match would end, with Orton seemingly concussed and the referee stopping the match.
Vince McMahon treats Lesnar differently from everyone else. Perhaps it’s the idea that he’s legit and Vince deep down still thinks the way the old-school promoters do about shooters and legitimacy even while talking entertainment. And it is true the vibe when Lesnar comes out is very different from everyone else on the roster. Nobody else is allowed to bleed. Lesnar’s matches are supposed to have blood. Lesnar’s finishes are kept secret from all but a few, including, as with this match, the referee.
There will be people denying this most likely, because they have to, but Orton was told that Lesnar knew how to graze him with his elbow to open up a cut without hurting him and was told that was what would happen in the match. As it turned out, Lesnar elbowed the hell out of him, and threw some stiff punches, and Orton was bleeding like crazy from a cut that needed ten staples to close. Orton stayed down and was acting like he was knocked out, as he was supposed to. Medical personnel and the referee acted confused, because they were. I don’t know this as a fact, but I believe the referee knew going in that Lesnar was winning, but if he did, was given a different finish, because the fact Lesnar was going over was not kept secret.
So amidst all the confusion, they did a ref stoppage due to blood since Orton was acting like he couldn’t get up and there was no other way for the ref to end it.
Jericho and Brock Incident
While it is not Lesnar’s fault he’s the second highest paid wrestler in the company and only works a few dates, nor his fault that his deal precludes him from getting drug tested or even suspended when he fails a drug test in another sport which would be a violation for anyone else, but it does create resentment because of the double standard.
Jericho came to the Gorilla position, essentially to check on Orton and to find out what happened. He went to Michael Hayes, who was one of the few who did know the finish, and asked what the finish was supposed to be. Hayes wouldn’t answer him, and Jericho said, “That’s bullshit.” The reality is if Hayes had just answered the question, given it already happened, nothing would have transpired and management kayfabing talent on things like this leads to mistrust which ends up being a morale killer. There is so much natural distrust in wrestling to begin with, but stuff like this makes it impossible for even talent that wants to believe what they are told to fully trust it.
At the same time, Lesnar just came back from the ring and heard that, and apparently thought Jericho was talking about his match. There are multiple versions of what happened, although all are relatively consistent. Lesnar called Jericho a pussy, or worse, and told him to shut up and mind his own business. Jericho started yelling back. They got face to face and were yelling loudly at each other. Lesnar pushed Jericho with his fingers and Jericho either pushed Lesnar back or did what was described as the Ronda Rousey-Miesha Tate forehead press (from the weigh-in before their first fight). They ended up in a skirmish or sorts against the wall. Lesnar then told Jericho to either punch him or kiss him. He may have put his arms behind his back to dare Jericho to take the first shot (some have said this happened, others that it didn’t) with the idea Lesnar then couldn’t be sued if he hit back. Paul Levesque was in immediately and broke it up. They ended up still yelling at each other and were back against the wall when Vince McMahon came in and yelled at Jericho saying it was all a work and to be professional. Levesque then told McMahon that Lesnar started it and Jericho was only standing up for himself.
Jericho also got mad when he saw how badly Orton was bleeding and the cut, and Orton assured him that he knew everything was coming.
One person noted that Orton was told to do it, but wasn’t expecting it to be the way it was. He wasn’t going to complain publicly about it but also was never going to do that kind of a favor again and wasn’t particularly thrilled by it.
The Dudley's Leave WWE
The departure of the Dudleys was really strange on a lot of levels. First, they had been building an angle where the two were going to split up for weeks, even as late as the SummerSlam match the night before the departure. There was a verbal agreement in place for a new contract for both going back a few weeks to coincide with the expiration of their one-year deals this past week. They had been used as enhancement guys and are both in their mid-40s, so by that regard, with WWE always youth oriented you could see them being dropped. But they could still go and were two of the most experienced guys on a roster filled with a lot of younger talent and the depth of talent right now isn’t the best.
The farewell angle on Raw had every sign of the Mark Henry farewell to turn into an angle that heated them up, but instead they got to turn babyface, do their spots on The Shining Stars, and then got laid out at the end by the top heel team, Gallows & Anderson, to give Gallows & Anderson heat. The decision was made for whatever reason to nix the split angle and not execute the agreed upon deal. We’re not certain at this point how that went down.
It’s too bad because we saw in TNA that Bubba has the ability to be a true top heel, and there aren’t a lot of those around these days. Bubba was going to get a singles heel position, but how much he’d really be pushed isn’t known. Bubba is 45 and Devon is 44, making them two of the oldest guys on the active roster in a company that has a long list of people in NXT ready for the main roster. As a team they had been used just to put others over for months now.
Because of their tenure and name value, they would probably be able to work as much as they wanted and get a good price on the indie market and do really well for themselves. They had a long tenure in TNA and Bubba was a major star there, but that depends on TNA’s financial situation right now and it wouldn’t surprise me for TNA to spend big and try and get Del Rio
Rest in Peace Mr. Fuji
Harry Fujiwara, who was one of the more memorable characters of the WWF’s national expansion as the stereotypical Japanese manager Mr. Fuji, passed away on 8/28 at the age of 82.
Before becoming a manager, Fujiwara had been a name heel around the country, best known for his tag team with Professor Toru Tanaka (Charlie Kalani), during the 1970s and a one-year run as United States champion for Roy Shire. He was best known as a clean-up man and a ribber for WWF, had a reputation as tough street fighter in his youth, and was a fixture as a manager even though he didn’t do much in the role but constantly give an evil smile and make faces.
Fuji largely became a manager in 1985, throwing salt as his gimmick. He wore a black tuxedo and an Oddjob hat (Oddjob, a character in the James Bond movie “Goldfinger” played by Harold Sakata, himself a well-known pro wrestler, had become iconic for the look). While he managed a number of people, his best remembered early pairing would be with fellow Hawaiian Muraco, particularly during the Muraco vs. Ricky Steamboat program. During the TV show “Tuesday Night Titans,” a WWE talk show, Fuji & Muraco did a spoof on the popular television show “Miami Vice,” called “Fuji Vice.”
He later wore face paint as the manager of Demolition, who dominated the tag team division in 1987. They also did a double-turn, as Fuji turned on Demolition and went with the Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian) in a title match.
His highest profile success came in 1992, when Rodney Anoa’i was brought in as the giant “sumo” Yokozuna, modeled after a Japanese sumo star named Konishiki. Yokozuna was pushed as a monster at the level few in WWF history ever were. At first, the gimmick was that with his balance and size from sumo, where he was billed as a grand champion even though he never did the sport, that Yokozuna couldn’t be knocked off his feet. He had a long undefeated streak, won the 1993 Royal Rumble, and became WWF champion twice, once beating Bret Hart at WrestleMania, before losing minutes later to Hulk Hogan. Yokozuna had a second title run because Hogan gave notice after being asked to drop the title to Hart, and instead agreed to lose to Yokozuna. Hart regained the title from Yokozuna at the 1994 WrestleMania. Fuji’s run as a full-time manager ended in 1995, when Jim Cornette took over as the manager of Yokozuna.
Gran Metalik vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi vs. T.J. Perkins will be the semifinals of the WWE cruiserweight classic tournament on the final show of the series, a two-hour live special on 9/14 from Full Sail University in Orlando.
The special will have both the semifinals and the finals. From the start it looked like the tournament was building to a Sabre vs. Ibushi match, but that would depend on who does and doesn’t stay with the promotion as far as being regulars on Raw.
It’s pretty much known that Metalik has agreed and Perkins almost assuredly would. Sabre Jr. had at least originally turned it down for now and Ibushi has claimed that he’s willing to work in WWE part-time, but not full-time. Paul Levesque on a conference call said that they were not interested in guys part-time for the Raw cruiserweight division. It also it could that they told Ibushi to deny to throw people off.
Either Ibushi is telling the truth, or he’s getting some time before coming in. He was for an 11/6 show for the DDT promotion and WWE was wanting all the cruiserweights ready and signed to start on 9/19. Mascara Dorada (Metalik) is still taking dates in Mexico through October, so he doesn’t appear to at least be starting full-time until after that date. The only names confirmed are Cedric Alexander, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Metalik (at some point) and the expectations of people like T.J. Perkins, Rich Swann, Noam Dar and Brian Kendrick.
The quarterfinals on 8/26, which drew a sellout of 400 fans, featured a major miscue that will likely be edited off the show. Kendrick used a neckbreaker onto the metal turnbuckles and Ibushi, most likely not knowing that it’s a ten count in the U.S. (It’s a 20 count in Japan and teasing the 20 is a regular part of Japanese wrestling) didn’t get back in the ring and was counted out at 4:47 of a match that was scheduled to go about 10 minutes.
Since Ibushi was scheduled to win, but refs are told to call it as a shoot, William Regal came out and his explanation was that Kendrick used an illegal move to win and so the match would be restarted. The way the TV show was laid out, obviously they needed more time. The idea a match is restarted because a heel used an illegal move to win contradicts every rule of pro wrestling, but they had to do what they had to do.
Alexander, Kendrick, Tommaso Ciampa, TJ Perkins and Johnny Gargano as well as Metalik are all pretty much confirmed for the cruiserweight division and the company also announced Akira Tozawa and Jack Gallagher. It’s said that the tournament is there for Kota Ibushi to win if he signs a full-time deal. Zack Sabre Jr. also probably could have won it if he signs a full-time deal. Of the final four, Perkins and Metalik are signed, Sabre Jr. isn’t and doesn’t look to be, and Ibushi has said that he isn’t going full-time and they want the cruiserweight division to be full-time guys.
Cody Rhodes at this point can’t use the Rhodes name if he works on television. There are still talks going on, as WWE is also claiming ownership to merchandise rights of Dusty Rhodes, so he would have to work with WWE to do his planned book on his father. The deal is that Cody Rhodes only worked for WWE from the start of his career and never used the name anywhere first. There are arguments in the sense that the name Dusty Rhodes dates back 50 years, long before WWE and it was a family wrestling name that his brother also used for years before WWE. Rhodes is trying to fulfill his bucket list that he put on the Internet some time back and it looks like he’s going to hit every one. He said he is no looking to sign with anyone.
His major goal looks to be to try and make it as an actor on television. He did an episode of “Arrow” (he became friends with Stephen Amell when they did the WWE angle together) and is hoping that turns into a recurring role. Besides indies and a lot of U.K., he’s going to work multiple dates starting in December with ROH and noted in particular wanting to work with Adam Cole.
He’s also planning on working TNA with he and his wife Brandi doing a program with Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis after they worked together for Northeast Wrestling. He feels he’ll be able to work both TNA and ROH, even though both have television and to this point nobody has been able to work both. He’s got at least one set date in Japan to work with Katsuyori Shibata, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they also work a outside of New Japan as well.
He’s gotten offers to work with Damien Sandow since they had a WWE program, but felt he wants to right now concentrate on working with people he’s never worked with before. When Rhodes said that his father had wanted him to quit starting after WrestleMania 28, some were skeptical, but Dusty’s office assistant Rob Naylor confirmed that as being true. Naylor noted that once Cody stopped being pushed, that the worst day to be around Dusty was Tuesday if Dusty didn’t like how Cody was being used on Raw
Brock talks Conor
Lesnar got a lot of media attention when asked about Conor McGregor by Sam Roberts at the 2K Sports WWE video game party on 8/19. Lesnar said, “Man, I take shits bigger than that kid. Come on, I know you guys all playing f***ing video games and live in this false sense of reality, but I’m 290 pounds. This guy is 145 pounds is he’s lucky, if he gets up and eats his Wheaties.” “If Conor McGregor wants to say some shit about me and get his name out there, more than he already has, by dropping my name, I’ve got f***ing about ten words for him. Come here face-to-face Conor, alright, and say it to my face. Otherwise, leave me and the f***ing WWE out of it because I came to your arena and kicked ass. Now if you want, and you’re so f***ing tough, come to our arena and try to kick some ass.
Hogan loves Kevin Owens
Hulk Hogan was on Eric Bischoff’s podcast and, this was taped before Owens won the title, but Hogan, who is a big Owens fan, when asked who should be the guy to lead the company Hogan said he didn’t look at it as one guy leading the company, but said Owens had the most hope saying it didn’t matter how is body looked because the fans relate to him and he knows how to work.
Eva Marie Suspension
Eva Marie (Natalie Nelson Coyle, 31) was suspended for 30 days for a Wellness test violation. The suspension was announced as starting on 8/18. Her husband, Jonathan Coyle, who appeared frequently on “Total Divas,” was furious at the suspension and claimed, “When the public finds out why my wife was unjustly suspended, they will be absolutely outraged. Official statement and facts coming soon.” She then claimed she tested positive for Adderall, which she claimed she had a prescription for. However, the WWE doctors evidently never approved the prescription.
Eva Marie told TMZ, “I am disappointed that this suspension has occurred, yet understand and respect that WWE upholds their Wellness Policy to the letter and won’t compromise on its integrity. I violated policy by not turning in portions of required paperwork in the time frame WWE Medical deemed timely. I look forward to my return.” That sounds remarkably like what happened with Adam Rose. It’s good she worded her statement like that, because if her husband took the Rose game plan, she may have had far worse consequences
NXT Takeover Toronto
The next Takeover special was announced for 11/19 in Toronto, the night before Survivor Series, to make it a destination weekend. They are also doing Raw on 11/21 in Toronto, which is a change in plans since originally that show was slated for Montreal. This was a late change since they had three NXT shows booked in September in Ontario and canceled them to make this the first NXT show ever in the country.
My gut says it’ll sellout instantly and actually this a double good idea because the idea is to have Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series as the big four PPVs that will have both brands. The other three are far established as big three but Survivor Series hasn’t been a big four show in more than a decade. But if you hook it up as a destination weekend, the weekend makes it a big four show. The logical thing to me is to get the title on Bobby Roode there and make him appear to be the biggest superstar in the world and then move Nakamura to the main roster
Adam Cole New ROH Champ
Adam Cole’s long talked about reign as ROH champion, delayed due to injuries and circumstances, finally happened as he defeated Jay Lethal in the main event of the 8/19 Death Before Dishonor PPV in Las Vegas.
Cole got the pin in 23:58 with an Ushigoroshi, a shining wizard and a second Ushigoroshi to end a title reign that dates back to June 19, 2015, when Lethal beat Jay Briscoe to win the title in New York. Cole will be headed to Japan next month as champion.
The plan right now is for Cole to defend against Michael Elgin, who was booked to be a monster in a three-way tag team title match, in the main event of All-Star Extravaganza on 9/30 in Lowell, MA at the Memorial Auditorium. From there he will likely defend against Kyle O’Reilly in the main event of the 12/2 Final Battle PPV from the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. That show is expected to sellout the 1,800 seat arena.
Lethal ended up being the fourth longest reigning champion in company history, trailing Samoa Joe (2003-04), Bryan Danielson (2005-06) and Nigel McGuinness (2007-09). The story of the match was that Lethal was now a babyface after Cole had shaved his head in a great television angle. But the reality is the full house of 800 fans at Sam’s Town in Las Vegas seemed to be there as much to see the New Japan talent live, and weren’t heavily into heel/face dynamic.
Corgan the Man in TNA
Billy Corgan is definitely the man in charge and Dixie Carter’s role is basically face-saving at this point. She didn’t even stay for all the TV tapings last week and is largely gone. At this point all Dixie Carter cares about is leaving without egg on her face, but the reality is that’s impossible because of how far the company has fallen in the past three years. Corgan’s problems are still the same as have existed, which is how you can run a company when the revenue coming can’t cover things like payroll and television production, and you don’t have the ability to make a profit doing live events and the PPV business is largely dead.
Even though Billy Corgan is now running the company, when it comes to the creative, it’s still largely being run by John Gaburick with David Lagana and Matt Conway as the writers. Matt Hardy is obviously in charge of all of his and his brother’s stuff.
Scott Hall off the Wagon
Scott Hall was back in the news after being kicked out of a TGIF’s at the Atlanta airport on 9/2 for being drunk and disrespectful to the bartender. According to a TMZ report, Hall was drinking Coors Light and Tequila shots, and then tried to hit on the bartender. Evidently that didn’t go well, because the next thing you know, he’s calling her a bitch. The girl’s father was right there to hear it. Hall then said he didn’t believe the guy was really her dad. A manager came in and asked Hall to leave. He refused and the police were called. They calmed down the situation. Hall didn’t want to leave but they talked him into leaving. On Twitter, Hall wrote a few days later, “Thank you to everyone for your support and concern regarding my recent relapse. I’m back on track and doing well.
The TNA product has been good of late. The Matt Hardy stuff is different, certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but nobody else in the business is doing something like that and it is something that would be hugely over if it was on a different television platform. This week’s show is called Delete or Decay, which includes Matt Hardy forcing Brother Nero (Jeff) to box against a kangaroo which he claimed was possessed by the ghost of Joe Frazier. The idea was that Matt is now training Jeff to be a fighter instead of a spot monkey.
Lashley has been great as a dominant world champion and Ethan Carter III is a tremendous interview as the top babyface. Drew Galloway is always good at whatever role he’s playing. They are pushing Moose hard to be a new star and a force with the idea Lashley is teasing Mike Bennett with Moose no longer being his friend.
The X division has a good deal of talent but with short television matches, often multi-person, it’s becomes just a car crash festival and it’s not making stars.
The three day PWG Battle of Los Angeles tournament from 9/2 to 9/4 at the American Legion Post in Reseda, CA, had the most talent-filled lineup of any tournament in the U.S. this year, and given the location and standards, nobody could afford to not have their working boots on because they’d stand out like a sore thumb.
The shows included three of the best tag team matches of the year, and easily the best wrestling held in this country. The second night, just like last year, was easily the best show I’ve seen outside of Japan as far as match quality goes, blowing away any NXT Takeover event or ROH show even. You don’t get the production quality of a major promotion, just a crowd of about 400 fans packed in that many wrestlers love to perform before. The reasons vary. For John Hennigan, better known as John Morrison and Johnny Nitro, he isn’t doing many dates outside of Lucha Underground, but asked to be in the tournament. Ditto Cody Rhodes. It’s not even unusual for wrestlers to work for well under their usual price and then work three times as hard. At one point, ROH banned talent from going to PWG, for a few reasons one of which was the idea that their talent was working harder there and for less money, and the injury risk involved, particularly when Adam Cole got hurt.
For others, it’s the place to make a name. Matt Riddle, who debuted on the show, called it the biggest match of his career when he faced Kyle O’Reilly. Jeff Cobb started getting booked all over the world after his debut match against Chris Hero. After a short sequence against each other tore the house down, expect to see Riddle vs. Cobb as one of the big indie feuds of 2017 and those two as breakthrough wrestlers going forward. Scurll got an ROH deal. Countless wrestlers, including Kevin Owens, the current Universal champion, Sami Zayn, Tommy End, Johnny Gargano and others have gotten WWE deals because WWE usually scouts the show, including William Regal giving advice backstage.
In this tournament, U.K. stars like Pete Dunne and Mark Haskins came to try and follow in those footsteps. Rhodes, on the other hand, came for other reasons, perhaps his bucket list or personal satisfaction, but also came to prove he can hang with the best talent in the world and was better than his plight had been in WWE.
For now, PWG is the place where talent from just about everywhere except WWE and CMLL can appear. It’s also the exclusive fans club, as those tickets are the most expensive of the indie promotions, ($73 and $103), and almost nobody, not a television acting star, or a UFC star gets comped. In fact, there was a television star who recently was turned away at the door.
The magic, from the building to the quality of the talent has led the people in charge to see the success of the three minute sellouts and make no changes. They won’t move to a larger building, feeling the building is the very fabric of the promotion. And right now, it is. But a new building could quickly become the same given the level of talent and quality of shows.
Most of the guys in the tournament are already under contact elsewhere, but contracts do end at some point. The only free agents were Sami Callihan, who WWE already released, Cody Rhodes (who just quit), Chris Hero, who was also released (Hero right now is so great in the ring and could be a great teacher as well that I’m surprised they wouldn’t use him at least in NXT as a player/coach type role), Zack Sabre Jr. (who the company has already used in the Cruiserweight Classic but reportedly turned down an offer), Mark Haskins and Pete Dunne.
Matt Riddle is under contract to Evolve, but with the WWE/Evolve relationship, if WWE does want him, that’s not an issue. Everyone knows about Riddle and his potential. The only thing we’ve been told that keeps him from being signed is his positive marijuana tests when in UFC and other comments he’s made regarding that subject as he’s very publicly pro-marijuana usage. He did an interview with SoCal Uncensored and when asked if wrestling promoters have been accepting of his views, he said, “Not the WWE.
EC3 Signs new deal with TNA
Ethan Carter III appears to have signed a new deal. They had wanted to get him on a deal where the office books his indie dates. He’s told indie promoters that he’s worked for that they have to go through the office going forward so that would seem to confirm it.
Rey signs new deal
Rey Mysterio Jr. has signed a one-year non-wrestling contract with the El Rey Network to be part of non-wrestling programming. The deal is that Mysterio will develop, produce and consult on various scripted and non-scripted creative projects for the network. Lucha Underground and Mysterio also have ongoing negotiations although he is already under contract for the next season
June and July Wrestling Business Numbers
In June, WWE averaged 4,231 fans per house show and 8,250 per Raw. That was a big increase of 23.8 percent over the 3,417 per house show last year. But it was a decrease of 6.9 percent from the 8,860 per Raw show last June.
Because of the suspension of Roman Reigns, there’s really no comparison to be made as far as the different tours go, since so many of the tours had different headliners than were advertised in June.
As far as ratings go, Raw averaged a 2.24 rating and 3.19 million viewers in June. Last June’s numbers were a 2.67 average rating and 3.75 million viewers, or a decline of 16.1 percent in ratings and 14.9 percent in viewers.
For Smackdown, the June average was a 1.55 rating and 2.07 million viewers on USA, down from a 1.77 rating and 2.49 million viewers on the much lower rated Syfy Channel. So that decline is 12.4 percent in ratings and 16.9 percent in viewers.
Because of cord cutting, there should be a 3.7 percent decline in viewers, so anything past that point would factor that out as a reason. In reality, with Raw, the decline in ratings (which as a percentage takes the cord cutting out of the picture) on Raw being greater than the viewer decline is because the average home that is still watching has a higher average amount of viewers per home. For Smackdown, that wasn’t the case.
TNA Impact in June averaged 302,000 viewer on Pop TV. But there was the misfire week when the show didn’t air in the regular slot due to the issues on Pop TV’s side. So throwing that week out, the average was 325,000. Last year on Destination America, the average was 365,000 viewers for the first run show and 104,000 for the replay. Keep in mind that Pop is in 76,817,000 homes while Destination America was in closer to 57 million homes last year. So just for straight viewers, you’re down 11.0 percent for the live showing and 30.7 percent if you include both showings. And throwing out the bad week because the real decline is greater. While we don’t have ratings points, 325,000 viewers in gives you an 0.42 (which isn’t the ratings number, which would be closer to 0.3) while 365,000 viewers last year 0.64, so first run vs. first run, ratings are down 34.4 percent from a year ago.
For July, the WWE averaged 4,163 fans per domestic house show, up very slightly from 4,133 last year, an increase of 0.7 percent. The difference was the fact they ran a Madison Square Garden show in July, as taking that out, it would have actually been a decline. Raw tapings averaged 9,425 in July, down 8.3 percent from 10,275 last July. A lot of that is also venue size and it’s not a difference that is all that significant.
With Ambrose as the headliner, the shows averaged 3,990. The two shows with John Cena as the top draw (one of which was MSG) averaged 7,250. That’s a little misleading because MSG was down from usual. Show’s with Big Show and Bray Wyatt on top averaged 2,400. Show’s with Rusev as the top draw averaged 1,850. And shows with Reigns on top averaged 4,230.
Throwing out the Raw on July 4th this year, which skews the average in a negative and misleading manner, Raw averaged a 2.28 rating and 3.21 million viewers for the month. Last year’s numbers were a 2.66 rating and 3.67 million viewers, or a decline of 14.3 percent in ratings and 12.5 percent in viewers, once again because of a significant increase in viewers per home.
For Smackdown, again, throwing out the draft show, but because of the split brands, going live and move to Tuesday, numbers end up almost identical and will be up since two shows of the month were pre-draft.
The pre-draft shows averaged a 1.59 rating and 2.16 million viewers. The lone post-draft show did a 1.92 rating and 2.74 million viewers. The average for the month, throwing out the draft show itself, was a 1.70 rating and 2.35 million viewers. Last year’s average was a 1.70 rating and 2.31 million viewers, so again viewers per home were up significantly. Going forward, the Smackdown numbers will be up from last year.
Impact averaged 370,000 viewers in July, a 13.8 percent increase from June, which is largely due to the hype stemming from the Final Deletion. It’s also 17.5 percent up from the 315,000 on Destination America last year for the first run show, although if you add the second run of 72,000 you get 387,000 viewers. For a fair comparison, 370,000 out of 76,817,000 homes is 0.48, while 315,000 out of 57 million is 0.55, so it’s still down in ratings.