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PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 August 10, 2015
“Just when they think they’ve got all the answers, I change the questions.”
Rowdy Roddy Piper, whose incredible work as a heel outright changed the complexion and history of pro wrestling, passed away at his Hollywood home, in his sleep on 7/30, at the age of 61.
“My name is Roderick George Piper. Roderick, that’s Gaelic for conqueror. George, that’s Gaelic for George.”
Piper was found dead the next morning. According to the Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office, Piper, born Roderick George Toombs on April 17, 1954, suffered a blood clot in one of his lungs, which, combined with suffering from hypertension, caused a fatal heart attack. There was no evidence that anything past that caused the death and there is set to be no further examinations.
When Vince McMahon started his national expansion by doing a television taping in St. Louis, MO, on December 27, 1983, Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, David Shults (Hogan’s rival at the time in AWA) and announcer Gene Okerlund (the AWA’s top announcer) were expected to be the key new players.
Unlike many who left their companies like the AWA with no notice and just never came back to work, Piper went to Jim Crockett and told him the offer he was getting. Even though Piper was Crockett’s second most popular wrestler at the time, behind only world champion Ric Flair, Crockett, not fully realizing what McMahon was planning, encouraged him to take the offer, and Piper even came back after working WWF tapings to finish up his last week of dates with Crockett, including coming back for a series of dog collar matches with Greg Valentine. Out of respect for Piper, Crockett didn’t even have him lose in all the key cities on the way out, as he won his last match in almost every key market.
In March, he actually worked four dates for Owen that he had promised before signing with McMahon, teaming with former heel rival turned face Buddy Rose. At another point, he raised the ire of McMahon, as he agreed to work Don Owen’s biggest event of the decade, the May 21, 1985, Owen Family 60th anniversary show in Portland, and even though he had just done the first WrestleMania and was the biggest heel wrestling had seen in the modern era on a national basis, the fans in Oregon considered him a returning hero, showing his local visibility that had for the most part ended in 1980, five years later, meant more in that area than all the national television of the prior several years.
When McMahon expanded nationally, Piper went so far as to tell McMahon he would not work any dates for WWF in either the Carolinas or Oregon because of how well Crockett and Don Owen treated him. And for years, he kept to his word. Not one other wrestler during that expansion period would do that past aside from Giant Baba loyalists like the Funks who at the time would not go to Japan against Baba when WWF still worked with New Japan.
Weeks before his WWF debut, Piper was in perhaps the second biggest match, underneath the Flair vs. Race match, at the first Starrcade, where he beat Greg Valentine in a bloody dog collar match after an angle where Valentine destroyed Piper’s ear and in storyline, took away much of the hearing in one of his ears. In actuality, the injury was to set up Piper going on a tour of All Japan Pro Wrestling, but Piper would always insist the injury was real and that he had lost much of his hearing in one ear. When Piper had to do a Piper’s Pit with Valentine, McMahon was all about pretending that everything that happened elsewhere had never taken place, but Piper subtly brought up that even though both were heels, that the two had their problems in the past.
Piper was actually brought in to be a wrestler/manager. At the time Piper was considered the best talker in the business, but there were concerns over his size. In 1979, after he was already established as a money drawing heel for years in Los Angeles. By that time had moved on to Oregon, he was brought
to Madison Square Garden for a few prelim matches, given the Wednesday night matches from the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles aired in New York on a two-week tape delay, a large part of the fan base was already familiar with him. There was talk of bringing him in as a heel contender for champion Bob Backlund, but after seeing him, Vince McMahon Sr., felt he was too skinny and it was felt he largely flopped.
Piper claimed that Freddie Blassie stuffed Piper’s bagpipes with toilet paper, and his gimmick that made him unique from early in his career was playing the bagpipes before his matches. He started to play and nothing came out, and he in one second, turned into opening match comedy. Whether true or not, after he’d gotten a couple of prelim wins at the Garden over Frankie Williams (who he later had a memorable Piper’s Pit with more than five years later) and Steve King, in his third MSG bout, he faced prelim veteran Johnny Rodz on the July 30, 1979 show.
Rodz pretty much ate him up, making him look weak, before putting him over in 2:49, but it was in the most unimpressive fashion. Piper was scheduled to start at television the next day to build for a run with Backlund. But he looked so unimpressive against Rodz that the plans were dropped.
Over the next five years, Piper’s star grew greatly. He became the most popular babyface the Pacific Northwest had seen since the heyday of Lonnie Mayne. He went to the Carolinas, the most talent-rich promotion in the U.S., where his talking and wrestling was strong enough that he became a super heel, and then the company’s No. 2 babyface.
He was introduced in Georgia as a television announcer, the sidekick of Gordon Solie. While he was not the first heel color commentator, he was the first to play the role on a national basis. He was an enormous success in the role. In 1981, Georgia Championship Wrestling, airing from 6:05 to 8:05 p.m. on Saturday nights, averaged a 6.4 rating and was the second highest rated cable television show in the country. The highest, believe it or not, was the Sunday one hour highlights package, which averaged a 6.6.
At a time when pro wrestling was filled with great talkers, Piper was largely considered the best. But the WWF clearly had its qualms, introducing him more as a manager who sometimes wrestled, as opposed to a main event wrestler. It really wasn’t until three months later, a March 25, 1984, Madison Square Garden show where Piper & Shults wrestled Andre the Giant & Jimmy Snuka. The show drew a double sellout, both Madison Square Garden and the adjacent Felt Forum, with roughly 24,000 fans (billed as 26,092), for a rare WWF show without a WWF championship match on top. While Backlund vs. Greg Valentine was the main event and the Piper tag was second from the top, the super heat between Piper, Snuka and Andre blew away the reaction of anything else on the show.
The key was that Andre (who liked Piper from years earlier) sold big for Piper’s boxing-style offense. Andre usually would only sell like that for the biggest heels. But the people bought it, and the WWF largely pulled him from the manager role and went with him as their top heel. They gave him “Piper’s Pit,” a talk show segment built into the television show, where Piper had free reign to get over as a heel, and where many of the top angles were shot. It was a remake of “Rogers Corner,” with Buddy Rogers, except Rogers played the role of sage veteran babyface while Piper as the ultimate smart-ass punk heel.
“Have a coconut.”
He exploded with one of the most remembered angles of all-time, the Piper’s Pit segment with Snuka where he hit Snuka in the head with a coconut and Snuka fell through the Piper’s Pit backdrop. Piper vs. Snuka headlined everywhere, and drew big in most places, equal to Hogan in the biggest markets. Piper was so hot that on November 26, 1984, he headlined Madison Square Garden against the Tonga Kid, a replacement for the “injured” (actually in rehab) Snuka and sold Madison Square Garden out without much of an undercard.
For the most part, Piper was kept apart from Hogan during that first year, even though Hogan was the champion and top face, and Piper was clearly the top heel. They worked a few house shows, in San Diego, Buffalo, Boston, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, all with disqualification or count out finishes. There were two reasons. One was that with WWF running two shows per night, it made sense to have Hogan and Piper on different shows as much as possible. The other is that Piper outright refused to lose clean to Hogan. The way Vince McMahon liked to book, Hogan did programs, like Bob Backlund, Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales before him, where there may be DQ finishes and such in early matches, but in the end, there was a blow-off match that the champion won clean.
Piper said what everyone else knew but wouldn’t say, which was the WWF track record was that heels would get hot, have a big money drawing run, lose to the champion, and then mostly work midcards. He felt that as long as he never lost to the champion, he would have enough steam to continue to be a main eventer.
In fact, during his first run in WWF, through his first announced retirement angle in 1987, Piper only lost one match via pinfall, a Fijian death match to Snuka on July 20, 1984, at Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis in their third singles meeting in the city.
So while the guys like Valentine, Iron Sheik and David Shults continued to have jobs, they weren’t headlining so much after their runs with Hogan. Randy Savage, years later was an exception, as was Piper.
So it was one of the biggest matches in the history of Madison Square Garden, “The War to Settle the Score,” on February 18, 1985. Even though the main event would air live on MTV, both Madison Square Garden and the Felt Forum were sold out with 24,000 fans for Hogan vs. Piper, in what was actually meant as an angle to set up what would be the biggest until that time, and with the benefit of historical perspective, the most important pro wrestling event in history.
The show drew a 9.1 rating, to this day, still the highest rated pro wrestling show in the history of cable television. Hogan beat Piper via DQ, but the result was less important than Piper attacking just-turned-babyface Lou Albano, and threatened rock star Cyndi Lauper, until Mr. T made the save, to set up the first WrestleMania on March 31, 1985.
The main event was Hogan & Mr. T vs. Piper & Paul Orndorff, with Snuka and Bob Orton Jr. (who played Piper’s bodyguard “Ace,” with the perpetually broken arm and cast he would use as a weapon) in the respective corners. Muhammad Ali was to be the referee, although the day of the show, when it became clear Ali was so far gone that he could not handle the job, it was switched and Pat Patterson took over. That had a secondary purpose, as Patterson, the booker, being in the ring, could help guide Mr. T, who was totally inexperienced and just told to do what he knew from his days as a champion high school wrestler. All Ali did, was when given the cue, he counted as Mr. T pinned Orndorff.
Mr. T got cold feet the day of the show and nearly no-showed. A tough street fighter and bouncer, Mr. T, unlike most Americans who saw his scowl and delivery, and bought that the B.A. Barackus character on “the A Team” was real and thought he was one of the toughest bouncers and street fighters, he knew his limitations. One of the reasons for the success of WrestleMania is people didn’t believe the wrestlers were real, but they believed Mr. T was very real, and that the fake big mouth Piper’s was going to pay for his taunting him.
Mr. T felt if he got beat up, his character and image would be dead. A few months earlier, one of the WWF wrestlers, David Shults, evidently mad because Mr. T had come into his profession, went after him at a show in Los Angeles. Shults was a lot bigger, and had his own street fighter rep in pro wrestling as being a tough guy. He never got to T, and ended up being fired by WWF, but T didn’t know if somebody would try and make a real world reputation off him.
Piper was supposed to get pinned by Mr. T at the first WrestleMania, since he was the guy who the heat was with. He refused, and Orndorff instead did the job.
It was that reputation that was the reason the second WrestleMania match, a boxing match with Piper vs. Mr. T, was such a disaster, although the disaster led to Piper’s babyface turn.
Because of the boxing gloves, even a worked boxing match requires a degree of boxing training just for the conditioning of the arms and shoulders and legs to move and believably and be able to hold up gloves past a short period of time. Piper had a boxing background and went to train as a boxer for the fight. Mr. T was supposed to train with Joe Frazier, but would never show up. He had told people he couldn’t afford to, because if he sparred and some real boxer put him down, the boxer would gain a worldwide reputation, and his reputation would be shot. So he showed up out of shape for such a match. He and Piper did a few practice runs of the match and they were disastrous. From those who saw them, the finished product of that match was actually better than expected, even though it was still pretty bad.
While Hogan and Piper as the two big stars were generally drawing well, Vince McMahon’s business tactics of spending big money to buy television time in the different markets, the huge cost of running so many shows nationally and the problems they were having in drawing in some markets left the company in financial straits. They had fallen way behind on some of their television and production bills. But there was an influx of cash from New Japan Pro Wrestling to book talent, and a $1 million check from Jim Crockett Promotions to buy the TBS contract, so at the time they were very much solvent.
“You’ll never see me shave my hair into a Mohawk and paint myself black.”
But WrestleMania itself was a gigantic gamble. It was an expensive undertaking. PPV was in its infancy. It did exist and there were a few companies that carried the first WrestleMania. But for the most part, it would be a closed-circuit show. The WWF rented out 200 arenas, many of them major, throughout North America. Madison Square Garden sold out instantly for the live event. In WWF’s strongest markets, ticket sales were good. But that wasn’t the case in most of the country. A week out, based on advances, it looked like it would be a major financial bloodletting. McMahon’s company, not cash rich at the time, could not afford a failure. Whether they truly would have gone out of business had the show flopped, or been able to find partners to refinance the company is something we’ll never know. McMahon has stated that had the show failed, the company would have had to declare bankruptcy. The belief at the time in wrestling was this was a do-or-die.
They canceled 67 showings where advance ticket sales were poor. But over the last week, WrestleMania exploded, largely due to doors that were opened by the star power of Mr. T. The show drew 400,000 fans in 133 closed-circuit locations, and ended up as a major success. McMahon had taken in more money in one day that most of his competitors did in a year. While there were markets it did not do well in, the dye was cast and the existing promoters no longer had the type of economic resources to compete. As Ernie Ladd said days after the show, “The war is over, it’s just that they don’t know it yet.”
If any of the three elements, the wrestling super babyface in Hogan, the mainstream superstar T, and the super antagonist to both, Piper, were not part of the equation, the show would probably not have succeeded. Orndorff could have been replaced by Orton, or John Studd, or almost anyone. Piper, with his wit and race-baiting Mr. T, could not have been replaced. There were only a couple of guys in the business who could have been put in that position and pulled it off.
Years later, Piper always felt he never got his just due when people looked back at the success of that show, and really, the success of the expansion of WWF. The success was credited to Hogan, although really Mr. T was the most important component. But Mr. T just doing pro wrestling would not have meant nearly as much without somebody to beat up, and Piper was not only the right guy, but had the right build up and got some mainstream name recognition from Piper’s Pit being the forum of the Cyndi Lauper/Lou Albano angle that this all kicked off from.
“You do not throw rocks at a man who has a machine gun.”
After Piper’s death, it was written that Piper was one of the greatest heels in pro wrestling history. And while he was, the irony of that is that with the exception of a forgettable run long after his prime, he had not been a heel since the fans turned him babyface in early 1986. It was at WrestleMania II, where he faced Mr. T in a boxing match. Mr. T had started getting passe, and like with most great heels, fans started figuring out how good they were and started to appreciate them. Piper was cheered in the match, and came out of it as a face. Immediately, he was the No. 2 face behind Hogan until “retiring” to start a movie career.
He made repeated comebacks, sometimes treated as a legend, and sometimes not. In the late 90s, during the Monday Night Wars, Piper had surprised WWF by taking a bigger money WCW offer. He started out on top, reviving his feud with Hogan. This time both men were older, and had a different perspective. Hogan put Piper over clean the first time with a sleeper, but in a non-title match, allowing Hogan to then get his clean win when the title was at stake. Hogan vs. Piper was still box office magic in WCW at first. But Piper was one of many stars in the WCW cast of characters and it was a source of great frustration. His mind worked in different ways. He was paranoid and felt disrespected.
For a long period of time, Piper would travel everywhere with Jonny Fairplay, long before Fairplay made a name from reality TV. Once, when both were loaded and Fairplay was trying to get Piper out of a club before big problems erupted, they ended up in a serious car accident. Both were injured. Piper even disappeared. While obviously this wasn’t the case, Piper would claim that the guy he hired (Fairplay) had tried to kill him. He felt WCW management, and the younger generation of wrestlers, had little to no respect for what he had accomplished and his role in the history of wrestling. His work wasn’t good at this point, but he remained a pushed commodity because he was still a huge superstar to the public that remembered him from his 80s heyday.
After he was fired by WCW in a cost-cutting move in 2000, Piper had his runs in both WWF and TNA. His once great promos were anything but during much of the TNA run. Yet, at times, sometimes out of nowhere, and usually on Raw, he’d be put in a position to work with a top star, like John Cena, Steve Austin or Chris Jericho, and be positively brilliant. Ironically, since he was an experienced actor by that point, he was very good at following a script and excellent at delivery. Left to his own devices, the once charming and amazing rambling promos, if he had to do them on his own, would often go nowhere.
Writing about Piper’s career can be difficult. While Piper himself did numerous interviews, and spoke openly to those he chose as friends, most of his stories were contradictory or didn’t add up. Eventually those stories became his reality. It wasn’t like Hulk Hogan, who appeared to be totally self-aware that he was telling stories, as Piper in time seemed to believe his stories.
His Twitter rants blaming Steve Austin for being fired from Podcast One when he actually quit, but in his own mind, he could tie it to Austin even though it was a stretch, was the most recent example. He had a Twitter altercation with Kevin Nash over a 1997 dressing room incident.
I didn’t know Piper well, but a few years later, when we actually talked at length a few times, the incident with Nash came up, on more than one occasion. My sense was it was, in his mind, the lack of respect for him among newer wrestlers when his generation of top stars all respected his talents. While not the toughest guy in the world by any means, Piper was a tough guy, and had a reputation for being fearless.
When Flair would go to dangerous parts of the world as world champion and bring someone to watch his back in the ring, he sometimes brought Piper along. Granted, a lot of it was because Flair also loved hanging around with Piper, and they remained close friends for 35 years.
He had made demands of Vince McMahon that nobody would dare do, and got away with it. He would get into trouble with every promoter he worked for during his heyday, with the possible exception of Don Owen, but because he could draw money, he always had a place to land on his feet.
On June 9, 1997, after a Nitro show in Boston, Nash came in to Piper’s dressing room to complain about a terrible main event match with he and Scott Hall against Piper & Ric Flair, earlier that night on a card which set what was at the time WCW’s all-time attendance and gate record.
The early part of the match consisted of Flair and Hall brawling in one corner, and Piper and Nash in the other. Nash claimed that Piper wasn’t doing what they agreed on doing, although Nash also wasn’t selling Piper’s offense much and making him look weak. The agreed upon match story was that Piper would do the selling, to build to Flair’s hot tag. But that part of the match was horrible, and even with the star power in the ring, the match was dead. Piper then called for the finish at the 6:00 mark of a match on live television booked to go 12:00, which meant a post-match brawl scheduled for after the match to go off the air with, had to go six minutes longer than scheduled.
According to reports we got the night of the show, Nash went to Piper’s private dressing room and knocked on the door, very hard. Craig Malley, a pro wrestler who Piper had hired as his bodyguard, opened the door. Nash pie-faced Piper into the wall. Piper tried to kick Nash in his bad knee before Malley and Flair acted as the peacemakers and quickly broke things up before anything serious took place. But it also left the heat between the two unresolved.
Another version of the story is that Nash and Malley nearly went at it, but Malley backed down. When Piper told me about the story, he always made a point that he wasn’t scared of Nash, because he had in the past been around a mad Andre the Giant, and next to Nash, that was a lot scarier of a situation. But the reality is that Andre always liked Piper, so the situation was not the same. But he remained very bitter at Nash. He also made a point that when he was in trouble, his bodyguard ran away.
Plus, most of the internal heat was on Piper, and not Nash, for not doing what was planned in the ring and then calling for the finish early. There had been problems from an earlier six-man tag match in Charlotte, Flair’s home town, with Flair & Piper & Kevin Greene vs. Hall & Nash & Syxx (Sean Waltman). Flair and Piper at first didn’t want Waltman in the match because they felt he wasn’t a big enough star at the time to be in that big of a match. Hall & Nash wanted him in because he was the worker of the team and the guy who would make the match better. Plus, WCW wanted Greene to turn on Flair, and Greene refused. WCW wanted the heels to go over, and Piper, who had creative control, refused. Piper then suggested a singles match with Waltman, because he personally liked him and thought he was a great worker, and Piper wanted to prove something to people who thought he was there and on top simply due to his past reputation, and he wanted to have a great match. Eventually, Hall & Nash & Waltman agreed to basically all do the job to show that they were professional.
Piper’s family set up a private funeral on the morning of 8/11 in Portland, the day after the Smackdown tapings in the city, which would allow the WWE wrestlers to attend. His friends in Los Angeles, where he spent much of his time, have set up a memorial service on 8/17 at the Comedy Store in Hollywood, also by invitation only. The location is fitting because in recent months, Piper had talked with friends about wanting to reinvent himself as a stand-up comedian.
Piper’s life before wrestling was difficult to document. He was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, but claimed a bad childhood and left his family and fended for himself by the time he was a teenager. At one point he lived in Toronto, and later found pro wrestling in Winnipeg.
He was trained by Tony Condello, a local independent promoter. He had done some Golden Gloves boxing. He had quick hands, which was evident in his ring style where he used boxing combinations for a lot of his offense. His other unique talent was his ability to play the bagpipes. He became known as Roddy the Piper, as his nickname, so his wrestling name, from day one, was Roddy Piper.
He worked on a small circuit in Manitoba for Condello, starting in the summer of 1973. Piper always claimed that he was 17 years old in his first match, where he wrestled 300 pound Larry Hennig, and set the all-time wrestling record by losing in 13 seconds.
His first recorded AWA match was a loss to fellow local wrestler Bobby Jones on an October 25, 1973, show at the Winnipeg Arena. He worked AWA shots in Manitoba and North Dakota as a prelim wrestler along with the local indie circuit. He was very skinny for the time by the standards of major league wrestlers and he looks to have always lost his AWA matches. There was a Hennig match, on April 25, 1974, that he actually lost in two minutes, but he’d been wrestling about a year by that time.
Piper also wrestled some in Montreal that year, and over the summer, worked in New Brunswick for Emile Dupre. He claimed that he lived and trained with Mad Dog Vachon that summer, and he claimed Vachon as his teacher. Vachon’s daughter remembers living with Piper briefly, but it was a few months later, and in Texas.
“He taught me how to be a man,” Piper said.
Vachon gave him a nickname back then, “Cocksucker.”
“The last time I saw him was when he was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame,” he told Bertrand Hebert in the Vachon biography. “He didn’t recognize me at first. Then something flashed and he said, `Cocksucker! I remember you,” and he told me about the riot we were in together in Chicoutimi. That was a crazy night. He was fighting (Jos) LeDuc in a cage and people tried to attack the wrestlers. He had told me to go get the car ready because no one would recognize me since I was just a jobber. He was right. Nobody cared about me. After the match, as things were falling apart, Gypsy Joe had to stop a kid from attacking Maurice with a tire iron as they were exiting the building. Maurice got to the car and told me, `Start the car, cocksucker.'”
Vachon had a brief run in WWF after leaving the AWA. He was in his late 50s and it was never going to work. Time stood still in the AWA, so the older fans who remembered Vachon as world champion in the 60s and as Verne Gagne’s arch-rival were willing to go with the idea that the broken down, small, old, slow Mad Dog was still the killer he once was, plus he could still talk the talk. But with the younger huge bodybuilders that McMahon was featuring, Mad Dog didn’t fit at all. Still, Piper claimed that to himself, the most important Piper’s Pit ever to him was one few even remember took place.
“When he came back to the WWF, I wanted to give back to him so much, but there was really no way I could give back enough,” he said. “I was so proud of all the knowledge I got from him. On a personal level, and I never told that to anyone, but the Piper’s Pit I did with him was the most important to me on a personal level. Snuka and the coconut, Hogan and Andre, those were pieces of business. When I did it with Maurice, I wanted so much to tell the world how great he was and make them understand who he was for me.”
In November of 1974, he came to the U.S. and got his first full-time job, as a prelim wrestler, working for Bob Geigel’s Central States Wrestling. In January, he came to Dallas. Vachon had recommended him to booker Red Bastien, and liked him so much that Vachon put him over on Piper’s first night in the promotion at the TV tapings in Fort Worth. But he ended up just being a guy on the card, and bounced around North America, working East and West Texas, as well as Eastern Canada over the summer. He actually won a couple of opening matches on AWA shows when he got back home to Winnipeg.
Bastien recommended him to Don Owen in Portland, saying he had a 21-year-old good looking babyface. After Owen agreed to take him, Bastien had a conversation with Leo Garibaldi, who was the booker of Mike LeBell’s (older brother of Gene LeBell) Southern California territory.
“The office called Red Bastien in Texas, he was booking at the time, and asked if they had any good guys we could use,” remembered Jeff Walton, who handled publicity, announced television, promoted some of the smaller towns and was also used as the NWA representative for the Southern California market when the storylines called for an authority figure. “Bastien said, `There’s one kid just starting out 20-21 years old, good little gimmick, doing the Scottish thing. I was talking to Don Owens about sending him up there, but you can have him for three weeks.
“Since he was only going to be here for three weeks, we had him doing jobs, but there was something about him.”
Garibaldi told the office that Piper had a lot of potential and told Owen and Piper that they wanted to keep him for a while. Then, on a Tuesday night in San Diego, Garibaldi decided he was going to turn him heel.
Garibaldi told Mike LeBell. LeBell called Walton and told him to get on a flight immediately to San Diego, saying that Garibaldi was going to turn this babyface who had a lot of potential heel.
“I don’t want that,” LeBell said to Walton. “Get on an airplane and fly to San Diego and tell him I don’t want Roddy Piper to be a heel.”
“I go down there and started talking to Leo. He said, `Jeff, this kid is a natural born heel. He’d draw big bucks for us, you’ll see.’ Mike didn’t like Leo anyway. I said, `Mike’s in charge and he doesn’t want him to turn heel.’ He said, `Do me a favor, watch, I’m going to make him a heel.’ I watched. I never saw anything like that in my life. That was a pivotal moment in Roddy Piper’s career. I went back and told Mike, `There’s no way Roddy Piper can’t be a heel. He’s too good, take it from me, the guy is a natural born heel.'”
The next night they did TV at the Olympic Auditorium and just did a subtle tease for a Piper heel turn to show the boss.
“Mike saw it and liked it.”
“He really drew big money. His interviews were fantastic. This was before he did the crazy interviews where half of the time you didn’t understand what he was talking about. He was a terrific bump guy. We could beat Roddy Piper every night and he wouldn’t lose anything. There were a lot of great stories, but a lot of them I couldn’t really tell.”
His gimmick of coming to the ring wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes was easy heat, and what set him apart and made him memorable. But that alone wasn’t going to draw big houses or have any legs.
One of the reasons he was so successful is because he was extreme at everything in life, which also proved to be his undoing at times. During the recreational party period of wrestling, Piper was off the charts. But he treated things as a shoot. He always used the term “fights” instead of “matches.” Walton remembered when John Tolos, a babyface at the time, was having a party at his house, and everyone was coming, Piper refused because he thought somebody might possibly see him on the road that wasn’t part of the fraternity.
During his nearly three years in Southern California, he was the lead heel most of the time, although had a babyface run as well. He did angles both good and wacked out. His main opponent was Chavo Guerrero. Their angles and interviews aired weekly on the Spanish International Network (now Univision).
While the quality of the wrestling overall at that point had faded greatly from the glory days from a few years earlier, the show aired in more markets around the country than any other wrestling show. Piper against Chavo Guerrero, which also extended to Chavo’s father Gori, and his brothers Mando and Hector Guerrero, was one of the decade’s most well-known feuds.
Walton noted that to him, Piper never changed after he became a celebrity. Piper would see him, ask about his kids, and they would laugh a lot together.
“He joked about not making any money out here, but he didn’t mind it, because the trips were short. He was sent to Senior (Vince McMahon’s father) for a few Madison Square Garden shows but it didn’t pan out because he was still young, but he got his big break.”
Los Angeles was a crazy territory and did a lot of gimmicks with Piper. Some worked, and some didn’t. In his three years, he was the top heel, managed a stable, played heel ref after getting his NWA referee’s license, and even had a storyline where he learned hypnosis and would illegally hypnotize his opponents (from a failed gimmick Gary Hart did in Australia). He also worked under a mask as Super Scorpion and after losing a loser leaves town, had a run as The Masked Canadian. He worked some for Roy Shire in 1978. In one of the great exposes of the business during that period, Piper & Moondog Lonnie Mayne were a heel tag team in Southern California. The matches from the Olympic Auditorium aired in San Francisco and Sacramento, two of Shire’s best cities, on SIN. Shire, on the other hand, had turned Mayne babyface years earlier and he was the U.S. champion, and feuded on top with a heel Piper. I can’t say that on its own led to the declining popularity of wrestling in the area at the time, because many factors were at work, but it was absolutely one of them.
Even then, younger wrestlers started imitating his mannerisms, shaking his hair, saying, “Well ya know,” and countless people copied his often cocaine-fueled promos with his mind working a mile a minute like pro wrestling’s predecessor to a young Robin Williams. Unlike Superstar Billy Graham, who clearly took his promo style from Muhammad Ali, Dusty Rhodes, who took his from Ali and Graham, and Austin Idol, Jesse Ventura and Hulk Hogan, who imitated Graham, Piper was the original that many imitated and nobody came close to duplicating.
While Piper was no longer consistently great on promos over the past decade, he had his moments of brilliance in some WWE comebacks. Once, after one of them in working with a heel Jericho prior to the 2009 WrestleMania match (Piper’s last major WWE match), Jericho said that Piper was the Yoda of pro wrestling promos.
Piper went to Oregon as a heel, but Buddy Rose was the king there with Ed Wiskoski as his sidekick. Piper & Bad News Brooks were the other top heel tag team, and in an angle, Rose & Wiskoski turned on and injured Brooks, since he was returning home to Texas, Piper became a face. Piper vs. Rose was the hottest singles program the area had in about a decade. Piper ended up loving the area so much that he made it one of his two homes. For years, Piper would have one residence in Hollywood, while his family would live just outside Portland in the mountains of Hillsboro, OR.
Piper was already a great talker in Los Angeles, and got even better in Oregon. But it was in the Carolinas, where the standard of workers and talkers were much higher, that he came into his own and rose to being the best promo in the business.
“Ric Flair dates two women at the same time. That way, when he falls asleep, they’ve got somebody to talk to.”
He was the top heel in the Carolinas, feuding with the likes of Flair, Wahoo McDaniel, Ricky Steamboat and Jack Brisco. He would wear T-shirts that read, “I Scare Flair.”
Jim Barnett saw his work and came up with the idea of having him as the heel television announcer for Georgia Championship Wrestling.
Barnett told me he hired Piper for $5,000 per month (Piper in his book claimed it as $5,000 per week), at the time a ton of money for a guy who only came in on Saturday mornings and still worked full-time in the Carolinas as a headliner. Given what he was likely earning in the Carolinas, Piper was among the highest paid wrestlers in the country by 1981. That wasn’t always the best thing to be a 27-year-old heavy partier who was a television celebrity, good looking, and with a lot of cash in your hands.
He shined in that role, and may have been the best ever at it. Or perhaps he wasn’t but it seemed that way because he was the first to do it on national television. He was a heel, but not over-the-top. He actually called things, well not exactly straight down-the-middle, but only leaned slightly heelish. He was always respectful to lead announcer Gordon Solie. He’d put over the faces, but then take a heelish dig by talking about how he’d approach the situation differently and how he’d beat them. It started out subtly and his heel persona started getting stronger as time went on.
The first signs of a heel turn came in remarks made by Piper about Bob Armstrong. Armstrong was an older veteran, himself a top talker, whose son Brad, had just started. The two were a father-and-son team who surprised everyone by winning the annual Thanksgiving night tag team tournament at the Omni in Atlanta in 1981.
Piper would make remarks about Armstrong, who had the huge arms but he didn’t have big legs, and make fun of him. Armstrong would compare his body to that of a racehorse, saying he was a “Southern-born, Southern-bred thoroughbred.” Piper would start criticizing the Armstrongs tag team strategy saying that the key to tag teams is having one guy work and take the beating for as long as possible, so he can tag the fresh partner while the opponents were the most tired. He said that Bob as a father, would not let his son take the beating for a long enough time. Piper outtalked everyone, drawing more and more ire out of the fans, except he’d always sell for Flair (who was a heel in Georgia but the world title was always put over big) and Armstrong’s verbal jousts.
Finally, after months, it exploded with a studio brawl between Piper and Armstrong which was the hottest moment of the year on Georgia television.
“He’s as strong as an ox, and almost as smart (about Ole Anderson)”
Ole Anderson was the booker at the time. While the ratings of Georgia Championship Wrestling were through the roof and it was the first legitimate hit in the history of cable television, business was not that strong at the time. The closing of the Atlanta City Auditorium meant that, since the tradition was to run weekly, they would run the Omni regularly. Atlanta went from being the major profit center for the promotion to mostly a break-even proposition, drawing about 5,000 paid per week. That would have been awesome to draw that three times a week in the smaller building and then do a big show at the Omni every month or so that drew much bigger because they brought in outside talent and it was the Omni. But when every week was the Omni, the expense of the bigger building and with running the Omni no longer making it inherently special, it was a struggle.
Barnett had been patient, giving Piper nearly a year to get over. The program with Armstrong had built perfectly. Barnett was not attending the matches the night of the first Piper vs. Armstrong match, but the advance was the strongest of the year. Barnett usually stayed out of the booking, but he told Anderson, whatever you do, Piper has to win. Anderson had other ideas. Even though Armstrong was not his top babyface, he was a high-midcarder but underneath Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rich and Mr. Wrestling II, and Piper was clearly the best heel, Anderson booked a non-finish, saying he didn’t want a guy who wasn’t full-time with his promotion (Piper was still going to be a Crockett guy and only work big shows for GCW) beating one of his full-time babyfaces. The show drew 12,000 fans. Barnett noted to me that Piper not winning softened the heat, as the idea was to use Armstrong as a stepping stone for Piper to face the bigger stars. When he never beat Bob, while he was a solid main event heel, he never popped a house like that again.
While the fans turned Piper face in the WWF, it was a fan–in a very different way, who did it in the Carolinas and Georgia.
Piper was getting incredible heat, working a singles program with Jack Brisco. There was a famous story that Flair once offered Piper money if he could take Brisco, who in 1965 was the NCAA champion, down during a match. The idea is Piper would have the element of surprise going for him. Somehow, instinctively, Brisco figured it would and everyone got a laugh out of Piper blowing himself up and getting nowhere. Brisco told him after that Piper could take him down anytime he wanted as a work, but not when it’s a shoot. In Raleigh, Piper got stabbed by an irate fan. Since he’d been getting so much heat this was not his first dangerous situation, the decision was made to turn him babyface.
“He looks like he just gave birth to a litter of Kangaroos” (about Jerry Lawler)
In Georgia, there wasn’t even an angle. Gordon Solie just went on television with a story about how there was a mad man at a schoolyard with a knife threatening children. Piper, in protecting children and subduing the man, got stabbed. To drive the matter home, Piper and Don Muraco ended up in an argument. As it got physical, Solie was in the middle and was accidentally knocked down. Keep in mind that Solie was virtually never part of wrestling angles. Even as a heel, Piper was always respectful to “Mr. Solie,” and went crazy seeing his older legendary broadcast partner knocked down. Piper was instantly the top face, but his problems were such that after car wrecks and missing a main event, or two, Anderson fired him. Crockett had also fired him during that period. But, because he was so popular, and entertaining, and he spoke to everyone like he was so humble and gracious at all times, not to mention he was big draw, Crockett brought him back.
While people often remember the two big shows in 1983, the Steamboat & Youngblood vs. Slaughter & Kernodle show and the first Starrcade as the shows that launched Jim Crockett Promotions to new heights, it was months earlier, at the annual Thanksgiving show at the Greensboro Coliseum on November 25, 1982, that Flair vs. Piper in a babyface vs. babyface match for the NWA title set a then-territory record with 15,496 paid.
While Piper’s best heel work was undoubtedly in WWF during the original Piper’s Pit era, his mic work peak really was in the Carolinas and Georgia. It was probably his in-ring peak as well. Even though he worked a crazy schedule of almost nightly matches, the travel was far more grueling and taxing in that WWF era where they’d cris-cross the country back-and-forth, often in the same week.
After the Mr. T match at WrestleMania II, Piper’s contract had expired. Because he was so famous, and actually could box, boxing people tried to recruit him, figuring he’d be a super drawing card as a white heavyweight. He turned down the offers. He came back, and was a babyface in a gay-bashing angle with Adrian Adonis.
Adonis and Piper went way back. When Adonis was early in his career as Keith Franks, the two were tag team partners in California, as well as opponents. In one of the sillier angles in a promotion that had a lot of silly angles, Piper said he would be able to get Adonis to quit smoking. They were also together in Oregon, where Ron Starr & Adrian Adonis was a regular babyface tag team that worked against Piper & Brooks. Adonis then became a major star in the AWA as a heel tag team partner with Jesse Ventura, and was later part of one of the best tag teams of that era with Dick Murdoch.
By this point Adonis, a super talent, but badly overweight, was playing the most overtly gay character possible. Piper’s race baiting promos that made him a heel became babyface gay bashing promos as a face. None of these would fly today.
Years later, when Chael Sonnen, who grew up watching Piper, went to him for advice for promos on Anderson Silva, Piper gave him advice. Times had changed greatly from Piper’s programs with T and Adonis. Sonnen didn’t use it, since that advice would have resulted in Sonnen’s career being over and UFC probably losing television.
In the angle with Adonis, Orton turned on Piper, and Muraco also joined Adonis in laying Piper out. They ended up putting lipstick on him, while destroying the Piper’s Pit set. Piper vs. Adonis was the No. 3 match at the Hogan vs. Andre WrestleMania at the Pontiac Silverdome. It was a hair vs. hair match. Piper had also announced that would be his final match.
“I came her to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
He did a lot of acting over the years, including his most famous role as the lead in the cult classic, “They Live,” where he fought aliens disguised as people. The movie had a five minute pro wrestling-inspired fight scene, and featured perhaps his most famous line ever. John Carpenter always claimed that Piper ad-libbed that line while filming.
“Ric Flair, you just called me a woman. Well I want to know, how does it feel to get beat by a woman?”
He came back many times. With the exception of one match with Snuka, and multiple matches with best friend Flair, Piper still refused to lose matches by pinfall in WWF, until the 1992 WrestleMania, where he put over Bret Hart for the Intercontinental title.
“Piper passed the torch to me at WrestleMania,” said Hart to Sports Illustrated. “I think I was the first guy who pinned him in the ring. Roddy was one of the first guys to help make me into a main attraction. I was supposed to work, at one point, with Ultimate Warrior, but he never passed the torch to anybody. Hogan didn’t have enough respect to put me over or help the next generation. When I think back about my career, with the exception of Mr. Perfect, Roddy Piper was the only guy who said, `I’m going to help make one of these new guys into a star for the next generation.’ I’ll never forget that. Roddy was always about business and trying to help the young guys, and he did that for me.”
Still, Piper was hard to explain. When Vince McMahon commissioned a hit piece on Hart, similar to “The Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior,” for a DVD release, which saw interviews cut and later discarded when Hart agreed to do a DVD with McMahon, partially to avoid the other tape being done, and long before their ultimate business reconciliation, it was shocking to see that Piper was on the tape smearing him, because Piper always referred to the Hart family as his cousins. But still, Piper and Hart remained close friends.
Piper had unique relations with a lot of people, constantly knocking promoters, including Vince McMahon, for how they abused talent and all the young deaths, yet always making up with him. He quit many times, and was fired once as well, for remarks made on a 2003 episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. He blamed the wrestling industry for its horrible track record of young deaths.
“Everybody’s dead. They’re all dying early and nobody cares about it. They take them and they screw them up so much.”
Piper said that the wrestling business has a great entrance plan, quick fame and adulation, but no exit plan. He said he was still wrestling at 49 years old because he couldn’t touch his pension plan until he reaches 65.
And then he said, “I’m not going to make 65.”
WWE wrote in the release: “Piper stated that he used drugs for many years while working in professional wrestling and that he does not like the person that he becomes when he actively performs as a professional wrestler.” They said they would help him out by having him no longer be a pro wrestler.
He then went to TNA from 2003 to 2005, and returned to WWF in 2005, in a deal that included his being inducted into that year’s Hall of Fame.
But Piper also credited wrestling fans with saving his life. At the November 5, 2006, Cyber Sunday PPV, Piper was among those to be chosen from to be tag team partner with Ric Flair to face the Spirit Squad that night. The angle was designed to team Flair with Dusty Rhodes, but the fans instead picked Piper. Piper was feeling terrible while on a European tour for WWF, and was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which, because it was caught in its early stages, he beat it.
WWF INTERCONTINENTAL HEAVYWEIGHT: def. The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau Jr.) January 19, 1992 Albany, NY; lost to Bret Hart April 5, 1992 Indianapolis
WWE WORLD TAG TEAM: w/Ric Flair def. The Spirit Squad (Kenny Dykstra & Mikey Mondo) November 5, 2006 Cincinnati; lost to Edge & Randy Orton November 13, 2006 Manchester, UK
NWA UNITED STATES HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Ric Flair January 27, 1981 Raleigh; lost to Wahoo McDaniel August 8, 1981 Greensboro; def. Greg Valentine April 16, 1983 Greensboro; lost to Greg Valentine April 30, 1983 Greensboro
WCW UNITED STATES HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Bret Hart February 8, 1999 Buffalo; lost to Scott Hall February 21, 1999 Oakland
NWA MID ATLANTIC HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Ricky Steamboat November 1, 1981 Greensboro; lost to Jack Brisco May 10, 1982 Greenville; def. Jack Brisco July 2, 1982 Charlotte; lost to Jack Brisco August 3, 1982 Raleigh
NWA MID ATLANTIC TV: def. Paul Jones in tournament final for vacant title November 1, 1980 Richmond; Vacated title January 27, 1981 after winning U.S. title
NWA WORLD LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Chavo Guerrero March 13, 1977 Los Angeles; lost to Chavo Guerrero May 15, 1977 Los Angeles
NWA WORLD TAG TEAM (San Francisco): w/Ed Wiskoski held title when Buddy Rose gave his half of the title to Piper February 1979; Titles abandoned when promotion closed as full-time territory April 1979
NWA AMERICAS HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Chavo Guerrero March 12, 1976 Los Angeles; lost to Chavo Guerrero April 23, 1976; def. Chavo Guerrero August 12, 1977 Los Angeles; lost to Chavo Guerrero August 19, 1977 San Bernardino; as The Masked Canadian def. Chavo Guerrero November 4, 1977 Los Angeles; lost to Mando Guerrero December 9, 1977 Los Angeles; as The Masked Canadian def. Mando Guerrero December 16, 1977 Los Angeles; lost to Hector Guerrero February 10, 1978 Los Angeles; def. Chavo Guerrero September 28, 1978 Los Angeles; lost to Twin Devil #1 October 1, 1978 San Bernardino
NWA AMERICAS TAG TEAM: w/Crusher Verdu def. Chavo & Gori Guerrero February 28, 1976; Piper vacated his half of title July 1976; w/The Hangman def. Raul & Carlos Mata October 29, 1976; lost to Victor Rivera & Cien Caras January 21, 1977; w/Keith Franks (Adrian Adonis) def. Mando Guerrero & Tom Jones July 22, 1977; lost to Mando Guerrero & Tom Jones July 29, 1977; as Masked Canadian w/Chavo Guerrero def. Black Gordman & Great Goliath October 1977; lost to Black Gordman & Great Goliath November 2, 1977; w/Ron Bass def. Chavo Guerrero & Black Gordman April 21, 1978 Los Angeles; lost to Black Gordman & Hector Guerrero May 26, 1978 Los Angeles; w/Pak Choo (Kengo Kimura) def. Black Gordman & Ryuma Go September 1, 1978; lost to Twin Devils 1978
NWA PACIFIC NORTHWEST HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Jonathan Boyd February 7, 1979 Portland; lost to Stan Stasiak June 30, 1979 Portland; def. Buddy Rose September 4, 1980 lost to Buddy Rose September 20, 1980
NWA PACIFIC NORTHWEST TAG TEAM: w/Killer Tim Brooks def. Dutch Savage & Jonathan Boyd December 31, 1978; lost to Ron Starr & Adrian Adonis April 3, 1979; w/Rick Martel def. The Sheepherders March 21, 1980; lost to The Sheepherders May 12, 1980; w/Rick Martel def. Buddy Rose & Ed Wiskoski for vacant titles August 5, 1980; w/Mike Popovitch became champions August 16, 1980 after Martel lost loser leaves town match to Buddy Rose; lost to Rip Oliver & Fidel Cortez (Dave Cannell/Dave Sierra) September 12, 1980 Grandview, WA
NWA CANADIAN OPEN TAG TEAM: w/Rick Martel def. The Sheepherders (Luke Williams & Butch Miller) May 19, 1980 Vancouver; Titles vacated October 1980
NWA AMERICAN TAG TEAM: w/Bulldog Brower billed as champions on Texas TV October 1983 after winning fictitious tournament; lost to The Super Destroyers (Bill & Scott Irwin) in fictitious match October 1983 (Piper & Brower never actually appeared as champions, their names were just used for title history on television)
WRESTLING OBSERVER HALL OF FAME (1996)
WWE HALL OF FAME (2005)
WRESTLING OBSERVER AWARDS:
Best Heel – 1984, 1985
Best on Interviews – 1981, 1982, 1983
Worst match 1986 vs. Mr T
Worst match 1997 vs. Hulk Hogan
UFC 190 POLL RESULTS
Thumbs up 68
Thumbs down 11
In the middle 57
BEST MATCH POLL
Reginaldo Vieira vs. Delino Lopes 91
Mauricio Shogun Rau vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira 27
WORST MATCH POLL
Stefan Struve vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 54
Glaico Franca vs. Fernando Bruno 28
G-1 IN OSAKA POLL RESULTS
Thumbs up 37
Thumbs down 0
In the middle 0
BEST MATCH POLL
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomohiro Ishii 14
Michael Elgin vs. Tomoaki Honma 13
Hiroki Goto vs. Kazuchika Okada 10
WORST MATCH POLL
Gallows & Hall vs. Finlay & White 29
G-1 IN NAGOYA POLL RESULTS
Thumbs up 27
Thumbs down 4
In the middle 19
BEST MATCH POLL
Togi Makabe vs. Tetsuya Naito 27
Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan 14
WORST MATCH POLL
Hall & Takahashi vs. Elgin & White 16
Opening six man 10
Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 8/4.
Due to the death of Roddy Piper, we’ll have our financial analysis of the WWE’s quarterly report next week.
For the second quarter, WWE took in $150,182,000 in revenue and posted a $5,119,000 profit. That was a financial turnaround from last year, where they generated $156,310,000 in revenue but lost $14,497,000.
It should be noted that WrestleMania was in the second quarter of last year, while it was in the first quarter of this year, and if you factor that out, this quarter looks even more impressive as compared to last year.
However, with the network being a primary revenue source, the effect of a one month subscription to the WWE Network at the end of March, even though it was a March subscription, will be figured into the month of April, so in this case a lot of money derived from WrestleMania did figure into the quarter. But things like the live event, the PPV (still significant) and merchandise would have been in the first quarter.
The profit couldn’t cover the dividend payout of $9,139,200, but the last two years have been more about the future than the present, in particular building the network.
The key is that the network category, which includes the network itself, as well as PPV, generated $17,256,000 in profits, while last year the same category even during Mania season lost $7,347,000. One of the reasons is the timing of spending, as the network alone in an average quarter would spend $30 million. Here, the combination of the network and PPV together had $22.9 million of spending, and it had some effect of WrestleMania as noted, which explains the very strong profitability. Basically they spent about $7.1 million less than an average quarter on things like producing new network programming.
Stock prices shot up after the report, which is kind of funny because the WrestleMania subscription number was well above most expectations, and the 6/30 number, was below, and both quarters saw actual profits ahead of what analysts expected and what WWE guidelines had been.
The stock was up to $22.23 at press time, giving the company a $1.68 billion market capitalization, well up from the $16-17 per share range in recent weeks. This was the highest the stock has been since the WWE had announced its NBC Universal television deal and it came out that it was for far less than it had indicated it would be able to get.
The key figure in the stock jump is that the average number of paid subscribers over the three month period to the network was 1,215,700, a huge increase from a 926,000 daily average over the first three months. Also contributing was the news getting out, even though it had actually happened a few weeks ago, that Dutch media mogul John DeMol had purchased a few weeks ago that we had reported, but the first mainstream media coverage of it was on 8/4. The reports were that DeMol had purchased six percent of the company stock, which is actually not the case. He had purchased 1,994,426 shares which is 2.7% of company stock, but six percent of the public (as in non-McMahon family) stock.
The number of subscribers on 6/30 was 1,156,100, so the number started at 1,327,200 and declined to 1,156,100 and the larger 1,215,700 was an average during the period of decline. But the decline was expected. While most analysts were reporting expecting a slightly higher number, and we did as well, others were thrilled because it showed the bottom didn’t fall out after WrestleMania and the belief is that it’ll stay steady with this as the new base and grow from there during the hot season, which is likely the case.
The 1,156,100 subscribers on 6/30 came from 939,300 subscribers listed as from the U.S. (Which also includes foreign subscribers in places like Germany and other markets where they don’t have the network yet) and 216,800 outside the U.S. On 6/30, there were another 71,000 subscribers who were getting it free based on the free month program. WWE this quarter would not break down the effectiveness of the free program, but when they first started the free month gimmick, they would have more than 200,000 free subscribers over the month, so the gimmick is losing its effectiveness. But that was bound to happen and shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s still getting more people to sample than before they had it, and a lot of those people end up paying for the next month. It’s probably the difference between a more than acceptable drop in subscribers since the 1,327,200 subscribers on 3/30, the day after WrestleMania.
There were 508,400 subscribers who canceled between WrestleMania and the end of June. There were 337,300 people who were either first time subscribers that signed up based on the free month ending, or were people who had subscribed previously (including being subscribers on 3/30) who signed up again during the quarter. Overall, roughly 57% of the people who had purchased a subscription to the WWE network since its launch were still paid subscribers on 6/30.
George Barrios stated that they now have a handle on their subscription numbers and expects the paid number on 9/30 to be roughly 1.2 million, expecting an increase due to the carry over from SummerSlam. At 1.3 million to 1.4 million, they will be as profitable as they were in the PPV days, where the annual profit from the network segment would hit the $30 million to $40 million level PPV did. There are also minor factors not figured in, which include profit losses from the home video category (down from $3.1 million in profits two years ago in the quarter to $600,000) and in the WWE web business (down from $1.0 million in profits to $800,000 in losses with most of that coming from lost iPPV revenue), so that also has to factor into what kind of revenue the network needs to do to really have been worth it.
The feeling is the free month will speed the process up growth up above last year’s level, since last year, aside from growth from new territories, was almost nothing from WrestleMania until the ramp up in January for Royal Rumble.
They are expecting some growth, but not a ton, between now and the end of the year, based on the free month getting new subscribers, and that January through March period will be where the big growth takes place. And that will probably be the annual tradition as long as Royal Rumble and WrestleMania remain the big events.
That’s why it’s really important to establish SummerSlam and even a fourth quarter show as bigger to the public.
While some investors analysis are still talking like 3 to 4 million subscribers as an annual average is in the future, WWE did not make any statements regarding the potential in that realm like they have done in the past.
The other notable thing when it comes to the “network/PPV division, which, along with television revenues, are the two keys to the company, is that PPV is now steady.
There was the obvious and expected decline in people purchasing PPVs through traditional means given the price difference. However, a big and pleasant surprise, since they expected PPV to be just about dead now, is that, even with the loss of DirecTV and Dish, the PPVs are no longer declining.
Extreme Rules did 21,000 domestic and 35,000 foreign buys for 56,000. Payback did 19,000 domestic and 35,000 foreign for 54,000 buys. Money in the Bank did 20,000 domestic and 37,000 foreign for 57,000 buys. Elimination Chamber was not available as a domestic PPV, but was available outside the U.S. and did 41,000 buys.
Another note is that “Beast from the East,” a special network event on 7/4 from Sumo Hall in Tokyo became the single most-watched show in the history of the network, with the exception of the PPV shows. This would be a combination of live viewership and either replays on the stream or video on demand viewership given the very early time slot. The previous top rated shows which were Steve Austin’s interviews with Vince McMahon and HHH, and Chris Jericho’s interview with Stephanie McMahon.
This indicates there will probably be more live event specials.
Vince McMahon also talked of new programming, feeling that they have four different groups they need to cater to, the under 18, the over 49, and the male 18-49 and female 18-49. He felt they were really only catering to one strongly as far as the new programming (which I would take to mean Males 18-49) and gave the impression they would be looking to create original programming that would target kids, older fans, and adult women.
As far as other aspects of the business, Vince McMahon never discussed television ratings, which are at record modern era low levels for both Raw and Smackdown. In the past, he has always said that he focuses on live attendance, PPV buys and television ratings as the barometers as to how they were satisfying their consumer base. Instead, they were pushing social media numbers.
A key not brought up is that there has been a huge increase in DVR viewership of Raw and Smackdown, particularly Raw. That’s not a surprise if you think about it, given the nature of getting through a three-hour show. The good is that it means more people are watching at least parts of the show than the ratings themselves indicate. The bad is that people watching on DVR are likely not watching the commercials, making the product less attractive to NBC Universal, and also probably forwarding through a lot of the segments.
For the quarter, house show attendance was down ten percent (factoring out WrestleMania last year) for a domestic average of 5,400 per show, down from 6,000. None of the major sports leagues are showing a ten percent paid attendance drop, so the excuses about how more options lead to less people going to shows doesn’t seem to hold up because that would be the case with other sports.
Traditionally, house show attendance precedes TV ratings in predicting both increases and decreases in business. Raw ratings, even factoring in the increase in DVR viewership, are down nine percent from the same period last year. Smackdown is even, largely due to the increase in DVR viewership and the move to a more favorable night of the week, but again, DVR viewers are more likely to speed through the show. In addition, the new stats also say that what WWE tried to push themselves as in the recent negotiations, that they are really just like live sports in that they are DVR-proof because their loyal audience watches the show live, is becoming less and less the case.
Factoring out WrestleMania, live event profits were up even though attendance was down, due to doing 12 more shows this quarter and ticket price increases that average now $46.45 per ticket at live events.
The other big strong point for the company is the WWE 2K 15 video game. The video game increased $6.2 million in company revenue from the previous year model, which was a 40 percent increase in sales. It was expected to handily beat last year’s numbers due to an increase in consoles the game was released on, but it still exceeded expectations.
WWE Shop revenue continues to get stronger with mobile orders. Profits were up $400,000 from the same period last year based on a 52 percent increase in orders.
Live event merchandise looks to have been down, but that’s misleading, because it’s factoring in WrestleMania. There were also more shows this quarter. There was an increase in average spending per ticket buyer at live events to $10.42 per person, from $10.07 last year.
The movie division for the quarter was essentially break even (they lost $32,000 this quarter as compared to $230,000 for the same period last year). It’s not losing anywhere near what it used to, but with the exception of the success of “The Call,” most movies are making a little or losing a little and with costs of having a studio division, it’s not been financially successful.
Essentially, the big picture is that the WWE big picture fan base, when it comes to ticket buyers and television viewers, is decreasing, but the amount their fan base is paying over the course of a year, whether for higher tickets, slightly more merchandise, and mostly in network purchases, is increasing greatly from a year ago.
Ronda Rousey had been UFC’s legitimate biggest drawing card since the retirement of Georges St-Pierre when you factor in the name value of the opponents she was pulling her numbers with.
Still, when UFC 184 on 2/28, featuring Rousey vs. Cat Zingano with the top undercard match of Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington did more than 600,000 buys, it was completely stunning since many felt with no heat in the main event (Rousey had nothing negative to say about Zingano) and nothing of name value underneath, the feeling is she’d be getting around half that.
Fast forward five months, and Rousey was booked with Bethe Correia. There were two storylines in place leading to a grudge match aspect. The original storyline is that Correia had beaten two of Rousey’s best friends, Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler of the Four Horsewomen, and then stuck four fingers up, and put one down after the Duke win, and two after the Baszler win. Rousey understood and even publicly commended her on that kind of flare for marketing. Correia worked harder on trash talk than any previous Rousey opponent, although it was difficult connecting given her trash talk was in Portuguese. But she said that Rousey was mentally weak, and if she beat her, she hoped she wouldn’t commit suicide. Suicide was the magic and distasteful word, given that it is not a secret that Rousey’s life was shattered as a young girl when her father committed suicide. Correia immediately apologized and claimed she didn’t know, but many people were skeptical since that aspect of Rousey’s life has been heavily promoted. Additionally, Rousey had vowed months back that she felt the suicide had been used in marketing and she was never going to talk about it again publicly, or let that happen. And then it did.
The fight was criticized by many because Correia, although she was 9-0, had never beaten a top ten fighter and there was skepticism whether she was all that good standing or on the ground. And Rousey had just Rousey’d (the new colloquial term created by Paul Heyman after her last fight) Zingano, a one-time Olympic hopeful in wrestling, black belt in BJJ, and strong striker. And that one lasted 14 seconds, and was Rousey’s most impressive performance in a career of 11 straight pro wins and three amateur wins, 13 in the first round, 11 in 66 seconds or less.
There were plenty of reasons this fight shouldn’t have done the numbers the last one did. It was in Brazil, and UFC has never done a strong for the time frame buy rate for a show that took place outside North America. The undercard was geared more for the Brazilian audience watching TV on Globo than the North American audience. The challenger couldn’t speak English, although with the benefit of hindsight, the challenger more than did her part to build this fight. And it was only three weeks after a huge PPV, and one that UFC had promoted far harder.
The key is, now more than ever, Rousey draws from an audience that not only no other fighter draws from, but they aren’t even necessarily sports fans. She’s become a symbol for the empowerment of women, a pretty girl who posed in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and ESPN Body issue has somehow become a hero in the quest against objectifying woman athletes for their physical beauty.
Since the end of February, she had roles in one of the five biggest grossing movies of all-time, although it was really a small role in an extended fight scene, a role as herself in the Entourage movie, won two Espy Awards, beating Floyd Mayweather for fighter of the year and winning woman athlete of the year, and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated where she was labeled the most dominant athlete on the planet. She also released an autobiography, appeared in several television commercials and even made a guest appearance at WrestleMania that tore down the house.
All of those have increased her drawing power. But it’s more than that. Whether it was sports bars or Facebook, Rousey vs. Correia was at a different level. It was legitimate water cooler talk at offices. There were 30 million views of her fight on the Internet over the next three days. Between 7/30 and 8/1, there were 6.8 million Google searches related to Rousey, Correia and UFC 190. A lackluster UFC PPV will do 50,000. Most will fall between 200,000 and 500,000. Chael Sonnen, Rousey and Conor McGregor had been able to push numbers past 1 million, as did WrestleMania the past two years,. Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and the Super Bowl did North of 10 million. The only UFC event to be at this level was UFC 168, and that was a huge show, but most of the searches were after the show looking for clips of Anderson Silva’s gruesome broken leg.
At press time it is too early, especially on a show like this, to get accurate PPV numbers. What we do know is that based on early numbers, it looks to be ahead of UFC 189, which had Conor McGregor (which is currently looking at being in the 800,000 to 850,000 range), a record amount of promotion, and a strong undercard. But that show was expected to do big numbers and this was not expected to do anywhere close to that.
From all indications, what was unique about this show is Rousey finally hit huge with women, both young and old, a category UFC is not strong with. She had some popularity with women going in, but nothing like here. Sports bar patrons and owners noted the completely different make-up of the clientele, in particular older women, much older than the usual UFC fan base. The exact reasons are hard to ascertain, but the two brought up the most were her comments about Floyd Mayweather Jr. after beating him for Fighter of the Year, and her talking about doing bikini shoots while weighing about 150 pounds. Of course her success with her quick wins also had a lot to do with it. Others noted that women related to her storyline of a woman that beat up her two good friends, and the fact she was going into her home town to right the wrong. Whatever it was, and obviously it’s a combination of a number of things, women related and even lived vicariously through a woman who took no shit from men, trashing ex-boyfriends in her autobiography, vocally coming out against their standards of what a good body is supposed to look like, and rubbing it in the face of a celebrity woman beater, as well as being the most dominant athlete in what is supposed to be and until a few years ago was a male exclusive sport in its top promotion. She even stuck it to the men who thought she’d flop on top, whether for lack of skill or that nobody would ever pay to see a woman in a main event spot.
Rousey Rousey’d Correia, knocking her out in 34 seconds. This sets up a third fight with Miesha Tate, likely on either 12/5 or Jan. 2. Much of the talk was of Cris Cyborg Justino, with Dana White saying they’ll make the fight tomorrow if Cyborg can make weight, and Rousey saying that if she can make 145 all juiced up, she can get off the juice and make 135. Justino then threatened to sue her over those remarks, although Justino did make 145 all juiced up, more than three years ago against Hiroko Yamanaka. ESPN Sports Center was pushing the idea of that fight, with Cyborg saying that since Rousey cleaned out her division, when a fighter cleans out their division, they move up to the next division, which would be 145. Cyborg said that she’s instead ready to meet her at 140, and said nothing about dropping to 135, where, if she made that weight for a fight, would get the Rousey fight next. Justino has said this week she’ll fight her next fight at 140.
Last week White talked about how, if that match were to take place, it would do 2 million buys. Everyone laughed. Now he says 2.5 million buys. That may be promoter hyperbole and still sounds like a ridiculous number (however the betting line on a real number those two could be expected to do has grown from more than 1 million to 1.5 million or more, and when it comes to the big fights, they usually, because of general public late interest and them becoming must-see events, usually over perform expectations.
But either way, but people are not laughing so loudly anymore at high Rousey buy rate predictions. Like with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, it now appears to have been in everyone’s best interest that this fight never happened in early 2013 when UFC first tried to put it together, because whatever it would have done then, it would more than double and possibly triple that number now.
The 8/1 show at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro had a few other storylines. Claudia Gadelha earned herself a women’s strawweight title shot at Joanna Jedzrejczyk by winning a one-sided decision over former WSOF champion Jessica Aguilar.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, a 39-year-old who had taken several careers worth of beatings, looks to have finished his career after losing a decision to Stefan Struve. Nogueira was the first-ever Pride heavyweight champion, as well as RINGS champion and interim UFC heavyweight champion. He was considered the best heavyweight in the world from 2001 until his loss to Fedor Emelianenko in 2003, and you could make a case he was No. 2 until his loss to Frank Mir in 2008. But his loss to Struve was his fifth loss in his last seven fights. White said that they were looking at giving him a front office job, similar to what they did with Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Matt Hughes, when their fighting days were over.
The show drew 14,723 fans, a near sellout. Rousey was not all that popular in Brazil, a country where the popularity of MMA revolved more around Brazilians on top, she won them over and even got a national Budweiser commercial as she talked about winning a silver medal, at the age of 20, in the 2007 judo world championships in Rio de Janeiro, and how it was one of her two favorite cities to compete in.
On Globo, the leading network in Brazil, her fight drew 3.75 million homes (the show overall averaged 3.25 million homes), even though her fight went into the cage at 2:40 a.m. local time. The number was about the same as Anderson Silva, one of the country’s biggest celebrities, drew for his comeback fight against Nick Diaz.
FS 1 had a strong overall weekend. The weigh-ins on 7/31 did 101,000 viewers, actually well down from the McGregor weigh-ins three weeks ago and below what some of her previous weigh-ins have done. However, a prime time airing of her second fight with Tate at 9 p.m. that night did 388,000 viewers, the most ever for the UFC Main Event show on the station. An episode of UFC Tonight at 10 p.m., built around her, did 396,000 viewers, blowing away the record for that show.
The prefight show at 7 p.m. on 8/1 did 518,000 viewers, the third biggest number for a prefight show. The postfight show, even though it didn’t start until 1:42 a.m., did 438,000 viewers, the second most ever for a PPV event.
The prelims did 1,322,000 viewers, up from 849,000 three weeks earlier for the McGregor show. As far as prelims go, it was the third biggest number for shows on FS 1, trailing UFC 168 (Anderson Silva vs. Sonnen; Rousey vs. Tate) and UFC 183 (Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz). But UFC 168 had Chris Leben in the main event, and UFC 183 prelims had Tate. This had Demian Maia vs. Neil Magny, and peaked with Patrick Cummins vs. Rafael Feijao Cavalcante, with 1,599,000 viewers.
The $50,000 bonuses went to Rousey and Maia for best performance, and to Mauricio Shogun Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira for the best fight, even though the consensus by far was that the TUF bantamweight final of Delino Lopes vs. Reginaldo Vieira should have gotten that nod.
Overall, it was more a “happening” with the main event than a good show. Because they did a seven fight PPV card and it went about three-hours and 15 minutes, it was feeling like a three hour Raw episode. The long main card was because TUF Brazil was on Globo and they were broadcasting the finals so they had to be on the main card.
1. Guido Cannetti (7-3) beat Hugo Viana (8-4) on straight 29-28 scores in a bantamweight fight. I had Viana winning the first and second rounds, but the second was close. Viana got two takedowns in the first round and Cannetti went for a toehold on the ground. In the second round, Cannetti landed a head kick and several punches and got the takedown, and a second takedown. Viana got a takedown late in the round and landed a lot of punches from the top. Cannetti got a takedown in the third. Fans were booing an endless clinch. Cannetti got two more takedowns in the round.
2. Vitor Miranda (12-4) beat Clint Hester (11-5) at 2:38 of the second round in a middleweight fight. Hester fought for a takedown early and gave Miranda a slow spinebuster. Miranda reversed to the top and was pounding on Hester. Hester was bleeding from the right eye. Miranda landed punches and elbows until the end of the round. Hester got a takedown to start the second round, but Miranda got up. Hester tried for another takedown, but Miranda caught him with a knee that stunned him and was pounding on him with elbows before ref Herb Dean stopped it.
3. Iuri Alcantara (32-6, 1 no contest) beat Leandro Issa (13-5) on scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27 in a bantamweight fight. In the first round, Alcantara went for a triangle, but that allowed Issa to have top position when he escaped. He moved to side control, landed elbows and worked for a Kimura. He then got mount and landed punches to solidly take the round. Alcantara dropped Issa with a left to start round two. Alcantara dominated the standup in the round, dropped elbows on the ground, and hurt him with a left late. The two hugged to start the third round. Alcantara was on top in the third working for a Kimura and landed big punches on the ground. Issa was bleeding. Alcantara walked away to fight standing and he kept landing the left, front kicks and a jumping kick as well as punches to take the third round.
4. Warlley Alves (10-0) beat Nordine Taleb (11-3) at 4:11 of the second round in a welterweight fight. Alves came out much slower than usual after getting a scare when he got tired in his last fight. He scored a knockdown with a right in the first round but it was mostly slow. In the second round, Alves couldn’t get the takedown until catching a kick and using it to land on top. But Taleb got back up and shot for a takedown, but in doing so, Alves grabbed a guillotine for the submission.
5. Patrick Cummins (8-2) beat Rafael Feijao Cavalcante (12-6, 1 no contest) at :45 of the third round in a light heavyweight fight. There are two Cavalcante’s. There is the really muscular version (who once failed a steroid test) that beat Yoel Romero. And the soft version that shows up and looks bad, like here. Cummins got six takedowns in the first round on him and Feijao was exhausted. However Feijao was able to land punches and Cummins was cut under both eyes and both cuts started swelling. By the end of the fight, he had small eggs growing from underneath each eye. So even though he dominated the fight, he actually looked like the loser. In the second round, Cummins was bleeding badly, but took Feijao down and landed hard body shots and a number of punches. Feijao landed some up kicks. Mario Yamasaki stopped the action to check on Cummins’ cuts but the doctor let it continue. Cummins had Feijao’s back as the round ended. Cummins took Feijao down to start the third round and pounded on him with elbows until ref Mario Yamasaki stopped it.
6. Demian Maia (21-6) beat Neil Magny (15-5) at 2:52 of the second round in a welterweight fight. Magny had looked super impressive the last year plus with a seven fight win streak, but this showed he had a ceiling. Maia turned it into a grappling match and was totally dominant. Maia took him down, got mount and pounded on him from the top. He went for an armbar but time ran out just before he could lock it. In the second round, it was the same thing. Maia took him down, got mount, and then got his back and choked him out. The crowd, waiting for a popular Brazilian win, went crazy at the finish.
7. Claudia Gadelha (13-1) beat Jessica Aguilar (18-5) on straight 30-27 scores in a women’s strawweight match. This was for the No. 1 contendership. Gadelha dominated the standup in the first round. Aguilar was bleeding from the nose and cheek. Gadelha also took Aguilar down and got her back. In the second round, Gadelha hurt her with punches, and got two more takedowns. Aguilar came out in the third and landed low kicks, but Gadelha landed hard punches. Aguilar landed more low kicks until being taken down at the end of the round.
8. Antonio Silva (19-7) beat Soa Palelei (22-5) in :41 of the second round in a heavyweight fight. Palelei got the takedown in the first round and landed punches from the top, but was exhausted when the round was over. In the second round Silva landed uppercuts and hard knees, then punches until Palelei went down and it was stopped.
9. Stefan Struve (30-7) beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-10-1, 1 no contest) via straight 30-27 scores in a heavyweight bout. Struve is one of those guys who, with the exception of the fact he knocked out Stipe Miocic, never fights to the level you think he should. He’s 6-foot-11 ½ and cuts to make 265. He’s got a good ground game. But he doesn’t use his height and reach well. Nogueira was able to walk in and tie him up, but couldn’t do much from there. Nogueira landed punches but Struve was quicker and landed more. In the second round, Nogueira got a takedown and full mount and worked for a choke. But Struve got up and hurt him with an uppercut and landed a number of front kicks. Struve landed a head kick and Nogueira tried for a takedown, but Struve continued with front kicks low kicks and a head kick and dominated the round. Fans popped big when Struve showed good sportsmanship and hugged Nogueira, who grew up near the arena.
10. Reginaldo Vieira (14-3) beat Delino Lopes (19-2) on scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 in the finals of the TUF Brazil bantamweight tournament. Great fight. Lopes landed a ton of uppercuts and Vieira went for a guillotine. Lopes got out and grabbed a guillotine of his own. Vieira escaped with a knee and punches. Lopes knocked him down and grabbed another guillotine. Vieira escaped and landed big punches, a body kick and a hard right. Lopes had swelling under the left eye. Lopes landed a lot, with a ton of body kicks and punches and even got a takedown. Still, two judges gave the round to Vieira. In the third, Lopes landed punches, a takedown and had another guillotine. Vieira popped out and started landing punches from the top. He landed a ton of punches from the top late in the round. I thought it was going down to the wire with Vieira winning in the last minute or so.
11. Glaico Franca (14-3) beat Fernando Bruno (16-3) at 4:46 of the third round in the TUF Brazil lightweight final. Franca controlled most of the first round on the ground. In the second round, they each got a takedown until Bruno went for a second one, Franca scrambled and got his back and worked for a choke, but couldn’t lock it in. Bruno started strong in the third, but needed a finish. Bruno took him down, got his back and was working for a choke. Franca escaped and got on top. Franca threw a knee and Bruno acted like it was as low blow, but the replay showed the shot was legal. It did get Bruno a time out. But Franca took him down and got a choke to end it with 14 seconds left in the fight.
12. Mauricio Shogun Rua (23-10) beat Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (21-7) on straight 29-28 scores in a light heavyweight fight. I actually scored it 29-27 for Nogueira with a 10-8 first round and taking the third. But the judges saw it differently. Nogueira hurt him with punches in the first round and was on the verge of finishing. Rua survived the round and did fire back with punches but was shaky until the end of the round. In the second round, Rua took him down and controlled enough of the round to win it. In the third round, Rua landed a lot of good body kicks. Rua took him down but Nogueira grabbed a tight guillotine. Rua popped out and landed a few punches late. The guillotine looked dangerous and Nogueira had him under control for enough of the round that I thought he won it, but you could argue Rua landed body kicks and the guillotine didn’t finish him.
13. Ronda Rousey (12-0) beat Bethe Correia (9-1) in :34. Even though Rousey seemed super popular all week, when the match started, she got more boos than cheers against the Brazilian. Great staredown. Both were throwing punches and Rousey was so much faster and better technically with her hands. She landed a left, a knee and right to the temple for the finish. At weigh-ins, Correia was yelling at Rousey, “Don’t cry,” so when Correia got up, Rousey told her, “Don’t cry.” Rousey then said that we lost a real close friend who gave me permission to use his name in Rowdy Roddy Piper and I hope he and my dad had a good time watching this fight together.
There have been no major surprises with all of the big names remaining in contention at press time in the G-1 Climax tournament.
After the 8/5 show in Iwate, the tournament heads into its next to last week, including the beginning of the six dates in Tokyo. What is clear from this year’s experiment is that it is too long this year, as the interest level still isn’t close to most years.
In the A block, Bad Luck Fale, Tetsuya Naito, Katsuyori Shibata, Hiroshi Tanahashi and A.J. Styles are all tied for first place with 4-2 records, with Togi Makabe and Kota Ibushi at 3-3.
In the B block, Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii are in first place with 4-1 records, with Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooki Goto, Karl Anderson and Michael Elgin at 3-2.
The shows this past week in Sendai, Nagoya and Iwate sold out. But the show with the best lineup of the past week, and it turned out to be the best show so far in the tournament, on 8/1 at the Bodymaker Colosseum in Osaka, drew 4,523 fans. That would be the smallest New Japan crowd in that building since the 2010 G-1 Climax, which was when the company had bottomed out and more than a year before the beginning of the business turnaround. Part of this is because this came less than a month after the blow away Dominion show. It tells the story of coming back to a market too soon, following up a major show, and more important, how putting on an incredible show does not mean those people will buy tickets for the next one. That was followed by the worst show so far the next night in Nagoya, with a dead crowd in what has historically been a great New Japan market since the beginning of time.
At press time here are the standings:
A BLOCK – 1. Fale, Naito, Shibata, Tanahashi and Styles 4-2; 6. Makabe and Ibushi 3-3;8. Toru Yano 2-4; 9. Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Doc Gallows.
B BLOCK – 1. Okada and Ishii 4-1; 3. Nakamura, Goto, Anderson and Elgin 3-2; 7. Yujiro Takahashi and Satoshi Kojima 2-3; 9. Yuji Nagata 1-4; 10. Tomoaki Honma 0-5.
This week’s shows:
8/7 in Hamamatsu at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time (B block night): Yohei Komatsu vs. Jay White, Naito & David Finlay vs. Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi, Tenzan & Makabe & Ibushi & Captain New Japan vs. Styles & Gallows & Fale & Tama Tonga, Tanahashi & Kushida & Mascara Dorada vs. Shibata & Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi; Elgin vs. Nagata; Honma vs. Anderson; Goto vs. Kojima; Nakamura vs. Takahashi and Okada vs. Ishii.
8/8 in Yokohama at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time (A block night): Kojima & Tiger Mask & Taguchi & Komatsu vs. Nagata & Kushida & Dorada & Finlay, Elgin & White vs. Anderson & Cody Hall; Goto & Honma & Captain New Japan vs. Nakamura & Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi; Okada & Gedo vs. Takahashi & Tonga; Ibushi vs. Fale; Naito vs. Yano; Tenzan vs. Styles; Makabe vs. Gallows; Tanahashi vs. Shibata.
8/9 at Tokyo Korakuen Hall at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time (B block night): Finlay & White vs. Fale & Tonga; Ibushi & Dorada vs. Yano & Yoshi-Hashi; Naito & Taguchi & Captain New Japan vs. Styles & Gallows & Hall; Tanahashi & Tenzan & Kushida vs. Makabe & Shibata & Tiger Mask; Elgin vs. Anderson; Kojima vs. Nagata; Okada vs. Takahashi; Honma vs. Nakamura; Goto vs. Ishii.
8/11 at Korakuen Hall at 5:30 a.m. Eastern (A block night): White & Dorada vs. Hall & Takahashi; Kushida & Captain New Japan vs. Anderson & Tonga; Goto & Komatsu vs. Elgin & Finlay; Kojima & Nagata & Honma & Taguchi vs. Nakamura & Okada & Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi; Naito vs. Gallows; Tenzan vs. Shibata; Ibushi vs. Yano; Styles vs. Fale; Tanahashi vs. Makabe.
8/12 at Korakuen Hall at 5:30 a.m. Eastern (B block night): Tiger Mask & Finlay & White vs. Taguchi & Komatsu & Tanaka; Yano & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Fale & Tonga; Tenzan & Makabe & Kushida vs. Naito & Ibushi & Dorada; Tanahashi & Shibata & Captain New Japan vs. Styles & Gallows & Hall; Anderson vs. Takahashi; Elgin vs. Goto; Kojima vs. Nakamura; Nagata vs. Okada, Honma vs. Ishii.
August 1 – Osaka Bodymaker Colosseum (A block night) – 4,523
1. Doc Gallows & Cody Hall beat David Finlay & Jay White in 7:22. Hall looked real green here but clearly has potential. White & Finlay are both good for their experience level. Gallows pinned White after a tree bomb. *3/4
2. Tetsuya Naito & Kota Ibushi & Mascara Dorada beat Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Yohei Komatsu & Togi Makabe in 12:12. Naito was wanting to stall in his new heel role. Dorada did some cool stuff. Ibushi vs. Komatsu looked the best. Naito walked off during the match. But after several good near falls by Komatsu on Dorada, Dorada came back and pinned him after the Dorada screwdriver. Real good ending. Tenzan and Ibushi squared off after the match. ***
3. A.J. Styles & Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga beat Katsuyori Shibata & Tiger Mask & Captain New Japan in 9:50. Some good stuff. Tiger Mask got hurt here as he missed the next two days. Styles gave him a piledriver late and he sold it like he was hurt. Fale used the grenade on Shibata and Tonga pinned Captain after a jumping DDT. Tonga then attacked ref Red Shoes and threw him out of the ring. They are throwing him out of the ring too much. **3/4
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kushida & Ryusuke Taguchi beat Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi & Gedo in 10:21. Kushida went for a moonsault on Gedo, who got his knees up. Gedo went for the Gedo clutch, but Kushida turned it into the Kimura for a submission. Good all the way through, particularly Kushida. ***1/4
5. Yujiro Takahashi pinned Satoshi Kojima in 13:01. Takahashi must have considered this a big show since he brought a stripper out with him. Takahashi distracted the ref and Hall attacked Kojima. Takahashi gave him a German suplex onto his right shoulder. Kojima came back with a brainbuster and lariat, but Hall pulled the ref out of the ring. It comes across so stupid when that happens and it’s not a DQ. Hall attacked Kojima. In G-1, that may be the wrong kind of heat. This allowed Takahashi to win with the Miami Shine. ***
6. Karl Anderson pinned Yuji Nagata in 11:15. Very hard hitting match. Nagata hit the enzuigiri and went for the back suplex, but Anderson reversed into a gunstun for the pin. ***½
7. Michael Elgin pinned Tomoaki Honma in 9:55. Excellent match. Honma is relying on missing his falling head-butt so much it becomes comedy. Crowd was really into Honma, which made things easier for Elgin, but he also looked great here. Elgin won after a power bomb into the turnbuckles and a spinning power bomb. ****1/4
8. Shinsuke Nakamura pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 14:44. This was one of the best matches in the tournament. Nakamura looked great considering he has a messed up left elbow and probably shouldn’t be wrestling. Ishii used Nakamura’s reverse powerslam on Nakamura and nearly dropped him on his head. Nakamura won after a falcon arrow and bom a ye. ****½
9. Hirooki Goto pinned Kazuchika Okada in 16:45. This was the battle of champions as the IC champion pinned the IWGP champion. It started slow. Goto missed a charge outside the ring and flew over the guard rail. Okada then ran on the floor and did a crossbody over the guard rails. Lots of near falls. Okada hit a German suplex and went for the rainmaker, but Goto used a head-butt to the jaw. After ducking Okada’s finishes, Goto hit two more head-butts and pinned Okada with the shoten kai. ****1/4
August 2 – Nagoya Aiichi Ken Gym (B block night) – 6,500 sellout
1. Satoshi Kojima & Ryusuke Taguchi & Kushida beat Tomoaki Honma & David Finlay & Mascara Dorada in 9:39. Lots of Honma signs in the crowd. Dorada did some nice rope walking and an Asai moonsault. Taguchi did a lot of comedy. Kojima and Honma had communication issues a couple of times in the match. At one point they both just stood there in a weird pause. Something seemed to be wrong with Kojima as he tagged out and got off the apron. They had issues later in the match as well. Kushida used a moonsault and then made Finlay submit to the Kimura. **3/4
2. Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall beat Michael Elgin & Jay White in 11:52. This was a bad match and the crowd was dead. The crowd was really dead for a lot of the show which hurt every match. Elgin got a pop for having both guys on his shoulder and doing a Samoan drop. Elgin had problems lifting Hall up for a power bomb. White looked the best of the four but nobody could save the heel team here. Hall clotheslined White and then Takahashi pinned him after Tokyo pimps (a dominator). 3/4*
3. Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi beat Yuji Nagata & Captain New Japan & Hirooki Goto in 9:37. First part of the match was Nagata working on Nakamura’s bad elbow and he sold great. Nagata and Ishii had a good slapping sequence. But it turned into comedy at the end when they tagged in Captain and everyone knew he was doing the job. Yoshi-Hashi pinned Captain after a swanton. **1/4
4. Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga beat Kazuchika Okada & Gedo in 10:20. Work was good overall here but the crowd hurt the match. The one thing with Okada is that in a big match situation, there’s nobody in the world better, but put him in this kind of a position and he seems almost disinterested. After several near falls, Anderson used a gunstun on Gedo and a side effect on Okada. Tonga then pinned Gedo after a guillotine DDT. **1/4
5. Kota Ibushi pinned Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 11:14. Ibushi did a very good job here but Tenzan doesn’t appear to have any miracles up his sleeve this year. Ibushi missed his middle rope moonsault to the floor and started selling his right knee. Tenzan did his usual stuff but the crowd wasn’t really behind it. The coolest spot was Ibushi flipping out of an Anaconda buster and then used a twisting standing moonsault for a near fall. He got the pin after a high kick and Phoenix splash. ***1/4
6. Katsuyori Shibata pinned Bad Luck Fale in 7:51. This worked well because both played to the others’ strengths. Fale sold Shibata’s offense well and Shibata sold Fale’s power. Fale tackled him off the apron and dropped him chest first on the guard rail, teasing a count out spot and Shibata just dove in to beat it. The finish saw Fale go for the Bad Luck Fall (border toss), but Shibata escaped and got behind Fale and choked him almost all the way out. Shibata let go of the choke and hit the penalty kick for the pin. ***
7. A.J. Styles pinned Doc Gallows in 10:14. A decent match but hurt by the lack of heat, although the fans treated Styles like a star as he came to the ring. Styles did a springboard off the guard rail but was caught with a choke slam on the apron and also whipped hard into the guard rail twice. Styles won clean with the Bloody Sunday DDT. **3/4
8. Togi Makabe pinned Tetsuya Naito in 15:44. This was really good but the finish was scary. Naito stalled a lot early playing his new heel role and even spit at ref Red Shoes. It picked up and was the best thing on the show. Makabe used a German suplex and a lariat to the back of the head. He set up his German superplex. Naito fought it, but Makabe rammed his head into the post twice and then hit the German superplex and finished with a kneedrop off the top rope. Naito had this sick indentation on his forehead. I’m not sure if it came from one of the post shots or if the kneedrop actually hit, but he was bleeding badly and from his forehead, the indentation looked like the imprint of either a post or Makabe’s knee. David Finlay was helping Naito after, and Naito attacked Finlay. ***½
9. Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Toru Yano in 15:39. Yano still had a black eye and tape over his forehead from when Tenzan nailed him with the diving head-butt last week. Some comedy early including a spot where Yano couldn’t skin the cat, which is a move Tanahashi always does. Tanahashi went for a cross bodyblock on the floor, but Yano moved, and Tanahashi went right into the post. Yano took over slamming Tanahashi into the exposed metal of a turnbuckle he undid and ripping on his nose. At another point, Tanahashi was on the top rope for his high fly flow on the floor, but Yano crawled under the ring. He came out the other side and pointed to his head like he outsmarted Tanahashi, but Tanahashi hit him with a plancha. Both were on the floor and they teased a double count out and it was as close as it comes as Tanahashi just beat the count and the ref probably had to hold up for a split second for Yano to get in. Tanahashi kicked out of the low blow and backslide combination. There was another ref bump. Yano’s cut was opened up and he was bleeding. Tanahashi used a sling blade on a chair and the high fly flow and the ref recovered and counted the fall. ***1/4
August 4 – Sendai Sun Plaza Hall (B Block night) – 2,525 sellout
*Michael Elgin pinned Yujiro Takahashi with the Elgin bomb in 11:58 in a good match.
*Satoshi Kojima pinned Tomoaki Honma in 10:15 after a lariat. This was very good.
*Tomohiro Ishii pinned Yuji Nagata in 16:19 after a brainbuster. Said to be great, best thing on the show.
*Kazuchika Okada pinned Karl Anderson in 14:34 after the rainmaker. Good but lacked heat at certain points.
*Shinsuke Nakamura beat Hirooki Goto in 16:32 with a flying armbar submission. One would have figured on a Nakamura win here given he’d go to 2-3 if he had lost, plus Goto beat him in singles matches on the last two major shows in IC title matches. Also said to be very good.
August 5 – Iwate Industry Cultural Center (A block night) – 2,396 sellout
*Bad Luck Fale pinned Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 9:51 after a splash off the top rope. Match was okay.
*Toru Yano pinned Katsuyori Shibata in 4:01. Shibata came out and pretty much destroyed Yano, including hitting the penalty kick. Shibata then went for an armbar and Yano rolled him up. Place went nuts between the upset, and the fact Shibata was killing him. Real well booked also to do a short match so people don’t get numb for stuff that happens early in the match.
*Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Doc Gallows in 11:37. Okay early but picked up when Gallows hit a brainbuster and Tanahashi barely kicked out. They were with it from there. Finish saw Gallows go for a power bomb but Tanahashi turned it into the Toyota roll for the pin.
*A.J. Styles pinned Togi Makabe in 11:17. Really good and crowd was into it. Makabe blocked the Bloody Sunday DDT, but Styles then hit a Pele kick and pinned him after a Styles clash.
*Tetsuya Naito pinned Kota Ibushi in 17:18. Great main event as Ibushi remains the tournament MVP. Naito did a reverse huracanrana off the top rope which was a dangerous spot and Ibushi’s landing was scary. Ibushi did a sick power bomb like Kawada used to do. Naito won after a Dragon suplex, and his new Destino finish, the sliced bread into a scorpion death drop.
Raw on 8/3 did 3.70 million viewers, which is almost identical to the 3.68 million the week before.
In the past, Raw after major deaths of wrestling stars have shown major increases as the Raw after the death of Randy Savage did 5.41 million viewers (about 700,000 more than they were doing at the time), after Ultimate Warrior drew 4.76 million (about 380,000 more than the show was usually doing although down from Raw-after-Mania numbers), and after Dusty Rhodes did 4.10 million viewers (about 440,000 more than the show averaged this summer).
The first hour was up from the summer average so there probably was a little curiosity bump early, as the pattern of late has been second hour growth. The 8 p.m. hour did 3.74 million viewers, the 9 p.m. hour did 3.70 million viewers and the 10 p.m. hour did 3.67 million viewers. Raw was second for the night on cable.
A UFC special at 10 p.m. on 8/2 on FS 1 covering the women’s bantamweights did 257,000 viewers.
The Danny Garcia vs. Paulie Malignaggi boxing match on ESPN on 8/1 which went head-to-head with UFC 190 did 1,073,000 viewers.
The World Series of Fighting show on 8/1, also head-to-head with the UFC PPV, headlined by Rousimar Palhares vs. Jake Shields, drew 254,000 viewers on NBC Sports. That show aired from 10:40 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. Overall that’s above average even with a later start time (and it was advertised to start at 11 p.m.) and given the competition that indicates way above normal interest in that main event. A key thing to note is that almost all the viewership was Males 35-49. In the three key demos, Males 18-34 did a 0.07 rating, Males 35-49 did a 0.31 rating and Women 18-49 did a 0.03 rating.
Smackdown on 7/30 did a 1.77 rating and 2.44 million viewers (1.47 viewers per home) which put the show in fourth place on cable for the night.
Impact on 7/29 did 343,000 viewers for the first-run episode and 64,000 for the midnight replay, for a total of 407,000 viewers. It was the best numbers they had done since 7/8 for the first-run show and overall, up from 388,000 the week before.
ROH, cut down to one airing, out of prime time at 11 p.m., did 171,000 viewers. While only maintaining half of the TNA audience, that is a strong out of prime time number and the best number for an individual episode since 6/25, although overall with one showing instead of two, the combined audience is significantly lower than they had been getting.
On 7/29, it was all UFC night on FS 2 with the highest rated show being an 11 p.m. airing of Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche doing 97,000 viewers (which is a very strong number for that network) and a 10 p.m. airing of Rousey vs. Miesha Tate doing 67,000. UFC Tonight at 8 p.m. did only 17,000 viewers.
Tough Enough on 7/28 fell to 980,000 viewers, down 14 percent from the previous week.
Total Divas on 7/28 did 1,083,000 viewers, which was up nine percent from the prior week.
The UFC 190 Countdown show on 7/27 did 116,000 viewers on FS 1. They used to routinely do 500,000 to 1 million for those shows in the Spike days.
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The complete TripleMania show on 8/9 at Arena Ciudad in Mexico City will be six matches, opening with the man, woman, mini and exotico battle with Drago & Goya Kong & Dinastia & Pimpinela Escarlata vs. Daga & Sexy Star & Mini Psycho Clown & Mamba, The Hell Brothers (Cibernetico & Chessman & Averno) defending the trios titles against Jack Evans & Angelico & Fenix and El Hijo del Fantasma (King Cuerno) & Pentagon Jr. & El Texano Jr., Blue Demon Jr. & La Parka vs. Mesias (Mil Muertes) & Electroshock, Los Villanos III & IV & V vs. The Psycho Circus Alberto El Patron vs. Brian Cage in a hair vs. hair match and Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Myzteziz. Not only will Villano III be retiring, but also the Villano vs. Psycho Circus match will be the retirement match of referee Pepe Casas, who is the father of Negro Casas, Felino and Heavy Metal, and is 82 years old. Also announced is that Perro Aguayo Jr. will be inducted into the AAA Hall of Fame and that his family will be brought in for the show. They held a press conference on 7/30 and Mysterio and Myzteziz tried to build some heat by Mysterio saying he would prove who the original was and who was the copy. Myzteziz teased the idea of going heel by talking about drawing from the dark side to beat him. The storyline is whether Myzteziz will go heel as they have all the heels say they would welcome him and he even said that being a rudo would be his birthright since his father, Dr. Karonte, was a rudo. Myzteziz said that Perro Aguayo Jr. would be angel in his corner for the match, while Mysterio Jr. said he would rip Myzteziz’s mask off and present it to Perro Aguayo Sr. at the end of the show. Myzteziz was asked about the comments from Alberto El Patron (neither Alberto nor Cage were at the press conference) on Twitter (from last week’s issue) and he wouldn’t comment. Alberto has since gone back and deleted all his posts. The story about the gun wasn’t Myzteziz pulling a gun on Alberto, but it was actually a confrontation where a friend of Myzteziz pulled out the gun. At one point Alberto was going to be facing Jeff Jarrett in a match, maybe a hair match, but it fell through. They had shot an angle for it at the World Cup. Reportedly as of press time there were 14,000 tickets sold for the show, which is good because Mexico City is still a heavy walk-up market, although not as much for major shows.
Konnan on Wrestling Observer radio said that in a few months, when Flamita returns from Dragon Gate, he will start up here and get a push.
Demon Jr. said that he never found out who he was booked against for TripleMania until he read about it on the Internet, but did say he was appreciated them honoring him for his 30 years in the business.
They announced a major show from The Crash promotion on 10/2 in Tijuana with Mysterio Jr. & Alberto & Rey Horus (local wrestler who is very good) vs. El Hijo del Fantasma & Texano Jr. & Daga, as well as Pentagon Jr. defending the Crash cruiserweight title against Tijuana’s Bestia 666, and a four-way with Fenix vs. Angelico vs. Matt Cross (Son of Havoc) & Seiya Sanada.
Rey Mysterio Jr. & Fenix & La Parka headline for The Crash in Puebla on 8/7 against Pentagon Jr. & El Hijo del Fantasma & Daga.
They were back in action this weekend with two shows in Kobe. Shingo Takagi has been verbally burying T-Hawk, which caused Masato Yoshino, who just defended his title against T-Hawk, to stick up for him. This looks to set up Takagi as the next challenger for Yoshino’s Open the Dream Gate title. Yoshino has been wearing an old title belt since the current belt is missing and the new belt hasn’t been completed and shipped to Japan.
Cima is also burying the younger wrestlers for lack of progress and effort, in particular, Eita. On 8/1, Super Shisa scored his first-ever pin on BxB Hulk in a six-man. The 8/2 show saw Yamato & Naruki Doi retain the Open the Twin Gate titles over Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito when Doi pinned Saito. The main event saw Akira Tozawa & Takagi beat Yoshino & T-Hawk when Takagi pinned T-Hawk in 18:17 with the Pumping Bomber.
The contract of Kenso (Kenzo Suzuki, 41) expired at the end of this month and he didn’t sign a new deal. However, he will continue to work both here and other places as a free agent.
A block winner Daisuke Harada won the Global jr. tournament pinning B block winner Atsushi Kotoge in 16:35 after a German suplex on 8/5 at Differ Ariake in Tokyo before 917 fans. This earns him a shot at jr champ Taichi on 9/19 in Osaka.
Going into the final day, Zack Sabre Jr., Harada and Desperado were all tied with 4-1 records. Sabre Jr. was then pinned by Kenou in 7:35 to eliminate him. So it came down to Harada beating Desperado in 5:23 with a German suplex. In the B block, Super Crazy, Kotoge, Taka Michinoku and Taiji Ishimori all went into the final day with 3-2 records. Crazy was eliminated when he was pinned by Bengala in 5:24. Ishimori clinched a tie for first pinning Hajime Ohara with a 450 in 7:15. Kotoge then pinned Michinoku in 10:44 with the killswitch. Since Kotoge beat Ishimori in the tournament, he went to the final as the B block winner. Final standings were: A block: 1. Harada 5-1; 2. Sabre Jr., Desperado and Kenou 4-2; 5. Ogawa 3-3; 6. Sho Tanaka 1-5; 7. Hitoshi Kumano 0-6; B block: 1. Kotoge 4-2; 2. Ishimori 4-2; 3. Michinoku, Ohara, Bengala and Crazy 3-3; 7. Genba Hirayanagi 1-5.
The main event at Differ Ariake was a singles match between the two top NOAH stars as the company’s 15th anniversary special match (given that they promoted it as the 15th anniversary special with the two top guys, and jr. finals, the size of the crowd has to be a disappointment), as Takashi Sugiura pinned Naomichi Marufuji in 12:52 with the Olympic slam. Minoru Suzuki, who defends against Sugiura on 9/19, then came out and said that the match was boring and it turned into a pull-apart.
In tourney matches this week, on 7/30 in Okayama before 480 fans, Ohara pinned Hirayanagi in 8:28; Michinoku made Crazy submit in 8:25, Kenou pinned Tanaka in 13:50 and Desperado pinned Sabre Jr., in 11:08 with a splash off the top rope.
8/1 in Kanazawa saw Desperado pin Kenou in 13:31 with a splash off the top rope; Kotoge pinned Bengala in 8:49 with the killswitch and Harada pinned Ogawa in 11:58 after a German suplex.
8/2 in Takaoka saw Ishimori pin Hirayanagi in 7:44 with a 450; Sabre Jr. made Kumano submit in 9:47 and Kenou pinned Ogawa in 13:28.
From the word we’ve gotten, when the Tokyo Dome show from 1/4 airs later this year on AXS, I’m told in the presentation with the packages, that the Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada match comes across better than the Kota Ibushi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match.
New Japan is scouting amateur wrestling champion Tomoyuki Oka to be one of its next stars. He’s 6-foot-1 and 253 pounds and has competed at the international level in wrestling, and also has sambo background and has been training at Satoru Sayama’s gym. He had a New Japan logo on his gi recently when he competed in a sambo tournament, and owner Takaaki Kidani went to Sumo Hall recently to watch him compete in Ganryujima, which is a new form of MMA promotion.
Lawyers for Hogan filed a request in a St. Petersburg, FL, court on 7/30 to conduct an investigation of a potential violation of a protective order regarding the tape transcript leaks to RadarOnline and The National Enquirer for their series of stories last week. As noted, the contents of those tapes had been sealed . According to reports from Anna Phillips of TampaBay.com, Hogan’s lawyers said they wanted to prove that Gawker, whom Hogan is suing, violated the court order by leaking the transcripts of the tapes, and ruining Hogan’s career and potentially ruining his right to a fair trial, claiming Gawker wanted the stuff to get out and being desperate to counter negative publicity. They asked for a forensics electronics expert to examine all of Gawker’s computers and phones to see if there was any communication with the Enquirer. Gawker denied having anything to do with the story getting out, saying they have never shared the confidential transcripts with the media, and saying that there are “a long list of people who knew about Mr. Bollea’s use of racist language long before Gawker learned about it.” They said that many others had the transcripts and noted the author of the Enquirer story had already gone on record as saying he got the material from somebody else, and described this request as “the last refuge of a desperate litigant.” Hogan is likely to file for more extensive damages now, because he can prove far greater monetary losses now that he was fired by WWE and his earnings potential as a pitchman or in other forms of media has plummeted. “His career is done,” said his lawyers. “He’s been fired by WWE. At this point , we want to find out what happened here.” Hogan’s attorney said he was skeptical of the reporter claiming it wasn’t Gawker who leaked the transcript and even pointed to a 2014 story by Gawker entitled, “How to leak to Gawker anonymously.” The judge said she would need to review the filings before making a decision. She also said that her docket was totally full and said the earliest date for what would be expected to be a two-week long trial would be 3/7. Hogan’s attorneys were not happy and asked if the case could be moved to another judge and have the trial sooner, which was turned down.
Some more Hogan notes: Several months ago when Hogan’s Beach got blasted for having a dress code that it was claimed was racist (which was a stretch), Hogan said that they just used his name and he didn’t really run the place. Well, as it turns out, according to local records, Terry Gene Bollea is both an owner and a registered agent for Hogan’s Beach.
Nik Richie, the publisher of TheDirty.com, who listened to what was said on all the sex tapes said that besides the Hogan usage of the N word being dubbed over on the tapes, that also dubbed over was Hogan badmouthing then-wife Linda and blaming her for “F***ing up my MTV show.” The Enquirer description of how everything went down is that they contacted Hogan on 7/23 and asked for a comment on the story they were about to break. They said it was Hogan, not them, who alerted WWE and WWE immediately ordered everything related to Hogan to be taken off the web site. The belief is that the tapes that were stolen from Bubba the Love Sponge by an ex-employee, alleged to be Keith Davidson, led to an extortion attempt where the man with the tapes tried to get Hogan to sign off on the release and marketing of the tapes and saying they all could make big money from it, and thought he could get Hogan to agree to it by threatening to publicly release the incriminating parts, knowing it could destroy Hogan. Information in this past week’s Figure Four Weekly stated that there was a recorded phone call on December 14, 2012, between a person who is believed to be Davidson, and David Houston, Hogan’s attorney. The FBI did not prosecute Davidson. The story said that Hogan and Davidson did sign a deal.
Former Mid Atlantic, WCW and Smoky Mountain announcer Bob Caudle, now in his late 80s, was hospitalized this past week after a fall and missed the Mid Atlantic Convention in Charlotte.
Jimmy Snuka, 72, actually got back from the hospital on the day Roddy Piper died after undergoing surgery due to stomach cancer. Snuka had part of his stomach as well as his lymph nodes removed according to an interview with wife Carole with Bill Apter. Doctors believed that they were able to remove all of the cancer. Regarding the investigation of Snuka for the death of Nancy Argentino in 1983, the Grand Jury of Lehigh County in Pennsylvania’s investigation ended this past week. Their report was turned over to judge Maria Dantos, who is reviewing it.
All three nights of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s Battle of Los Angeles (8/28 to 8/30) sold out three minutes after tickets were put on sale on 7/30. Tons of people who wanted tickets couldn’t get them, probably more than ever, after the word of mouth after the shows this year and the lineup of talent. They have so completely outgrown their building, and if they put those shows on iPPV at this point they could start to build a pretty solid source of new revenue, maybe not a ton, but still new revenue. The 8/28 show has Aero Star vs. Brian Cage, Biff Busick vs. Andrew Everett, Will Ospreay vs. Mark Andrews, Trent Baretta vs. Trevor Lee, Drago vs. Pentagon Jr., Fenix vs. Matt Sydal, Jack Evans & Angelico vs. Ricochet & Rich Swann and a main event of Tommy End & Marty Scurll & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Young Bucks & Roderick Strong. The 8/29 show has Swann vs. Scurll, Chris Hero vs. Timothy Thatcher, Drew Gulak vs. End, Evans vs. Angelico, Drew Galloway vs. Mike Bailey and Ricochet vs. Sabre Jr., in tournament matches, plus Fenix & Aero Star vs. Drago & Pentagon Jr., and a hardcore match with Young Bucks & Super Dragon vs. Busick & Everett & Lee.
Tammy Sytch was actually arrested three times, not once, in recent months in the Pennsylvania area that she was living. The first time was the 5/30 incident that we reported where she was parked in front of a Walmart, hit the curb, failed the field sobriety test and had a BAC of .253, which is more than triple the legal limit. She was charged with two counts of driving under the influence, and one each for driving with a suspended license and another for careless driving. She was also stopped two days later, and was stopped a third time after getting into a car crash on 6/20. Sytch, even though a WWE Hall of Famer as “The Original Diva,” is the only former WWE personality that the company will not send to rehab, after so many failed attempts and her publicly bad mouthing the program.
Jerry Lynn, 52, has had a GoFund Me campaign started to help pay for medical bills from his 25 years in the ring. Lynn, who retired two years ago on the 25th anniversary of his 1988 debut, was one of stars of the latter days of ECW, as well as the early days of TNA, and a former ROH champion. Lynn has been experiencing chronic neck pain as well as pain in his right arm and numbness. He will be undergoing neck surgery on 8/6 to replace three degenerative discs in his neck, remove bone spurs and fuse his vertebrae. He also will likely need back surgery as he’s been in severe pain there due to a bulging disc. He wants to have the back surgery as soon as he recovers from the neck surgery. He does have medical insurance, but he needs help in paying the $5,000 deductible and will be out of work for two to three months, and he has a wife and young daughter. Those who are backing him are hoping to raise $15,000 and anything raised above that amount will be donated to the Nashville Rescue Mission which offers food, clothing and shelter to the homeless as well as recovery programs.
Here are some more notes from Jeff Jarrett’s GFW tapings in Las Vegas on 7/24. Overall, the show was very enjoyable, whether you were or weren’t a wrestling fan. There was a large UFC contingent at the show and many of them aren’t big fans but they all enjoyed it. The two guys who came across the most like stars to those there were Chael Sonnen, more than anyone, and Jeff Jarrett. Sonnen walked out and the people treated him like he was a superstar and his interview style and body language translated great into pro wrestling, particularly as a heel when he was walking out of the ring and he “accidentally” stepped on a fallen Virgil Flynn. He was described as coming across more like a star than just about everyone in WWE, as well short of a Dwayne Johnson level star. Much of what he did was impromptu but Jeff Jarrett was raving about it, such as the challenge to Phil Baroni which was just something he came up with on his own when he heard Baroni was in the front row, and not a planned angle by Jarrett to set up a match. The other big star was heel manager Henry Maxwell, who did a Jim Cornette type gimmick and also got raves for his work. The best in-ring performer, with no surprise, was Kushida. The lighting and set up looked completely professional, many steps up from ROH or TNA.
Rikki Nelson just ran a tour of China this past week. They had a huge press conference with more than 500 members of the media attending explaining what pro wrestling was (most in China have no idea) and there was a show that drew 6,000 fans and was broadcast live on television. The major names on the tour included Sigmon, Chase Owens, Elliott Russell, Tessa Blanchard, Barbi Hayden and Brandi Wine.
Northeast Wrestling did two of the biggest indie shows of the year this past weekend. The big success was the 8/1 show in Wappingers Falls, NY, where a crew that included Ric Flair, Rey Mysterio Jr., Alberto el Patron, Matt Hardy, Samoa Joe and the Young Bucks, drew 3,341 fans. That’s the best crowd they’ve ever done for the annual Dutchess Stadium show, and that includes the year when they had a Hulk Hogan confrontation with Roddy Piper. Flair was out, and seemed very bummed out, which is no surprise the day after Piper’s death as Flair and Piper had been really good friends for 35 years. He talked about Piper as well as his own daughter in WWE. Mickie James beat Mandy Leon in a match the crowd was sort of into. Matt Hardy pinned Caleb Konley in a solid match with a twist of fate. Lanny Poffo read poems in tribute to Piper and Randy Savage. Samoa Joe beat Donovan Dijak with a choke in a short but hard hitting match. Matt Taven pinned Hanson with a frog splash to keep the NEW belt. The main event saw Mysterio Jr. & Alberto beat the Bucks. The early part of the match wasn’t that good but it picked up with Mysterio Jr. & Alberto doing a splash off the top and armbar finishes in an entertaining match. The 8/2 show in Lowell, MA, drew 2,000 fans, and the Lowell Spinners were happy enough that they booked a date for next summer with NEW. Joe beat Hanson, while Taven & Michael Bennett beat the Bucks with a spike piledriver finish (The Kingdom were the faces since Taven is from the area and worked as the home town hero). Main event saw Mysterio win a three-way over Hardy and Alberto. Alberto and Hardy both played heel and Mysterio played kids favorite, hitting a 619 on both and then pinning Hardy after a splash off the top.
Added to the 8/21 show in Philadelphia is Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian vs. Young Bucks for the tag titles and Kazuchika Okada & Rocky Romero & Baretta against Hirooki Goto & Mark & Jay Briscoe.
Goto is in for the Philadelphia show and while not announced, the working idea was also for the 8/22 show in Brooklyn. This seems like something of a make-good for the problems with Liger appearing on the NXT show. Goto was also announced as doing a seminar at Elgin Training Systems in St. Louis on 8/25 and we had heard ROH was looking at adding Goto for the previous weekend.
Booker Hunter Johnston is headed to Japan soon, to set up some business ideas for 2016. So ROH and New Japan look to be keeping their relationship alive even with everything that went down with Liger.
Styles and The Young Bucks are also booked for the 9/18 PPV show in San Antonio.
They are looking at producing a test all-women’s show sometime very soon. The idea is to be like some of the indie groups that have booked arenas and done afternoon women’s shows taped for DVD prior to the evening men’s shows (that also include women’s matches). The situation will be similar, doing a test run show called Women of Honor on an afternoon before a women’s show. Right now there are no plans on including this as part of the television package. They are looking at bringing in women from Japan for the first show after the great crowd reaction to Nanae Takahashi’s match with ODB in Las Vegas and a dark match with Mandy Leon vs. Deonna Purrzo turned out well on the 7/25 show in Baltimore.
Cliff Compton and Matt Sydal are booked on the 8/29 show in Atlanta at the North Atlanta Trade Center. The main event is Jay Lethal & Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian vs. Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole.
James Storm, 38, finished up at the TV tapings this week. His contract expired at the end of June but he returned, like Austin Aries, just to be written out storyline wise. In this case, Storm had the Revolution break up and all turn on him and they left him laying. It will be very interesting to see if WWE gives him a look because the age works against him, but he’s got promo and acting ability that’s an A in this business and guys like that don’t grow on trees, or in Performance Centers. Storm was one of the company’s longest lasting performers, as he was the last guy left from the debut show on June 19, 2002, when he teamed with Psicosis to lose to Richard & Rod Johnson (the Shane Twins doing a gimmick where they were masked guys dressed up like penises, and this was Jerry Jarrett’s idea, not Vince Russo’s). They taped two shows that night (they had this brilliant marketing idea that since PPV shows were profitable but tapings TV was an expensive cost, they would run a more efficient wrestling company by doing weekly Wednesday night PPVs while producing no television. That idea had Jeff & Jerry Jarrett both about to file for bankruptcy until Bob Carter bought majority interest in the company because his daughter, who they had hired as a publicist with no idea she had a rich father, wanted to save it and run a wrestling company). On the second show taped, Storm teamed with Chris Harris to form a tag team called America’s Most Wanted, with the idea of copying The Fabulous Ones, beating Lenny Lane & Bruce (Alan Funk), who played a stereotypical gay tag team. Storm & Harris ended up teaming for years as babyfaces and were one of the promotion’s highlights for most of their run. The funny part of that team is that Harris was considered the star of the team, and when they did the split, Storm went heel, but it was designed to make Harris a singles world title competitor. As it turned out, Storm greatly outshined Harris as a single. There was a window, when Storm was a babyface against Bobby Roode after they split up Beer Money, where Storm had potential to be the company’s signature singles star, but they were slow on the draw and the window closed, although Storm remained one of the top stars of the company for years. Harris & Storm were six-time NWA tag team champions and Roode & Storm were four-time TNA tag champions, but Storm’s only run as TNA champion was for eight days in 2011. The only other people on the first night who are still around in TNA would be some of the behind the scenes guys like Bob Ryder, Jeremy Borash and Mike Tenay, and Abyss was there as Prince Justice on the first show, but he wasn’t a regular, and came back as Abyss later. Jeff Jarrett and Mickie James (who was on the first show as Alexis Laree in a lingerie Battle Royal) were on the first TNA show as well, but Storm was the only wrestler who had been with the company the entire time.
Recently married Wesley “Davey” Richards, 32, and wife Lauren “Angelina Love” Williams, 33, announced that she is pregnant with her first child. So of course, she is taking a sabbatical from wrestling. They had just done the angle getting The Beautiful People (Love, Velvet Sky and Madison Rayne) together and were scripted throughout the tapings but now the group is Rayne & Sky. Love did angles to bring the group back together, but didn’t do any matches herself at the tapings which would indicate they were aware of her condition before it was announced publicly.
The top two matches at Bound for Glory on 10/4 in Charlotte will be Ethan Carter III vs. Drew Galloway for the TNA title with Jeff Hardy as referee, plus Bobby Roode defends the King of the Mountain title against Bobby Lashley. The belief is that they taped all the TV leading up to the show yet those were the only two matches pushed in angles. They are still backstage angles that people didn’t see. But it is believed the next tapings will start on 10/5 or 10/6.
Newcomer Aiden O’Shea is Jay Bradley trying to play a strong Irish character. I have no idea why they would come up with the idea of a strong Irish character this month.
On the 7/29 TV tapings, Team TNA of Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards & Drew Galloway & Bram & Bobby Lashley beat Team GFW of Jeff Jarrett & Eric Young & Chris Mordetzky & Brian Myers & Sonjay Dutt in a Lethal Lockdown match where the stipulation was that the winner would get full control of TNA. Not sure how far in advance this will air but it would seem to be the high point of the promotion vs. promotion program. On the last day of taping, which would be for late September, there was no sign of GFW guys with the exception of a Trevor Lee match (who hasn’t actually appeared yet on a GFW show but was a GFW guy in the taped feud), so the promotion vs. promotion seems like it’s only a few weeks of TV between the angle and the blow-off, which is weird. There was definitely a lot of pushing and pushing back between Jeff Jarrett and John Gaburick as far as how to do it and things weren’t exactly smooth nor were the ideas each had on how to approach it that similar. The match ended when Galloway pinned Myers. We’re already in August and the feud will start on TV in a few weeks and be over probably by early September, so the whole thing looks like it’s done in about a month.
They also had two title changes on the 7/29 tapings, as Gail Kim won the Knockouts title in a four-way over former champion Brooke, Awesome Kong and Le’D Tapa. Taryn Terrell had been moved out of the title picture and into a storyline where the Doll House is feuding with the reunited babyface version of The Beautiful People. Edwards & Richards also regained the tag titles from Myers & Lee.
Mike Tenay, who is under contract to TNA until the end of the year, will be starting a sports gambling podcast imminently on the CBS Radio Play It group, which is the company that does the Taz and Ric Flair podcasts. The show will be called Prof. Vegas, on Play It and I Tunes, debuting on 8/6 with new episodes dropping every Thursday. Tenay’s background is working at the sports books at the Gold Coast Casino in Las Vegas before he was hired by WCW as an announcer after broadcasting the When World’s Collide PPV in 1994. For years the wrestlers would go for him because of his overall sports knowledge for picking NFL games in particular, but he’s an expert on baseball and hockey as well.
Jeff Hardy will appear at the 8/14 GFW show in Winston-Salem, NC at the local BB &T Ballpark as a special guest. Hardy replaces Kevin Nash, who pulled out over a schedule conflict.
Notes from the 7/29 tapings. It opened with an Xplosion match where Mandrews & Tigre Uno beat DJ Zema Ion & TJP, who was Manik without his mask.
For Impact, EC 3 came out and said he didn’t care about the TNA vs. GFW feud because he’s the world champion and he’s above it all. He introduced Jeffrey Hardy as his new assistant, since that was the stipulation Matt Hardy agreed to get a title match if he lost. EC 3 and Tyrus mostly are bullying and trying to humiliate Hardy. EC 3 told him to get him some water, and when he came back with it, Tyrus threw the water on Jeff Hardy. Hardy had to carry things for EC 3 and introduce him using all these glowing terms that were written out for him.
EC & Tyrus beat Matt Hardy & Rockstar Spud. EC 3 at one point demanded that Jeff Hardy hit Spud with a chair, but he wouldn’t do it.
Jeff & Karen Jarrett came out. Jeff called out Bobby Roode, saying that Roode had his King of the Mountain title. Well, Jeff vacated it so that is kind of weird to then complain. The two were about to go at it when Karen Jarrett talked them out of doing a match.
Tigre Uno & Micah (who was a heel in stuff that will air months down the line as Eli Drake’s partner) & Robbie E (as faces) beat Kenny King & Drake & Jessie Godderz.
A Brooke vs. Kim match ended with no winner as Lei’D Tapa and Kong interfered and it turned into a four-way brawl.
Edwards & Richards regained the tag team titles beating Lee & Myers. Dutt tried to interfere to help the GFW team, but Earl Hebner decked Dutt and counted the pin.
Chris Melendez wanted a rematch with Eric Young to get his prosthetic foot back. Not sure what Melendez put up, but it was something, and Young put up the foot.
Mordetzky beat Galloway in a lumberjack match. They had lumberjacks from GFW and TNA at ringside. Young then double-crossed TNA and helped Mordetzky win by hitting Galloway over the head with a Jeff Jarrett guitar. He then announced he quit TNA to join GFW.
EC 3, Tyrus and Jeff Hardy were out. Spud came out and he told EC 3 to stop bullying Hardy around. EC 3 and Tyrus beat down Spud and ordered Jeff Hardy to lay out Spud. Hardy didn’t want to do it, but EC 3 told him that he would be fired from TNA if he didn’t. So Hardy attacked Spud.
Mahabili Sheera beat Abyss when James Storm tried to interfere and it backfired.
They taped a contract signing with Dixie Carter and Jeff Jarrett where the winning team at Lethal Lockdown gets 100 percent of the TNA stock. Jarrett and Carter went back-and-forth on the interview with a lot of comments said to be based loosely on reality. Or at least the old reality.
Kim won the four-way over Brooke, Kong and Tapa to win the Knockouts title.
Matt Hardy pinned Godderz.
The last match was the Lethal Lockdown match with Team TNA beating Team GFW.
Notes from the 7/30 tapings which was the final TNA show for a long time. The next event on the schedule is a 9/17 house show. Tigre Uno pinned Kenny King in what may have been an X division title match.
They started focusing on a guy in a gorilla suit at ringside. Jeremy Borash went to interview the guy in the gorilla suit. He ran away. The gorilla, who was not Jim Duggan, was doing the Mahabili Sheera dance.
Dixie Carter did a promo and said that all the members of Team TNA, Galloway, Bram, Edwards, Richards and Lashley, would be put in a five-way where the winner will get a shot at EC 3 in the main event at Bound for Glory. She also said that even though Young joined GFW, he had an iron clad contract with TNA so she can’t fire him.
Next was the match where Young wrestled Melendez with Melendez’s leg at stake. This was a lumberjack match. Melendez won and got his prosthetic leg back.
Kim pinned Jade. After the match, Jade, Rebel and Marti Bell all attacked Kim. Velvet Sky and Madison Rayne made the save for Kim. Kong then came out and had a staredown with Kim, so it seems like another Kim vs. Kong match is coming at Bound for Glory.
EC 3 pinned Spud to retain the title. After the match, EC 3 demanded that Jeff Hardy give Spud the twist of fate. He refused to do so. Matt ran in and Tyrus laid him out. EC 3 then demanded that Jeff attack Matt or he will be fired from TNA. Matt gave Tyrus a low blow and Jeff decked EC 3.
The Revolution came out. This looked to be the end of the group so it may be Storm’s last appearance given that his contract expired. Abyss said that he was sick of Storm and quit the group. Manik then also quit the group, and pulled off his mask. So Manik is probably going unmasked as TJP. Sheera then challenged Storm to a match. Storm walked out but did agree to the match.
Galloway won the top contenders match over Richards, Edwards, Bram and Lashley. It was an elimination match that came down to Galloway pinning Lashley as the final two.
EC 3 demanded that Jeff Hardy apologize for his behavior. Hardy then quit. Then they announced Tyrus vs. Bigfoot (the gorilla). The gorilla unmasked, revealing Matt Hardy.
Kong pinned Brooke.
Trevor Lee won a three-way over Ion and Tommaso Ciampa.
Sheera beat Storm in a no DQ match that was Storm’s blow-off match. After the match, Abyss and TJP came out and beat down Storm and left him laying.
There was an in-ring promo with EC 3, Dixie Carter and Galloway talking about the Bound for Glory main event.
Rebel & Marti Bell & Jade won a three-on-two over Sky & Rayne.
Matt Hardy & Galloway beat EC 3 & Tyrus, and it was announced Jeff Hardy would main event the EC 3 vs. Galloway match at Bound for Glory.
Some updated numbers. The Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes fight did closer to 800,000 to 850,000 buys. As noted, this was a hard one to estimate early because if you look at some of the major market key systems, you’d think it did 1 million or so, but it did not do consistent numbers at that level everywhere. It ended up doing along the lines of the Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier fight, although the latter didn’t come close to the highs in certain markets, but it was more consistent throughout. It’s still an amazing number and still shows McGregor as the biggest drawing card in the company given that the featherweights had never done much beforehand and it was a change in opponent that only had two weeks of build. There were 15,314 in the building according to Nevada commission records, which was 15,291 paid and 23 comps. Obviously there were more than 23 comps and UFC announced 16,019 in the building so I’m not sure how that’s figured, because there were UFC fighters everywhere who get tickets and Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta have their own special section for celebrities and friends and those numbers add up to a lot more than 23. The gate was the U.S. record of $7,201,648 live and that doesn’t include the closed-circuit numbers in town, which for some reason are not available. For the other shows that weekend, the Invicta show on 7/9 did 1,247 paid (which was a record for that promotion) and 320 comps for 1,567 paying $98,090. The 7/12 UFC show at the MGM Grand (Stephen Thompson vs. Jake Ellenberger and the TUF finals did 2,298 paid and 2,130 comps for a gate of $297,630.
There was still talk this week of a loaded show at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne on 11/14. They are running that date in Melbourne either at the stadium or the arena, and the decision will be made based on if they can book a strong enough card for a stadium.
Right now it looks like Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo and Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate will be a double headliner, just a question of whether it’ll be on 12/5 or Jan. 2. Dana White was still talking about running 12/5 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, although also said they hadn’t yet booked the venue, and with the Calgary Hitmen moving their 12/5 game and UFC having a hold in Calgary, it could be there, in which case the McGregor and Rousey fights would likely be on Jan. 2. The Los Angeles Times also reported the 12/5 date in Dallas for both fights. We had gotten reports from within the company earlier in the week of the Jan. 2 date, but it’s safe to say the plans are for “the biggest show ever” with McGregor and Rousey, on one of those dates. The arguments are that just the idea of doing the show in Dallas and drawing whatever it would do, and the Manny Pacquiao numbers were less than 40,000 paid there when he was still at his peak, would make it seem like a bigger than ever event and a seminal moment for the company whereas MGM they play all the time. I believe Dallas will help slightly in PPV numbers, and perhaps more because Rousey and first time ever at that stadium will garner a ton of publicity that just a regular show at the MGM Grand won’t get. But there are economic advantages of Las Vegas, as more people from Ireland would fly to Las Vegas and they can charge higher ticket prices and the cost of running the event would be significantly lower. With all the money that can be made on gamblers coming to town, Las Vegas and the casinos are going to want that show badly.
Between the 11/14, 12/5 and Jan. 2 shows, they have the heavyweight, middleweight, welterweight, lightweight (most likely, as Rafael dos Anjos is coming off knee surgery), featherweight, bantamweight (touch and go, Dominick Cruz has targeted December to be ready but that’s still up in the air), and both women’s titles that can be defended, so that’s eight titles in three shows. Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit is the likely headliner in Melbourne and there was talk of Joanna Jedrzejczyk defending her title that night against Claudia Gadelha. Granted, given the odds, a couple of those title fights are going to fall apart due to injuries, but the timing really does work out to where they can do two monster shows and a third strong show on those three dates. They also have one FOX date on 12/12 where they could put one of those title fights.
Dana White talked about Fabricio Werdum defending his heavyweight title in either January or February. It was interpreted the way he answered a question on that subject that it would be Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez. But he didn’t outright say that. The making of Frank Mir vs. Andrei Arlovski (with Arlovski previously being the most likely contender for Werdum) would leave Velasquez and Stipe Miocic as the only two viable contenders on the roster since Junior Dos Santos is expected to face Alistair Overeem as soon as Dos Santos is ready which is believed to be the end of the year. Fedor Emelianenko making a comeback is also a possibility. The thing is, to get Emelianenko, they are probably going to have to pay well into seven figures, which means to justify it, it has to be a match that will draw big. I think that’s Werdum or Velasquez, but I think Fedor outdraws Velasquez at this time. There is the question of Velasquez vs. Werdum at sea level that can be used to promote the rematch.
Paramount Pictures announced it has purchased the rights and is starting work on a movie for the big screen based on Rousey’s book “My Fight/Your Fight,” her recently released autobiography that she wrote with her sister, Maria Burns Ortiz. Rousey would star in the movie as herself. Paramount has already announced Mary Parent as the producer and Mark Bomback as the executive producer. Bomback has just started trying to adapt the book into a movie. There is no timetable for when the movie would be shot or released yet, but it wouldn’t be until 2016 at the earliest. Rousey already has two movie projects for next year, “Mile 22,” which begins shooting in January, and “The Athena Project,” where she would star and Warner Brothers is hopeful of turning that into a franchise. Bomback has worked on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “The Wolverine.” Parent’s recent projects have included the recent “Godzilla” movie and “Pacific Rim.”
Rousey also signed a deal with Carl’s Jr. to replace the likes of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton as the pretty girl eating their burgers. Part of it is the ads with the women suggestively eating the burgers has gotten a lot of backlash. The new ad starts in a few weeks.
Cris Cyborg Justino on Twitter threatened to sue Rousey for saying that she was fighting at 145 pumped full of steroids and that she could get off and make 135. Justino noted that she is subject to the same testing Rousey has to undergo. Well, not exactly. Justino was tested at her fight but Rousey was tested at least three times during her camp as part of the new drug policy with USADA.
Jose Aldo said this past week that his ribs are now fine and he’s back in training and just waiting to get the date for his fight with Conor McGregor.
While most of cable is down from last year, FS 1 is up 36 percent in viewership from the same period.
This week’s show is 8/8 in Nashville with bouts on Fight Pass, FS 2 and FS 1. The Fight Pass fights start at 6:30 p.m., with Anthony Christodoulou vs. Scott Holtzman, Roman Salazar vs. Marlon Vera and Jonathan Wilson vs. Chris Dempsey. The FS 2 fights at 8 p.m. have Sirwan Kakai vs. Frankie Saenz, Willie Gates vs. Dustin Ortiz, Sara McMann vs. Amanda Nunes (a win by Nunes could put her in line for a Rousey match) and Oluwale Bamgbose vs. Uriah Hall. The main card starting at 10 p.m has Ray Borg vs. Geane Herrera, Chris Camozzi vs. Tom Kong Watson, Timothy Johnson vs. Jared Rosholt, Smilin Sam Alvey vs. Derek Brunson, Beneil Dariush vs. Michael Johnson and Ovince Saint Preux vs. Glover Teixeira.
A change has been made regarding the 9/5 show in Las Vegas. Anthony Johnson was scheduled to face Jan Blachowicz, but that has been changed to Johnson vs. Jimi Manuwa and Blachowicz vs. Corey Anderson.
Ariel Helwani on UFC Tonight reported on a number of ideas for the 9/5 PPV from Las Vegas, which is headlined by Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson for the flyweight title. They had talked to Frankie Edgar about a fight with Jeremy Stephens, but Stephens won’t be ready by that time.
Thiago Alves, who used to be a 210 pound guy walking around who would cut to 170, is now a lot slimmer and has talked of moving to 155 pounds.
Julianna Pena vs. Jessica Eye has been added to the 10/3 show in Houston. A win by Pena could put her in line for a title shot, because she and Holly Holm have the biggest names of those Ronda Rousey hasn’t beat, besides Cyborg.
After Dana White said he wouldn’t let Kelvin Gastelum move back to 170, a weight he had missed a few times even though Gastelum asked, Gastelum has been booked at 170 for the 11/21 main event at Arena Monterrey against Matt Brown. Since it was such an issue in Mexico City, the elevation in Monterrey will not pose a problem at all. Diego Sanchez, who started in UFC as a middleweight, fights in his fourth different weight class, featherweight, debuting at 145 on the same show facing Ricardo Lamas.
Jorge Masvidal was talking about a fight with Dong Hyun Kim on the 11/28 show in Seoul, South Korea. Benson Henderson, whose mother is Korean, has asked to be put on that card.
Abel Trujillo vs. Gleison Tibau has been set for the 11/7 show in Sao Paulo.
Takeya Mizugaki vs. George Roop has been added to the 9/27 show at the Saitama Super Arena.
Chris Wade pulled out of his 8/23 match with Olivier Aubin-Mercier on the 8/23 show in Saskatoon. Tony Sims will be the replacement.
Shawn Jordan vs. Ruslan Magomedov will be on the 10/3 show in Houston.
Two new fights have been added to the 10/24 show in Dublin. Scott Askham from England faces Krzysztof Jotko of Poland and Cathal Pendred of Ireland faces Tom Breese from England. The main event has Joseph Duffy vs. Dustin Poirier in a lightweight bout.
Cena underwent surgery on 7/28 for his broken nose suffered in the match the night before in Oklahoma City against Rollins. The way the nose was broken affected his breathing. He also needed the thing straightened out given his looks are a big part of his package and it’s not like a guy like Barrett where the crooked nose doesn’t hurt and may even help having the rough look. The Cena character both for kids and for future movie roles has to have a certain look. Right now, he’s been removed from all advertising through the 8/17 Raw show in Minneapolis, which is the SummerSlam go-home show. It was weird because the company had gone completely quiet about the injury, and did not report anything about the surgery and remained advertising him for all dates, including a cage match with Owens on 8/1 in Ontario, CA as late as two days before the show, and advertised him for Fresno on 8/2 the day after that. Cena did go to San Diego for the house show on 7/31, but never appeared in front of the crowd, but his nose was a mess. However, he was back in the gym doing his power cleans on 8/2.
The removal of Cena from Australia means that the two biggest attractions on that tour, Hogan and Cena, were both pulled, which left fans upset. But in both cases, those were situations where you can’t blame WWE as they did make the announcement in the Australian market (in the U.S. market they removed him from shows quietly with no announcement). As noted last week, they added Michaels in the role of acting General Manager to the three Australian shows when Hogan, who was scheduled for that role, was fired. Jericho replaced him at all the house shows this weekend, but Jericho couldn’t go on the Australia tour because he has Fozzy concerts this weekend in Hamilton, ONT and Montreal. Jericho will be replacing him also on the 8/15 show in Detroit.
One question that can’t be answered is will the Rollins match and fighting through the broken nose and having a great match change the reaction to him, in the sense will the audience that only comes to PPV shows and Raws and boo him heavily start gaining more of a grudging respect for him. I don’t expect a complete turnaround, and his first Raw back will be misleading. But SummerSlam should be interesting, because New York is traditionally as negative to Cena as any market, but that show is also drawing the most hardcore fan base and if anyone will accept his toughness and change their tune on him, that would be the audience. I don’t expect him to be cheered wildly, but it’ll be notable if he’s not booed as much as usual in New York. A lot of people have brought this up to me over the past week within wrestling, but until SummerSlam, nobody will really know. In San Jose, it appeared that nothing had changed. Every time Rollins talked about breaking Cena’s nose, the fans cheered and chanted “Thank you Rollins.” .
For SummerSlam on 8/23 in Brooklyn, the Rollins vs. Cena match will be for both the WWE and the U.S. titles winner take all. Also announced is Lesnar vs. Undertaker, Reigns & Ambrose vs. Wyatt & Harper (so this would indicate McMahon is staying with his no Sting decision) and Ryback vs. Miz vs. Show for the IC title. It also looks like something like this: Owens vs. Cesaro, a multiple team tag title match with The Prime Time Players, New Day, Los Matadores and Lucha Dragons (and maybe The Ascension), Rusev vs. Ziggler, Neville vs. Stardust (with a possible Stephen Amell of The Arrow involvement) and almost assuredly be at least one if not two women’s matches. Based on Charlotte scoring a clean submission on Nikki Bella on TV on Raw, they could do that as the title match, but with Charlotte being pinned on Smackdown, which makes no sense for someone being built up for a title opportunity, then who knows. You can see where they need four hours plus because it looks like ten or 11 matches, most of which can use time, if everyone is healthy.
Amell will be appearing on the 8/10 Raw in Everett, WA (or called Seattle on this week’s show because I guess they felt Everett didn’t sound big-time enough) to do something with Rhodes and possibly Neville.
Cena vs. Rollins is scheduled to be a long-term program as it’s booked as the main event at most of the key house shows in September (of course that changes weekly) and they will be marketing Anti-Cena T-Shirts for Rollins, one of which he debuted on Raw in San Jose including a “Never Shut Up” and “You Can’t See Knee” shirt.
Fozzy starts a European tour (mostly Germany and the U.K.) on 11/14.
In case there were any questions, next year’s WrestleMania is going to be on the network. They could make more money with it as a PPV exclusive but the bad blood they’d get from the customer base would be a disaster because the feeling is they’ve promised all PPVs going forward, including Mania, on the network. The production trucks got their WrestleMania 32 promo skins and it was pushed prominently as being live on the network. Also, the most prominent person shown is The Rock. Nikki Bella is also prominently shown.
Lesnar will be doing his first actual house show match since leaving the company in 2004 as he’s been added to the 10/3 show in Madison Square Garden. Lesnar’s new contract, where he got a raise on a three-year deal, called for more dates per year including a few house shows.
Bryan’s book “Yes,” debuted at No. 18 on the New York Times best seller list for the week of 7/25, which was its first week of release. Not that the book is negative, because Bryan isn’t a negative person unless the situation really calls for it, but I’m still surprised some of the stuff got through the editing process. While you can tell he likes Vince McMahon personally as far as his surprisingly limited interaction with him, it’s not the most flattering portrayal of McMahon as far as seeing and recognizing talent since Bryan’s rise was more of a series of fluke accidents such as his coming up with a cute chant and the audience responding huge to it, and nothing of seeing the potential in his talent to be a near top guy from the start. The amazing thing was realizing how the first Money in the Bank win was a last second decision that they immediately regretted and buried, and then his title reign that came out of it was this last second fluke, and really things like how his 18 second loss to Sheamus that was designed by make Sheamus the next big superstar somehow led to people backing Bryan more and not Sheamus is stuff people know, but it’s funny to see it in a WWE book. I had seen a preview copy months ago. The last page, where Bryan outright said when talking about all the sacrifices he made to be a wrestler such as time away from family and when asked if it was worth it, in hindsight his answer would be no. That surprised me. There were two very different reasons. One, very few people in wrestling would think that way, and even if they did, I’d be surprised if any would say that while still active. Second, even if they did believe it, most of those would be wrestlers who had kids and were on the road. I think some would regret it and others would just accept that it was the life they chose and accept it. But at the time of the writing, he had no kids. But even the ones who did come to that conclusion, few would ever say it during their active career, let alone publish it in their autobiography. And quite frankly, based on how much control WWE usually exerts over all aspects of their business, I’m impressed that it stayed in.
Ryback posted a photo on 8/3 showing his entire right leg badly swollen (and his legs naturally look swollen because they are so jacked up) and this was three weeks after he woke up on 7/15 after a Raw show and was hospitalized due to a staph infection in the knee. He wrote, “And this is the best it has looked and felt. Wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but it will be overcome. Staying upbeat and positive even in frustration.”
A few more notes on the 2002 idea of Lesnar as a gay kickass character. While Brian Solomon was involved in the formation of the idea, the person who actually pitched the writing team on the idea was Aaron Feigenbaum, who at the time wrote for WWE magazine under the name Aaron Williams. The actual idea came from Dr. J. Kober Zehner. Solomon and Feigenbaum then tried to develop the idea. Stephanie McMahon wasn’t there the first time the idea was pitched. The people it was pitched to were the lead writers at the time, Paul Heyman, Brian Gewirtz and Seth Mates. Heyman was not at all receptive to the idea and kept responding to every pitch Feigenbaum made saying, “What? You want to turn HIM gay?” Lesnar had already debuted as a killer at the time Zehner came up with the idea and Feigenbaum and Solomon came up with it. He was already established to the audience as a badass, which was one of the reasons they thought the idea would work. Once Feigenbaum was in a conversation with John Layfield (this was when Layfield was just a mid-level wrestler in the promotion before he was remade as John Bradshaw Layfield, the J.R. Ewing like singles star), and Layfield laughed at him and said, “You tell that to Brock.” Lesnar would have likely hated it, and probably for good reason since it would have blown up in any one of ten different ways, whether it be the older people in charge crapping on it to the point they’d make sure it would fail, to Lesnar likely hating it to it being an embarrassment because Lesnar had made some anti-gay remarks in the media just a few years earlier that would have come back to bite WWE had he taken that role. And he never would have taken the role and Vince, paying him as much as he was at the time, wouldn’t have allowed it anyway. But an excerpt of the pitch said: “Of all the possible Superstars, it appears that Brock Lesnar may have the most potential to reach that number. He’s physically dominant, has impeccable credentials concerning believability, and because he is new and relatively unknown, his character can be crafted easily. His ascension could also raise the scores of other Superstars with whom he feuds. The following possible scenario to increase Brock’s ability to grow the industry is radical. It’s unprecedented and may appear crazy at first. There are risks involved, but if it works, it has Austin/McMahon like potential. The solution: Turn Brock Gay. Everything else about him stays the same. He’s pushed in a traditional babyface manner. He’s not the stereotypical Billy/Chuck character. He’s Brock. He continues to annihilate people. He’s just gay. It has to be presented as completely real, especially in the beginning.”
Bryan, in an interview with Sam Roberts, said that the idea with him as IC champion was that he would defend the title every week on Smackdown plus PPVs and give different people title shots. Basically, the idea they ended up doing with Cena and the U.S. title on Raw.
The WWE debuted the name The Submission Sorority for Charlotte, Lynch and Paige on Raw, but that may be short-lived. The company didn’t do its research and quickly found out that was the name of a porn site. I’ve heard it could be changed to Submission Sisters and the idea of Horsewomen has always been thrown around although that would be stepping on Ronda Rousey’s toes.
There has also been talk internally regarding the added emphasis on women to create a Divas tag team title. I’m not against it, but they would really be a lot better off in the long run dropping the Divas name, because that in and of itself is exactly the opposite direction of what is working in society as far as the increased popularity of women’s sports in the U.S. and the Rousey phenomenon.
Apparently the rocket on Lana’s ass, so to speak, is about to be switched to Eva Marie per the people at the top. To Eva Marie’s credit, she is busting her own ass in training now but they are going with the storyline of the woman that everyone shunned and made fun of for being so bad who works hard and makes herself into a superstar.
It was actually two weeks ago when those in charge of WWE wanted ZZ out. This week it turned it into a full court press in all the commercials and in social media video releases to portray the guy as lazy and not getting it for fear that he could actually win the thing. Even on the show, it was made clear he wasn’t in shape, and that in the ring, he was not good at all. But he wasn’t even put into a bottom three, surprisingly with his performance. They did a women’s elimination. Miz teamed he was going to put Amanda in for his saying last week that she was hot going to her head. It was pretty much shown last week that she wouldn’t do well in an audience vote. But he instead put Chelsea in the bottom three, while Bryan put Gigi and Paige put Sara Lee. Paige then gave her lone save for Gigi, who would have been voted out since she got 22% for 25% for Chelsea and 53% for Sara Lee. It’s pretty clear the audience is going to vote for Sara Lee, and from interviews with the contestants, they also feel she was the weakest of the women. It’s also pretty clear they want Josh to win the guys side as there was nothing but praise for him and he looked good in every clip shown. He’s also the only person to beat ZZ in a head-on vote.
An Ultimate Warrior book, called “Ultimate Warrior: A Life Lived Forever” will be released on 9/15. There will be a pre-release promotion over SummerSlam weekend at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn on 8/22, the afternoon of the NXT show, at 3 p.m. with Dana Warrior signing.
Regarding the identical “Cesaro Section” signs at the SAP Center in San Jose for Raw, while it would look like something a promotion would do to jump start a character and make them look super over, WWE actually had nothing to do with it. It was a Cesaro fan who printed out a ton of signs and passed them around at the show asking fans to wave them when Cesaro appeared. Luckily, since he’s in the program with Owens, it was pretty much a lock he would be booked in a good spot on Raw, even though he didn’t wrestle. A few months ago you’d be taking your chances if he’d even be on Raw. That also led to Cesaro getting one of the better reactions of the night.
The Billy Jack Haynes case saw Konstantine Kyros appeal the transfer from Oregon to Connecticut, but the appeal failed. At this point, all of the lawsuits, both the ones filed against WWE and the one lawsuit WWE filed against Robert Windham (Blackjack Mulligan), Orreal Perras (Ivan Koloff), Tom Billington (Dynamite Kid) and James Ware (Koko B. Ware) have been consolidated into one case in Connecticut with three exceptions. Those are the Haynes case, which WWE has filed a motion to do so and is likely to happen shortly, the Nelson Frazier case, which is still in Tennessee and the Matt Osborne case, which is still in Texas. WWE has filed motions to move those cases to Connecticut as well but those motions haven’t been ruled on, although the odds are in both cases they will be moved as well. Connecticut is considered favorable for WWE, both because it’s home court and because of a shorter statute of limitations and statutes of repose than in other states. WWE is attempting to get from Kyros names of any other former wrestlers who have signed retainer agreements with him so they can essentially file preemptory lawsuits against them.
The reason Kane has been gone is that he’s working on the same movie as Ziggler. The movie is called “6:42.” Ziggler plays the role of a narcotics officer, Ray Fitzpatrick. He’s on a case where a kidnapper has a young boy hostage and unless they deliver $2 million in ransom, he’ll set off a bomb on the kid’s chest. The head of his police department is played by Glen Jacobs (Kane), who comes up with the money and assigns Fitzpatrick to do the delivery.
Bertrand Hebert, who co-wrote the fantastic Montreal wrestling history book (“Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs”) and wrote the French language version of the Mad Dog Vachon biography, both with Patric Laprade, will be the ghost writer for the upcoming Pat Patterson autobiography, which ECW press is publishing. The release date is set for Spring 2016 and he and Laprade’s English version of the Vachon book will also be released next year.
Keep this story in mind for about a year from now, but WWE and the Brooklyn Cyclones are working together on WWE Night at their ballpark on 8/19, which is three days before the Cyclones host an ROH event head-to-head with the NXT show. Ryback, Fandango, Eva Marie and Charlotte will appear at the game and also play in a celebrity softball game that includes people like Chris Mullin and John Franco.
Mika Rotunda, 21, the sister of Dallas and Wyatt, recently got a tryout. Facially, she looks like the twin of Bo Dallas. She had been featured two years ago in a People Magazine story on obese teens and weight loss. At the age of 15, she weighed 246 pounds. She’s ended up dropping to 133 pounds by the age of 19 by learning to control what she ate. She noted that she ate the same as her brothers growing up, lots of steak and mashed potatoes until one day shopping for a homecoming dress and finding out she was a size 20, and she decided to drop weight.
Stephanie McMahon was named to the board of trustees for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. This is based on her connection with the hospital for creating the Conor’s Cure fund, which has raised more than $560,000 for the hospital.
Stephanie was in Las Vegas this past week doing a speaking engagement that some UFC people attended and they were very impressed with her talking up the product and social media. She pushed the NXT brand in a pretty logical way, noting that their main product mix isn’t necessarily liked by every wrestling fan, and that there are a group of fans with different tastes, so her husband came up with the NXT concept to reach that fan. She also pushed the idea that having the two different styles will help each other because the fans that like the NXT style will see guys that they become fans of in NXT and then follow them to the main roster, and the main roster fans will watch NXT to see the stars first and they’ll be bigger stars coming up because of it.
The company will be releasing an Owen Hart DVD on 12/7, even though Martha Hart came out publicly against it. WWE absolutely has the legal right to do this, but it sure feels weird to produce a DVD on someone who died on the company’s watch when his widow made it clear she didn’t want them doing it. They are also releasing a new Undertaker DVD in November according to Wrestling DVDNetwork.com.
Notes from the 8/3 Raw show in San Jose. They did a very nice job with the Piper tribute video, which played both early and again late in the show. Lots of the talent were wearing Hot Rod T-shirts. Miz was also wearing a makeshift version of a kilt and he started his Miz TV segment with a Piper tribute. There were other clips, as well as getting permission from UFC to show part of Ronda Rousey’s post-fight victory speech. Out of nowhere, before Raw started, there was about a one minute chant for Piper in the arena. The show drew a near sellout of 10,600 fans, which was a good showing after disappointing houses all weekend in California.
For Superstars, they opened with Fandango pinning Slater with a falcon arrow. Swagger beat Dallas with the Patriot lock. Dana Brooke was shown among the talent for the Piper tribute although she wasn’t otherwise booked on the show.
Rollins came out for the long interview at the start of the show. He said there’s only one person who can slow me down and his name is Seth Rollins. He said he has a problem with sympathy, saying that’s what cost him the match last week. He described breaking Cena’s nose, saying he heard the pop when the nose shattered, which got a big babyface pop. He said it wasn’t the first time he smashed someone up in a WWE ring and won’t be the last, but it was the first time “I broke the face of the man who runs the place.” He said that he expected they would stop the match and award him the U.S. title, but Cena wanted to finish the fight and the referee wasn’t the humanitarian that he is. In his sympathy for Cena, he got caught, and he said that was his fault, but also said it would never happen again. He said Cena looks like a cross between a racoon and a Picasso painting. He challenged him a title vs. title match, winner take all and would become the first person to hold both titles at the same time. He then issued an open challenge for his title, but he said it would have to put someone who is under 6 feet tall and less than 200 pounds. Then he started laughing when JoJo said that it would have to be Torito. Instead, Neville came out. They had a **** match, which including a Fosbury flop dive and a corkscrew off the top rope to the floor by Neville, as well as a reverse Frankensteiner, which looked dangerous, like Rollins was dropped on his head. Neville did a German suplex, a delayed German suplex and a great near fall on a jackknife cradle, as well a Super Frankensteiner, and even a red arrow. Rollins got his foot on the ropes. Fans were chanting “One more time,” so Neville went for a second red arrow, Rollins moved and got right up like he was never hurt at all and hit the pedigree for the pin in 13:02. Rollins sold most of the way to put Neville over before beating him, but my one qualm is he got up too fast like it was nothing and immediately hit the pedigree.
The New Day of Kingston & Big E teamed with The Ascension to beat Los Matadores & The Lucha Dragons in 8:21. So Los Matadores were back as faces. They didn’t tease problems with the Lucha Dragons even though they were against each other of late. The Prime Time Players were on commentary. Some high spots here included the Matadores with a double tope on The Ascension and Sin Cara doing a senton over the top rope to the floor. The finish saw Kalisto on the top rope. He was distracted by Woods attacking Torito and Kingston hit Kalisto with a trouble in paradise while Kalisto was still on the top for the pin.
They put the women at the top of the hour so you can really see they are focusing hard on them. Lynch & Charlotte beat the Bella Twins in 13:09 when Charlotte made Nikki submit to the figure eight. The fans were fine with it. It didn’t feel like they lost interest in a long match but it wasn’t as if they tore the house down either.
JoJo interviewed Team Bad and Naomi challenged Paige for later in the show. Naomi said that it’s not Ronda Rousey, but Team Bad, who are the baddest women on the planet. She also patted JoJo on the head the same way Dana Brooke does with Devin Taylor on NXT.
Miz TV came out. Miz was wearing a Hot Rod T-shirt and something that I think was supposed to be reminiscent of a kilt. He did a long tribute to Piper, saying Miz TV is the second most must-see talk show and said that if it wasn’t for Piper’s Pit, there would be no Highlight Reel, Cutting Edge, Barber Shop Body Shop or Heartbreak Hotel. He said Piper’s Pit was the first (actually the first was Rogers Corner which was a huge deal on WWF television because that’s where the entire Jimmy Snuka babyface turn played out on in 1982). He also said that Ryback should vacate the IC title belt like Bryan did because he’s not around to defend it. Owens was brought out and Owens said he was a big fan of Miz and said he owns all of Miz’s movies on Blu Ray. He said Cesaro was jealous of him. Cesaro came out to a very big response with all the “Cesaro section” signs being waved. He said how he has succeeded where Cesaro has failed. He noted that Cesaro has never beaten Cena (although he was on top when Owens interfered in their match) and that all the years of all the sacrifices, missing family weddings, birthdays and holidays, they were all for nothing because no matter how hard Cesaro works, he will never be as good as him because Cesaro can’t match his God given natural ability for this business. Cesaro said he wasn’t jealous, he was ashamed of Owens because every time he walks out of a match, he disgraces his opponent, the WWE universe and every superstar who sets foot in the ring. He said Owens was an embarrassment and tried to get the fans to chant “Walk Owens Walk.” Owens said he’s accomplished more in WWE in three months than Cesaro has in three years. Cesaro challenged him a fight right there. Owens then said he would fight anyone for the right price, but tonight is not the time, and walked out. He did come back and did a quick attack on both Miz and Cesaro, before Cesaro came back and set up the giant swing. Owens got away and bailed out.
Rusev pinned Henry with a thrust kick in 2:02. Not sure why they didn’t do the Accolade finish here.
JBL came out with signs to explain that if you buy a PPV on cable it’s $54.95 but if you get it on the WWE network it’s $9.99. I have no idea why they continue to make fun of their customers who still buy PPV the traditional way, particularly since the majority now are overseas and in markets where it’s a lot less than $54.95, and many of which they aren’t supposed to be able to get the WWE Network.
Wyatt & Harper & Sheamus did a promo building up the main event.
Barrett pinned Ryder in 1:53 with the bull hammer.
Heyman came out for a promo and said that Undertaker picked this fight. He said this was an angry, vengeful and vindictive Undertaker. He brought up that Undertaker kicked Lesnar in the groin at Battleground because he knows that he has never been able to beat his client. He said the WWE’s angry alpha dog has become a submissive little bitch and Undertaker can never rest in peace because he can’t live with himself knowing he can’t beat the one in what is now 22-1. Even though Heyman’s promo was more of a heel promo, Lesnar came out to a huge babyface reaction, far above anyone else on the show. Lesnar threw the ring steps in the ring and while Heyman was talking, he walked to the top of them like an Olympic medalist on the stand. Heyman then gave a worked back story to explain the match not being at this year’s Mania or not getting involved with Lesnar at this year’s Mania. He said that Undertaker had called Vince McMahon and begged him for a rematch at WrestleMania this year and Vince turned him down. He said that by costing Lesnar the title match at Battleground, he forced Vince’s hand. There is still the hole in the sense HHH & Stephanie were so thrilled to have this gigantic match fall into their hands when Undertaker shot the angle. Heyman pushed it as the match that was too big for WrestleMania, and as the biggest rematch, then, now and forever. He guaranteed Undertaker was going to suplex city. He closed by saying that in the first fight, Undertaker needed an ambulance to take him to the hospital, had to spend a week in the hospital, and it took him a full year to recover. He said this time he will need his last rites, and then gave him his last rites. This was a hell of a hard week to have the best interview when Rousey did that Do Nothing Bitch interview that was so much money it was scary, but this really was better than that.
Paige beat Naomi with the PTO in 7:26. The crowd was dead for this one, although anything not involving headliners in the third hour is going to be tough.
Stardust did a promo pushing Amell coming next week.
Reigns & Ambrose & Orton did a promo together. Ambrose did the Piper line about how “We’re here to kick ass and chew bubblegum.”
Main event saw Reigns & Ambrose & Orton beat Sheamus & Wyatt & Harper in 16:40. The work was very good but the crowd wasn’t hot for it early, but the crowd picked up as the match got hot. Crowd really peaked in the last minute with all the hot moves. Orton gave Wyatt an RKO. Sheamus missed a Brogue kick on Orton and got speared and pinned by Reigns, and the show ended with the face trio celebrating.
Notes from the 8/4 Smackdown tapings in Sacramento. Seems like not much of a show. They drew 6,000 fans in a market that has been a strong wrestling city for at least 55 years.
For Main Event, Show pinned Swagger with a knockout punch and The Lucha Dragons beat The Ascension.
Smackdown opened with a Reigns promo. He talked about facing Rusev in the main event on the show, and also said he was wanting a family vs. family match at Smackdown with he and Ambrose against Wyatt & Harper. Still seems notable how close they are putting Ambrose & Reigns, almost so close that you think a turn is coming.
Henry & O’Neil & Young beat all three members of The New Day when Henry pinned Kingston with the world’s strongest slam.
A Charlotte vs. Naomi singles match ended with a no contest when Banks interfered, and then Lynch made the save. This turned into a tag match with Naomi & Banks beating Charlotte & Lynch when Naomi pinned Charlotte with a small package.
Stardust pinned Ryder.
Show did an interview talking about his IC title match.
Main event saw Reigns pin Rusev after a spear. Summer Rae went to interfere to save Rusev, but Lana ran down and attacked her. Wyatt then came out and accepted the challenge for the tag team match at SummerSlam. Reigns came out and he and Wyatt were fighting after the cameras stopped rolling. Reigns cleaned house on Wyatt to end the show.
Notes from the 7/29 NXT show. A basic show. It opened with Enzo Amore & Big Cass & Carmella out doing the same entrance they always do, which is more over than ever. Then they lost to Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder in 6:37 when Cass was taken out and the Mechanics did the Shatter Machine, which is a double-team codebreaker, and Wilder pinned Amore.
Devin Taylor interviewed Jason Jordan & Chad Gable. I’m not sure of the mentality where you have to have a pretty girl interviewing these guys. If it’s somebody smooth like Renee Young, great. But after all these months, Taylor still comes across like a novice out there. Jordan is weak on promos but Gable has something.
Baron Corbin destroyed Paragon Pro Wrestling world champion Jessy Sorensen in :23 with the End of Days.
Tyler Breeze walked in on William Regal. He wanted to know who his opponent was for Brooklyn. Given that WWE announced it was Jushin Liger weeks ago publicly, I’m not sure why TV has to be weeks behind. Regal still didn’t tell him.
Jordan & Gable beat Levis Valenzuela & Elias Sampson in 4:21 when Jordan used a back suplex on Valenzuela and Gable caught him in mid-air and planted him. Gable is really good, doing a lot of Billy Robinson style early that he probably got from studying British style.
Dana Brooke & Emma were out, which means Brooke does almost all the talking. She said Charlotte was running scared and she’s giving Charlotte her eviction notice from NXT.
They did a comedy video piece on Bull Dempsey training. It’s built on the idea that he gasses out, never trains, etc. It was built along the lines of a Jim Cornette heel manager comedy workout video.
Charlotte pinned Dana Brooke with a spear and natural selection in 3:27. Weird that Charlotte has one finisher on NXT TV and another on WWE TV.
Samoa Joe did a promo saying he’s here for the NXT title.
Regal was talking with Kevin Owens. Owens said he was sincerely sorry for punching Regal last week. Regal looked furious at him but then accepted his apology but said he can’t wait to see him get beaten again by Balor in Brooklyn.
Eva Marie did an interview saying how all of her hard work in training is paying off. She challenged Banks to a match for the NXT title. I hope they aren’t serious.
Owens pinned Martin Stone in 1:47 with a pop up power bomb. After the match Owens power bombed him on the ring apron. He then climbed to the top rope and mocked Balor’s ring entrance.
They aired a video on Rhyno.
Main event saw Blake & Murphy beat The Vaudevillains to retain the tag titles in 7:18. Alexa Bliss grabbed Aiden English’s leg and Murphy pinned English with a schoolboy. The Vaudevillains cleaned house on them after the match with English hitting a neckbreaker on Blake and grabbing the belts. One would get the impression a rematch is either happening in Brooklyn or at the next tapings. They sent Blake & Murphy out of the ring and surrounded Bliss. But the deal is that she figured out they were gentlemen and would never hit a woman. They even opened the ropes for her to leave. She slapped both English and Gotch and called them pathetic. The segment ended with them fuming at her but not allowing themselves to hit a woman.
Charlotte and Lynch worked the NXT house shows over the weekend on 7/30 in Tampa and 7/31 in Lakeland. On the 7/30 show in Tampa, they had a 20 man Battle Royal to determine who would face Balor in the main event for the title. Breeze threw out Uhaa Nation with outside help from Radomir Petkovic, who is now Breeze’s bodyguard. They had a four-way tag title match with Blake & Murphy retaining over The Vaudevillains, Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder and Jason Jordan & Chad Gable. Charlotte & Lynch beat Dana Brooke & Emma in what was reported as a great match. Balor pinned Breeze in the main event. All the heels and faces ended up brawling in the ring when it was over with the faces cleaning house.
In Lakeland, they did more with Sylvester Lefort saying he is now managing Sawyer Fulton. They did a non-title four-way with the same teams with The Vaudevillains winning. Charlotte & Lynch this time beat Lina & Jessie. Balor pinned Crowe with the double foot stomp to keep the NXT title in the main event.
What was scheduled as the Cena tour opened on 7/31 in San Diego before 3,000 fans for both Jericho vs. Owens and Rollins vs. Ambrose. 8/1 in Ontario, CA headlined by Jericho vs. Owens did 5,000. 8/2 in Fresno drew 3,400, and Fresno has been a traditionally strong market for WWE.
The other tour headlined by Rollins vs. Ambrose, Wyatt vs. Reigns and Orton vs. Sheamus on 8/1 in Hidalgo, TX, drew a sellout of 6,000 fans. Hidalgo is WWE’s best market in the country per capita and they always sell out and have a great crowd. The same crew on 8/2 in Stockton drew 2,500.
In San Diego, they opened the show with the ten bell tribute to Piper. There were some chants for him. Byron Saxton was the host of the show. They announced that fans could get refunds because Cena wasn’t there, which meant that a second later they put something hot out so fans wouldn’t want refunds. Owens came out immediately and cut a promo saying that he should win the U.S. title via forfeit since Cena isn’t there. Jericho then came out and challenged Owens to a match. Owens turned him down, saying he doesn’t want to face Jericho because Jericho doesn’t have a title. Jericho noted that the night he beat The Rock and Steve Austin on the same night was right here in San Diego (it was, although it was a much larger audience that night). Jericho punched Owens and they came out and did a 25:00 opener which ended when Jericho escaped the power bomb and hit the codebreaker for the win in a hot match and Jericho won because the WWE rule of thumb is if the top babyface isn’t there, his sub has to beat the heel. They put the match on first to keep people from asking for refunds. Neville pinned Dallas with the red arrow. Rusev beat R-Truth with the Accolade. Prime Time Players kept the tag titles beating Big E & Woods when O’Neil pinned Woods with the Clash of the Titus. Crowd enjoyed this one. Bellas beat Naomi & Banks. Naomi’s top broke so she had to try and work while covering up at the same time, and still took the rack attack finish. Cesaro beat Barrett with the giant swing and sharpshooter. Main event saw Rollins beat Ambrose in a cage match for the title when he slammed the door on Ambrose’s face and hit the pedigree. With no Wyatt on this show, they had to come up with a new finish for this match. Rollins gave Ambrose a second pedigree and went to get a table. Ambrose recovered and laid Rollins out with Dirty Deeds and then used an elbow off the top rope to put Rollins through the table.
Ontario was the same show as San Diego except no Ambrose vs. Rollins. When they announced Cena not being there due to his injury, they had the Owens and Jericho mic work but this time, because of the lack of depth on the show, they had to go in the main event spot. It was a cage match since all the advertising was around a Cena vs. Owens cage match for the U.S. title. The two had the best match of the night with Jericho winning with the codebreaker after escaping the pop up power bomb. The only addition to the show was a live Miz TV segment. He had Show as his guest and insulted Show, who was a babyface here, and knocked Miz out.
Fresno was the same show as Ontario, except it was Woods & Kingston in the tag title match against the Prime Time Players. Once again great reports on the Jericho vs. Owens main event.
Hidalgo opened with a three-way with The Lucha Dragons winning an elimination match over The Ascension and Los Matadores. Konnor pinned one of Los Matadores to get rid of them. The Lucha Dragons then won with a double pin on The Ascension. Harper pinned Swagger with the discus clothesline. Swagger got a huge reaction with “We the People” chants, but Hidalgo is also a crowd where every babyface is over as it’s closer to an old-school Mexican crowd. Sandow & Axel beat Rose & Maddox. Rose & Maddox are positioned now as a regular heel loser team, as they wear matching gear that read “Beef Mode.” The new character is that they come out and do push-ups and sit-ups before the match to get heat, so it seems like a modern adaptation of the old Bodydonnas gimmick that Chris Candido & Tom Prichard did in the mid-90s which was really a showcase for Sunny to get over. It looks like they are going to be filling the role that 3MB did before they got rid of them. They claimed they were BFF’s and claim that they are in better shape than anyone in the audience. Emma, working as a face, teamed with Natalya to beat Cameron and the debuting Dana Brooke. Brooke got strong heat although Cameron worked most of the match, losing to Natalya’s sharpshooter. Fandango pinned Slater in a short match. Orton, who got the loudest reaction of the night, pinned Sheamus with the RKO in a good match. Reigns pinned Wyatt with a spear. Reigns also got a superstar reaction. Wyatt attacked and left Reigns laying after the match. Main event saw Rollins retain the WWE title in a street fight over Ambrose. They used the usual weapons and had the best match on the show. Ambrose was first put through a table. Ambrose then used the elbow to put Rollins through a table when Wyatt interfered. Wyatt hit Sister Abigail on Ambrose to set up the pin after a pedigree. They were double-teaming Ambrose until Reigns made the save and they cleaned house to end the show.
Stockton was largely the same show. The only changes were that the Axel & Sandow vs. Rose & Maddox and Fandango vs. Slater matches were merged into a six-man with Axel & Sandow & Fandango winning. They also switched up Cameron and Emma, so Cameron worked as a face teaming with Natalya, and Emma as a heel teaming with Dana Brooke. Harper was doing his flexing gimmick at the show and it was getting over. The Beef Mode gimmick was working here. Cameron did turn heel in the match, refusing to tag in, but Natalya still cleaned house and made Emma tap to the sharpshooter. Rollins beat Ambrose in just under 25:00 in the main event with Wyatt interfering. Both Wyatt and Rollins were cheered a lot as heels.