The Pro-Wres Digest for February 26th – March 4th
Tomoaki Honma suffered an horrific injury while working the 3/3 New Japan show in Okinawa. He was teaming with Togi Makabe & Michael Elgin against Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Jado and the injury occurred while taking a hangman DDT from Jado. Somehow the spot went awry and Honma’s trajectory was thrown off, causing him to take the move at a dangerous angle. He was unresponsive following the maneuver and was unable to move at all, although he was able to communicate with the doctors that were quickly on the scene. The match was immediately stopped just shy of ten minutes and the bottom rope was removed to assist the medical staff in their efforts to carry Honma out on a stretcher. Honma was taken directly to the nearest hospital in Okinawa and things were eerily quiet while everybody waited for an update on his condition. New Japan posted a vague update in the early hours of 4/3, noting that Honma had sustained a “cervical vertebrae” injury and he would be unable to wrestle on 6/3 against Ishii & Yano for the IWGP Tag titles. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima have been announced as the replacement team for Honma & Makabe. There’s no more news at the time of publication, we don’t if Honma regained the feeling in his limbs, if he requires surgery, or anything. Hopefully we’ll have some positive news to report on the situation next week.
The most intriguing and, depending on your disposition, entertaining TNA act in years have left the company and will not be on appearing on anymore Impact TV shows, effective immediately. Over the past year, the Hardy Boys and their broken antics single-handily created more buzz than anything TNA had done in a very long time.
Tragically, on 27/2, the deletion dystopia came to an end when news of Matt & Jeff not re-signing with TNA first emerged. Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that the Hardys agreed terms on new deals back in December, but they felt “disrespected” during contract talks and things fell apart from there. The story goes that the agreed deals were for one year, however when Matt pressed the issue he was “given the run around.” The Hardy’s lawyer then asked for a creative control clause to be added to the contracts and the TNA brain-trust bawked at such a proposition. A “source” told Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet that TNA President, Ed Nordholm, responded to news of interest from other companies in the Hardys with a line right out of the Dixie Carter playbook: “Well, tell them to go to WWE then.” It’s good to see Eddie Nordholm following the example set by Ms. Carter for so many years. Jeff was reportedly not happy at all with this and said he no longer wanted to sign; Matt continued negotiations, but TNA tried to sneak a two-year deal, with no creative control, where they would receive 10% of his profits outside of the company, past him. Matt’s lawyer told TNA he would have been a fool to sign the new deal and the company was informed that Matt no longer wished to re-sign. Matt offered to come to the TV tapings this week so they could write him out of storylines – the Hardys were the TNA Tag Team Champions while all this was going on – but TNA responded by saying they would be “crazy” to let him work on TV without a contract. John Pollock of the Fight Network – owned by TNA’s parent company Anthem Sports & Entertainment – confirmed that the Hardy’s would not be at the TV tapings this week.
Later on 27/2, Reby Hardy Tweeted that TNA “was the perfect situation” for their family then followed up by saying: “Now think about what kinda negative changes & straight f*ckery would have gone down for us to leave.” Matt Tweeted in the early hours on 28/2 that his “stint with Impact Wrestling was DELIGHTFUL” then wished the company well going forward and said he hoped they treat the talent fairly. Pro Wrestling Sheet claimed the big issue now is who owns the rights to the Broken Matt & Brother Nero gimmicks. “Sources close to Matt” told Ryan Satin that his contract stated that TNA owned the rights to anything filmed for Impact Wrestling, however when the deal expired Matt retained the rights to the names and characters. “Impact Wrestling sources” told the Sheet that this is not the case at all and people in TNA believe that they own all IP creations. The Hardys’ contracts expired at the end of February and without a no-compete clause the brothers are free to work anywhere starting immediately. Dave Meltzer noted that the belief in TNA is they are heading to WWE, with to the Broken Hardys being a hot act and the fact they have a small window to go back due to their age.
It wasn’t just the Hardy brothers who said farewell to TNA this week, as Drew Galloway, Mike Bennett, Maria Kanellis & Jade also parted ways with the company. Galloway took to Twitter on 27/2 to say his goodbyes and thanked TNA for his two years working in the promotion. PWInsider reported that Bennett & Maria had made the decision not to re-sign after their contracts recently expired. The news of Jade’s departure was broken on 1/3 by PWInsider and Mike Johnson noted that the company’s new strategy is to focus on “younger talent.” Of course, that is code for “cheaper talent.” There are a couple of ways to look at this mini exodus. It is certainly not a good look from a PR standpoint to have four of your biggest stars leave the company within the space of 48 hours, plus TNA needs all the recognisable names it can get. However, under the new management and booking team this could be a chance to hit the reset button and start from the ground up with a new direction for the company. Of course this is TNA we are talking about, so I’ll believe any positive changes and productive shake-ups when I see it.
There was some positive news for TNA this week however, as the company will be back on TV in the UK as of April 21st on the Spike UK channel. Impact was canceled by Challenge TV late last year due to its dwindling ratings. Spike UK has only been around for a couple of years and is a relatively unknown entity in the UK TV market; I would hazard a guess that the majority of people don’t even know it exists, never mind the fact that it is a free-to-air channel. Impact will air on Friday nights, one day after it airs in the US, and Spike will also be airing the PPVs, while its sister channel My5 will air Xplosion for some reason. Spike UK’s parent is the much bigger, Viacom owned, Channel 5, so they have the potential to reach a lot of people if they run ads for Impact on Five, however I can’t see this happening. If you are wondering what went down during Jeff Jarrett’s meeting with the ITV people last week, according to the Observer, it appears that the idea of a World of Sport promotion/series may have stalled. Dave Meltzer noted that after shooting the pilot, ITV realised they “didn’t have the capacity” to run a full-time pro-wrestling company and spoke with Jarrett about whether creating a promotion built off a TV series would be viable. With Impact being announced for Spike UK, it is all-but guaranteed that an ITV/TNA partnership is out the window.
Jack Swagger appeared on Chael Sonnen’s podcast on 28/2 and announced that he had requested his release from WWE. Swagger said he decided to leave the company due to negotiations for a new contract being “way off” and noted he felt like WWE did not value him him the way he should have been. “They weren’t giving me the opportunity to make the full amount of income I could for my family, so when you put it like that it’s time to go.” He noted. Swagger said he is young (he’s 34) and intends to keep wrestling in places like Mexico, Japan and the UK. He added that it would be hard to turn down a “good offer” to try out MMA; Scott Coker and Nobuyuki Sakakibara no doubt took note of this. Swagger hadn’t been on WWE TV since being drafted to RAW then suddenly switching brands to SmackDown and losing a short feud to Baron Corbin in October 2016, although he continued to work prelim matches on house shows until a couple of months ago.
Things got a little more complicated on 3/3, when the WAW promotion (owned by the Knights) announced Swagger vs. Alberto El Patron for their 11/3 show in Norwich, England. A WWE rep told Pro Wrestling Sheet the same day: “Jack Swagger has not been granted a release from his WWE contract. When he is granted his release, Jack Swagger will remain under exclusive contract to WWE for 90 days and will be compensated accordingly during that period.” WWE have still not publically released Swagger, so it will be fascinating to see if he actually shows up at the WAW show next week.
The brackets for the 2017 New japan Cup have been announced and there are a few first-round matches that immediately standout as potential bangers. Namely, Katsuyori Shibata vs. Minoru Suzuki on March 12th in Hyogo. Also on that show, Kenny Omega takes on Tomohiro Ishii, Yoshi-Hashi takes on SANADA, and Juice Robinson battles Yuijiro Takahashi. The tournament begins on March 11th in Aichi and the main event of the show is Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. EVIL in a first-round match. The other first round matches on night one are: Tomoaki Honma* vs. Tanga Roa, Toru Yano vs. Tama Tonga, and Michael Elgin vs. Bad Luck Fale. * It is very unlikely Honma will be ready to go in time for the tournament after his serious injury.
Koji Iwamoto won All Japan’s Junior Battle of Glory tournament on 26/2 in front of 877 fans at the EDION Arena Osaka, 2nd Stadium. Iwamoto actually went to the final match with a record of 1 win and two draws, as he went to a 20 minute broadway with Atsuhi Aoki in a match that would determine the A Block winner. Since the draw gave both man one point each, Iwamoto went to the final with 4 points, while Aoki only had 3. In the final, Iwamoto faced Hiraku Sato, who downed Yuma Aoyagi in the opener to win the B Block with 5 points, and he got the win at 16:51 via referee stoppage due to a Katagatame. Iwamoto said he wanted to challenge Keisuke Ishii for the World Jr. title and vowed to bring the belt back to All Japan. The Ishii/Iwamoto Jr title match is on the 12/3 Korakuen Hall show, along with the Jun Akiyama vs. KENSO, GAORA TV title match. Main event of the 26/2 show saw Kento Miyahara retain the Triple Crown Championship over The Bodyguard in 22:23 with his Shutdown German Suplex. Miyahara said afterwards that he wants to set the new record for most successful Triple Crown title defences; he is currently second with 8, behind Toshiaki Kawada, who had 10.
NOAH have a big show on 12/3 for the Great Voyage in Yokohama. The show features some TNA talent as part of the budding working relationship between the two companies. Keiji Mutoh is also on the card and teams with Naomichi Marufuji against Moose & KAZMA.
* Maybach Taniguchi, Yoshinari Ogawa & Akitoshi Saito vs. HAYATA, YO-HEY & Rionne Fujiwara,
* GHC Junior Tag Championship Match: Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 (C) vs. Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke.
* GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Hajime Ohara (C) vs. Hitoshi Kumano.
* Kaito Kiyomiya vs. James Storm.
* Atsushi Kotoge vs. Eddie Edwards.
* Special Tag Match: Naomichi Marufuji & Keiji Mutoh vs. Moose & KAZMA.
* GHC Tag Championship Match: Takashi Sugiura & Kenoh vs. Muhammad Yone & Masa Kitamiya.
* GHC Heavyweight Championship Match: Katsuhiko Nakajima (C) vs. Go Shiozaki.
In more NOAH news, Daisuke Harada, HAYATA, YO-HEY & Tadasuke announced their new stable name will be, “RATEL’S.” PuroresuSpirit noted that the name is derived from another name for the honey badger – one of the smallest, but toughest animals in nature.
We had the announcement last week that Tatsumi Fujinami, Riki Choshu & Shiro Koshinaka would face Vader, Keiji Muoh & AKIRA at Fujinami’s 45th anniversary show at Korakuen Hall on April 20th. Two more dates have been announced to celebrate the Dragon’s 45th anniversary, both of which will feature the 63 year-old in six-man matches. On April 22nd at Hakata StarLanes in Fukuoka, Fujinami, Koshinaka & Koji Kanemoto face Vader, Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Takuma Sano. Then on April 23rd at the EDION Arena in Osaka, Fujinami, Choshu & Vader face Fujiwara, Koshinaka & Takuma Sano.
The debut NEW (New Exciting Wrestling) show will take place at Korakuen Hall on April 5th under Antonio Inoki’s IGF banner. Announced this week for the event was Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. MMA star Shinya Aoki. Josh Barnett vs. Shinichi Suzukawa had previously been announced. NEW will be running five other shows as part of their Opening Series from April 20th – May 27th.
Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Timothy Thatcher via submission in the main event of Evolve 79 on 25/2 in Queens, NY, to become the new Evolve Champion. The match was what you would expect from these two, but is well worth checking out if you have the time. Sabre hooked the Octopus for the win at 18:47 and the crowd lost their minds. Poor old Lenny Leonard on commentary tried three times to spit out the super long name of Zack’s finishing hold, but failed miserably and ended up missing his cue for the finish. By the time he spat it out, Sabre was already in the crowd celebrating with the fans. “Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness.” Sabre’s first defense of the title will be at Evolve 80 in Orlando, FL, on March 30th over WrestleMania weekend against ACH, who beat Jason Kincaid on the same show to secure his third consecutive win, and with it a title shot. Ethan Page attacked ZSJ before he was handed the title and ACH ran out to make the save. Zack did a great short speech and said, “Pro-wrestling is for everyone,” then the locker room emptied for a celebration. The last person Sabre came across was Keith Lee, who beat him the night before, and the two shook hands then had an intense stare-down.
Thatcher had been the champion since July 10th 2015 and his reign became the topic of much debate amongst regular viewers of the Evolve product. His ground-based, technical catch style didn’t quite lend itself to the role of a top championship babyface and, while there were a handful of good matches with the likes of Johnny Gargano, Chris Hero, & Marty Scurll, Thatcher failed to consistently put on exciting title defences and the fans quickly turned on the languishing champion’s act. To make things worse, many of his championship matches were placed in the middle of the card, which certainly did nothing to help the prestige of the belt or Thatcher’s stature as champion. A long running feud with the heel stable Catch Point produced some solid title defences against Tracy Williams & Matt Riddle, however the fans had already been lost by this stage and a double turn eventually was made, with Catch Point going babyface and Thatcher teaming up with manager Stokely Hathaway for a heel run. Thatcher suited the heel role a lot more – probably because the fans were genuinely sick of him – and his methodical style blended well with his new bad guy demeanour. He suffered a concussion during the interesting no-rope, Squared Circle of Survival, match with Drew Gulak on November 12th, 2016, and was out until January. Then he returned to put over the Evolve Tag Team Champions Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi when he submitted to Yehi’s Koji Clutch at Evolve 76. The next night Thatcher retained the title over Jeff Cobb in a match that had potential on paper, but in reality it ended up being somewhat of a disappointment and was almost a microcosm of his 19-month title reign. Thatcher’s time as Evolve Champion will probably not be viewed as a roaring success, although much of the blame surely must be placed at Gabe Sapolsky’s feet, as he failed to react quickly enough when the tide was turning against the champ. I’ve personally enjoyed a lot of Thatcher’s work in other promotions, such as WXW & PWG, but the way he was booked throughout the majority of his Evolve title run left many fans with a bad taste in their mouths.
Last week, we mentioned the controversy surrounding the Preston City Wrestling, Kris Travis Memorial Tournament, and the fact that the company was not in fact donating the proceeds to charity nor Travis’ family. Well, long-time UK stalwart, Bubblegum, defeated Kenny Williams in the tournament final and made a heartfelt speech afterwards. He praised Kris Travis as a professional and as a person then hugged some of the other wrestlers who came out to celebrate with him. Just as it seemed like the show was over, T-Bone attacked Bubblegum, who had to be helped to the back while the ring announcer used the “Owen Hart voice” to let the fans know the show was over. PCW released a statement on Facebook about the incident and noted that it was not their intention for anyone’s enjoyment of the show to be soured, however they didn’t actually apologise for running such a sleazy angle. They did make sure to note they would be releasing a total figure of donations to charity though.
The Crash announced The Young Bucks vs. Rey Mysterio & Daga for their March 25th show in Tijuana; also on the show will be Bobby Lashley, DJZ, Robbie E & Brooke. Cubsfan noted that The Crash have not officially announced a working relationship with TNA, however the two companies are operating as if there is a deal in place. The Crash already have partnerships with several California indie groups, which helps split the cost of bringing in the wrestlers.
AAA have been throwing their weight around recently by sending out cease and desist letters to promoters who had the nerve to book Pentagon & Fenix on their shows. California’s Pacific Coast Wrestling shared their C&D letter, plus a scathing response to it, which you can take a look at here, via Pro Wrestling Sheet. AAA didn’t just want the to prevent the usage of the names “Pentagon & Fenix,” they actually tried to block the brothers from appearing on any indie shows altogether. Konnan called out the Roldans for their carny tactics on Twitter and accused them of sending IMPI trademark registrations to prevent Rey Fenix from using that name. He said AAA owes money to Brian Cage, Rey Mysterio Jr & Hayashi and also accused Lucha Underground of using AAA talent without work visas. Cubsfan noted that LU officials had acknowledged the fact some of their talent was working in the US without a proper visa, as MGM told them they would no longer use anybody without the correct paper work. This caused Taya & Daga to miss much of the Season 3 tapings. If anyone had been caught working without a visa they would have been deported and potentially hit with a ban from the country, similar to what happened with Mike Bailey.
Tier 1 Wrestling have booked Pentagon Jr vs. Matt Riddle for their April 23rd show in Brooklyn, NY.
Netflix released a trailer for their GLOW TV series this week. The season begins on June 23rd and the story follows a fictional struggling actress in LA during the 1980s, who finds her “one last chance for stardom when she’s thrust into the glitter and spandex world of women’s wrestling.” According to the Observer, Kia Stevens is a part of the cast and Chavo Guerrero Jr trained the cast to wrestle. Interestingly, Mondo Guerrero trained the original women of GLOW back in the 80s.
Here are some notes from the TNA Impact tapings which have supposedly kicked off the new era of the company (insert your own LOLTNA joke here): TNA as a name is DEAD and the company shall only been known as Impact Wrestling. Jeremy Borash & Josh Matthews are doing an announcer feud. Bruce Prichard buried TNA and the previous management regime. Dutch Mantel showed up on his mobility scooter and talked about the “glory days” of the company from 2006 and he also buried the incompetence of the previous leadership. Alberto El Patron showed up and appeared to beat Lashley for the TNA title, but the decision was reversed the following night. There was plenty of new indie talent on the shows, presumably working for peanuts, including: Caleb Konley, Idris Abraham, Marshe Rockett, Laredo Kid, EYFBO as LAX with Homicide, & Reno Scum.
WWE FastLane is this Sunday from the Bradley Centre in Milwaukee, WI. The card is as follows:
* Rich Swann & Akira Tozawa vs. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar.
* Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax.
* WWE RAW Tag Team Championship: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (C) vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass.
* WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville (C) vs. Jack Gallagher.
* WWE RAW Women’s Championship: Bayley (C) vs. Charlotte.
* Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe.
* Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman.
* WWE Universal Championship: Kevin Owens (C) vs. Goldberg.
RAW on 27/2 did a 2.15 rating with 3,083,000, down from the 2.21 & 3,208,000 last week. 8pm did 3,127,000. 9pm did 3,233,000 and 10pm did 2,918,000.
SmackDown on 28/2 did 2,566,000 viewers, down from 2,762,000 last week.
TNA Impact on 2/3 did 293,000 viewers, up slightly from 275,000 last week.
Thanks for reading, we’ll see you all next week!