The Pro-Wres Digest for June 26th – July 2nd
On 27/6 New Japan announced the participants and the blocks for the twenty sixth installment of the company’s big summer tournament: the G1 Climax. Hiroshi Tanahashi is set to return after his shoulder injury and is part of an absolutely stacked A Block. Both blocks this year have a fresh feel about them, as there are six competitors making their G1 debuts, most notably Kenny Omega and Katsuhiko Nakajima. Naomichi Marufuji will make his second G1 appearance and joins Nakajima as the outsiders from Pro Wrestling NOAH this year. Toru Yano, Marufuji’s GHC Tag Team partner, returns from his NOAH stint to bring his usual comedy matches to the tournament, although he will most likely be going back to NOAH afterwards. Other G1 débutantes include Seiya Sanada, Evil, Tama Tonga & Yoshi-Hashi. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, the three-time G1 winner and holder of the record for most appearances in the tournament, was originally left out of the field of competitors, however his long-time tag partner Satoshi Kojima announced on 3/7 that he was giving his spot up for Tenzan to have one last run in the G1. Like last year, tournament matches will be block exclusive on a per-show basis and the rest of the cards will be the usual multi-man tags featuring which ever block is off that particular day. The tour features 19 shows, beginning in Hokkaido on July 18th and runs until the final at Sumo Hall in Tokyo on August 14th.
A Block: Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Naomichi Marufuji, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, Seiya Sanada, Togi Makabe, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga.
B Block: Kenny Omega, Tetsuya Naito, Katsuyori Shibata, Yuji Nagata, Tomoaki Honma, Michael Elgin, Evil, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Yoshi-Hashi, Toru Yano.
Here are some of the key matches: Opening night in Hokkaido on 18/7 sees the A Block kick-off with Tanahashi vs. Sanada in the main event, plus Okada vs. Marufuji. The B Block opens on 22/7 at Korakuen Hall and see’s Nagata vs. Naito in the main event, plus Shibata vs. Honma underneath. 23/7 in Tokyo has Ishii vs. Goto and Okada vs. Sanada. 24/7 at Korakuen Hall has Shibata vs. Nakajima in what should be a hell of a main event. 28/7 in Saitama is main evented by Ishii vs. Marufuji. 30/7 in Aichi has Nagata vs. Nakajima, Shibata vs. Naito and Elgin vs. Omega in the main event. 8/3 in Kagoshima main event is Tanahashi vs. Ishii. 8/4 in Fukuoka has Shibata vs. Omega and Nakajima vs. Naito. 8/6 in Osaka has Tanahashi vs. Marufuji and Okada vs. Ishii. 8/7 in Shizuoka see’s Naito vs. Evil and Nagata vs. Omega. 8/8 main event is Ishii vs. Sanada. 10/8 has Shibata vs. Nagata and Nakajima vs. Omega. 12/8 has the big Okada vs. Tanahashi match, plus Makabe vs. Ishii, and Goto vs. Marufuji. 13/8 has Shibata vs. Evil and Omega vs. Naito.
Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Austin Aries and Samoa Joe all worked the WWE house show in Orlando, FL on 27/6. For Nakamura & Balor this was their main roster debut and they beat Joe & Aries in a tag team match, third on the card. Previously, Joe worked the infamous dark match in which Tyson Kidd suffered a broken neck on 1/6/15 and also appeared on the 3/3/01 episode of WWF Jacked in a losing effort against Essa Rios. At the 12/8/03 SmackDown tapings, Aries lost a dark match against Chris Kanyon, who was bizarrely using his Mortis gimmick from WCW. Aries also appeared on the international version of Sunday Night Heat on 25/1/04, teaming with Shawn Daivari and put over the Dudley Boyz. Still, for all intents and purposes, the tag match on 27/6 in Orlando was essentially the “real” main roster debut for all four men and it surely won’t be too long before we see one, two, or all four guys up on the main roster after the brand split. Also on the 27/6 Orlando house show, Bayley teamed with Sasha Banks & Summer Rae to beat Natalya, Dana Brooke & Eva Marie. Hopefully someone can explain to Vince what a potential cash-cow Bayley is and he will get over the fact that she doesn’t look like a bikini model and bring her up as well.
WWE also ran their first show in Honolulu, HI in seven years on 29/6 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena. The main event saw Dean Ambrose retain the WWE title over AJ Styles, Chris Jericho & Seth Rollins when he pinned Styles with the Dirty Deeds DDT. Also on the show, Shinsuke Nakamura beat Kevin Owens in a rematch from their ROH encounter in 2014 with the Kinshasa. You don’t have to look very hard to find fancam footage of the match online. Asuka made her main roster debut and successfully defended the NXT Women’s title over Natalya. It is unlikely that Asuka is getting a call-up any time soon and was on the tour purely for the next two shows at Sumo Hall in Tokyo.
The 1/7 show at Sumo Hall saw Dean Ambrose retain the WWE title over Kevin Owens & Seth Rollins in a three-way. Shinsuke Nakamura returned to Sumo Hall for the first time since October 12th 2015 and beat Chris Jericho with the Kinshasa. Nakamura was originally scheduled to face Bray Wyatt, however Wyatt was pulled from the tour at the last minute. AJ Styles also worked in Sumo Hall for the first time since main eventing the building against Kazuchika Okada on 12/10/15 and pinned John Cena after some interference from the Club & the Usos. Asuka retained the NXT Women’s title over Becky Lynch and the Club (Anderson & Gallows) worked a four-way against the New Day, the Vaudevillains & the Usos, which the New Day won.
2/7 had Ambrose retaining the WWE title over Jericho & Rollins in a triple threat main event. Nakamura beat Kevin Owens with the Kinshasa. John Cena & the Usos beat the Club (Styles, Anderson & Gallows). After the match Cena apparently put the Club over for what they achieved in Japan. Asuka retained the NXT Women’s title over Becky Lynch and Charlotte successfully defended the WWE Women’s title over Natalya. New Day also retained the Tag Team titles over the Vaudevillains.
Hideo Itami finally returned to action on 30/6 after a year on the shelf with a shoulder injury. At the NXT house show in Winter Haven, FL, Itami teamed with TM61 (Nick Miller & Shane Thorne) to make a Pro Wrestling NOAH, No Mercy/TMDK, super team and beat Samoa Joe, Wesley Blake & Tino Sabbatelli in the main event. Itami’s last match was on 30/4/2015 on an NXT house show in Lakeland, FL and he was written out of storyline at the TakeOver: Unstoppable event on 20/5/15 due to his injury. Just a month earlier at WrestleMania 31, Itami appeared in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which he probably should have won, and he was set to face Finn Balor & Tyler Breeze in a three-way at the TakeOver: Unstoppable show. The injury angle they shot saw a camera man find Itami on the ground in the parking lot after being taken out by a still unknown assailant. Kevin Owens walked past him and it was heavily hinted that he was responsible, however with Owens being on the main roster it is almost certain that someone else will take responsibility for the attack.
Pro Wrestling Sheet reported on 1/7 that Jerry Lawler’s suspension from the WWE has been lifted due to the domestic assault charges against him and his fiance Lauryn McBride being dropped. The couple were arrested on 17/6 after the police were called to their home in West Memphis, TN due to a violent altercation. The two got into an argument after McBride had lied about her whereabouts during the NBA playoffs and she called 911 but hung up before speaking to an operator; police traced the call and showed up at the house. McBride told the police that Lawler had pushed her against the stove and hit her on the left side of the head; she also alleged that Lawler went and got a gun and encouraged McBride to shoot herself. Lawler on the other hand claimed that McBride scratched him in the face, threw a candlestick at him and kicked him in the groin. He also told police that McBride was the one who brought the gun into the kitchen and stated that he attempted to stop her from driving because she was drunk. All the charges were dropped in court on 1/7 and according to CommercialAppeal.com, Lawler’s attorney Ted Hansom stated it was “a big misunderstanding and won’t happen again. We are happy with the outcome.” Commercial Appeal also had a statement from the WWE regarding the suspension of Lawler:
“Jerry Lawler’s legal matter has been resolved and his suspension has been lifted, effective immediately.”
Ryan Satin noted that Pro Wrestling Sheet had been told that Lawler is expected to return to his colour commentary position on SmackDown immediately and will be back next week to replace David Otunga, who stepped in during the King’s absence. I wonder if putting a certified attorney in Lawler’s place was somebody’s way of making a little fun out of the situation, but regardless Lawler should be back on next week’s TV.
In some extremely sad news, CMLL regular Thunder (Luke Fordward) tragically passed away on 30/6 at the age of 35 due to stomach cancer. Fordward’s father in law El Satanico (Daniel Lopez) confirmed the news on Facebook with a short statement. Lopez trained Fordward after his daughter Daniela, a former CMLL ring card girl, met him in Australia and convinced him to move to Mexico with her. Fordward had wrestled briefly in Australia before meeting Daniela, but he was very green and even after being trained by Lopez he never really caught on. Fordward worked as recently as five months ago but he disappeared from the scene with no explanation, although it is now clear it was due to his diagnosis. Dave Meltzer only reported on Fordward’s illness this week in the Observer and the Cubsfan noted on his site on 28/6 that Thunder was in fact battling cancer and was in a “very serious” situation. The news of Fordward’s death was not only shocking due to his untimely age, but the rapid nature of his decline is very sobering indeed. We offer our sincerest condolences to Fordward’s friends and family.
There was a note in the Observer this week about the situation with the WWE and Moose apparently changing. We wrote last week that Moose was expected to be brought into the Performance Centre as part of the new September class of recruits, however Dave Meltzer reported that the WWE is holding off on bringing Moose in due a 2009 domestic violence allegation. Meltzer added that it is most likely a timing issue due to the recent bad press garnered by the Jerry Lawler & Adam Rose stories. Moose has apparently had offers from TNA, Lucha Underground and also has the option to stay with ROH. If he wants to end up in the WWE eventually, the best thing to do might be to try and get some Evolve bookings and refrain from signing any contracts that would tie him down to one particular promotion.
Ring of Honor’s Best in the World PPV on 24/6 from Concord, NC was a typically watchable ROH show from an in-ring perspective, as there were no bad matches on the show and a coupe of really good ones. The major issue, which seems to be brought up after every big ROH show, was the horrible job the did miking the crowd. At times the fans seemed to be completely dead, although reports from the building claimed the exact opposite. Conversely, the crowd volume was turned up during certain points of the show to such a degree it was hard to hear the announcers at times.
All three title matches saw the champions retain, with Jay Lethal retaining the World title over Jay Briscoe in the main event. Match was good, but only went 12:52 which was no where near enough time for a World title match. They kicked out of each others’ finishes and Lethal won with a Super Ace Crusher (*** ½). Bobby Fish retained the TV title over Dalton Castle in a solid wrestling match between two good friends at 16:41 (*** ¼). The Addiction (Daniels & Kazarian) retained the Tag Team titles over the Motor City Machine Guns (Sabin & Shelley) in a decent match at 12:11. The big story here is that Kamaitachi came out during the match and attacked Jay White, who was sat in the front row. The brawl caused a distraction and the Addiction got the win with the Best Meltzer Ever on Sabin (***).
For me, the best match on the show was the Steve Corino/BJ Whitmer Fight Without Honor. Whitmer won a tremendously worked, crazy, double-juice, wild brawl in 14:42 when Kevin Sullivan appeared after a lights-out spot and nailed Corino with the dreaded golden spike; Whitmer got the pin with his Exploder. They got the most out of everything they did and it certainly wasn’t just weapons for the sake of weapons. Corino came out to Hashimoto’s old music and “lost a tooth” early on, which was probably an old injury but it worked well here. Whitmer busted Corino open hardway by punching his scar tissue laden forehead. Whitmer gigged after Corino hit him with a bottle. They teased a doctor stoppage a couple of times, but Corino grabbed some rubbing alcohol out of the medical bag and poured it over Whitmer’s head. Both men wore white and ended up covered in blood; like I said, they got the most out of everything (**** ¼).
The other good matches on the show were, Young Bucks & Adam Cole over War Machine & Moose in 12:58; typical Young Bucks match with all kind of spotz – finish was the Meltzer Driver on Moose (*** ¾). Mark Briscoe over Roderick Strong in 15:17 with a Fisherman Buster; this was Roddy’s penultimate match in ROH (*** ¾). Opener saw Kyle O’Reilly beat Kamaitcahi in 13:49 with a Brainbuster and an Armbar; these two could have had a blow-away match, but for an opener it was perfectly fine (*** ¼). ACH pinned Silas Young in 11:10 with the 450 Splash; it was fine (** ¾).
ROH followed up with the usual post PPV TV tapings in Concord on 25/6 and here are some of the highlights. Jay White debuted against Kamaitachi and the match ended in a DQ when the Addiction attacked White. This led to White & the Motor City Machine Guns beating the Adiction & Kamaitcahi. * Roderick Strong worked his final ROH match and put over Dalton Castle on his way out. Roddy gave a farewell speech and thanked all the fans for their support over the years. Kyle O’Reilly came out for his World title match with Jay Lethal, however Adam Cole & the Young Bucks jumped O’Reilly and injured is arm with a chair. Later in the tapings, Lethal retained the ROH World title over an injured O’Reilly. The Bucks & Cole jumped both guys afterwards and Nigel McGuiness announced that Cole would never get a World title shot while Lethal is the champion. This led Jay Lethal & the Briscoes beating Adam Cole & the Young Bucks in the main event. Post-match saw them shoot a big angle, with the Bullet Club tying Lethal up in the ropes and shaving his head.
ROH also announced Stuka Jr from CMLL as Kamaitachi’s opponent for the TV tapings on 16/7 at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, PA. The match was originally supposed to be Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi, however Lee is still out after re-injuring his knee. Stuka is a bit of a strange choice as a replacement, but maybe CMLL wanted to send someone with a good reputation to perhaps help build a CMLL/ROH working agreement. Additionally, ROH revealed that Toru Yano would be coming in for the Death Before Dishonor weekend in Las Vegas on 19/8 & 20/8. If we don’t get a Yano/Cheesebuger match I will be highly disappointed.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla announced all 20 competitors in this year’s Battle of Los Angeles, which will be held in Reseda, CA over three days from September 2nd– 4th. Here’s the list of names in the 2016 edition of BOLA:
1) Cody Rhodes. 2) Kamaitachi. 3) Jeff Cobb. 4) Mark Haskins. 5) Dalton Castle. 6) Pete Dunne. 7) Sami Callihan. 8) Tommy End. 9) Trevor Lee. 10) Adam Cole. 11) John Hennigan. 12) Jack Gallagher.
13) Chris Hero. 14) Mark Anderews. 15) Ricochet. 16) Matthew Riddle. 17) Marty Scurll. 18) Matt Sydal. 19) Kyle O’Reilly. 20) Fenix.
* Evolve announced that Roderick Strong vs. Matthew Riddle would meet for the first time ever in Queens, NY on 16/7 at Evolve 64.
New Japan also announced a bunch of outside talent for the 2016 Super J-Cup. Yuma Aoyagi from All Japan, Eita from Dragon Gate, Kaji Tomato from K-Dojo and Gurukun Mask from Ryukyu Dragon are all confirmed for the single elimination tournament. Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru of NOAH/Suzuki Gun are also official for the J-Cup, so there are ten spots left open for New Japan regulars and representatives of ROH & CMLL. The first round of the 16-man single elimination tournament is on July 20th at Korakuen Hall and the finals take place on August 21st at the Tokyo Ariake Colosseum.
Some more matches have been booked for the Tokyo Gurentai “Tokyo Carnival” show at Shinjuku Face on August 25th. Already announced were the main event of Nosawa Rongai vs. Terry Funk and a Tokyo IC Tag Team title match with Hikaru Sato & Ryo Kawamura (C) vs. Daisuke Ikeda & Takuya Kai. One of the newly announced matches is Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Kikuzawa, which has the stipulation that if Kikuzawa wins a limited business relationship between Gurentai and Big Japan will be made official. Seiya Sanada will be working the show and teams with Mazada & Fujita against the indie dream team of Masato Tanaka, Kotaro Suzuki & Harashima. Also added is the father and son team of Mitsuo Momota & Chikara vs. Kaz Hayashi & Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio.
Puroresuspirit.net noted that several Wrestle-1 regulars will be going freelance next month. Akira Nogami, Tajiri & Minoru Tanaka are the big names who chose to be no longer under the W-1 banner. Additionally, Ryoto Hama & Yasufumi Nakanoue opted not to renew their contracts. Akira, Minoru Tanaka & Nakanoue all still worked the Wrestle-1 show on 1/7 as freelance talent. Tajiri is in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, so he could end up being offered some sort of coaching position. Hama & Nakanoue have worked for Big Japan this year, although Hama looks like he could end up in his buddy Akebono’s Oudou promotion. Akira has dabbled in wacky theatre wrestling with Makai Syojyoken and like Minoru Tanaka, would have no shortage of indie groups wanting to bring him in, although Wrestle-1 has apparently left the doors open for both of them.
Ricochet appears to have finished up with Lucha Underground after losing a retirement match at the Ultima Lucha III tapings in Boyle Heights on 26/6. His original contract, signed in 2014, expired last weekend and MSL noted on MLW Radio last week that LU had offered him $300,000 a year to sign a new deal. The main event of Ultima Lucha III, which will air sometime in 2017, saw Johnny Mundo defend the Lucha Underground title against Prince Puma and the stipulation was that Puma had to retire if he didn’t win the title. In a move right out of TNA, Puma actually beat Mundo and won the LU Championship on his last night in the company. Dario Cueto came out and announced that Pentagon Dark was cashing in the Gift of the Gods title and announced that the match had a loser must retire stip. Pentagon Dark beat Puma and won the title after Vampiro interfered, so not only did Puma win the title on his last night but he was also screwed out of it by the most popular guy in the company with no possible chance of a rematch. After the tapings ended, Puma got the big send-off treatment from all the wrestlers and the fans chanted “thank you, Puma.”
Dave Meltzer noted in the Observer that Ricochet is believed to be heading to WWE, although he has commitments with New Japan at least until the end of the year. The terms of the LU contract he signed in 2014 also prohibit him from appearing on another wrestling TV show until six months after the last episode of LU he appeared in airs on TV. That would mean that Ricochet would be unable to be used on WWE TV until late 2017 at the earliest or some time in 2018 at the latest. Of course, this is all theoretical and if WWE throws enough money El Rey’s way I’m sure they could work something out without taking things through legal channels.
The next three weeks of Lucha Underground TV are the big Ultima Lucha Dos season finale episodes. Here’s the line up for 6/7, 13/7 & 20/7:
* Lucha Underground Championship: Matanza Cueto (C) vs. Pentagon Jr.
* Lucha Underground Trios Championship: Johnny Mundo & Jack Evans, PJ Black (C) vs. Aerostar, Fenix & Drago.
* Rey Mysterio vs. Prince Puma
* Gift of the Gods Championship: Night Claw vs. Daga vs. Marty the Moth vs. Killshot vs. Siniestro de la Muerte vs. Mariposa vs. Sexy Star.
* Death Match: King Cuerno vs. Mil Muertes.
* Taya vs. Ivelisse.
* Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. Black Lotus.
* Unique Opportunity Tournament: Texano, Son of Havoc, Cage & The Mack.
New IWGP IC champion Michael Elgin won the Elite International Gran Prix tournament in Mexico City at Arena Mexico on 23/6 & 25/6. Elgin beat Volador Jr in the final match on 25/6 and was presented with a championship belt during a big post-match celebration, complete with Canadian national anthem and confetti. Volador vowed to get revenge for losing at the upcoming CMLL Gran Prix on 1/7. Elgin’s route to the final saw him beat Jinder Mahal in the first round on 23/6 then he downed Lio Rush in the quarterfinal, before defeating Bram in the semifinal. Volador scored wins over PJ Black, Tama Tonga & Kushida on his way to the final. Dave Meltzer noted in the Observer the attendance for both shows were “horrible” and they only drew around 1,000 fans on 23/6 and did just under 2,000 on 25/6.
CMLL ran their Gran Prix iPPV on 1/7 and Team Mexico defeated Team Rest of the World in a 50 minute, 16-man elimination tag match main event. Diamante Azul, La Máscara, Máximo Sexy, Rey Escorpión, Rush, Shocker, Último Guerrero & Volador Jr beat Johnny Idol, Kushida, Marco Corleone, Michael Elgin, Okumura, Sam Adonis, Tama Tonga, Tanga Roa, when Volador pinned Tama Tonga with the Spanish Fly at 50:47. During the match, Rush & La Mascara turned on each other and Rush tried to unmask his former Los Ingobernables partner, which led to his elimination. You would think Rush/Mascara is penciled in for the Anniversary show in September. Also on the card, Barbaro Cavernario beat Rey Cometa in a hair vs. hair match in 22:59, which according to the Cubsfan was a MOTYC. There were only two other matches on the card, which saw Atlantis, Mistico & Stuka Jr beat Euforia, Ephesto & Terrible in 16:49 and Blue Panther, Blue Panther Jr & The Panther over Felino, Puma & Tiger in 14:12.
RAW on 27/6 did a 2.21 rating with 3,088,000 viewers – a horrible number with no competition and the lowest number since 1997 with no major sports competition. 8pm did a terrible 3,096,000 viewers. 9pm did a little better with 3,173,000 and 10pm did a poor 3,011,000. Last week’s show did a 2.44 rating with 3,467,000.
TNA iMPACT on 28/6 did 322,000, up from the 304,000 they did last week.
Lucha Underground on 29/6 did the biggest combined audience ever, with 219,000 viewers total. The first run airing did 116,000, up from 104,000 last week, and the replay did 103,000, up from 62,000 last week.
SmackDown on 30/6 did a 1.52 rating with 2,080,000 viewers, down from the 1.58 and 2,145,000 viewers last week.