The Pro-Wres Digest for May 14th – 20th.
“Pretty Boy” Doug Somers (Douglas Somerson) sadly passed away on 16/5 at the age of just 65. Somers began his career in the business as the ring truck driver in Minneapolis while he was still in high school. Among those helping him with ring crew duties around that time were John Sutton, who became Sit Oliver Humperdink, and Paul Perschmann, who went on to become Somer’s future tag team partner, “Playboy” Buddy Rose. Somers was trained by many of the big AWA names of the late 60s/early 70s, including Verne Gagne, Larry Hennig, Lars Anderson, Billy Robinson & Harley Race, and made his pro debut in 1971. In between stints in the AWA, he worked in many of the top territories of the era in a lower card journeyman role, becoming a respected performer amongst his peers. During a run in Oklahoma, before Leroy McGuirk sold to Bill Watts, Somers met and fell in love with the promoter’s daughter, Michelle “Mike” McGuirk, who had a brief stint in the WWF as a ring announcer in the 80s. Somers & McGuirk began their relationship while Mike was still married to Brian Blair, however she eventually divorced Blair and married Somers. Somers most famous run came during the dying days of the AWA, when he teamed with Buddy Rose as the “Playboy and Pretty Boy.” Rose & Somers beat Curt Hennig & Scott Hall for the AWA World Tag Team titles on May 17th 1986 and began a nine month long feud against Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty – The Midnight Rockers. The Rockers chased Somers & Rose all around the AWA horn, wrestling dozens of matches, but were never able to win the titles. Finally on January 27th 1987, Michaels & Jannetty defeated Somers & Rose for the belts, however the most famous encounter came three months earlier in September 1986, in what was a wild and bloody main event. After the AWA folded in 1991, Somers did some TV jobs for WCW and the WWF, before retiring in 1992. He came out of retirement in 2008 and began to work independent shows around Georgia, with his latest entry on Cagematch being October 30th 2011. Our condolences go out to Somerson’s friends and family.
New Japan held a press conference in Los Angeles on 18/5, featuring Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks & Cody Rhodes. Some announcements were made regarding the Long Beach shows in July: AXS TV will air both nights, with the July 1st show airing live at 8pm EST, while the July 2nd show will be live on NJPW World and replayed on AXS on July 7th at 8pm EST. The first night will also be live on NJPW World for those outside of the US. The IWGP Heavyweight, Intercontinental, Tag Team and Junior Tag Team titles will all be defended over the two nights, in addition to the tournament to crown the first IWGP United States champion. A bunch of talent were also announced for the show: (NJPW Army) Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, KUSHIDA, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Juice Robinson, David Finlay, Sho Tanaka, Yohei Komatsu, Jay White, Billy Gunn, Yoshitatsu. (CHAOS) Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Will Ospreay, Roppongi Vice. (Los Ingobernables de Japon) Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, EVIL, BUSHI. (Suzuki-Gun) Zack Sabre Jr. (ROH) Jay Lethal, The Briscoes, War Machine. (CMLL) Dragon Lee, Volador Jr, Titan. (Bullet Club) Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Marty Scurll, Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page, Guerrillas of Destiny, Yujiro Takahashi.
Io Shirai will indeed be joining Kairi Hojo in the WWE, as she reportedly accepted a contract offer this week to sign with the company. Shirai had traveled to the WWE Performance Centre back in March, not for a try-out but as a test-run to see if she liked what the NXT system had to offer. Dave Meltzer noted in the Observer this week that Shirai had “gone back-and-forth” on whether to take the WWE offer for months and eventually made the decision to go this week. Meltzer also reported that there are some “holdups” which will prevent Shirai from appearing in the WWE’s women’s tournament, but Hojo is set to make her debut in the tourney. It’s obviously a big blow to Stardom, who probably could have survived only losing Hojo, but with Shirai leaving too the promotion will be without its two most recognisable and popular stars. Even worse for poor old Rossy Ogawa, his third biggest star, Mayu Iwatani, plans to retire at the end of the year. Meaning Stardom will have lost not only their top three stars, but three of the best performers in the world, male or female. Hojo lost the Wonder of Stardom White Belt to Mayu on 14/5 at Korakuen Hall; she still needs to drop the Artist of Stardom trios titles she holds with Hiromi Mimura & Konami. Shirai retained the Wonder of Stardom Red Belt over Toni Storm on 14/5 after a 30 minute broadway, but she will have to lose the title to someone eventually.
Hiroshi Tanahashi tore his bicep on the 14/5 ROH/New Japan show in Philadelphia. The injury, in theory, should put him on the shelf for at least a couple of months, however the Japanese mentality is such that pulling Tanahashi from his advertised dates would be the absolute last resort. Tanahashi has been taken off the BOSJ tour, where he was working multi-man undercard tag matches and will be back for the June 9th show at Korakuen. Satoshi Kojima will replace Tanahashi on the rest of the Super Juniors tour. Nothing has been announced regarding his IWGP Intercontinental title match with Tetsuya Naito at Dominion on 11/6, so it looks like Tanahashi is still going to work the match. A tear in the biceps would usually require surgery, resulting in a six-eight month layoff, meaning if he went under the knife Tanahashi would miss the G1 in July/August. If he decides to rehab the injury without surgery the absence would not be as lengthy, although if he his still working matches in the meantime it will obviously take the tear longer to heal. Either way, it will certainly impact Tanahashi’s ability to train and workout, which would be a detriment to his overall look as he would inevitably lose some muscle mass and size. Tanahashi had a similar injury last year and partially tore his bicep on top of the severe shoulder injury that caused him to miss the first ever New Japan ladder match against Kenny Omega.
WWE.com reported on Braun Strowman’s surgery on 15/5 and claimed that he would be out for six-months after the operation to repair his shattered elbow. Dave Meltzer noted in the Observer that this timetable is likely to be a work and Strowman is actually expected back in time for SummerSlam. Strowman was penciled in as Brock Lesnar’s first challenger for the WWE Universal title at Great Balls of Fire in July, however if Braun is ready to go it looks like Vince McMahon’s mega match that has been in the works for some time should go down at SummerSlam.
New Japan kicked off the Best of the Super Juniors with two great shows at Korakuen Hall on 17/5 & 18/5. Opening night was an all tournament match card; pretty much everything on the show was worth checking out. Main event saw Dragon Lee inflict the first loss on Hiromu Takahashi since he returned to Japan when he hit the Phoenix-Plex at 18:56. This wasn’t the most spectacular match the two have ever had, but it was still excellent, (****¼). (7) Semi-main saw Ryusuke Tagichi pin Yoshinobu Kanemaru in a fun comedy match with a Small Package at 11:27, (***¼). (6) Marty Scurll submitted Will Ospreay with the Chicken Wing at 12:11. Match was too short to live up to some of their other matches, however they still put on a great performance. Scurll was super over in his debut and the crowd responded to all his signature spots, (****). (5) El Desperado beat KUSHIDA with the Guitarra de Angel at 11:43, (***). (4) ACH over BUSHI with the Midnight Drive at 10:47, (***¼). (3) Ricochet downed Taichi with the Shooting Star Press at 8:56, (***). (2) Volador Jr beat Tiger Mask IV with a super Spanish Fly at 9:48, (***½). (1) Opener saw TAKA Michinoku pin Jushin “Thunder” Liger with the Heavy Killer #1 at 8:33 of a really fun match, (***¾).
The second night on 18/5 only had four tournament matches, but they were all good in their own way. Main event saw Will Ospreay beat Ricochet with the OsCutter at 27:24. It looked like they were going to a 30 minute draw, as they did all their signature spots and kicked-out of everything. Like Dragon Lee/Takahashi the night before, it was not the most outstanding match the two have ever had, although the crowd went nuts for everything and it still managed to feel like an Ospreay/Ricochet match, (****). Semi-main event had Hiromu Takahashi over Jushin “Thunder” Liger in a fabulously heated outing with the Timebomb at 8:05. The crowd wanted Liger to win so badly, but he came up short against the current IWGP Jr champion. Liger said he had lost in his two final BOSJ matches at Korakuen Hall, but vowed to win all of his remaining matches. Milano Collection AT teared-up on commentary, (***¾). Dragon Lee beat Marty Scurll with the Patellas en el Pecho Double Footstomp in 13:09, (***½). Taichi beat TAKA Michinoku in a polarising match, which some people loved and others hated. The match went 9:30 and the two SZKG team-mates didn’t touch each other at all for the first 9:00; they stalled and cheated but never touched until it was time for the finish. Taichi gave TAKA a low-blow then rolled him up with the Gedo Clutch to get the win. They bumped fists afterwards and appreciated each others attempts at cheating like true heels, (***).
Suwama fractured the 2, 3, and 4 metacarpals in his right hand and could be out of action for up to 3 weeks. Tokyo Sports noted the injury occurred during the 12/5 All Japan show in Osaka. Suwama teamed with Astushi Aoki against Ryoji Sai & Koji Iwamoto and the referee stopped the match after just 1:38, giving the victory to Suwama & Aoki via TKO. The spot that appears to have caused the injury was an accidental hand strike from Suwama, which also split Sai’s head open after he tried to duck out of the way of a Lariat. Sai lost a lot of blood and was taken to the back on a stretcher; he also will be taking the rest of the month off to heal up. Suwama was scheduled for a big six-man tag on the 28/5 charity show in Kanagawa, as part of the ongoing angle with Onita and FMW. The match was set to be Suwama, Atsushi Aoki & Hiraku Sato vs. Atushi Onita, Jado-gun A & Jado-gun B; Suwama said he aims to be back in the ring next week, so there is a chance he could work the match. The big Suwama/Onita confrontation is still expected for the FMW show at Shinjuku FACE on 8/6.
With Yoshihiro Takayama out of action following his neck surgery last week, Kenta Kobashi announced that Hideki Suzuki will be stepping in as the replacement on the Fortune Dream 4 show at Korakuen Hall on 14/6. The card now appears to be finalised; here’s the line-up:
Kenta Kobashi Produce “Fortune Dream 4” – June 14th 2017, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo.
(*) Emerald Dream: Kotaro Suzuki vs. Kazuhiro Tamura.
(*) Beautiful Dream: Meiko Satomura & Mika Shirahime vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto & Konami.
(*) Crossing Dream: Yuji Okabayashi & Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Go Shiozaki & Takuya Nomura.
(*) Fortune Dream 4 Special Talk Battle: Kenta Kobashi vs. Manami Toyota.
(*) Dangerous Dream: Shuji Ishikawa & Hideki Suzuki vs. Joe Doering & James Raideen.
(*) Fortune Dream: Daisuke Sekimoto & Suwama vs. Kohei Sato & Shingo Takagi.
A wacky angle took place on 15/5 in Tokyo, featuring Kazunari Murakami declaring war on the NEW brand by invading the IGF office and staging an “illegal occupation.” Murakami showed up at the office at noon and started his takeover of the Inoki museum by declaring, “We will make this an office and conference room for us!” He also challenged Shinichi Suzukawa during the occupation, but no date was announced for a match. NEW’s next show is on 21/5 in Chiba with Shinichi Suzukawa vs. Super Tiger in the main event and a semi-main of Masakatsu Funaki & Keisuke Okuda vs. Alexander Otsuka & KENSO. There is also an NEW show at Korakuen Hall on 2/6 with Masakatsu Funaki vs. Shinya Aoki booked as one of the top matches. Perhaps Murakami will make an appearance on one of the upcoming shows as a follow up to the wackiness this week.
Zero1 ran what could be the most bizarre main event of 2017 on 12/5 at Nagoya City Tsuyuhashi Sports Centre in Aichi. In an Electric Current Blast Death Match, Atsushi Onita, Aja Kong & Shogun Okamoto beat Bob Sapp, TARU & Jaguar Yokota in 16:29 after Onita hit an electric current blast bat shot on TARU. Also on the show, Kohei Sato & Hideki Suzuki beat Masato Tanaka & James Raideen in 11:56 when Suzuki submitted Raideen with the Shin-Manjigatame. Plus, Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa beat Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka to capture the NWA International Light Tag Team championship in 14:33 when Takaiwa hit the Death Valley Bomb on Kanemoto. Zero1 have a show at Korakuen on 21/5, with Masato Tanaka defending the Zero1 World Heavyweight title against Shogun Okamoto.
PROGRESS ran their chapter 48 show, called “Bang the Drum,” on 14/5 at the O2 Ritz in Manchester, England. The show featured all of the members of British Strong Style in singles action, with Pete Dunne retaining the PROGRESS Championship over Mark Andrews & Mark Haskins in the three-way main event. (7) Dunne pinned Andrews with the Pedigree then cut a promo about how there was nobody left for British Strong Style to beat. This led to #CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos), who have been tearing it up in Attack!, Fight Club Pro & Southside, making their debut appearance in PROGRESS and they got a huge reaction when they showed up. (6) Semi-main event had Matt Riddle retaining the Atlas Championship over WWE UK Champion Tyler Bate via DQ when Bate’s BSS buddy Trent Seven interfered. (5) Nathan Cruz downed Rockstar Spud to earn a spot in the Super Strong Style 16 tournament. (4) Trent Seven pinned Travis Banks with a roll-up and a handful of tights. (3) Chuck Mambo & Pastor William Eaver beat The London Riots after Eaver hit the Crucifix Bomb. (2) Jinny over Martina with an X-Factor; Martina had a plastic bag over her head. (1) Opener saw “Flash” Morgan Webster beat James Drake to earn a spot in the SSS16 tourney.
For the first time ever, the Super Strong Style 16 tournament will be held over three days this year, with all of the shows falling under the Chapter 49 banner. The Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, will be the venue and the shows take place on May 27th, 28th & 29th. Here are the competitors announced for the tournament so far. (1) Jack Sexsmith. (2) Travis Banks. (3) Trent Seven. (4) Pastor Willam Eaver. (5) Jeff Cobb. (6) Jimmy Havoc. (7) Flamita. (8) Zack Gibson. (9) Zack Sabre Jr. (10) Tyler Bate. (11) Nathan Cruz. (12) “Flash” Morgan Webster. (13) David Starr. (14) Matt Riddle. (15) Mark Andrews, (16) Mark Haskins.
There’s another big FloSlam weekend of shows coming up. EVOLVE 84 is on 20/5 from Summit, IL. Here’s the card for the company’s debut show in the Mid-West:
(*) Jason Kincaid vs. Fred Yehi.
(*) Lio Rush vs. Austin Theory.
(*) Jeff Cobb vs. Tracy Williams.
(*) Donovan Dijak vs. Keith Lee.
(*) EVOLVE Tag Team Titles: Chris Dickeson & Jaka (C) vs. Matt Knicks & Isaias Velazquez.
(*) EVOLVE Championship: Zack Sabre Jr (C) vs. Ethan Page.
(*) WWN Championship: Matt Riddle (C) vs. Kyle O’Reilly.
EVOLVE 85 is on 21/5 from Livonia, MI. Here’s the card:
(*) Chris Dickinson & Jaka vs. Jason Kincaid & Austin Theory.
(*) Allysin Kay vs. Priscilla Kelly.
(*) Keith Lee vs. Fred Yehi.
(*) Donovan Dijak vs. Ethan Page.
(*) Kyle O’Reilly vs. Tracy Williams.
(*) WWN Championship: Matt Riddle (C) vs. Jeff Cobb.
(*) EVOLVE Championship: Zack Sabre Jr (C) vs. Lio Rush.
Also on FloSlam is the IPW:UK SuperShow 9 on 21/5, from Rochester, Kent, England. Here’s the line-up:
(*) El Ligero vs. Ryan Smile.
(*) The Hunter Brothers vs. The London Riots vs. Johnny Storm & Jody Fleisch vs. Scarlet & Graves.
(*) IPW:UK Women’s Title: Livvii Grace () vs. Chakara.
(*) All England Championship: Sammy Smooth () vs. Scott Star.
(*) Angelico vs. Big Grizzly.
(*) 10,000 Cuban Peso Challenge: Cuban Heat vs. Joel Gertner.
(*) Jimmy Havoc & Two “INSANE” Mystery Partners vs. Tom Dawkins, Danny Duggan & Cieran Donnelly.
Okumura was interviewed by Yahoo! Japan on 15/5 and talked about his rehabilitation after undergoing surgery to repair a cervical dislocation fracture. He said rehab started the day after the surgery, although he noted he was still experiencing some numbness in his right hand. Okumura also said he will be getting his one-month checkup on May 18th and if everything looks good he will return to Mexico and continue his recovery there. If all goes to plan, he would then fly back to Japan for a six-month check up in October and his goal is to be back in the ring by December.
A bizarre situation occurred in the Arena Mexico parking lot on 19/5, as members of the Alvarado (Brazo) family were caught on camera apparently destroying Ultimo Guerrero’s car. Maximo, La Mascara, Brazo de Platino and what Cubsfan noted was an unmasked Psycho Clown, were all involved in the incident and the video appears to be covertly filmed by an unidentified person not involved in the vandalism. Cubsfan said the story going around is that the Alvarados were unhappy about Ultimo Guerrero being named the head of the CMLL wrestler’s union after the death of Brazo de Oro. They reportedly believe someone from their family should have been given the position. SuperLuchas reported on the incident and stated that the attack was a direct response to Ultimo Guerrero not handing over the role to one of the Alvarados. Ultimo Guerrero’s daughter condemned the attack on Facebook and said her father didn’t even want to be the head of the union. Cubsfan added that we don’t know the full story here and Ultimo Guerrero might not actually be the head of the wrestler’s union. He might have just been in line for the role and the vehicular vandalism was a way of warning him off.
Lucha Underground returns to El Rey with the second half of season three stating on 31/5.
F4Wonline noted on 14/5 that Billy Corgan’s buyout of the NWA included a signed purchase agreement with Bruce Tharpe, which gives Corgan the rights to the NWA name and its intellectual property. Corgan also secured ownership of the NWA on demand website that includes Paul Boesch’s Houston Wrestling library.
Tokyo Sports had a brief update on both Katsuyori Shibata and Tomoaki Honma on 16/5. New Japan trainer Akira Misawa said that Shibata had been moved to a general ward after undergoing a second surgery on 2/5 to replace the piece of skull he had removed during his original surgery on 9/4. Misawa also noted that Shibata could be discharged soon but they were unable to give a long-term prognosis without monthly checkups. Tomoaki Honma, who was hospitalised on 3/3 with a cervical spinal injury, has been moved to a specialist hospital in Osaka to continue with his rehabilitation. Misawa noted Honma had been working out in the gym and said his recovery was going smoothly. Bushiroad owner Takaaki Kidani also said that he would like to review the schedule and condition management in order to improve safety management.
NXT TakeOver: Chicago is this Saturday (May 20th) from the Allstate Arena. Here’ the line-up:
(*) Roderick Strong vs. Eric Young.
(*) WWE Uited Kingdom Title: Tyler Bate (C) vs. Pete Dunne.
(*) NXT Tag Team Titles, Ladder Match: The Authors of Pain (C) vs. #DIY.
(*) NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka (C) vs. Nikki Cross vs. Ruby Riot.
(*) NXT Championship: Bobby Roode (C) vs. Hideo Itami.
WWE have the SmackDown exclusive PPV, Backlash, on Sunday (May 21st) also from the Allstate Arena in Chicago. Here’s the card for the show:
(*) Pre-Show: Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English.
(*) WWE SmackDown Tag Titles: The Usos (C) vs. The Fashion Police (Tyler Breeze & Fandango).
(*) Naomi, Charlotte & Becky Lynch vs. Natalya, Carmella & Tamina.
(*) Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan.
(*) Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin.
(*) WWE US Title: Kevin Owens (C) vs. AJ Styles.
(*) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler.
(*) WWE Championship: Randy Orton (C) vs. Jinder Mahal.
RAW on 15/5 did another horrible number, with a 1.89 rating and 2,746,000; the rating was the same as last week but the average was up slightly from the record low of 2,683,000. 8pm did 2,884,000. 9pm did 2,724,000 and 10pm did 2,645,000.
SmackDown on 16/5 did 2,175,000 – the lowest number of the year and down from last week’s taped London show of 2,348,000.
Impact on 18/5 did a 0.06 rating with 272,000 viewers – a bad number even by Impact standards and down from the 0.07 & 309,000 last week.
Thanks for reading, everybody! See you next week.