The Pro-Wres Digest for May 7th – 13th.
Gran Apache (Mario Balbuena) sadly passed away on 7/5 at the age of just 58 after battling intestinal cancer. Balbuena tried at Blue Demon’s gym and learned from the likes of Los Cometas Azules I & II, Tony Lopez, Rafael Salamanca, Blue Demon & Dr Wager Sr. He started out his career at 16 years old for EMLL in 1975 and became one of the top workers in the country, however he never reached the main event level due to his diminutive size. Apache had been a fixture in AAA since 1996 and would frequently feud with his technico daughters, Faby & Mary Apache, as the domineering father in storyline. He was also one of the head trainers for AAA and in 1986 he fell in love with one of his female students, Sandra Gonzalez, who went on to wrestle as Lady Apache and also became the step-mother to Faby & Mary when the two married. Apache began to work for the failing UWA in 1992 and used promoter Carlos Maynes connections in Japan to land himself on some IWA Japan tours in 1994/5. He returned to Japan several times between 2000 and 2003, working for Toryumon Japan, DDT, as “Kimba,” and as “Java Genjin” in Michinoku Pro’s Fukumen World League in 2003. Apache remained with AAA up until his passing as head trainer and road agent; he was on TV late last year to help Faby & Mary in their feud with Averno & Chessman. Our condolences go out to the entire Balbuena family. As always, Alfredo Esparza has an excellent bio of Gran Apache up on LuchaWorld.
Titus O’Neil is being sued by a WWE camera man for reacting in a physical manner to a prank that was being filmed for the Swerved show. TMZ broke the story on 7/5, noting that camerman Donald Anderson claimed the incident happened on May 18th 2015 and is suing for over $1.2million in damages. In his complaint, Anderson said Titus was zapped with an electric shock as part of the prank for the show, however Titus didn’t it funny and he kicked the camera out of his hands. Anderson claims he sustained serious injuries to his wrist, hand and fingers, then was told to leave the premises for fear of further attacks. The lawsuit has been filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court and as of yet O’Neil, nor WWE, have made any comment.
Braun Strowman will be out of action for a few weeks after suffering an injury to his elbow. Pro Wrestling Sheet first reported the news on 8/5 and noted that Strowman needed a “minor procedure to fix some issues with his elbow.” On TV, the storyline is that Braun suffered a torn rotator cuff, however he was still wrestling Roman Reigns in Street Fights every night on the European tour. He appeared on RAW from London on 9/5, wearing a sling, and they had Reigns attack the injured arm to presumably write him off TV for a few weeks. Strowman looked like he was being built to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal title at Great Balls of Fire on July 9th, but that appears to be out the window and WWE will have to reshuffle some things in order to get another challenger ready for Lesnar.
There was a note in this week’s Observer regarding the condition of Katsuyori Shibata. Dave Meltzer reported that Shibata had another surgery on 2/5 and quoted a message he wrote after the procedure. “It is a miracle to be alive. I had my skull removed in my last surgery. I have another surgery on May 2, 2017. I will return. Every day, using pain medications three to four times. I endure the pain. I can hardly see out of my right eye right now. Currently, the hearing ability in my right ear is not normal. The sound is broken and hard.”
Yoshihiro Takayama was rushed to hospital after he suffered a cervical spinal injury on the DDT show on 4/5 in Toyonoka. He was in the ring with Yasu Urano during a six-man tag match and Tokyo Sports noted that the accident occurred when a “rotating shrimp” was applied. Takayama was also diagnosed with degenerative cervical spondylosis after years of punishment in both MMA and pro-wrestling. The match was stopped immediately and although Takayama was able to walk to the back, he was taken to a nearby hospital in the Osaka prefecture. DDT president, Sanshiro Takagi said that Takayama was full conscious afterwards and noted he apologised to him while being loaded into the ambulance. On 10/5 DDT officially announced that Takayama & Danshoku Dino had been stripped of the KO-D Tag titles. Takayama & Dino were schedueled to defend the belts against Konosuke Takeshita & Akito on 21/5, however Shigehiro Irie & Kazusada Higuchi will take their place in the match for the vacant titles. Takayama was also set to challenge Takeshita for the KO-D title on 28/5 and his replacement will be Yasu Urano, who was in the ring with him when the injury occurred. It’s been a bad year for major injuries in Japan, with Shibata, Akebono & Honma all going down with serious/life threatening conditions, so we obviously wish Takayama all the best on a speedy recovery.
Atsushi Onita announced on 10/5 that his retirement show will take place on October 31st at Korakuen Hall, just six days after his 60th birthday. Onita made his pro-wrestling debut in the building back in 1974 and, even though plans to hold his retirement at Kawasaki Baseball Stadium fell through, Korakuen Hall will be a fitting place for Onita to end his in-ring career. This isn’t the first time Onita has retired – in fact the Halloween night show at Korakuen would be his seventh swansong – however due to his age and number of injuries Onita said this time would be the end once and for all. There are four shows on the “Sayonara Onita, Sayonara Denryu Bakuha (Electric Current Blast)” tour: 9/9 in Osaka, 16/9 at Hakata StarLanes in Fukuoka, 29/10 in Aichi and the final stop at Korakuen on 31/10.
Last week, New Japan announced the blocks for the Best of the Super Junior 24, which gets underway at Korakuen Hall on 17/5. The tour will run for 14 nights, ending on 3/6 at the National Yoyogi Stadium in Tokyo. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, winner of the 1994 & 2001 editions of the tournament, will be making his 21st appearance in the BOSJ and it will be the legend’s last ever run in the annual Junior showcase.
Jushin “Thunder” Liger
Tiger Mask IV
New Japan has also announced some of the top matches for the big Dominion show at Osaka-Jo Hall on 6/11. The main event will be a rematch of the most talked about bout of the year, as Kenny Omega once again challenges Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Inevitably, the eyes of the wrestling world will be watching to see if the two can capture the same magic they produced on January 4th at the Tokyo Dome in the match widely regarded as the best of the year, if not the century. The semi-main is also a Tokyo Dome rematch, with Hiroshi Tanahashi challenging Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. The two had an excellent match on January 4th and there’s no reason to suspect they won’t put on another tremendous performance. Here are the matches that have been announced so far:
New Japan Pro Wrestling – Dominion, June 11th, Osaka-Jo Hall.
(*) Michael Elgin vs. Cody.
(*) IWGP Junior Tag Championship Match: Roppongi Vice (C) vs. The Young Bucks.
(*) IWGP Tag Championship Match: War Machine (C) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny.
(*) NEVER Openweight Championship ~ Lumberjack Death Match: Minoru Suzuki (C) vs. Hirooki Goto.
(*) IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match: Tetsuya Naito (C) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi.
(*) IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kazuchika Okada (C) vs. Kenny Omega.
In more New Japan news, the first IWGP United States Champion will be crowned during the Long Beach shows in July. The announcement was made prior to the ROH War of the Worlds PPV and there will be a round robin tournament over the two nights in Long Beach to determine the first champion. Jay Lethal was officially announced as the first entrant and Hangman Page came out to confront him, meaning he will likely be in the tournament too.
In our last Digest two weeks ago, we had a brief note about the ITV World of Sport tapings being delayed. Since then a little more information has come out, although it is still unclear exactly why the tapings have been postponed. PW Insider first reported the news on 27/4 and on 28/4 Dave Meltzer confirmed that the tapings scheduled for the end of May at the Preston Guild Hall were in fact being put on ice. Meltzer even mentioned “talk of delaying the project until the fall” in order to use football as the Saturday afternoon lead-in like in the 70s & 80s. As we noted, the problem with this theory is that ITV have not had the football broadcast rights for well over a decade. Eventually ITV made a half-hearted statement on 2/5, blaming “contract negotiations” for the delay and offered refunds to fans who purchased tickets. PW Insider noted that ITV are thinking about moving the tapings to July, but there hasn’t been even a hint of an official word from ITV about a replacement date.
Obviously losing a big name like Jim Ross, who called the WOS pilot last December and went back to WWE last month, was a blow for ITV and their pals at Impact. It probably was not the main reason for the tapings being held up, but Ross would have at least given some much needed name value to the new WOS project. Instead, Ross announced on 8/5 via his blog that he would be calling the WWE UK TV show along with Nigel McGuinness. To further complicate the issue, the word in this week’s Observer is that there are issues between ITV & Impact regarding their business arrangement and it is believed this is one of the main factors in the tapings being delayed. Dave Meltzer also reported that there are plans to delay the World of Sport project until 2018, which would obviously not be ideal as a lot of the UK talent could be snapped up by other promotions in the meantime.
All Pro Wrestling drew close to 3,000 fans on 6/5 at the historic Cow Palace in San Francisco; it was the first show ran by a California-based group in the arena since Roy Shire last promoted the building in 1981, and the only wrestling show in the venue since WWE ran a house show there in 2012. Main event of the show saw Cody Rhodes beat Joey Ryan in a Cage Match that featured blood and runs ins from Candice LeRae and Brandi Rhodes. Cody hit a Superplex off the top of the Cage then climbed out to win the match. Best match on the show was reportedly a four-way with Luster the Legend defending the APW Universal title against Brain Cage, John Morrison & Jeff Cobb, with Cobb becoming the new champion. Pat Patterson, one of the biggest stars in the Roy Shire era, appeared on the show and ended up grabbing Dylan Drake by the groin then he gave him a low-blow and a punch, which Drake took a big bump for.
Maximo Sexy defeated Euforia in the main event of CMLL’s secondary Tuesday show on 9/5 at Arena Coliseo in Guadalajara. It was a non-title match (Maximo is the CMLL World Heavyweight Champion) and said to be excellent, with the fans throwing money in afterwards. Semi-main on the 9/5 saw La Mascara, Pierroth & Rush beat Marco Corleone, Titan & Valiente.
CMLL’s new restaurant, The Freedom’s, located at Arena Mexico opened to the public on 12/5. There is a really cool mural outside of the restaurant featuring a bunch of legendary luchadors and even cameo appearances from famous fans, including Kamaitachi Fan.
Here are the results from the big MDA Lucha Memes show in Monterrery on 7/5; the show had a lot of potential on paper and reportedly many of the matches delivered: (8) Main event saw LA Park retain the XWW Universal title over Ultimo Guerrero with La Casita. (7) Semi-main had Rush over Masada in a Cage Match with the Rush Driver. (6) Octagon over Fuerza Guerrera via DQ after a foul. (5) Dragon Lee beat Xtreme Tiger with the Dragon Bomb. (4) Caifan over Rey Escorpion via DQ after a foul. (3) Angel de Oro beat Rey Horus. (2) Hilo de LA Park over Galactar. (1) Mini Hator beat Mini DiFunto. There’s no full version of the show up yet, however LuchaMania has some highlights up. MDA & Lucha Memes also announced they will be running a special show on June 4th at Arena Puebla honouring Ultimo Dragon. The only match announced so far is Jeff Cobb vs. Hechicero.
Emma was injured at the RAW house show in Liverpool, England on 7/5. Sasha Banks gave her the double knee spot in the corner and Emma didn’t kick-out despite it not being the finish. The other women n the match, Bayley, Sasha, Mickie James, Bliss & Nia Jax all brawled to stall for time then Banks pinned Emma again. She walked to the back holding her shoulder.
The ROH/NJPW War of the Worlds PPV took place on 12/5 from the Hamerstein Ballroom in New York City. For those who have not yet seen the show, here’s the non-spoiler version of the card:
* ROH World Championship: Christopher Daniels (C) vs. Cody vs. Jay Lethal.
* Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Adam Cole.
* ROH World Tag Team Championship: The Young Bucks (C) vs. Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI.
* ROH World TV Championship: Marty Scurll (C) vs. Matt Sydal.
* ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Championship (No DQ): The Briscoes & Bully Ray (C) vs. Hirooki Goto & Roppongi Vice.
* Jay White vs. Will Ospreay.
* Chris Sabin & Jonathan Gresham vs. EVIL & SANADA vs. War Machine.
* Frankie Kazarian vs. Hangman Page.
* Bobby Fish vs. Dalton Castle vs. KUSHIDA vs. Silas Young.
The taped RAW from London on 8/5 did an atrocious 1.89 rating, with 2,683,000 viewers, down from the 1.98 and 2,859,000 last week. It broke the record for the lowest rated non-holiday, non-football, show in history. 8pm did 2,827,000. 9pm did 2,845,000 and 10pm did 2,417,000.
SmackDown on 9/5, also taped from London, did a 1.60 rating with 2,348,000 viewers, up slghtly from 2,300,000 last week.
Impact on 11/5 did 309,000 viewers, up from the 260,000 last week.
The season finale of Total Divas on 10/5 did 683,000 viewers.
Thanks for reading, everyone. We’ll see you next week.