The Pro-Wres Digest for June 5th – June 11th
While still under WWE contract, and with the approval of the company, Brock Lesnar will be fighting Mark Hunt at UFC 200 on July 9th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The return of the former UFC and WWE World Heavyweight Champion was officially announced at the UFC 199 show on 4/6 when he appeared at the very end of the commercial for UFC 200. On the broadcast, Joe Rogan appeared to have no idea what was going on and Mike Goldberg had to explain that Lesnar was coming back to fight. Hunt was named as Lesnar’s opponent on 6/6 during an interview with Brock on ESPN’s Sports Centre. Lesnar talked about regretting the decision to retire from MMA, which he made prior to WrestleMania 31 last year when he re-signed with the WWE. He also noted that he called Dana White first and things got rolling from there, with White and McMahon making “billionaire decisions” to put the deal together. Dave Meltzer reported in the Observer this week that Lesnar had a clause added to his WWE contract contract which allowed him to take one fight in the UFC and that Brock and the WWE had no influence in choosing the opponent. In the summer of 2012, WWE and UFC reached an agreement for Lesnar to fight Fedor Emelianenko in what would have been one of the biggest heavyweight main events in history for the long-promised show at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. Fedor ultimately pulled out of the fight after the death of his father and the deal fell apart, although WWE and UFC must have clearly remained on good terms for this new deal to have been struck. I don’t know what Vince McMahon is thinking letting Lesnar take the fight with Hunt, because there is a real chance of Hunt landing a couple of clean shots and that would almost certainly be the end of the fight. Lesnar could always shoot in for the take-down straight away and go for his short hammer-fists of doom, but WWE are still taking a huge risk by putting the only performer they have with any real badass legitimacy in a position where the likelihood of him getting knocked out is very high indeed.
The news was broken earlier in the day – around 3pm PST – by Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting, which resulted in Helwani and other reporters being ejected from the Forum in Inglewood, CA, before the main event of Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping. Helwani was told by Dana White himself that he was banned for life and to, “go cover Bellator,” because he was, “too negative.” After receiving a ton of criticism and negative press, UFC predictably made a U-turn on the life time ban for Helwani and the rest of the MMA Fighting crew. UFC released a statement on 6/6, barely 24 hours after the incident with Helwani, and tried to save face by claiming that, “recurring tactics used by [MMA Fighting’s] lead reporter extended beyond the purpose of journalism.” Either way, UFC looked incredibly bad for essentially banning a man who happened to be good at his job as a reporter. WWE released a statement later that night (June 5th) after the commercial aired, confirming the “one-off opportunity” for Lesnar and made sure to note that Brock was still under contract to WWE:
“Brock Lesnar remains under contract to WWE, however, he has been granted a one-off opportunity to compete at UFC 200. Following this milestone event on July 9, Brock will return to WWE for SummerSlam on Sunday, August 21 live on WWE Network.”
Once the news of Lesnar fighting at UFC 200 was officially announced, one of the major questions people had was what the WWE would get in return for allowing Brock to fight. The answer came on 6/6 when Fox Sports reported that Paige VanZant was in “preliminary talks” with WWE about making an appearance at this year’s SummerSlam on 21/8 in Brooklyn, NY. VanZant’s manager told Fox Sports that WWE had reached out to VanZant to appear “in some capacity” at WWE’s second biggest show of the year, although it is not clear yet what her role will be and it is highly unlikely that she will be working a match. It is also likely that WWE have asked for more than just a one-off appearance from VanZant; certainly UFC will help promote SummerSlam in some capacity, however when Ronda Rousey’s schedule is free you would expect WWE to make a play to bring her back in. On the subject of Rousey, Forbes reported on 8/6 WWE are “confident” they will be able to secure her for a match at WrestleMania 33.
Another aspect of this story is the USADA drug testing procedure, which Dave Meltzer covered on 8/6 for F4Wonline. The gist of the testing story is that Lesnar was registered by USADA into the UFC Anti-Doping Policy testing pool on June 6th 2016 (after the commercial had already aired) and is being treated as a newly signed athlete as opposed to a fighter coming out of retirement. The USADA testing procedure includes a policy to prevent fighters manipulating the system by using “retirement” as a gimmick and loading up on PEDs while being outside of the testing pool. A returning fighter must now give a written notice to UFC of their intent to fight and enter themselves into the testing pool for a period of four months before competing. There is of course a loophole, because why wouldn’t there be? A fighter is eligible for exemption to the four-month rule if “exceptional circumstances” come into play and, “where strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an athlete.” In the story for F4Wonline, Meltzer noted that the UFC told him Lesnar was indeed exempt from the four-month rule due to Lesnar’s last fight being on December 30th 2011, long before the UFC Anti-Doping testing was in effect. The key line out of the UFC on the deal is that Lesnar needed permission from WWE to take the fight and therefore he only signed the bout agreement on Friday (3/6), so he was unable to start the Anti-Doping Policy any earlier.
After posting his independent wrestling “bucket list” last week, Cody Rhodes was officially announced for PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles 2016. “BOLA” was third from the top of Rhodes fantasy to-do list and PWG Tweeted out the same picture of the list with a red check next to, “BOLA.” The terms of Rhodes’ WWE release preclude him from competing until August 19th and he already has a booking lined up for that date at the Evolve 66 show in Joppa, MD. As noted last week, Rhodes was also announced for a first time ever match against Kurt Angle for Northeast Wrestling on August 25th in Wiappingers Falls, NY. The dates for this year’s BOLA have not yet been announced, however the tournament is usually held during late August/early September.
Bruce Tharpe visited the WWE Performance Centre on 7/6 and posed for quite a picture with Uncle Paul. PWInsider reported that WWE are interested in buying the Paul Boesch Houston Wrestling library which Tharpe currently owns the rights to and uses as part of the NWA’s streaming service.
As noted in the Wrestling Observer this week, Moose’s contract with ROH is up next month and the WWE are interested in bringing him in as part of the new class of recruits in September. Mike Johnson of PWInsider reported on 8/6 that Moose was actually backstage at the NXT TakeOver show in Orlando. Moose Tweeted on 8/6, “I will always have a special place in my heart for ROH,” which naturally led many people to speculate that he would be leaving the company soon. He is scheduleled to appear at the 24/6 Best in the World PPV, but after that it is anybody’s guess where he will end up. Meltzer also wrote in the Observer this week that Roderick Strong could also be on his way to NXT, as they will need to replenish the roster with talented new workers, however the situation is being kept “pretty quiet” for the time being.
Evolve have a double shot this weekend and as always you can order the iPPV and VOD from WWNLive. Evolve 62 is 10/6 from the Orpheum in Ybor City, FL and the main event is Timothy Thatcher defending the Evolve Championship against Chris Hero. Other top matches include Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams defending the Evolve Tag Team titles against the Bravado Brothers and Johnny Gargano & TJP vs. Drew Galloway & EC3 in a non-sanctioned street fight. Also, Matt Riddle takes on Cedric Alexander. Evolve 63 is 11/6 from Orlando, FL and the main event is a WWE Cruiserweight Flashpoint Elimination match: Johnny Gargano vs. Drew Gulak vs. TJP vs. Lince Dorado. Second from the top is Drew Galloway vs. Ethan Page in an anything goes match and EC3 has an open contract to face anyone on the Evolve roster. There is also a non-title match with Timothy Thatcher vs. Tracy Williams.
In more Evolve news, the company was set to make their Massachusetts debut on July 15th in Wakefield, MA, however “building issues” forced the show to be canceled. Evolve posted a statement on their website on 9/6 and announced that they had reached out to Beyond Wrestling and would work together to produce the “biggest day of independent wrestling in the New England area.” On July 17th, there will be two shows from Melrose Memorial Hall in Melrose, MA, with Beyond Wrestling running the building for an afternoon show at 2:30pm and Evolve putting on an evening show with a 7pm bell-time. Announced for the Beyond show: Chris Dickinson, Da Hit Squad (Dan Maff & Steve Mack), Matt Riddle, Tommaso Ciampa, Zack Sabre Jr & Veda Scott. The Evolve show will feature: Timothy Thatcher, Drew Gulak, Tracy Williams, Drew Galloway, Zack Sabre Jr, Marty Scurll, TJP, Matt Riddle, Cedric Alexander & Fred Yehi.
CZW’s annual gore-fest and second biggest show of the year, Tournament of Death 15 is on 11/6 from its usual location in Townsend, DE on land owned by DJ Hyde’s parents. Round one of the tourney sees:
* Fans Bring The Weapons: Tim Donst vs Rickey Shane Page.
* Light Tube Death Match: Alex Colon vs. Danny Havoc.
* Barbwire Madness: MASADA vs. Conor Claxton.
* Home Run Derby Match: Jeff Cannonball vs. Matt Tremont (2015 TOD winner).
There are some non-tournament matches, including Devon Moore vs. Dale Patricks in a Scaffold Match, DJ Hyde vs. Josh Crane in a Panes of Glass Death Match and Aaron Williams vs. Ron Mathis in a Rockstar Death Match. The show will not be available to stream live, however the VOD will be up within 24 hours on highspots.com.
TNA are running Slammiversary on 12/6 from the Impact Zone; I’m not going over the whole card, because really, who cares? Main event is Drew Galloway defending the TNA title against Bobby Lashley. Second from the top is Matt Hardy vs. Jeff Hardy in a Full Metal Mayhem match. The Hardy’s have manged to created more buzz about their program than anything TNA has done in years with their utterly outlandish mini-movie set in Matt Hardy’s palatial estate. If you have not seen the wacky video, so yourselves a favour and check it out right now. Maria Kanellis posted on Instagram on 9/6 that she was unable to compete against Gail Kim due to a broken hand.
At the age of 23, Will Ospreay became the youngest ever winner of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament when he defeated Ryusuke Taguchi in the final match on 7/6 in Sendai. With his victory, Ospreay also became the first English winnner of the BOSJ and only the fifth gaijin in history to win either the Top of the Super Juniors or the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. The match with Taguchi was excellent and Ospreay clearly had something to prove to his critics by putting on a psychologically sound match which proved he does in fact know how to sell. This was also Taguchi’s best match in years and he was super over as he is from Sendai. Finish saw Ospreay hit an Impodling Shooting Star Press and he got the win with OsCutter in 22:05 (**** ¼). Afterwards, Ospreay cut a promo and dedicated his victory to Kris Travis then called out Kushida to challenge him for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title.
Also on the show, Michael Elgin & Satoshi Kojima beat Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale in 11:43 when Elgin pinned Omega with the Elgin Bomb. Afterwards, Omega accepted Elgin’s challenge to replace Tanahashi in the Ladder match at Dominion on 19/6. Los Ingobernables beat Chaos in 9:38 to set up Okada challenging Naito for the IWGP Heavyweight title at Dominion. Kushida, Ricochet & Matt Sydal beat Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Volador Jr. in 8:50 when Ricochet pinned Volador. Roppongi Vice & reDRagon came out and challenged Sydal & Ricochet for the IWGP Jr Tag titles, so it looks like another three-way at Dominion. Katsuyori Shibata & Juice Robinson beat Yuji Nataga & Manabu Nakanishi in 7:50 when Shibata pinned Nakanishi with the PK. Nataga & Shibata had a stare-down to set up the Never Openweight title rematch.
The full card for Dominion was announced this week for 19/6 at Osaka-Jo Hall.
* Jay White Send-Off Match: Jay White, Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Manabu Nakanishi.
* Togi Makabe, Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan vs. Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & “Hangman” Adam Page.
* Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Sanada & Bushi.
* Hirooki Goto vs. Evil,
* IWGP Jr Tag Team Championship Four-way: Ricochet & Matt Sydal (C) vs. The Young Bucks vs. Roppongi Vice vs. reDRagon.
* IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship: Kushida (C) vs. Will Ospreay.
* IWGP Tag Team Championship: Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa (C) vs. Mark & Jay Briscoe.
* NEVER Openweight Championship: Yuji Nagata (C) vs. Katsuyori Shibata.
* IWGP IC Championship Ladder Match: Kenny Omega (C) vs. Michael Elgin.
* IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Tetsuya Naito (C) vs. Kazuchika Okada.
Kota Ibushi and the Great Sasuke were announced for the big Pro Wrestling Love, Wrestle-1 vs. All Japan show in Yokohama on August 11th. The only match announced for the card so far is a six-man tag featuring Keiji Mutoh vs. Jun Akiyama on opposite sides of the ring for the first time in over three years; their partners have yet to be announced, although it is believed that Ibushi & Sasuke could be put in the match. We’ll have plenty more on this big show in the coming weeks when more matches are announced.
All Japan have a solid looking card lined up for Korakuen Hall on 15/6. Only four matches have been announced, but it still looks like it should be a good show.
* Jun Akiyama & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Konosuke Takeshita (DDT KO-D Champion)& Tetsuya Endo.
* Ryoji Sai & Jake Lee vs. Shuji Ishikawa & Masashi Takeda.
* World Tag Championship Match: Zeus & The Bodyguard vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi (C) .
* Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship Match: Kentao Miyahara (C) vs. Kengo Mashimo.
The Lucha Libre World Cup was won by Team Lucha Underground (Johnny Mundo, Brain Cage & Chavo Guerrero Jr) on 4/6 when they beat Team AAA (Pentagon Jr, Psycho Clown & Texano Jr) in the final in Mexico City. Team AAA of Lady Apache, Faby Apache & Mary Apache won the women’s block by beating Team Japan (Aja Kong, Yuki Miyazaki, Natsu Sumire) in the final. The gimmick for the tournament was that all matches had a ten minute time limit and in the case of a draw it came down to sudden death single matches with five minute time limits. The men’s final went the ten minutes then Texano & Chavo Jr fought to a five minute draw and Psycho Clown & Cage did the same. It came down to Mundo against Pentagon and Mundo pinned him in 4:12 with the End of the World after some interference from Cage & Chavo. The women’s final also went the full ten minutes then Kong & Fabi Apache went to a fibe minute draw before Mari Apache pinned Miyazaki with a Michinoku Driver at 3:40 of the second sudden death period. Team International of Rey Mysterio Jr, Dragon Azteca & Dr Wagner Jr won the third place play-off match over Team NOAH of Naomichi Marufuji, Maybach Taniguchi & Taiji Ishimori. Team Canada (Allie, KC Spinelli & Taya) won the women’s third place match over Team USA (Santana Garrett, Cheerleader Melissa & Sienna).
CMLL’s International Gran Prix was announced for iPPV on July 1st and will feature some international talent, as well as some CMLL regulars. Maximo Sexy, Diamante Azul, Mephisto, Rey Escorpion, Rush, Shocker, Ultimo Guerrero & Volador Jr are the Mexican contingent for the tournament and the international names appearing are: Sam Elias (the brother of Corey Graves), Michael Elgin, Johnny Idol, Kushida, Marco Corleone, Okumura, Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa. They have also been building to big matches with Rey Cometa vs. Barbaro Cavernario for the hair and Pierroth vs. La Mascara for the masks, however you would think they would save the latter until the Anniversary show in September.
Dragon Lee posted a video on Facebook this week and announced he will be out for 6-8 weeks. He said in the video that he had a partially ruptured tendon and the doctors wanted to operate on him but he would rather rest and rehab the knee. Last time he injured his knee, Lee ignored the doctors’ advice to rest for at least a month and a half and returned within three weeks; instantly re-injuring his knee in his first match back.
RAW on 6/6 did a 2.27 rating with 3,240,000 viewers, up slightly from the 2.19 and 3,222,000 last week. pm did 3,371,000. 9pm (with Cena/Styles) did 3,490,000 and 10pm fell to an astonishingly low 2,903,000.
TNA iMPACT on 7/6 did 326,000 viewers for the Slammiversary go-home show, down from the 346,000 last week.
Lucha Underground on 8/6 appeared to take a big hit going head-to-head with NXT TakeOver and they did 85,000 viewers for the first run airing.
SmackDown on 9/6 did a 1.51 rating with 1,996,000 viewers, down from the 2,169,000 the show did last week.
The 3/6 RAW replay on Sy-Fy did 446,000 viewers.
NXT TV Taping Results from June 9th:
It is unclear how many episodes of TV they will get out of what they taped, as they actually only need two shows worth of material before the next tapings, which will take place after the first night of the Cruiserweight Classic tapings on 24/6.
(1) Authors of Pain w/Paul Ellering squashed Sean Swags & CJ O’Doyle. (2) Carmella tapped out Tessa Blanchard. (3) TM61 over Blake & Murphy. (4) Andrade Almas pinned Tye Dillinger after the knees in the corner. They set up a Finn Balor vs. Nakamura match with an in-ring face-off; no word on when the match will take place. (5) Ember Moon (Athena) over Mandy Rose. (6) Oney Lorcan (Biff Busick) beat Tye Dillinger. (7) No Way Jose beat Josh Woods. Afterwards, Austin Aries came out and attacked Jose. (8) Bayley downed Deonna Purazzo. (9) Nia Jax squashed Liv Morgan. (10) Shinsuke Nakamura beat Buddy Murphy. (11) Alexa Bliss beat Carmella. (12) Andrade Almas over Noah Kekoa. (13) Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa beat the Hype Bros. Gargano & Ciampa challenged American Alpha for the Tag titles and Alpha came out and accepted. Authors of Pain showed up and laid out AA again. (14) NXT Champion Samoa Joe downed Oney Lorcan in a non-title match.