Cubed Circle Newsletter #226 – We’re Late!
We are back this week with Ben captaining the ship! In this issue we look at all of the news from the week in the Pro-Wres Digest for March 6th to March 12th with the unfortunate passing of Lord James Blears, his legendary World War II survival story, TNA seemingly in jeopardy again, Kota Ibushi news, Dragon Kid’s Hayabusa speech and much more! Plus, Mid-South from ’82, and the Roadblock go-home show!
The Pro-Wres Digest for March 6th – March 12th
On March 5th Lord James “Tally Ho” Blears sadly passed away at the grand old age of 92, which is an impressive age to reach for the average human being but for a pro wrestler is pretty damn miraculous. Blears was born in Manchester, England in 1925 and became a big star in the 1950’s in California where he assumed the gimmick of a snobby English Lord and went full-out with the full cape, monocle and cane look. While in California, Blears would hold several incarnations of the NWA and WWA Tag Team championships, first with Anthol Layton in 1953, and later in 1955 with Gene Kiniski; Blears & Kininski beat Mike & Ben Sharpe for the NWA Tag Team titles on May 7th 1955 in San Francisco. He was also a fixture of the popular outpost territory in Australia and in 1957 he had a series of matches against Lou Thesz for the NWA World Heavyweight title: 31/8/57 in Melbourne, 5/9/57 in Sydney, 9/11/57 in Brisbane and 14/11/57 in Melbourne again. In all these matches, Thesz retained the title via disqualification, which shows you how important Blears was to the business in Australia when even Lou Thesz himself could not beat him clean. In the late 50’s, Blears would go on to hold more Tag Team gold with Joe Blanchard for Ed Francis’ 50th State Wrestling in Hawaii and he became a true headliner when he defeated Curtis Iaukea for the NWA Hawaii Heavyweight title on October 25th 1961 in Honolulu. He later became a booker for Ed Francis and helped guys develop their personalities and promo skills. In more recent years Blears was the “chairman” of the Pacific Wrestling Federation, the Baba-created governing body of All Japan, and he would read out the championship proclamation before big title matches.
Blears was lucky to be alive at all, as during World War II he was deployed as the Second Wireless Operator on the SS Tijsalak, a Dutch freighter travelling from Melbourne to Colombo with a cargo of mail and food supplies, which was sunk by a Japanese I-8 submarine. Blears and the other survivors were pulled out the water and onto the I-8’s deck and the captors began murdering them one by one. Blears recounted the story to the Honolulu Star Advertiser in 2001.
“They were laughing. […] They’d just go up and hit a guy on the back and take him up front, and then one of the guys with a sword would cut off his head. Zhunk! One guy, they cut his head halfway and let him flop around on the deck. The others I saw, they just lopped ’em off with one shot and threw ’em overboard. They were having fun, and there was a cameraman taking movies of the whole thing!”
Blears, like the other prisoners, had his wrists tied together and was then tied to another man.“I tried to keep my wrists as wide apart as I could when they tied me, and when they were finished I knew I could get one hand free.
Two Japanese officers were waiting for us, one with a sword and the other with a sledgehammer. When these guys came at us, I kicked with my foot and pulled my hand out (of the rope) right away and stopped the guy and dived off the submarine and dragged Peter (Bronger) with me.”When he bailed off the deck of the I-8, Blears dove as deep as he could to avoid the bullets from the Japanese guns.”I stayed under as long as I could, and then I came up with my head just out of the water and — tat-tat-tat-tat — machine gun bullets were going all around. When I came up for my next breath, the submarine was quite a way away. There were two officers in old-fashioned deck chairs firing with rifles. I kept diving until I saw that they weren’t firing at us anymore.”The man Blears pulled overboard off the I-8, Peter Bronger, had died during all of this and Blears set about saving himself the only way he knew how, by swimming. Blears was an exceptionally talented swimmer and would have represented Great Britain at the 1940 Olympics, however the Games were cancelled due to the war in Europe. He had joined the merchant marines at 17 years-old, which was too young to actually enlist in the Royal Navy, but he found his way into the merchant marines because of his knowledge of Morse code and became a radio officer. He actually began wrestling as a way to get in shape and to supplement his income as a merchant marine, which he would use to pay for his swimming training. He swam the Indian Ocean for hours until he spotted a lifeboat and came across four other survivors from the I-8. Three were Dutch officers, who had a similar experience to Blears in escaping and the other was an Indian seaman, who along with about twenty other men was tied to the conning tower of the I-8 submarine as it submerged into the water. The Indian seaman was the last man at the end of the rope and managed to free himself before drowning. Blears and the other four survivors waited in the lifeboat for three days until they were spotted by an American Destroyer, however they came under fire briefly as the US ship mistook the lifeboat’s sail for a submarine conning tower. When they finally were rescued and brought aboard the US Destroyer, the American sailors gave Blears a can of peaches. Every year on the anniversary of his rescue, March 29th, Blears would start his day with a can of peaches for his breakfast as a humble reminder of his unimaginable ordeal and the fragility of life. Our condolences go out to Blears’ family.
Last week it appeared that TNA’s life support machine was about to be switched off, as news of Panda Energy no longer financing the much maligned promotion and Bob Carter being opened to “the right offer” of selling the company emerged. There were no TV tapings set and all of talent had no idea if they would ever be working another iMPACT show ever again. On 7/3, TNA sent out an hilarious press release, which looked like it was drawn up in two minutes using Word, announcing that they would in fact be running iMPACT tapings from 15/3 to 19/3. The five days of tapings will include episodes of iMPACT, Xplosion and One Night Only PPVs, and admission to the Impact Zone at Universal Studios will be free as usual, however you can get a VIP pass for $99 which includes front row seats, plus a meet-and-greet. Imagine paying $99 for anything TNA related.
The New Japan Cup finals were on 12/3 in Aomori and Testsuya Natio won the tournament by defeating Hirooki Goto in the final match. As the winner of the tourney, Naito could choose any singles title he wanted to challenge for and he selected the IWGP Heavyweight championship. Naito claimed he would not face Okada at Invasion Attack on April 10th, however Okada got in the ring and accused him of being scared. Naito eventually agreed to challenge Okada at Invasion Attack then told the champ to calm down until then. “Tranquilo!” The announcers were playing up the story of Goto trying to erase his “shameful past” and after his loss he ended up shaking Okada’s hand, seemingly taking up his offer to join Chaos. Naito’s semi-final against Toru Yano only went about 2:30, whereas Goto had a much longer and tougher semi-final against Michael Elgin. So the deck was stacked against Goto going into the final match with Naito. They also set up Satoshi Kojima challenging Katsuyori Shibata for the NEVER title after the TenCozy vs. Shibata & Taguchi match.
There was an interesting note in this week’s Observer regarding WWE aggressively pursuing talent from Japan, Mexico and the UK. Dave Meltzer wrote that WWE’s main target is Kazuchika Okada, because – get this – “the key people in charge just found out that he’s tall.” Okada has been offered a five year contract by New Japan and Kidani has gone on record several times that New Japan would be willing to offer whatever money it takes to keep Okada in Japan. There has been no word on whether Okada has resigned with New Japan, however he has stated publicly many times that he is loyal to New Japan and would not want to leave the company. There were no specific names given for any UK talent that the WWE might be interested in and the same goes for Mexico, however Meltzer noted that there is a big star in AAA & Lucha Underground who is currently unhappy with the LU creative and has never worked for a major US promotion before.
WrestleMania 33 will take place on April 2nd 2017 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. WWE made the announcement on 7/3 at a press conference at the stadium in Orlando with comments from Vince McMahon, Roman Reigns, John Cena, as well as the mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer and governor of Orange County, Rick Scott. Orlando was one of a dozen other cities bidding for WrestleMania 33, including Minneapolis, which was rumoured for a long time to be the eventual home of next year’s Mania. However, last December Buddy Dyer and a team of delegates went to Titan Towers for a meeting which is thought to have sealed the deal for Orlando. The Citrus Bowl has undergone serious renovation since this last time the stadium hosted WrestleMania in 2008 and Dyer noted that he wanted the city to host WrestleMania, “maybe every five years,” according to Brian Fritz of the Orlando Sentinel.
Speaking of Orlando, after years of speculation, WWE appears to be opening a physical Hall of Fame at Universal Studios. Attractions Management reported on 8/3 that sources at Universal Studios had told them that the WWE are to open a”museum-cum-restaurant” which should be open in time for WrestleMania 33 in April 2017.
For the second year in a row, NXT was part of the Arnold Classic at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, OH last weekend. There were 29 matches over the two days, with everyone from NXT main eventers to Performance Centre rookies, and a series of autograph sessions, Q&A sessions with the likes of Mark Henry, open try-outs and other activities during the expo. HHH even brought out Arnold Schwarzenegger for some back-slapping and glad-handing during his Q&A session.
Evolve booker and promoter, Gabe Sapolsky, announced on 8/3 via Twitter that Kota Ibushi will be working the three WWN iPPVs over WrestleMania weekend. Evolve has shows on 1/4 and 2/4, and on 3/4 there is the big annual WWN Supershow. With Ibushi announcing his status as a free agent last month, there was lots of talk about WWE wanting him for the Global Cruiserweight Series and with WWE’s working relationship with Evolve and WWN, this will only lead to more speculation about Ibushi coming in for the Cruiserweight Series.
Not that anyone will miss him, but Ken Anderson is gone from TNA. He worked an ICW show in the UK last weekend and was greeted by the obligatory, “F**k TNA,” chants. Anderson got on the mic and said he no longer works for TNA and told the fans he agreed with them then stated, “F**k TNA,” which the crowd absolutely loved. On 10/3, Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that Anderson had been fired by TNA due to failing a drug test. Satin claims that his sources told him that the drug test Anderson failed took place after a match he had with Eric Young, which was apparently so bad due to Anderson being intoxicated it had to be cut from that week’s iMPACT show on January 19th.
The URShow.TV iPPV in Phoenix on 20/3 has had some reshuffling of the card. Ken Shamrock will no longer be fighting Dan Severn, as Shamrock received a medical suspension after losing to Royce Gracie at the Bellator show on 19/2. Shamrock also has been temporarily suspended by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations for failing a drug test before his fight with Gracie after a non-specified banned substance was found in his sample. Severn (57), is now fighting Tank Abbott (50) in a rematch of their hideous 1995 fight at UFC “Ultimate Ultimate.” Roy Jones Jr will not be facing a fan after all and instead will be boxing against little-known MMA fighter, Vyron Phillips (5-3). Rey Mysterio Jr vs. Kurt Angle in a pro wrestling match and Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping in a grappling match are still currently scheduled for the event.
The Dragon Gate show on 5/3 opened at the Edion Arena #2 in Osaka opened with a minute silence for Hayabusa and Dragon Kid gave a speech about his close friend who passed away last week. Dragon Kid said he had met Hayabusa in 1993 when he was 18 and that he became his mentor. He stated that Hayabusa fought every day to recover from his injury and noted they would have no new memories together. Dragon Kid broke down in tears and said he had always dreamed of standing in the ring with Hayabusa one day but now that would never happen. Later on the show, Dragon Kid & Eita beat Cima & Kzy and there was a large framed picture of Hayabusa on one of the chairs at ringside. Dragon Kid pinned Kzy with the 450 splash as a tribute to Hayabusa. Also on the show, Yosuke♡Santa Maria beat Kotoka for the Open the Brave Gate title in 15:42. The stipulation was that if Maria lost she would have to wrestle topless forever, which thankfully did not happen. Maria celebrated her first ever single title win by thanking the fans and told her parents she had finally done it. She noted that her parents didn’t want her to become a pro wrestler and had never seen her wrestle but now she is a champion she hopes they would consider coming to a show. Naoki Taniaki showed up and attacked Maria then said he would end the embarrassment of the “ugly tranny” being a champion. Maria accepted the challenge and the match was set for 21/3 in Wakayama. The 6/3 show, also in Osaka, saw T-Hawk & Big R Shimizu (Monster Express) capture the Open the Twin Gate titles over Naruki Doi & Yamato (VerserK) in 29:01when Shimizu pinned Yamato with the Shot-put Slam. In the main event, Shingo Takagi regained the Open the Dream Gate from Jimmy Susumu in 29:00. Takagi pinned Susuma, who failed on his first title defence after beating Takagi for the belt on 14/2, with the Pumping Bomber Lariat. The next big show is on 21/3 in Wakayama for “Memorial Gate” and the top three matches are, Yosuke♡Santa Maria vs. Naoki Tanizaki for the Brave Gate title, Masato Yoshino, Akira Tozawa, T-Hawk vs. Naruki Doi, Yamato, Kotoka for the Triangle Gate belts and Shingo Takagi vs. Ryo “Jimmy” Saito for the Dream Gate title.
Suzuki-Gun will be running their own show on 27/3 and a few New Japan wrestlers will be on the card. So far the only matches announces are Takashi Iizuka vs. Toru Yano, which should be something else, Taka Michinoku & Taichi vs. Muhammad Yone & Rysuke Taguchi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desparado vs. Yoshinari Ogawa & Jushin “Thunder” Liger, and Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Sugiura vs. a team to be announced.
Kenny Omega was pulled from the ROH show in Philadelphia on 12/3 due to visa issues. As a make-good, ROH have brought in Kushida to replace Omega and will be defending the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title against ACH.
In addition to Ray “Big Boss Man” Traylor being announced for the WWE Hall of Fame on RAW this week, the new WrestleMania 32 magazine listed the final two names for the 2016 class as Jacqueline Moore and Stan Hansen.
The Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker trial got under way on 7/3 and it didn’t take long for it to devolve into an utter circus. I’m not going to go into the minutia of the case [EDITOR’S NOTE: for everything that you ever wanted to know on the case, Bix has you covered], one, because I don’t really care all that much, and, two, because David Bixenspan of F4Wonlne has been covering this thing for well over a year and has you covered if you want to delve into the legal mumbo jumbo. The fun began on day one when Hogan’s lawyer asked the jury if any of them were upset when Hogan slammed Andre the Giant or when he turned heel and became Hollywood Hogan. This apparently opened up deep scars for Juror #27, who was dismissed from the jury after he stated that he felt “betrayed” by Hogan’s heel turn. You can’t make this stuff up. Hogan testified on the first two days of the trial and told his usual pack of lies about working 450 matches a year and not being sure if Andre was going to put him over at WrestleMania III. Hogan was asked by the defence why he was wearing a bandanna and he explained that his first two wives used to bald-shame him and constantly tell him they were going to leave him for younger men, which they actually did. Gawker’s lawyers tripped Hogan up about being unaware of the cameras in Bubba the Love Sponge’s house and claiming he had not seen the entire clip posted on Gawker. Hogan explained his lies by claiming he was in “Hulk Hogan mode,” which led Hogan into an explanation about the difference between Hulk Hogan and Terry Bollea. Basically he admitted that whenever he is in public he is playing the character of Hulk Hogan and he tells tall tales that fit his character. This led to perhaps the most quoted and infamous line of the trial so-far on the second day, when Hogan, once again trying to explain the difference between Hulk Hogan & Terry Bollea, stated that Hulk Hogan has a 10 inch penis, while Terry Bollea does not. This actually occurred in an American courtroom. Day three saw a playback of a deposition testimony from AJ Daulerio, the co-defendant of Gawker and former editor of the site, and founder, Nick Denton. In the recording, Daulerio was asked if there would ever be a hypothetical celebrity sex tape that would not be considered newsworthy and he replied, “If they were a child.” When asked, “under what age?” Daulerio stated, “Four.” Gawker later came out and said Daulerio was being flippant with his remarks, however there is no doubt Gawker is coming off very badly in this case. There whole defence is built on the argument that Hogan had spoken about his sex life in the past in public forums, like the Howard Stern Show, and there fore his sex tape was a matter of public interest. Hogan’s claim is that Gawker posting the tape caused him loss of income and emotional distress. There are at least three more weeks of this shambolic display of jurisprudence, unless a settlement is reached, so it looks like the fun and games have only just begun.