Cubed Circle Newsletter 203 – Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame Discussion, Pro-Wres Digest, CMLL Anniversary Show, ROH All Star Extravaganza & More!
We have a colossal issue for you this week, not only covering all of the major news stories of the week in the The Pro-Wres Digest with Ben Carass, but also more on the Observer Hall of Fame, Ring of Honor’s All Star Extravaganza, CMLL’s Anniversary show, RAW, Night of Champions, and Mid-South from 1982! There is something for everyone this week, without a doubt.
– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor
The Pro-Wres Digest for September 19th – September 26th 2015
A shocking story broke on Sunday concerning the brother of Kurt Angle, David. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website reported that David Angle is being charged with the homicide of his wife, Donna Angle. Police were called on a domestic disturbance report and when they arrived at the scene they found Mrs Angle unresponsive. She was later pronounced dead at the local hospital. Kurt Angle Tweeted on Tuesday about the situation and asked people to respect his family’s privacy while they mourn their loss.
Cubed Circle Newsletter 203 — Pro-Wres Digest, Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame discussion, CMLL Anniversary Show, ROH All Star Extravaganza & More!
I’m sure everyone is well aware that Sting was advertised for RAW a couple of hours before the show started and he never appeared on the show because he was at home recovering from his neck injury. On Monday Sting’s agent, Steve Martinez, made a statement, the gist of which was that doctors will continue to evaluate him and the “greatest damage” Sting sustained was “before the match was over.” Martinez put Sting over for being a dedicated professional and continuing the match. On Wednesday, WWE.com ran an exclusive interview with Sting and he revealed that the injury was a result of taking two turnbuckle spots. It is unclear if he was referring to the two buckle bombs specifically, however the second buckle bomb was certainly the incident that caused the most damage. “Both times into the turnbuckle […] The second time, I went up into the air and back toward the turnbuckle like that, I thought, “Well, that’s not going to happen again,” and it did. The second time was worse.” Sting also noted that it was his own fault and said that Seth Rollins stuck his head in the ambulance for 15 minutes while he apologised and spoke about how much it meant to work with Sting. The concerning part of the interview is that Sting mentioned the doctors diagnosed him with cervical spinal stenosis, the condition that forced guys like Edge and Steve Austin to retire. Sting also said he wasn’t sure if it would be his last match and we’d have to wait and see what happens next. Another interesting note was that he called Seth Rollins, “the best I’ve ever worked with.”
ROH is expanding into some more domestic TV markets. The company announced on Monday that ROH TV would be starting soon on WNCN in Philadelphia, WMYD in Detroit and WMCN in Charlotte. Additionally, they have worked out a six month TV deal to air in France on L’Equipe 21.
If like myself you are sick to the back teeth of three hours of Monday Night RAW and a completely useless TNA iMPACT show, which may not even be on the air much longer, then the best news of the year broke on Monday evening when Lucha Underground Executive Producer, Eric Van Wagenen, announced on his Twitter that the series will definitely return for a second season! Hollywood news site, Deadline.com, ran a story on the show being renewed and according to them: “The series will go back into production in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles in the fourth quarter of 2015 for premiere on El Rey Network in early 2016.” The article doesn’t really give any more information, however there is an interesting note towards the end which claims, “[t]he series will be distributed internationally by United Artists Media Group.” Presumably this is in reference to Televisa in Mexico and it would be a huge step forward if Lucha Underground can work something out with the huge media conglomerate. More news will certainly emerge in the coming weeks, but for now the important thing is that they apparently have the funds needed to start production on Season Two and the TV tapings will begin sometime before the end of the year. It will be interesting to see if everyone from the first season will be brought back and what changes are made to the show. At the end of season one Dario Cueto flat out said “We need to find a new temple,” so maybe they’ll be shooting in a new location in Boyle Heights or perhaps they will just give the old temple a makeover. Rey Mysterio should also be making his debut for the company, as one of the final shots of the last episode of season one was the Lucha Underground billboard with Mysterio’s question mark spray painted over it.
In more sad news, 31 year-old British wrestler, Kris Travis, announced on his Twitter on Monday that he is retiring from the business. Travis went through a battle with stomach cancer last year and had to pull out of TNA’s British Bootcamp show because of his diagnosis. Despite beating the disease after having surgery to remove part of his stomach and going through chemotherapy, Travis was hospitalised with severe stomach cramps last week and had to miss some dates he was booked for. Travis received an outpouring of support, not just from his peers on the UK scene, but from guys and girls he had worked with all over the world, when he tweeted: “I’m going to put this out there right now…I won’t ever be wrestling ever again. Gutted yes. But I have to accept this. Lots of love. X”. Late last year an indiegogo was set up by Preston City Wrestling promoter, Steven Fludder, to help Travis with the cost of therapy and the goal of £5,000 was reached in just two months, which should give you an idea of how popular Travis is to his peers and fans. We wish him the best of luck and hope he lives a happy and healthy life outside of wrestling.
On a similarly depressing note, Akira Hokuto, one of the greatest female wrestlers of all-time, revealed on Wednesday that she is battling breast cancer. Hokuto, 48, announced she would be having surgery on her right breast on Thursday the 24th, which thankfully was successful, and production of her TV show “Hokuto Family” would be delayed. Hokuto, along with her husband, Kensuke Sasaki, are the only married couple to be voted into the Wresting Observer Hall of Fame and they are also a big celebrity couple in Japan. Best of luck to Hokuto on a speedy recovery.
In yet more miserable news, long time Jersey All Pro promoter, “Fat” Frank Iadevaia passed away in his sleep on Wednesday night. He ran JAPW from 1997 until today and gave exposure to guys like Low-Ki, Jay Lethal and Homicide before there was ever a Ring of Honor. Guys like Chris Hero, Jay Lethal and Gabe Sapolsky Tweeted their condolences and memories of Iadevaia, who was only 43 years old.
Gabe Sapolsky announced on his Twitter on Tuesday that former UFC fighter, Matt Riddle, would be making his debut for the Evolve the weekend of the 17/18th of October in New York. Riddle, 29, has been training at the Monster Factory in New Jersey since October 2014 and has only had a few matches on essentially training camp shows at the gym against fellow trainees. Dave Meltzer noted in this week’s Observer that people have speculated that Evolve using Riddle is confirmation of a deal between WWE and Evolve. According to Meltzer, WWE were interested in Riddle, who reportedly blew everybody away during the cardio drills at his WWE try-out, and “Riddle being in Evolve was a suggestion by WWE to Evolve, but not an official directive.” It should be made clear that there is “no deal in place right now” between WWE and Evolve, however this is certainly another tentative step towards some kind of working relationship between the two companies.
The card for the October 3rd WWE Network special from Madison Square Garden has been released. Obviously Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show is the big selling point, but other matches include: Seth Rollins vs. John Cena in a Cage match, New Day vs. The Dudley Boyz for the Tag Team titles, Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho for the IC title, Rusev vs. Ziggler and, unfortunately, Sheamus vs. Randy Orton. I can see the MSG crowd turning on that last match with a vengeance.
Just like the changing of the seasons and the turning back of the clocks, Vince McMahon has had his usual Fall/Football season freak-out due to the RAW ratings slipping to the lowest levels since 1997. In addition to changing the WrestleMania main event and having Lesnar/Undertaker take place at Hell in a Cell on October 25th, WWE have lined-up a loaded go-home show for the October 19th RAW from Dallas, TX, the home city of WrestleMania 32. Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Ric Flair, Brock Lesnar and the Undertaker are all scheduled to appear and you would think that being in Dallas we will get some sort of idea or tease of a new direction for WrestleMania.
Steve Austin lashed out on Twitter at the rumour being perpetuated by cut-and-paste sites that he would be facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32. “You can take my name off the rumour mill as a Brock Lesnar opponent at WrestleMania 32. Bullsh*t reporting.” How anyone could possibly believe that a man who has not wrestled in over 11 years, with a neck that is one bad bump away from paralysis, or even worse, would ever have a match with Brock Lesnar is laughable. Just like the Sting/Undertaker match that is seemingly never going to happen, speculation about Austin returning for one last match at WrestleMania comes up every year, and every year it doesn’t happen it gets more and more unlikely that it ever will.
Stop the presses, Tammy Sytch was arrested again on Wednesday. She missed her court hearing on September 3rd for her previous arrest on May 30th for driving with a suspended licence. Sytch is being held in Carbon County Correctional Facility in Nesquehoning, PA and was scheduled to appear before a judge on Friday. We have no word at press time what the situation is, but it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of reason that she ends up being held in custody until her trail in December.
Revolution Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling will be joining forces again and running two big shows next weekend in the UK. “Uprising” will take place on October 2nd at York Hall in the Bethnal Green area of East London and “War of the Worlds” is the following night in Reading at the Rivermead Leisure Complex. Providing that I get on the correct trains and underground tubes, I shall be attending both shows so we’ll likely have another road report in the coming weeks.
Card for Uprising, October 2nd, York Hall, Bethnal Green: * Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay. * NJPW Tag Team Challenge Match: Kazuchika Okada & Gedo vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jushin Thunder Liger. * International Challenge Match: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Big Damo.* No Disqualification Grudge Match: Jimmy Havoc vs. Josh Bodom.* Best of Super Junior Finals Rematch: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Kushida.* Mark Haskins vs. Tatsuya Naito.* ACH was announced to face Kris Travis, but after Travis announced his retirement this week it is unclear who will be taking his place.
Card for War of the Worlds, October 3rd, Rivermead Leisure Complex, Reading: * AJ Styles vs. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger. * Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay. *Marty Scurll vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. * Big Damo vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi. * Tetsuya Naito vs. Kushida vs. Kris Travis (again, there may be a replacement for Travis.) Plus: The Bullet Club: Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows.
Sadly, the NOAH 9/18 show from Osaka has not surfaced yet, so we are unable to bring you coverage of the show this week. The results of the top three matches are as follows. Daisuke Harada beat Taichi for the GHC Jr title, The Killer Elite Squad retained the GHC Tag title over War Machine, and Minoru Suzuki successfully defended the GHC Heavyweight title over Takeshi Sugiura. NOAH vice president, Naomichi Marufuji, made a statement following Suzuki’s win over Sugiura and said that if he, or anyone else, is unable to defeat Suzuki for the GHC title by the end of the year then he would be prepared to disband NOAH completely. Suzuki replied in a press conference that NOAH should just fold now and that the upcoming Global League should be renamed the, “Minoru Suzuki League.”
Asuka, aka, KANA, made her WWE debut on NXT this week. They did a similar deal to Hideo Itami and Finn Balor, in that her indie name appeared on the screen and then changed to her new WWE alias. Asuka played happy, smiling babyface and said she was happy to be in NXT and wanted to become the women’s champion. Dana Brooke & Emma came out and played mean girls and told Asuka to leave. Asuka did indeed leave, however when she got to the top of the ramp she turned around and gave the two heels a look that said, “I am going to kill you, slowly.” It was a decent segment. The only other thing of note on the show is that Eva Marie & Carmella had one of the worst matches of the entire year.
Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame 2015 Discussion Part II: Modern Bias
A recent discussion on the Pro-Wrestling Only message board raised several interesting issues regarding the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame. One of the biggest points raised, one worthy of debate, and that has been discussed in different forms for quite some time, is that of modern bias amongst certain balloters. This is the question of whether modern performers, particularly in the Modern North America and Japanese categories, are judged with less rigour and more concessions than their historical counterparts.
This is a relevant discussion to have, and has been raging mostly in the form of age-limit debate in recent years. There is, at the very least, a significant minority of voters and observers of Hall of Fame discussion that believe that the minimum age limit should be raised from its current limit of 35 years, or 15 years in the business, to 40 years or 20 years in the business – some believe it should be higher. This would, of course result in a greater degree of historical perspective on the careers of most modern performers. However, emphasis is placed on the idea of performers being evaluated in the context of their era, by people who followed their careers in full, and in real time where possible, which would make the raising of the age limit improbable.
A larger concern, should perhaps be the standards to which modern performers are held. This, at very glance, would seem an easy enough task, however, when considering current business models, and changes that have taken place within the last fifteen years, defining a draw in 2015, or even 2010, can be a very difficult task. For one, there is, for all intents and purposes in the United States, a single major promotion, where the value of the brand far out-weighs that of any individual performer or group of performers. What is more, is that in the years to come concrete metrics will become ever more scarce with the loss of quarter hours and pay-per-view numbers becoming all but a thing of the past, at least for the WWE.
It can then be suggested that either only stars of the calibre of John Cena, seemingly once in a generation type stars, will be inducted, or none will. CM Punk, for example, as far as drawing goes, is by no means a Hall of Fame candidate in the eyes of most, it would seem. However, as a creative figure in the industry, a performer, and influence he may have a strong case, particularly in future years, when his influence on the WWE and their roster will become more (or less) apparent.
On the other hand, a performer like Randy Orton, held in incredibly high regard by those who have worked with him, as well as with former wrestlers to some extent, bolsters little chance for induction, even if he was the star second from the top for the majority of the last seven or so years. This isn’t necessarily an argument for Orton, and in actual fact something far from it, as I wouldn’t give Orton the most cursory of thoughts as a candidate at this time. Nevertheless, there should be more open discussion dedicated to deciding to what standards modern performers should be judged, even if a consensus will be hard to come by.
A related topic that was also addressed in said thread, was that on leniency towards the likes of Saito and Funaki in the Hall of Fame, and whilst there may be room to argue that those two did not deserve induction, I have no qualms with their status, especially, in the case of Funaki, given the duality between MMA and pro-wrestling in Japan. But, there are inductees such as Ultimo Dragon, whose inclusion is a little more debatable, although he did have undeniable influence, especially when considering the formation of Toryumon, and the birth of Dragon Gate that followed. Of course, Ultimo’s inclusion sets a large president for Cima’s induction too. At the same time, I don’t see Shinsuke Nakamura, at least at this time, as a worthy inductee, which is a shame considering the likelihood of his induction.
This isn’t to say that Nakamura hasn’t had a great career, because he has, and his reinvention in the 2010s should be at least mentioned in any argument for his induction. Still, whilst showcasing an 13 year career, he was only really Hall of Fame worthy for a third of them. He has been a consistently great worker over the past few years, and on his best days perhaps one of the best in the world. However, whilst consistently great, there have been others in the company, particularly fellow candidate Minoru Suzuki who saw a far more complex career in many respects. Nakamura is a candidate that I would have liked to have seen assessed for the first time at the age of forty, as the status of his legacy will have taken a much clearer form several years down the line than it has now. And this can be seen as one of the major benefits of a 40 year-old age limit, as many performers are still peaking at the age of 35, and some even have their largest career hot-streaks and failures, years later.
Another likely first ballot Hall of Famer is Daniel Bryan in the Modern US/Canada category, a man who will be on my ballot, perhaps a hypocritical move, although one that I have justified internally. Firstly, there are several performers in the Hall of Fame such as Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle, who were both inducted primarily on work, one perhaps prematurely so (although I have very much enjoyed Angle as a worker over the years), both of whom were inferior workers to Danielson/Bryan in my eyes. Of course, in 2015 issuing criticism to the work of Shawn Michaels isn’t commonplace, but I do believe his body of work to have been somewhat overplayed over the years. He was an outstanding worker, but certainly not one of the greatest of all time. Bryan, on the other hand, depending on the day, may very well fit into that category, producing a vast and diverse catalogue of matches throughout his career. At the same time, he acted as an example of just how far an indie performer, who the company wasn’t particularly high on, could go when possessing as much talent as he did.
The drawing argument for Bryan is an interesting one, as he wasn’t a major draw for the WWE, nor was he given the chance to be. However, he drew far above his push, and was the ace of Ring of Honor. But, how much weight should being the ace of a mid-2000s indie really carry? Not a lot it would seem, at least at face value, but emerging from that mid-2000s ROH company were perhaps future central components of the main stream scene, Zayn, Owens, Cesaro, and Rollins, with perhaps more to come in future years. We don’t have ROH DVD sales figures like we had buy-rates for the same time period, nor do we have concrete merchandise numbers, and so putting concrete numbers to Bryan’s ROH is difficult, although I would wager that shows featuring Danielson drew more than ones that didn’t, although this is simply a hunch.
A candidate I have gone back and forth on for quite some time on is Volk Han, who was, at very best the largest draw for a medium sized mid-to-late 1990s Japanese promotion, and for the majority of his career the top gaijin in the promotion, but a distant overall second to company founder and ace Akira Maeda. Volk Han, however, was maybe the best hyper-realistic shoot style wrestler in the history of the business, and this is of course from his very first match onward. By this fact he should be inducted, as Kurt Angle acts as a precedent for someone who was an outstanding rookie, and was inducted off of that and work rate alone. But, I do think that voters at the time of Angle’s induction expected him to reach the status of an all-time great in the business, something that he didn’t end up attaining. Volk Han doesn’t have that prospect, as beyond being retired, he was the greatest rookie and best ever in a style that is largely dead, which may hurt his case in the eyes of many voters. However, with the likes of Benoit, Michaels, and Angle as inductees, I feel compelled to vote for him, with perhaps the only detraction being his astonishingly small match catalogue of under 50 matches.
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen quite enough of Volk Han’s most famous opponent, Kiyoshi Tamura, to justify a much needed vote to keep him on the ballot. Although, I hope to conduct some research in the following year, as he may have been close to Volk Han’s level in the style whilst still performing in a more traditional environment outside of RINGS for many years. As long as he breaks the threshold percentage of 10, Tamura will remain on the ballot, unlike Volk Han, who requires 50 percent for continued inclusion.
I believe this will be our penultimate week of pre-ballot submission discussion, and as such my current preliminary ballot is as follows.
Mike & Ben Sharpe