Cubed Circle Newsletter 211 – Hiatus Nearing Completion & All-Time Great Angle
This week’s newsletter unfortunately comes to you a few days late as a consequence of exam related delays, however, this is the penultimate hiatus edition of the newsletter, with some of the usual reviews and features from before the exam period returning over the next couple of weeks. More importantly, however, we have a fun edition of the newsletter for you today covering not only all of the news heading out of the last week or so, the Paige and Charlotte angle, and one of the bigger UK wrestling shows of the last several decades, but Ben also looks at the famous DiBiase heel turn of 1982 and all that led up to it!
– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor
The Pro-Wres Digest for November 15th – November 21st 2015.
2015 has been a terrible year for deaths in the wrestling business and on 14/11 we lost another all-time great when former four-time AWA World Heavyweight Champion, Nick Bockwinkel passed away at the age of 80. Bockwinkel was reportedly suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years, something his family denied to likely protect his reputation, which is understandable given how Bockwinkel carried himself and how he represented the business. Living in the UK and being born long after his peak, my only real exposure to Bockwinkel’s work came later on in my pro wrestling fandom when I got into learning about the history of the business in my late teens. So I am in no position at all to give any kind of comprehensive retrospective of his life and if you want to learn more about Bockwinkel’s legendary career, from training with his father, Warren, Lou Thesz & Wilbur Synder, to his debut in 1954, the 17 year run on top as a heel in the AWA and even his role in Bryan Danielson winning the 2001 King of the Indies tournament, you should check out Dave Meltzer’s great bio in this week’s Observer.
Scottish independent group Insane Championship Wrestling drew the biggest crowd to a British wrestling show in 35 years on 15/11 to see Grado defeat Drew Galloway for the ICW World title at the Glasgow SECC arena. We had noted a couple of weeks ago that ICW were running the much bigger 12,500 seat concert hall at the SECC, however it turns out they drew 4,000 fans in one of the smaller halls at the SECC. Still, 4,000 people is an amazing crowd for a UK indie and ICW have announced that they intend to run the much larger, SSE Hydro Arena in Glasgow in 2016. The only way they have a chance of selling out the 13,000 seat Hydro is if David Cameron comes in to challenge Grado for the ICW title with the stipulation that Scotland will finally be given its independence from the evil English if Grado wins. The “Fear and Loathing VIII” show on 15/11 is available on ICW’s streaming service at, https://icwondemand.pivotshare.com, and for the most part was a pretty good show. The undercard actually wasn’t anything special; there were a bunch of decent matches and one horrendous elimination six-man tag cage match, which Vince Russo could not have booked any more illogically on his best day. But the Galloway/Grado main event is worth checking out since it was legitimately the biggest British pro wrestling match since Big Daddy vs. Giant Haystacks at Wembley Arena in 1981. They worked it liked a big-time match, with the big WrestleMania kick-outs and late 90’s style dog-and-pony finish, with commissioner for the night, Mick Foley getting involved and promoter, Mark Dallas, counting the three count just like Paul Heyman did at One Night Stand 2006. A subscription for ICW on demand is only $5.99 a month or alternatively you can rent each show singularly for $8.99, which is a pretty good deal to witness something that will go down forever as an historic moment in UK wrestling history.
In this week’s RAW recap, regarding the Reid Flair deal, I wrote, “. I really don’t care if Charlotte & Ric okayed the Reid stuff, it was just completely unnecessary.” Well it turns out that Charlotte & Ric had absolutely no idea about Creative using Reid’s death in the storyline; WWE didn’t even give Ric a cursory phone call to let him know what they were planning to do. We could be talking about how the WWE finally turned a corner with the disastrous Diva’s Revolution and how they put the women in the main event segment of RAW for this first time in years, but instead the major talking point of the week has been all about how utter shameless and truly disgusting WWE can be for exploiting the death of a 25 year-old kid just because they have screwed up this women’s thing so much that they were desperate for an angle that would at least get people talking. Well, they are talking alright. Reid Fliehr died of a heroin overdose on March 29, 2013 in a hotel room in Charlotte, NC and anybody that followed the story knew just how devastated Ric was about the whole thing. You would have thought that Ric’s close friend, Paul Levesque, would have known better and could have at least tried to put the kibosh on the angle, and for all I know he could have done. In the end everything comes down to Vince McMahon and if Vince has his mind set on something then not even HHH or Stephanie would be able to change his mind. Still, with 20-or-so writers, former wrestler’s and agents all sitting around that table in the production meeting before RAW, surely a couple of them must have realised that this was a terrible idea. But they all just sat idly by while Vince McMahon proved that WWE can claim to be this wholesome, family friendly company all they want, but in the end it is still run by a carnie lifer who isn’t above exploiting death to promote his attractions. Ric briefly addressed the situation on his podcast this week, however he was very careful not to bury anyone in the company because he didn’t want to ruin Charlotte’s career. He did make it clear that he had no idea about it in advance and that he cried while watching it on TV. Ric also said that nobody in the company had called him before, after, or even the next day. How classy. Elizabeth Fliehr, Charlotte’s mother and Ric’s ex-wife, publically bashed the WWE on Twitter, specifically Vince, Stephanie & HHH. She tweeted the three and asked if the writers were really that lazy and she also wasn’t informed about any of this beforehand. It’s not like WWE is new to exploiting deaths, in 2005 after the 7/7 bombings in London they shot that angle with Mohammad Hassan symbolically beheading the Undertaker, there was the revolting months-long storyline and the whole, “Eddie’s in hell” stuff with Rey Mysterio & Randy Orton in 2006 after Eddie Guerrero died, and only two years ago they used Paul Bearer’s death during the Undertaker/CM Punk build for WrestleMania 29. How these people don’t realise that they only ever get negative press out of this stuff and that perhaps they shouldn’t do things like this is beyond me. They just really must be the most tone-deaf people in the world or they have absolutely no shame whatsoever; I suspect it is a little of both. On 19/11, WWE issued the most pitiful and transparent statement about the deal and tried to take the heat off themselves by claiming Charlotte “strongly advocated” the idea, which sounds completely ludicrous to me. Here’s WWE’s official statement: “Subject matter this personal is only approved as a result of the strong advocacy of the talent themselves. Notwithstanding that, WWE is ultimately responsible for what airs in its programming.”
La Sombra, one of CMLL’s top young stars was officially announced as the newest recruit at the WWE Performance Centre on 19/11. Sombra (Manuel Alfonso Andrade Oropeza), 26, had been rumoured to be WWE bound for a couple of weeks and in last week’s issue we noted that the CMLL TV show on Aztec aired a segment entitled, “La Sombra on the road to WWE” and I mentioned that the post-match deal with Rush at the Arena Mexico show on 13/11 was very reminiscent of a guy leaving a promotion. It seems like CMLL were aware of Sombra’s plan to leave since at least September when they hurriedly threw together the mask match with Atlantis on two weeks’ notice. Sombra, of course, lost his mask which at the time seemed like a very strange decision given that he looked to be one of CMLL’s top stars for the next decade or so and the fact that Atlantis surely can’t have too many main event mask defences left in him. CMLL then quickly rushed into a short program with fellow Los Ingobernables member, Rush, and Sombra put his buddy over clean last week at Arena Mexico on 13/11. Sombra himself announced on Twitter last week that he wasn’t going anywhere just yet, however Dave Meltzer reported in the Observer that someone close to CMLL confirmed the rumours that Sombra was indeed going to WWE. During their tour of Mexico, WWE was scouting the luchadors and Sombra was the only one they offered a deal to, which Meltzer described as an “open invitation” for a developmental contract. A big indicator on Sombra’s future came when he was not announced as part of the FantasticaMania shows with New Japan in January; Sombra had been a big part of the joint CMLL/New Japan shows for the past couple of years and his absence was certainly evidence that he had other plans. He was given the full new WWE NXT signee treatment, complete with the obligatory picture with HHH and the usual social media blitz from the company.
Destination America’s new General Manager, Jane Latman, has officially put the final nail in the coffin of professional wrestling on the station. The final episode of ROH TV will air on Destination America on 25/11 and ROH issued a statement on 16/11 that they would begin airing on COMET, a Sinclair subsidiary, starting on 12/2. ROH will air at midnight on Wednesday nights, which is a worse timeslot than the 11pm spot they had when Destination America bumped them from prime-time, although COMET is available in 60% of the country compared to Destination America’s 40%. TNA, whose relationship with Destination America has been frayed since almost day one, announced on 19/11 that they will be moving to PopTV starting Tuesday, January 5th 2016 at 9pm. In the Observer, Dave Meltzer noted that TNA’s chance of a renewal were, “weak” because Destination America already had “buyer’s remorse” when they signed the deal back in January. Marc Etkind, Latman’s predecessor, was involved in the decision not to renew TNA’s contract while he was still in charge and given that Latman axed ROH, there was virtually no hope of iMPACT being renewed. The cost of airing ROH to Destination America was basically non-existent, as they were essentially just airing a tape of a show that aired on the Sinclair stations four days earlier and they never bothered to promote the Ring of Honor product whatsoever. TNA on the other hand was supposed to become cornerstone programming of the station, with numerous spin-off shows and tons of advertising from the network. Destination America very quickly pulled back on all the extra shows, to the point where iMPACT was the only TNA programming airing on a weekly basis and they also put the brakes on a lot of the advertising when they realised that TNA could only get them 400,000 viewers at best. TNA were in talks with WGN America and PopTV about a new deal, both stations have a larger national clearance than Destination America, which was only available in 57.2 million homes, whereas WGN is in 72.7 and PopTV is in 72.5. WGN were negotiating with TNA after the Spike deal expired, but obviously nothing became of it. WGN aired WWE Superstars from April 2009–April 2011 but cancelled the show when the audience average dropped from 900,000 to 500,000. PopTV currently airs the Paragon Pro Wrestling TV show, however that is paid programming and is no extra cost to the network. Paragon announced on 19/11 that they would be leaving PopTV and finding new outlets to air their product, so TNA will be the only pro wrestling content on the station. To me at least, it seems like both ROH & TNA will be better off away from Destination America, who pretty much screwed both companies from the get-go. ROH on COMET will at least get more advertising since it is a Sinclair affiliate and PopTV has a much bigger clearance than Destination America. The biggest thing for ROH is driving the live attendance, as that is how they make most of their money, so they are not taking that big of a hit from moving to a new network. TNA on the other hand makes pretty much all of its money from TV deals and if the usual TNA buffoonery screws up this new deal with PopTV, they will once again be in deep trouble.
Surprisingly, there is very little RIzin wackiness to report this week. There is still no definite opponent announced for Fedor, Sakuraba is still fighting a man 14 years his junior, Lei’D Tapa is still scheduled to be the sacrificial lamb for Gabi Garcia to rip apart like the T-Rex from Jurassic Park and Tsuyoshi Kosaka’s opponent for 29/12 is still unknown. Spike TV will be airing the show on the 31/12 at 10am and their big selling point will be a “Breakfast with Fedor” theme. There is also no word on if the suggested Akebono/Bob Sapp rematch will actually take place, but Rizin and Kyokugen (the small group running Kid Yamamto/Masato II on 31/12) are still interested in booking this freak-show fight. Shinya Aoki vs. Montanha Silva is the only thing currently announced for IGF at Sumo Hall on 31/12. In the absence of any real news, here’s something completely wacky instead: Daisuke Hashimoto & Shogun Okamoto, will be competing in the 2015 Machida Ramen Festival on November 23rd. The two IGF wrestlers will be stuffing their faces in the ramen eating competition which is also open to the public and the IGF website is offering autographs and IGF merch to anyone that can eat more ramen noodles that Okamoto and Hashimoto.
Go Shiozaki, who quit All Japan last week, returned to NOAH on the 20/11 show at Korakuen Hall. He came to the ring to address the fans during intermission and said he wanted to have a match in the green ring. Suzuki-Gun interrupted and Minoru Suzuki offered him a spot in his army, but Shiozaki declined the offer. According to a report on puroresuspirit.net, Mitsuhiro Kitamiya challenged Shiozaki to a match during a backstage promo.
The AAA Mega Heavyweight title, which Alberto El Patron/Del Rio vacated last week, will not in fact be put up in a tournament, instead a singles match between Rey Mysterio & Johnny Mundo will headline Guerra de Titanes, AAA’s big year-end show on 4/12 at Feria de Tampico in Tampico, Mexico. As hilariously noted in the Observer, the local promoter of the show has claimed that Del Rio, Dr Wagner Jr. and even JOHN CENA would be appearing. – Apparently the weed in Tampico is out of this world.
Monday’s RAW ratings were at a three week high, after the dismal 2.22 rating and 3.16 million viewers last week and the 3.24 million from 2/11. Break out the Dom, KD! The first hour did 3.54 million, hour two did 3.29 and the third hour stayed just above the 3 million mark with 3.05 million. The pattern of the decline over the three hours is virtually the same, however interestingly, a show built around a women’s segment in the main event saw a 19% drop off in female viewers and only a 2% male drop off.
We’ve got the NXT taping results heading into the Takeover: London special on 16/12.
November 25th: Michael Cole was the authority figure for the night since William Regal was recovering from neck surgery. They did a contract signing with Samoa Joe & Finn Balor for their NXT title match in London. It of course ended in a brawl and Joe choked Balor out with the Coquina Clutch. 1) NXT Tag Champions Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder retained over The Vaudevillains. Post-match, Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady hit the ring and got beat up Dash & Dawson. Asuka vs. Dana Brooke never happened because Emma ran out and the two attacked Asuka. 2) Apollo Crews over Jesse Sorensen. 3) Bayley defeated Eva Marie to retain the NXT Women’s Championship. Match was apparently overbooked with several ref bumps. Afterwards, Nia Jax attacked Bayley.
December 2nd: 1) Baron Corbin over Tye Dillinger. 2) Nia Jax squashed Blue Pants.3) James Storm beat Adam Rose with the Last Call. 4) Chad Gable & Jason Jordan downed The Vaudevillains. The Vaudevillains refused to shake hands afterwards. 5) Emma over Liv Morgan. Afterwards, Asuka appeared on the tron and confirmed a match with Emma at Takeover London. 6) Samoa Joe over Tommaso Ciampa in a reportedly hard-hitting affair.
December 9th: 1) Bull Dempsey squashed Riddick Moss. 2) Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady over Corey Hollis & John Skyler. 3) Asuka KO’d Deonna Purrazzo with a head kick. 4) The Hype Bros beat Blake & Murphy. 5) Bayley downed Peyton Royce. Post-match, Nia Jax cut a promo and said she’ll be the next NXT Women’s Champ. 6) Samoa Joe & Baron Corbin over Finn Bálor & Apollo Crews. Joe choked out Balor again.
There are five matches announced for Takeover: London so far: *NXT champion Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe. *NXT Women’s champion Bayley vs. Nia Jax. *NXT Tag Team champions Dawson & Wilder vs. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady. *Apollo Crews vs. Baron Corbin. *Emma vs. Asuka.
WWE Survivor Series is on Sunday from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA. Cars is as follows: *WWE World title Tournament Semi-Final: Roman Reigns vs. Alberto Del Rio. *WWE World title Tournament Semi-Final: Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose. *Dolph Ziggler vs. Tyler Breeze. *Divas title: Charlotte (C) vs. Paige. *Kane & Undertaker vs. Two Members of the Wyatt Family. *WWE title Tournament Final: ?? vs. ??. There will also likely be an unadvertised traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series tag match with a bunch of mid-carders.