Cubed Circle Newsletter 215 – The Tokyo Dome Approaches
There remains but three or so weeks until the release of our biggest issue to date in the 2015 CCN Annual, but in this week’s issue we still have quite a bit to get through, including NXT Takeover in London, a Tokyo Dome preview, RAW from Monday with the coronation of Roman Reigns as WWE champion, the mediocre show from the night before, the WWE signing of the world’s best pro-wrestling announcer, and much more!
The Pro-Wres Digest for December 14th – December 19th 2015.
Some unexpected news emerged on 13/12 before the WWE TLC PPV, when Richard Deitsch of SI.com broke the news that MMA, boxing, kickboxing and New Japan on AXS play-by-play commentator, Mauro Ranallo had signed on to be the lead announcer on SmackDown when the show moves to USA in January. Ranallo informed SI that Michael Cole contacted him a month ago and asked if he had any interest in working for WWE. Mauro sent them a reel of his stuff, including him providing joke commentary for an imaginary Floyd Mayweather/Warren Buffett fight for a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder conference. Ranallo revealed that Cole told him that when Vince McMahon saw the Warren Buffett stuff he made up his mind to hire him. “They believed I could sell the entertainment part,” he noted. Surprisingly, being under contract to WWE, Ranallo will still be allowed to call boxing for Showtime and Glory kickboxing on ESPN, however his days as the New Japan on AXS commentator seem numbered. There is no word yet on who will be Ranallo’s broadcast partner(s) on SmackDown, I could see him playing off Lawler quite well. The positive for Ranallo on working SmackDown is that Vince McMahon doesn’t usually attend the shows, so he will not have to deal with a constant barrage of abuse in his ear all night. Michael Cole has been the guy guiding the announcers on SmackDown through the headset and since Cole was the one who reached out to Ranallo in the first place you would think he will allow him to be himself. I can’t wait to see how long Mauro’s classic, “Mama Mia!” lasts.
William Regal had to fly home to the US from the NXT tour of the UK on Tuesday 15/12 due to issues stemming from his recent neck surgery. Regal announced on Twitter: “I’m incredibly sorry, but I have to return to the U.S. to take care of some final details of my recent neck surgery that couldn’t be avoided any longer. Again, I’m sorry that I cannot continue with the current tour, but I’ll be back in 2016 to @WWENXT.” Regal missed the show in Cardiff, Wales on 15/12 and also the Takeover:London live special on 16/12.
Rey Mysterio Jr officially signed with Lucha Underground last week and he debuted on the tapings held this past weekend. “I am excited by the opportunity to join such an extraordinary group of athletes and be a part of the Lucha Underground family,” Mysterio said. Rey debuted on episode taped for the March 9th and he was #2 in an Aztec Warfare match, the Lucha Underground equivalent of the Royal Rumble, for the Lucha Underground championship. Dario Cueto’s mythical brother, Matanza also debuted during the same match at number #21 and it came down to him and Mysterio. Matanza destroyed Rey and became the new Lucha Underground champion. If you saw season one you know that Matanza was built up as this unimaginably monstrous leviathan, who literally ate a man’s face off. It was always going to be hard to find someone convincing to play the role, but you would think being over 6ft tall would be a prerequisite. Well, it turns out that the man underneath the Matanza mask is 5’10, 185lbs Jeffrey Cobb. Cobb, an outstanding athlete, represented Guam at the 2004 Olympics in freestyle wrestling and began as a pro in 2009 for Action Zone Wrestling in Hawaii and has worked for small Northern California indie feds like Premier Wrestling and Lucha Xtreme. He will almost certainly have to change his style from that of an amateur shooter to an invincible monster and I’m sure there will be a ton of post-production and editing to make him seem much bigger than he is. However, if season one of Lucha Underground as taught us anything it is that sometimes things come off much better on TV than they first appear when reading the taping results. You would have thought that a guy like Stephen King, who was the monster Deucalion character in Chikara last year, at 6’4 and 270lb would have been a better choice for the Matanza gimmick. Although, Cobb is by far a much better all-round worker than King and will probably have an easier time working the luchadors. It’s almost the exact opposite of the Vince McMahon ideology in that Lucha Underground chose to go with a much better, but smaller, athlete rather than a lumbering big man.
CZW’s biggest show of the year, Cage of Death XVII took place on 12/12 at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey. The big news from the show was the return of Sami Callihan, who defeated David Starr in a competitive match with the Stretch Muffler. Afterwards, Jonathan Gresham came out and was upset that Callihan was in the semi-main event after leaving the company then Starr laid out Callihan from behind, likely to set up a three-way at the Anniversary show in February. The annual car-crash, idiotic spot-fest, Cage of Death Match saw Matt Tremont retain the CZW World title over Masada, Debon Moore & AR Fox; finish saw Tremont give Fox a Sidewalk Slam off a scaffold through a pane of glass and a table. One lesser publicised aspect of the yearly Cage of Death shows is the “Toys for Tots” toy-drive, which has been a tradition in conjunction with the show for 11 years now. The CZW fans get a lot of flack for perhaps being an unappreciative crowd, however this year over 420 toys were donated to underprivileged children and unlike the WWE, DJ Hyde & CZW are clearly doing it for the right reasons and not making it all about themselves by telling you how charitable they are.
AJ Styles appeared on the Two Man Power trip podcast on 14/12 and discussed status for ROH’s Final Battle and New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom. Styles said, “As far as right now I definitely plan on doing both events. I’ve just been rehabbing a little bit on the back, I don’t know if it’s a slipped disc or a herniated disc it was very minimal which is good. The Doctor says it looks like it mostly seems like it is muscle so basically that’s just rehabbing that and I am feeling pretty good.” AJ also noted that he had been doing DDP Yoga which he put over big time and said that his back felt better after being sent home from the New Japan Tag League. “After rehabbing it I feel like I’ll definitely be ready to go next week and be 100%” Styles claimed. AJ was asked about any interest from WWE and he said there had been no contact from anyone in WWE, however he noted that he wishes to retire in a couple of years and will go wherever the money takes him. “I want to support my family and I am going to go wherever that takes me. Would I like to have a “WrestleMania moment”? Sure. But I am very content with having a “Wrestle Kingdom moment” in front of 60,000 fans. I think that is pretty awesome walking down that long ramp of the Tokyo Dome in probably one of the bigger matches on the show.”
The Vince McMahon appearance on RAW helped the ratings increase by 848,000 viewers; an increase of 27% from last week. The hot-shot show did 3.87 million viewers and the first hour did 4.04 million; the first time since June 15th that RAW opened at over 4 million viewers. Hour two did 3.79 million, the lowest of the three hours which is surprising since the Vince/Roman Reigns segment was at the top of this hour. Third hour did 3.83 million for the Roman Reigns title change and is the highest third hour number since the August 31st show with the return of Sting.
Fedor Emilianenko’s opponent for his fight with Rizin FF on 31/12 at Saitama Super Arnea has finally been announced. After rumours about no-name 1-0 fighter, Jaideep Singh and 45 year-old Tsuyoshi Kosaka being potential punching bags for Fedor were denied, it looked like Sakakibara was up to his old tricks of not telling Fedor’s opponent he had a fight until the last possible moment. Well it was announced on 17/12 that Fedor will in fact face Jaideep Singh, who now sports a stellar and unblemished record of 2-0. The Fedor/Singh fight will be the main event the 31/12 Rizin show and will be the feature bout on Spike TV’s “Breakfast with Fedor” show which airs on New Year’s Eve at 10am EST. On the 29/12 show, headlined by Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Hsinya Aoki, Tsuyoshi Kosaka will be fighting James Thompson, who lost to Bobby Lashley in 54 seconds due to TKO in his last fight for Bellator in November.
Legendary luchador, Lizmark (Juan Baños), 66, sadly passed away on 16/12 after suffering a heart attack. Baños debuted in 1976 for EMLL and was a huge star in the 80’s, becoming only the second man after Gory Guerrero to hold NWA World championships in three different weight classes: welterweight, middleweight & light-heavyweight. He teamed regularly with Atlantis & Rayo De Jalisco Jr, who were part for the generation that followed Lizmark, in heated matches against Los Hermanos Dinamita. Lizmark’s most famous feud was with El Satanico, against whom he had several great matches and the man he defeated for the Mexican National Middleweight title on February 10th 1982. He jumped to AAA in 1992 when Antonio Peña left EMLL to start the promotion and defeated his old Los Hermanos Dinamita foe, Universo 2000 to become the first AAA Mexican National Light Heavyweight champion. Lizmark went on to feud with La Parka and the two wrestled each other on the inaugural TripleMania show on April 30 1992. The match ended with Parka controversially winning the third fall and it appeared he won the National Light Heavyweight title, however the commission ordered the match go to a fourth fall, which Lizmark won with a wacky roll-up into his headscissor submission. Lizmark defeated La Parka again on October 23rd 1993 to win the WWA World Light Heavyweight title, before finally losing it back to Parka on June 20th 1994. Parka would go on to beat Lizmark for the Mexican National Light Heavyweight title on September 9th 1994 which brought their feud to a close. Lizmark went back to EMLL, now CMLL, in 1995 and stayed there until 2008, although he did go back to AAA for the TripleMania XI show in 2003. He was working shows as late as last year, despite having heart issues that dated back to 1999. His son, Lizmark Jr, worked for WCW briefly as part of the Cruiserweight division and was part of the big rudo stable, Los Perros Del Mal in AAA for a short while. He also has another son who wrestles as, El Hijo de Lizmark.
TNA will be starting on PopTV this coming Tuesday, 22/12. at 9pm. IMPACT was originally scheduled to start on PopTV on January 5th however TNA finished up its Destination America run this week and Pop have picked up the final two episodes of iMPACT, which are essentially “Best of 2015” clip shows. The January 5th show will be the “live” iMPACT from Bethlehem, PA and will feature the semi-finals of the World title tournament which they taped in June and has been running on TV for months.
Pro Wrestling NOAH are gearing up for their big year end show, “Destiny 2015” on 23/12 at Ota Ward Gymnasium in Ota, Gunma. The main event sees Naomichi Marufuji challenging Minoru Suzuki for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Suzuki beat Marufuji for the title back on 15/3 and successfully defended the title against Marufuji on 10/5 in a fantastic match. Suzuki has not been pinned or submitted all year since Suzuki-Gun invaded NOAH back in January and has retained the GHC title over Maybach Taniguchi, Yoshihiro Takayama, Takashi Sugiura in brutal, hard-hitting affairs. Marufuji, the Vice President of NOAH, stated at a press conference in September that if he, or anyone else, could not beat Suzuki for the GHC title before the end of the year then, “NOAH will surely disband once and for all.” After Marufuji won the Global League by beating Suzuki Army member, Shelton X Benjamin in the final on 8/11, Suzuki confronted Marufuji and told him that everything would change when he beats him on 23/12. NOAH have been running a lot of shows building up to the big Destiny show, with Suzuki & Marufuji facing off in tag and six man matches in the main events and trading wins back and forth; of course their partners are the ones taking all the falls. Go Shiozaki beat Mohammad Yone on 10/12 in Osaka and Akitoshi Saito on 11/12 in Nagoya; after both matches, Suzuki came out and tried to get Shiozaki to join Suzuki-Gun. Suzuki said Shiozaki was beating all the NOAH wrestlers anyway and might as well join his army. Shiozaki refused each time and remains a “free agent.” The full card for Destiny 2015 is as follows:
Pro Wrestling NOAH “Destiny 2015,” 23/12/2015 at the Ota Ward General Gymnasium
(1) Yoshinari Ogawa & Hitoshi Kumano vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Shiro Tomoyose
(2) Mitsuhiro Kitamiya, Maybach Taniguchi & Akitoshi Saito vs. Muhammed Yone, Quiet Storm
(3) Takashi Sugiura vs. Takashi Iizuka
(4) Shelton “X” Benjamin vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima
(5) GHC Junior Tag Championship Match: Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge (C) vs. El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku
(6) GHC Junior Championship Match: Taichi (C) vs. Taiji Ishimori
(7) GHC Tag Championship Match: “Killer Elite Squad” Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. (C) vs. BIG in USA” Chris Hero & Colt Cabana
(8) GHC Heavyweight Championship Match: Minoru Suzuki vs. Naomichi Marufuji
Dragon Gate also have their big annual “Final Gate” end of year show in Fukuoka on 27/12 with Shingo Takagi defending the Open the Dream Gate championship against Cima. DG ran a show on 13/12 in Nagoya and drew a sellout of 1,200. Main event saw Cima pin Takagi in an Over Generation (Cima, Gamma, Punch Tominaga & Eita) vs. VerserK (Naruki Doi, Yamato, Takagi, Kotoka) eight-man when Cima downed Takagi at 26:01 with a roll-up after a cane shot from Gamma. Cima taunted Shingo after the match and told him to practice a losers speech when he beats him for the title on 27/12. They also ran Korakuen Hall on 16/12 and drew a 1,850 sellout. Cima missed the show due to an acute case of gastroenteritis and Shingo said on Twitter that Cima was so scared of him that it gave him a stomach ache. Takehiro Yamamura replaced Cima to team with Eita & Tominaga and beat Yamato, Takagi & Kotoka in the semi main event. Yamamura wore Cima’s ring gear and Kaito Ishida also came out in Cima’s gear to help Tominaga get the pin.
Dragon Gate “Final Gate 2015” 27/12/2015 at the Fukuoka Kokusai Centre.
(1).El Lindaman, Takehiro Yamamura, &Kaito Ishida vs. Don Fujii, Yosuke♡Santa Maria & Nosawa Rongai
(2) Jimmy Kness J.K.S.& Jimmy Kanda vs. Kzy, & U-T
(3) Coliseum 2015 – Unlimited 10 Minute Round Rules: X vs. Masakatsu Funaki
(4) Open the Brave Gate Championship Match: Kotoka (C) vs. Eita
(5) Open the Twin Gate Championship Match: YAMATO & Naruki Doi (C) vs. Gamma & Punch Tominaga
(6) Open the Triangle Gate 4 Way Championship Match: Masato Yoshino, Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk (C) vs. Masaaki Mochizuki, Dragon Kid & Big R Shimizu vs. Naoki Tanizaki, Cyber Kong & Mondai Ryu vs. Ryo “Jimmy Saito, Jimmy Susumu & Genki Horiguchi H.A.Gee.Mee!!
(7) Open the Dream Gate Championship Match: Shingo Takagi vs. CIMA