Cubed Circle Newsletter 219 – It’s Time for…More Year in Review
We are back this week with another edition of the Cubed Circle Newsletter, detailing TNA’s wacky talent claims, the Jim Ross AXS deal, the 2015 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards, RAW, and Mid-South from 1982 featuring some “Iron Mike Sharpe” action!
In last week’s issue we listed a NJPW New Year Dash Review as an upcoming piece for issue 219. Unfortunately, this is not the case. However, we are introducing our first weekly column/review series, The Mixed Bag (Working Title), which will debut on the site this week, and appear in next week’s issue. It is in that section that we will not only cover New Year Dash, but also some overlooked matches from the past month or so, the Rumble, and more!
The Pro-Wres Digest for January 17th – January 23rd 2016.
“Iron” Mike Sharpe sadly passed away in his home in Hamilton, Ontario this past weekend; he was 64 years-old. Sharpe had suffered serious health issues over the last years of his life and was wheelchair-bound after losing one of his legs, which was something I had no idea about and was shocked to learn. Sharpe’s father (the original Mike Sharpe) and uncle (Ben) were one of the most important teams in the history of Japanese pro wrestling and were responsible for the sport’s early boom in popularity with legendary matches against Rikidozan & Masahiko Kimura. Sharpe Jr got his start in Gene Kiniski’s NWA All-Star Wrestling in 1973 after being trained by Dewey Robertson and had semi-successful runs in territories such as Georgia and Mid-South in the early 80s. He was most famous for his time as a prelim guy in the WWF, where he started in January 1983 and would remain as a regular until 1989, although Sharpe’s last televised match for the WWF was on June 6th 1995 when he teamed with Duane Gill against the Smoking Guns.
If you ever wondered how petty TNA could be, we found out on 22/1 that the answer is “very petty indeed.” TNA ran a story on their website about having a handshake deal with AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows before the three decided to go to WWE. “Start dates were determined, creative decided, merchandise designed and plane tickets purchased,” the pathetic story read. “These discussions culminated on December 14th in Nashville, Tenn., where all attended a meeting at Dixie Carter’s home.” So basically, from the sounds of it, Styles, Anderson & Gallows had talks with TNA and when WWE came in for them they decided, like any rational person would, to go with WWE instead. TNA claims that Nashville’s finest trained monkeys with law degrees were working on drawing up the contracts when they were informed that the three Bullet Club guys were not in fact coming to work for Dixie. TNA’s story goes on to say that, “a handshake and written deal between AJ, Drew, Chad and TNA was agreed upon and signed by all. Over the Christmas holiday, and after the lawyers finalized the long form agreement, all communication with TNA stopped. AJ’s lawyer contacted TNA and stated the wrestlers had changed their mind and would not be honoring their commitment to TNA.” IF paperwork was actually signed then TNA might have a legitimate legal gripe here, but it sounds like Styles, Anderson & Gallows changed their minds before putting pen to paper, so I seriously doubt TNA would have a leg to stand on if this got litigious. It is certainly not a coincidence that TNA should try get sympathy on themselves before AJ makes his big debut for WWE, but all they have done is make the company, and Dixie, look like incompetent buffoons, who don’t have enough appeal to bring in the big stars. So what Styles, Anderson & Gallows agreed verbally to come to your sad little promotion, if nothing was signed it is all meaningless. You know what it is called when an independent contractor decides to go work for a bigger company, with better career opportunities and the chance of making a lot more money? Capitalism. And not a single court in the US is going to rule against that. Maybe, if TNA can produce this so-called “signed written deal” they could maybe cause WWE a little hassle, but I’m pretty sure a napkin doesn’t count as a legal document, although who knows in Tennessee. Jerry McDevitt must be laughing his ass off just waiting for these chuckle-heads to make a move.
The annual New Japan & CMLL “Fantastica Mania” tour kicked off in Kochi on 17/1 and they drew a sell-out of 1,214 people for the opening night. The final three nights (22/1, 23/1 & 24/1) from Korakuen Hall will all air on New Japan World and all but one of the shows are sell-outs too. The most notable thing from the 17/1 show in Kochi was that despite being publicly stripped of the Intercontinental Championship last week, Shinsuke Nakamura came out with the IC title belt for his tag match. Rysuke Taguchi & Volador Jr beat Nakamura & Mephisto in 10:26 when Volador pinned Mephisto with a Frankensteiner. On 22/1 at Korakuen Hall, Nakamura again came out with the IC title when he teamed up with Kazuchika Okada & Virus in a losing effort against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Rysuke Taguchi & Dragon Lee. So who knows what is going on with that.
HHH teased there would be a “major surprise” at the 22/1 NXT tapings and good ‘ol Uncle Paul delivered by bringing in Austin Aries for their biggest ever show in Orlanda at the University of Central Florida. William Regal introduced Aries and said he had signed with NXT; Baron Corbin showed up and laid-out Aries and presumably told him to, “Go back to WCW.” I guess Aries vs. Corbin the Indie-Slayer at the next Takeover is on the cards. We’ve got the full results of the 22/1 NXT tapings at the end of the Digest.
Three of the top names on the UK independent scene will be working TNA’s annual Maximum Impact tour from January 29th -31st. Will Ospreay, Jimmy Havoc and Big Damo were announced by Dixie Carter on 17/1 for the three dates in Manchester, London and Birmingham at the end of the moth. The gimmick was that TNA were running a poll on their website and fans could vote for which of the three UK workers they would like to see as part of the tour. Carter claimed that the results of the poll were so close that she decided to bring all the guys on board for the shows. What a nice lady that Aunt D is. Each guy offers something different, which TNA would no doubt find a way to screw up if they end up giving any of them a contract. Ospreay, 22, at just over 3 years in the business, is a near prodigious talent and one of the smoothest high flyers in the entire world. Havoc, 31, a former Progress champion, can be a great heel and is able to draw real, old-school heat in a live setting. Big Damo, 30, is 6’4 and around 290lbs and was trained by Fergal Devitt, Paul Tracey and Robbie Brookside. He has rapidly become one of the top stars in the UK after outstanding matches with Tomohiro Ishii, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi in 2015 and due to his size can usually have a compelling match with just about anybody. We’ll have to wait and see how TNA uses these three talented guys and whether they become regulars, however I find it hard to believe that Ospreay, Havoc & Damo would give up their UK indie commitments just to work at the Impact Zone twice a month at the most.
Jim Ross will be taking over from Mauro Ranallo as the play-by-play voice of New Japan on AXS. The story was reported by MSL and Kevin Sullivan on their 15/1 MLW podcast, however Ross didn’t confirm the news until 19/1 with an interview for the Fox Sports website. Ross will start as the voice of New Japan on AXS in March and noted that the New Japan product was akin to a by-gone era of North American pro wrestling. “For me, the New Japan Pro Wrestling business philosophy reminds me of my earlier years in wrestling. I’ve had numerous other offers, some serious and others just flirting to return to TV Wrestling broadcasting but none have had the appeal that AXS TV offered me. We think my style will fit the NJPW in-ring presentation well. We’ll know that conclusively in early March. Plus, AXS TV and I discussed other potential projects outside NJPW.” Former UFC World Heavyweight Champion and defender of the pro graps faith, Josh Barnett, will remain as the colour commentator and is looking forward to teaming up with Ross. “It’s a dream to be able to sit next to the legendary Jim Ross and call the incredible wrestling action of New Japan Pro Wrestling,” Barnett commented. “I’ve listened to his commentary throughout the years and I’m glad to have someone as distinguished as him to work with in the booth.” Ross was pretty much universally praised for his performance calling the live Wrestle Kingdom 9 PPV on January 4th 2015. He got a few minor details and a couple of pronunciations wrong, but for the most part Ross’ commentary style fit perfectly with the New Japan product. Ross will debut on the March 4th show and by that time Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles could conceivably be on RAW, having their matches called by Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton. It should also be noted that Ross will be working for AXS TV and not New Japan Pro Wrestling, whom for whatever reason decided that Kevin Kelly and Matt Striker would be the English announce team for this year’s Dome show.
If being signed to a $250,000 contract with zero experience whatsoever didn’t get Tough Enough winner, Josh Bredl, enough heat from people in WWE, on 18/1 he showed his complete ignorance when it comes to etiquette and is probably in for a rough few weeks. Bredl, who has been given the developmental name of Bronson Matthews, tweeted during RAW and called the Social Outcasts, “Social Jobbers.” The tweet was quickly deleted, however enough damage was done as Kevin Owens responded with a great line, “Look at the veteran here with the big fancy insider terms” then Owens blocked him and made it public. Josh, instead of just shutting up, replied with an “LOL”, so Owens came back with, “Let him LOL. People like him fizzle out by themselves, pretty quick anyway.” Cody Rhodes got involved and tweeted Josh, “Enjoy dressing in the hallway, d*ck.” With the Royal Rumble in Orlando, all of the NXT talent will be in the building and the rumours are that some people in the company want to see Josh in the Rumble match so he can be given the Daniel Puder treatment.
It was a big week on the UK scene last week. 5 Star Wrestling ran their overly ambitious arena tour and draw disappointing crowds in all three cities. 13/1 at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle drew about 750 fans in the 11,000 seat venue. They did a contract signing for the AJ Styles/Rey Mysterio Jr match the next night in Sheffield which was apparently booked very illogically. Mysterio beat Jay Lethal via DQ when Lethal hit him with the ROH World title; match was reportedly fine but nothing special. Match of the night was said to be Jimmy Havoc beating Zack Sabre Jr & Marty Scurll in a three-way. Main event Johnny Mundo beat AJ Styles for the 5 Star title when Mysterio got involved and cost Styles the match. The show started over an hour late and ended up going past 11pm so a lot of the fans had to leave early due to transport arrangements which left the building even emptier. 14/1 at the Sheffield Metropoint Arena, capacity 13,500, they drew roughly 700 fans for the first time ever “dream match” of AJ Styles vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. Reports say that the match was a solid house show affair but nowhere near “dream” quality. Inexplicably, they went on third and Styles got the win with the Styles Clash. Jay Lethal beat PJ Black with the Lethal Injection in a decent match and the main event was Johnny Mundo over Carlito. Match of the night was another three-way, with Will Ospreay beating Marty Scurll & Jimmy Havoc. 15/1 was at the Liverpool Echo Arena and they drew the biggest crowd of around 1,500 in the 12,000 seat building. Johnny Mundo retained the 5 Star title over PJ Black. Rey Mysterio, Will Ospreay & Sabre Jr. beat Nick Aldis, Marty Scurll & Jimmy Havoc when Mysterio pinned Havoc. Everyone in the match attacked Mysterio afterwards, which didn’t go down well with all the kids that came to see him. Jay Lethal pinned AJ Styles in the main event with a handful of tights. Aldis, Ospreay, Scurll, Sabre & Havoc stormed the ring and beat up Lethal & Styles then Havoc cut a promo about how they were all sick of Americans coming over and taking their spots. – The booking on these shows sounds utterly dismal and I’m so glad I didn’t spend £60 on two tickets for the Sheffield show. Instead of just putting on three feel-good shows to send the fans home happy, 5 Star tried to shoot a bunch of wacky angles and ended up leaving fans disappointed, especially considering the WWE-level ticket prices.
In more positive British news, Revolution Pro once again sold-out the York Hall in Bethnal Green, London, on 16/1 for their “High Stakes” show, with 1,200 fans packing the historic combat sports venue to see AJ Styles’ final UK date before starting with WWE. Styles lost the Undisputed British Heavyweight title to Zack Sabre Jr in the main event and received a great send-off from the fans, who were doing all the usual singing and such. Styles cut a promo and teased entering the Royal Rumble afterwards and the people went insane. People have also been raving about the Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay match, which Scurll won to earn a title shot at Sabre Jr, with early reports of it being close to *****. I watched the match match last night (22/1) and it was absolutely tremendous. I’d probably go **** ½, but that’s just me. Jay Lethal successfully defended the ROH World title over Matt Haskins in a match that had no chance of following Scurll/Ospreay. Also on the show, Big Damo beat “Speedball” Mike Bailey, which sounds like it could be awesome. Colt Cabana beat Doug Williams then Matt Classic attacked Cabana afterwards! Classic unmasked and was revealed to be Lord Gideon Grey. The Lost Souls (Jimmy Havoc, T-Bone & Bram) beat The Revolutionists (Sha Samuels, James Castle & Josh Bodom).
ROH’s show on 22/1 in Fletcher, NC has been cancelled due to weather concerns. The main event was set to be The Bullet Club (Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson & The Young Bucks) vs. Jay Lethal, Roderick Strong & War Machine. The next night in Atlanta, GA sees Gallows & Anderson challenging War Machine for the ROH Tag titles and also the farewell of AJ Styles.
After joining Suzuki-Gun at Pro Wrestling NOAH’s “Destiny” show on December 23rd last year, Takashi Sugiura will challenge Naomichi Marufuji for the GHC title on 31/1 in Yokohama. On 14/1 in Nagoya, Marufuji & Atsushi Kotoge beat Sugiura & Taka Michinoku in the main event and afterwards Marufuji declared that he wanted the match to be GHC title vs. Suzuki-Gun leaving NOAH forever. Also on the 14/1 Nagoya show, Minoru Suzuki & Taichi beat Go Shiozaki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru when Suzuki pinned Kanemaru with the Gotch piledriver. Suzuki & Shiozaki will face each other on 31/1 in Yokohama and they have been going back and forth in tags on this current tour. On 16/1 in Kumamoto, Shiozaki & Kanemaru beat Suzuki & Taka Michinoku when Shiozaki pinned Taka with the Go Arm Lariat. Shiozaki stated afterwards that he is only getting stronger and will take out Suzuki-Gun one-by-one.
RAW did a disappointing number this week with no NFL competition. They were only up 158,000 viewers across the three hours, with a total of 3,478,000 viewers. Considering last week they were up against the monster college championship game, you would have thought that a lot more people would have come back to RAW, but that appears not to be the case. 8pm did 3,775,000, 9pm dropped to 3,591,00 and 10pm fell to 3,123,000, that’s a drop of 17% overall. SmackDown on USA did a 1.68 rating with 2,332,000 viewers, roughly a 15% drop from the debut on USA. TNA iMPACT was up to 288,000 for the first-run 9pm timeslot and did 77,000 viewers for the replay at midnight.