Cubed Circle Newsletter 220 – Styles Make Fights
We have a big issue for everyone this week covering not only the happenings of the 2016 Royal Rumble with the debut of AJ Styles, but also the booking philosophy behind that show, the RAW that followed, Mid-South from ’82, Nakamura’s NXT date, Guts, Sendai Girls, NOAH, and more!
The Pro-Wres Digest for January 24th – January 30th 2016.
It’s official. Shinsuke Nakamura will debut for NXT at the live Takeover: Dallas special during WrestleMania weekend. After the news of Nakamura, AJ Styles Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows all giving New Japan their notice broke on January 5th after Wrestle Kingdom 10, the big question was whether they would end up in NXT or head straight to the main roster. Styles debuted in the Royal Rumble this past Sunday, however Nakamura stayed with New Japan for the Fantastica Mania tour and will be having his send-off show on 30/1 at Korakuen Hall. Unlike Styles though, Nakamura will not be starting on the main roster right away and his first ever WWE match will take pace on April 1st at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Centre in Dallas, TX against Sami Zayn. The announcement was made by William Regal at the NXT TV Tapings on 27/1 and WWE’s Twitter account sent out a picture from Full Sail with Nakamura’s face on the Titan Tron to hype his debut. It looks like Nakamura will be keeping his name for the time being, although it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he undergoes a similar WWE metamorphosis to Hideo Itami & Asuka after his first match with Zayn. There was some confusion last week as Nakamura still wore the IWGP Intercontinental championship on all the Fantastica Mania shows despite New Japan officially stripping him of the IC title on January 11th. Everything was cleared up on 25/1 during Nakamura’s farewell press conference which aired on NJPWWorld when he handed the title back to Noaki Sugabayashi, who said he was sad to see Nakamura leave but wished him well and hopes he carries on his unique style in the US. Nakamura said it was a very big decision for him and he was grateful to New Japan for accepting his decision and for giving him a send-off match. He was asked if going to WWE was due to him achieving everything he could in New Japan and he answered, “It was mostly age and this being the right time.” On fitting in the US, Nakamura commented, “If there’s fun to be had, no matter how few slots there are to take, then I’ll find a way to squeeze in overseas.” He answered a question about working a “foreign company’s” style and doing long promos by saying he would just be himself and noted that going to WWE had been in his mind for a couple of years but he decided around November last year. Nakamura seemed genuinely emotional during the press conference, which only lasted about 15 minutes, and said he was proud to had created a new value for the IC title. On his last match on 30/1 at Korakuen Hall, which is an all-star six-man tag of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata vs. Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii, “I have bonds with everyone in [the match], I see them as my family, my brothers.”
Archie “the Stomper” Gouldie sadly passed away on 23/1 at the age of 78. Gouldie was in many historian’s eyes the greatest heel in the history of Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion and got into the business in quite the unusual way. In the early 60’s, Gouldie, who was in attendance at a Stampede show purely as a fan, hit the ring and challenged the wrestlers to a fight. Stu invited Gouldie over to the infamous Dungeon if he thought he was tough enough and inevitably old Stu tortured and stretched Gouldie like he had to so many guys who thought they could beat up the “fake” wrestlers. Some months later, Gouldie, an ex-football player, apologised to Stu and asked him to train him properly and the rest, as they say, is history. Since Gouldie was from Carbon, Alberta, he never used the “Mongolian Stomper” gimmick in Calgary and soon became one of Stu’s top drawing heels. He held Stampede’s North American heavyweight title a record 14 times between 1968 & 1984, beating Pat O’Connor on February 28th 1968 in Saskatoon, SK to become the first ever champion and defeating Bad News Allen on December 23rd 1983 in Calgary to regain the belt for the fourteenth, and final, time. The Stomper’s final reign was the culmination of an infamous angle in 1983 that saw Bad News Allen turn on Gouldie and his kayfabe son, Jeff Gouldie (Tommy Lane), during a match with Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith & Sonny Two Rivers (Super Strong Machine). Allen turned on Stomper and bloodied him up and while Kerry Brown tied the Stomper to the ring post, Allen destroyed Jeff and left him a bloody mess on the floor. The angle was so hot that a riot ensued, during which a woman was reportedly trampled, and the fans had to be evacuated from the building, plus the boxing and wrestling commission banned Stampede from running in Calgary for six month afterwards. Gouldie began as “the Mongolian Stomper” in the US in 1963 for Bob Geigel’s Central States promotion, but found the most success in Tennessee in Memphis, where he had numerous sell-outs against Jerry Lawler, and Knoxville, where he held the NWA Southern Heavyweight title a record 11 times between 1976 and 1981. Gouldie also worked briefly for Jim Cornette in Smoky Mountain in 1992, teaming with his former Knoxville rival, Ronnie Garvin and having a wild feud with Kevin Sullivan. Gouldie had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for several years and he fell and broke his hip two weeks before his death. He underwent hip replacement surgery but never recovered, additionally he was also battling pneumonia, and passed away in his sleep on 23/1.
Dixie Carter is throwing around daddy’s money again, as TNA announced on 25/1 that Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards had inked a new deal with the company; both men’s previous deals were set to run out on 30/4. There had been talk of WWE being interested in them again after their brief stint in NXT in late 2013, however TNA apparently offered them a better deal and they choice Aunt D over Uncle Paul. It remains to be seen how many times TNA re-signs the Wolves, but they have a long way to go to beat Bram’s record. Also, on 26/1, TNA announced that Jeff Hardy had resigned; like with the Wolves, there had been some talk in recent weeks of Hardy being open to a return to WWE. In typical ignorant TNA fashion, they are building to a Matt vs. Jeff feud on TV, which has failed every time it has been done, so it is highly likely that Matt Hardy will also sign a new deal some point soon. As usual, Jeff will be unable to fly over to the UK for the annual TV tapings so he will have to be written out of storyline for at least a month, which is becoming a yearly tradition.
The RAW ratings were up a massive 18% from last week, with interest in the day after the Royal Rumble and the long segment involving the Rock averaged 4.09 million viewers over the three hours. 8pm did 4.14 million, 9pm did 4.18 million and 10pm did 3.97 million. In comparison, last year’s show the day after the Rumble, the infamous show from the Titan Towers studio due to the blizzard, did a 3.27 rating, with 4.41 million viewers. TNA iMPACT did 339,000 from 9pm-11pm on PopTV, up 18,000 from last week. The midnight replay did 103,000, down from 123,000 in the same timeslot last week. That’s a total of 442,000 cumulative viewers, down from 444,000 from last week.
If losing AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura in the same month wasn’t bad enough for New Japan, the company’s biggest star over the last five or six years, Hiroshi Tanahashi, suffered a dislocated shoulder during the 23/1 main event of the Fantastica Mania show at Korakuen Hall, which saw Tanahashi, Mistico & Volador Jr. lose to Okada, Mephisto & Ultimo Guerrero, when Mephisto pinned Volador to set up their singles match on 24/1, which Volador ended up winning. Tanahashi revealed the injury on his blog on 25/1, which led people to initially believe that the injury occurred on the 24/1 show, however Dave Meltzer and Chris Charlton confirmed that Tanahashi got hurt on 23/1, which means he worked the final Fantastica Mania show on 24/1 with a dislocated shoulder. There is no word yet on the severity of the injury, or if it requires surgery, however the mentality in Japan is to work through injuries, especially if the company is relying on you to draw the houses. Tanahashi will almost certainly work Nakamura’s farewell match on 30/1 and he is advertised for ROH’s 14th Anniversary show on 26/2 in Las Vegas. The feeling was that Tanahashi would be the mystery opponent for Kenny Omega on 14/2 at the New Beginning in Niigata to determine a new IWGP IC champion. I suppose if the injury isn’t too serious, or even if it is, Tanahashi will likely work through the pain for as long as New Japan needs him.
There were some other newsworthy notes from the 24/1 Fantastica Mania show. Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu lost their final match before heading off on their indefinite excursion to Mexico to Panther & Guerrero Maya Jr. Tanaka & Komatsu, who will go by the names Fujin & Raijin in CMLL (the Japanese gods of wind and thunder) cut short goodbye promos after the match and said they had the time of their lives as Young Lions and would return to New Japan as big stars. Mascara Dorada also had his last match as a New Japan full-timer, as he teamed with Ryusuke Taguchi & Atlantis against Los Ingobernables de Japon (Naito, Evil & Bushi). Fittingly, Dorada took the fall after a low blow from Naito and bridging backslide from Bushi to end his disappointing year during which he was criminally underused by New Japan. Dorada thanked al the fans and said he was returning to his home of Arena Mexico, but he noted that he wanted one more chance at the IWGP Jr title; good luck with that. Jushin Liger & Virus had a really good eight-minute grappling match, with virtually no high spots at all. Liger won with a Pendulum swing submission. Nakamura, Okada & Barbaro Cavernario beat Tanahashi, Titan & Juice Robinson in a solid 13 minute six-man. The most notable thing about the match however, besides Tanahashi working with a dislocated shoulder, was the team of Okada, Nakamura & Cavernario all being possessed by the spirit of Scotty 2 Hotty and doing a simultaneous three-way worm spot! Okada may be a fantastic professional wrestler, but his break dancing technique left a lot to be desired. Kamaitachi pinned Dragon Lee in an excellent 18:33 to win the CMLL World Lightweight title. Match was just great and the best of the entire Fantastica Mania tour by far. Mistico beat Ultimo Guerrero in the semi-main in 17:23 with the La Mistica submission; match was good but they outstayed their welcome a little. Main event saw Volador Jr retain the NWA Historic Welterweight title over Mephisto in another good match that went a little too long. On that note, the Samurai TV feed of the broadcast went off the air 20 seconds after the finish of the main event, so they cut it pretty close. They did the big end of tour ceremony with all the guys saying “thank you” and posing for pictures in the ring. Some of the luchadors threw out souvenirs to the crowd, including Volador, who tossed Cavernario’s bone into the crowd which Cavernario didn’t look too happy about. Also, the greatest man on the planet and notorious ribber, Jushin Liger, tried to take off Tiger Mask’s hood, which led to a funny light-hearted battle between the two over their masks.
Nikki Bella underwent successful neck fusion surgery on 27/1. The story was first reported on 25/1 by E! Online with an “exclusive” interview from Nikki about needing to go under the knife. “I have basically a broken neck, a pretty bad herniated disk,” Nikki revealed. “What makes mine a little bit different than most people is that I have some disk behind my vertebrae so with a lot of prayers we’re gonna pray that the doctors can get the piece behind my vertebrae with just a bone fusion.” The E! Article claimed that Nikki had been suffering neck pain since July 2015 and stopped wrestling after getting an MRI in October. Her last match was on the October 26th edition of RAW during a six-diva tag with Brie & Alicia Fox against Becky Lynch, Charlotte & Paige. “There is a potential that this is career-ending,” Nikki said in the E! interview. “We will only know that when I get out of surgery on Wednesday and then basically how the bone heals […] In six months time is when I will get that final X-ray to be like, ‘Hey look you can get back in that ring and kick some ass.” She also noted that using the Rack Attack had helped contribute to the injury and that the doctors had told her to stop using the move. All of this being filmed for Total Divas, however it appears like this isn’t like the angle with Nikki’s “shin splints,” which were pushed as “career threatening” during one of the early seasons of the show, as neck fusion surgery is a pretty big thing to overcome for any pro wrestler.
The seemingly never ending WWE injury list continued to grow this week, as Sheamus posted a picture of himself on Twitter on 28/1 with his left arm in a cast. PWInsider & F4Wonline are reporting the injury as tendinitis and he has been pulled from this weekend’s house show loop where he was scheduled to wrestle Roman Reigns in singles match. Sheamus has been replaced by Rusev on those shows, however Rusev is also recovering from a knee injury. Furthermore, it was reported by F4Wonline on 28/1 that Alberto Del Rio is out of action with a back injury which he suffered taking a vertical suplex from Brock Lesnar in the Royal Rumble. Del Rio make it a full house of injuries for the League of Nations, with Barrett and his concussion, Rusev with his knee, Sheamus and his arm and now Alberto’s put his back out.
AAA’s Guerra de Titanes show finally took place on 22/1 at the Juan de la Barrera Gym in Mexico City, drawing 5,000 fans, which is a pretty good house given that they were going head-to-head with CMLL at Arena Mexico. The show was originally scheduled for December 5th 2015, but had to be cancelled when Rey Mysterio Jr and Johnny Mundo, who were booked in the main event for the vacant AAA Mega Heavyweight title that was vacated by Alberto Del Rio, could not make the show due to both of them having commitments with Lucha Underground. In the main event, Mesias & El Texano Jr. beat Dr. Wagner Jr & Psycho Clown and Mesias & Texano will now face each other at Rey de Reyes for the vacant Mega title in March.
Jay Lethal and reDRagon inked new deals with ROH this week. ROH issued a press release on 28/1 announcing the re-signing of three of its top acts, however no details were released on the length of the new deals. Mike Johnson of PWInsider noted that the deals were worked out back at Final Battle 2015, where as Dave Meltzer reported that “Lethal signed several weeks ago while Fish & O’Reilly inked deals about a week ago.” There had been rumours of Lethal being interested in going to WWE and TNA wanting to sign reDRagon, however both of those can now be put to be for the time-being at least. The new ROH’s contracts allow reDRagon to continue working for New Japan and opens up the possibility of Lethal returning there too. In North America however, the talent are exclusive to ROH and cannot work any other indies, with the exception being PWG.
As noted last week, Will Ospreay, Big Damo & Jimmy Havoc, three of the top names on the UK indie scene, will be working TNA’s tour of the UK this week. Well, Dave Meltzer reported on 29/1 that Ospreay had in-fact signed with New Japan, which TNA were unaware of (classic), so they had Ospreay lose in five minutes to Mark Andrews in a dark match on 29/1 in Manchester. Meltzer noted that there is no start date for Ospreay in New Japan, however he is believed to be apart of this years Best of the Super Juniors in May/June. This is certainly a good move for Ospreay, as New Japan is a much better fit for him than TNA, who would no doubt have no idea what to do with the guy and most likely book him into oblivion as part of the laughable X-Division.
In more TNA news, Awesome Kong was sent home from the UK tour on the first day after a locker room incident involving Reby Sky. PWInsider reported that Kong took exception to Sky dressing in the women’s locker room and she threw Sky’s gear out into the hallway. The story goes that Sky dressed separately for the last set of tapings in Bethlehem, PA and the UK tour was the first time she had dressed with the other women. Mike Johnson reported that there are two versions of events. The first being that Kong went after Sky and was held back by numerous people. The second, which Johnson notes has been confirmed by “FAR more people” is that Kong grabbed Sky by the neck and assaulted her before security and TNA producer, Pat Kenney broke it up. Kong & Sky have had heat going back a couple of years when they both bad mouth each other during shoot interviews and also on Twitter.
WWE announced on their website on 29/1 that Adrian Jaoude, who was signed to a developmental contract in October 2015, will be competing for Brazil in the Summer Olympics this year in Rio. Although WWE have signed Olympians in the past, Henry, Angle, Gable, this marks the first time that an actual contracted WWE talent will be competing in the Olympics. There was a wacky joke story in 2004 about Glenn Jacobs (Kane) representing Lithuania in wrestling at the ’04 Olympics in Athens, however it turned out to be an April Fools prank. I’m sure WADA love the idea of a Brazilian professional wrestler trainee competing in the Olympics, however they probably are more concerned with the athletics drugs cheats at the moment to pay attention to a fringe sport like wrestling.
On a brief note, after AJ Styles teasing the Styles Clash numerous times during the Royal Rumble, and again against Chris Jericho the next night on RAW, Styles beat Curtis Axel with the move this week on SmackDown. So, instead of building to Styles using the Styles Clash in a big match at WrestleMania, they had him use it for the first time on SmackDown for no reason whatsoever.
NXT Tapings 27/1 from Full Sail University.
Taped for 9/3: Samoa Joe beat Sami Zayn two falls to one in a two out of three falls match to become the #1 contender for the NXT title. Match reportedly went around 40 minutes and will likely take up the entire hour of TV. Joe won the first fall with the Muscle Buster at about 20 minutes. Joe got busted open during the second fall, which Zayn won with the Koji Clutch. Joe won the third fall with the Rear Naked Choke. There have been conflicting reports about this match, with some people hailing it as fantastic, while others claim it was terrible. I just cannot imagine a Samoa Joe/Sami Zayn match being bad, so we’ll see who was wrong when the show airs.
Taped for 16/3: The Hype Bros beat Angelo Dawkins & Kenneth Crawford. Emma over Deonna Purrazzo. Tommaso Ciampa downed Jesse Sorensen. Bayley & Asuka beat Eva Marie & Nia Jax when Bayley pinned Eva. William Regal came out afterwards and declared Asuka as the #1 contender and she would challenge Bayley for the title in Dallas.
Taped for 23/3: American Alpha over The Vaudevillains to become the #1 contenders for the Tag straps. Sami Zayn came out for a promo and talked about not having a match at Takeover: Dallas. Regal came out and announced that Sami would face Shinsuke Nakamura and the place went nuts. Johnny Gargano over Elias Sampson. Finn Balor downed Rich Swann. Alexa Bliss beat Sarah Dobson. Bull Dempsey vs. Danny Burch never happened because Samoa Joe came out and killed them both.
Taped for 30/3: Asuka submitted Emma. Austin Aries beat Riddick Moss with the Last Chancery in his NXT debut. American Alpha over Corey Hollis & John Skylar. Baron Corbin squashed QT Marshall. Dash & Dawson beat Tucker Knight & Steve Cutler. Apollo Crews over Alex Riley. Samoa Joe squashed Bull Dempsey. Afterwards, Finn Balor came out for a huge brawl with Joe and Balor ended up diving off the announce table onto Joe.
NXT have all 8 weeks of TV in the can leading up to Takeover: Dallas on April 1st during WrestleMania weekend. The card is absolutely stacked and could easily be a much better show than Mania. Full line up is:
NXT Championship: Finn Balor (C) vs. Samoa Joe.
NXT Women’s Championship: Bayley (C) vs. Asuka.
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura.
Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin.
NXT Tag Team Championship: American Alpha vs. Dash & Dawson (C).
Apollo Crews vs. Elias Sampson.
Pro Wrestling NOAH are running “Great Voyage 2016 in Yokohama” on 31/1 at the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium. Card is as follows:
8 Man Tag Match: Yoshihiro Takayama, Quiet Storm, Hajime Ohara & Genba Hirayanagi vs. Yoshinari Ogawa, Akitoshi Saito, Hitoshi Kumano & Kaito Kiyomiya.
El Desperado vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru.
Shelton X Benjamin vs. Mitsuhiro Kitamiya.
Maybach Taniguchi vs. Takashi Iizuka.
GHC Junior Tag Championship Match: Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge (C) vs. TAKA Michinoku & Taichi.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Taiji Ishimori (C) vs. Kenoh.
GHC Tag Championship Match:Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. (C) vs. Muhammad Yone & Katushiko Nakajima.
Special Single Match: Go Shiozaki vs. Minoru Suzuki.
GHC Heavyweight Championship Match: Naomichi Marufuji (C) vs. Takashi Sugiura.