Cubed Circle Newsletter 221 – Get Well, Hitman!
We have a super edition of the newsletter for you this week covering all of the major news from around the internet in the Pro-Wres Digest, including major Kidani statements, AAA title updates, NOAH cards, Lion’s Gate, and unfortunately some sombre news, in addition to a look into the “Redneck Rookie” edition of RAW, The Mixed Bag with Nakamura’s final NJPW match for the time being, up and coming rookies, and indie sleaze contamination – plus Ben takes a look back at the August 14th 1982 edition of Mid-South television!
The Pro-Wres Digest for January 31st – February 6th
On February 1st, Bret Hart announced in an emotional statement on Facebook that he is battling prostate cancer. “I’ve had a great lifelong dance and I’m a survivor of many hard battles. I now face my toughest battle. With hesitation and fear, I openly declare myself in my fight against prostate cancer. In the next few days, I will undergo surgery with the hope of defeating this nemesis once and for all.” Bret didn’t reveal many details other than he would be undergoing surgery this week and according to Dave Meltzer in this week’s Observer the cancer was detected early, which is certainly encouraging news. As if the Hart family hasn’t had enough grief over the last two decades, the oldest of Stu & Helen’s twelve children, Smith Hart, was also diagnosed with prostate cancer two weeks ago and unfortunately the cancer has spread to the bone in his hip. This is cancer we are talking about so it is always a serious issue, but with early detection the survival rate for prostate cancer can be as high as 99% due to the slow growth of the disease in that part of the body. Hopefully the news in the coming weeks is positive for both Bret and Smith. The marquee outside of Madison Square Garden in New York City put up picture of Bret with a get well soon message on 3/2 and there has also been an outpouring of support for both Bret and Smith from many people in the wrestling industry. Obviously, we would like to send our best wishes and all the luck in the world to Bret and Smith during this difficult time.
Axl Rotten (Brian Knighton) sadly passed away on 4/2 at the tragic age of 44. Initial reports were that Rotten had died in a motel room due to an overdose, however Pro Wrestling Sheet is reporting that he was found in his car outside of a McDonalds restaurant in Baltimore, MD. Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet noted that one source said that police told family that Rotten went into cardiac arrest, “but no drugs or paraphernalia were found in the vehicle.” There are currently no other details on the situation, but our thoughts are with Knighton’s family.
In more depressing news, Blackjack Mulligan, 73, was hospitalised some time over the weekend in Florida, where he lives. PWInsider first reported the news and Mike Johnson noted that it was serious enough for Mulligan’s grandsons, Bo Dallas & Bray Wyatt, along with their father, Mike Rotunda, to fly home from RAW in Dallas, TX to be with him. Mulligan suffered a heart attack in June 2015 and has been in ill-health for years, as Mike Johnson noted, “which he has attributed to suffering from the ill effects of The Bends from a diving incident.” There has been no update on Mulligan’s condition since Tuesday, although Bray Wyatt is currently scheduled for the weekend house shows in Canada.
On a more positive note, Lucha Underground has been renewed for a third season. Robert Rodriguez, Mark Burnett and MGM announced on 1/2 that the show would be returning in early 2017 on the El Rey Network. The story was picked up by some fairly big mainstream sites, including Forbes and IGN, however it was first reported by Pro Wrestling Sheet of all places on 31/1. Season two wrapped up filming on 31/1 and the talent were informed that they would be coming back to start production on season three in “late April”, according to Dave Meltzer. Pro Wrestling Sheet also scooped the bigger news sites with the announcement that Lucha Underground will be available on iTunes in a couple of months, so those unable to get the El Rey Network will have a chance to watch the shows legally. When the show debuted in Canada on TLN (Telelatino Network) on 31/1 they aired the first episode of season one, which makes sense since Lucha Underground is more like a traditional television show than any other wrestling product and starting at the beginning is the best way to introduce the show to a new market. Presumably when the iTunes deal goes through it will be a similar scenario, with season one being available first and season two being added later on.
The Pro Wrestling NOAH vs. Suzuki-Gun story took another turn this week, as NOAH-defector, Takashi Sugiura brought the GHC Heavyweight title back to Suzuki’s Army when he defeated Naomichi Marufuji at the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium on 31/1. I’ve not seen the match yet, but there was apparently a botched run-in from Lance Archer and a bunch of Suzuki-Gun interference towards the finish. Akira Taue begrudgingly handed Sugiura the GHC title and trophy, which Sugiura kicked over. They teased attacking Taue but Go Shiozaki and Maybach Taniguchi came out and backed them off. Marufuji came to and shook their hands and handed Taniguchi a NOAH towel and the three left together as the new top babyfaces in the fight against Suzuki-Gun. Earlier on the show, Go Shiozaki lost to Minoru Suzuki after Yoshinobu Kanemaru turned on NOAH and joined Suzuki-Gun during the match, allowing Suzuki to get the win with the Gotch Piledriver. The deal with Kanemaru defecting is that he was a NOAH original and around when the company formed, so Suzuki was teasing in the build up that a “time bomb” was going to go off. Suzuki & Kanemarua put the boots to Shiozaki afterwards and Maybach Taniguchi stormed the ring to make the save. Taniguchi removed his mask and helped Shiozaki to the back. Elsewhere on the show, the Killer Elite Squad retained the GHC Tag Team titles over Katsuhiko Nakajima & Mohammad Yone. Taichi Ishimori retained the GHC Jr title over Kenoh. Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotogi retained the GHC Jr Tag titles over Taka Michinoku & Taichi. Maybach Taniguchi & Takashi Iizuka went to a double count-out. Shelton X Benjamin beat Mitsuhiro Kitamiya. El Desperado downed Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Yoshihiro Takayama, Quiet Storm, Hajime Ohara & Genba Hirayanagi beat Yoshinari Ogawa, Akitoshi Saito, Hitoshi Kumano & Kaito Kiyomiya.
Wacky New Japan owner, Takaaki Kidani was interviewed for Weekly Gong magazine and thanks to Chris Charlton on Twitter, here are some of the highlights. “I’m starting to think I should be worried every time I hear a Japanese wrestler is taking English classes,” he quipped. Kidani said he wasn’t involved in the contract negotiations with Nakamura but noted that money wasn’t a factor of him leaving, which was an indication that Nakamura would have gone no matter what New Japan offered him. On the current top stars, he said his policy is not to get involved with the creative side, but he likes Naito and sees Shibata’s “popularity with female fans.” The last two years saw New Japan grow 15%, with 3.3 billion yen in sales ($28 million) and 350 million yen in profit ($2.995 million); New Japan’s financial year is August to July. Kidani revealed the current subscriber number for NJPW World is 35,000 worldwide and said the goal is to reach 50,000 for this year’s G1, with the long-term target being 100,000.
In other New Japan news, Tama Tonga missed the beginning of the current Road to New Beginning tour due to visa issues, however he was back working on the 2/2 show in Koga. Will Ospreay is set to start in the company at the Invasion Attack show on 10/4 and is also pencilled in for this year’s Best of the Super Juniors. Dave Meltzer noted in the Observer that they are giving away comp tickets for the New Beginning in Osaka on 11/2, which is not a good sign since the Bodymaker Coliseum is usually New Japan’s hottest building besides Korakuen Hall. The ROH/New Japan joint shows at Korakuen Hall on 19/2 and 20/2 will feature, Jay Lethal, Roderick Strong, Mark & Jay Briscoe, Moose, Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, Michael Elgin, Matt Sydal, Dalton Castle, and Delirious. The two nights a Korakuen will be Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows last dates for New Japan.
The card for the first Lion’s Gate show was announced on 1/2 at Shinjuku Face in Tokyo and a lot of the matches are New Japan vs. NOAH. (1) Takumi Honjo vs. Shuhei Taniguchi. (2) Kawato Hirai & Teruaki Kanemitsu vs. Kaito Kiyomiya & Hitoshi Kumano. (3) David Finlay Jr. vs. Taiji Ishimori. (4) Jay White vs. Yoshinari Ogawa. (5) Manabu Nakanishi vs. Quiet Storm. (6) Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Genba Hirayanagi & Captain NOAH. (7) Juice Robinson vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima. (8) Yuji Nagata vs. Mitsuhiro Kitamiya.
Yohei Komatsu and Sho Tanaka made their CMLL debut on 2/2 at Arena Coliseo in Guadalajara. Under their new names of “Fujin” and “Raijin” (it would seem Tanaka is Raijin and Komatsu in Fujin, however I’m still not 100% sure on that), they teamed with Okumura in a losing effort against Esfinge, Rey Cometa & Stuka Jr.
WWE released five contracted developmental talents on 5/2, with Bull Dempsey and Sylvester LeFort being the most high profile casualties. Also sent packing was LeFort’s much less talented former tag partner, Marcus Louis. Pro Wrestling Sheet also reported that Peter Howard and Mango (Oscar Vasquez), two guys who never made it to NXT TV, were also let go. WWE did pick up one new acquisition: Cathy Kelley, a 27 year-old presenter from Maria Menounos’ AfterBuzz network, who has experience as an interviewer from Championship Wrestling from Hollywood.
AJ Styles will make his WWE house show debut on 6/2 in San Jose, CA and also on that card is a rare Brock Lesnar house show appearance. Compare that to the show in Penticton, BC on the same night, with Kane, the Wyatts, Dean Ambrose & Big Show as the top stars and I know which show I’d rather go to.
After being sent home from TNA’s UK tour due to her physical altercation with Reby Sky last week, Awesome Kong was officially released from the company on 5/2. Kong revealed the news on Twitter, saying “My time this round in TNA was fun” and “Time for me to move on to other things.” TNA released a statement on the situation: “We conducted an investigation and determined releasing Awesome Kong is the appropriate action in this case,” said TNA Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and Television John Gaburick. “Kong has been a great contributor to TNA and helped solidify the Knockouts as the best female division in professional wrestling. We thank her and wish her well.”
The Cubsfan noted on 5/2 that Sexy Star had relinquished the AAA Mixed Tag Team Championship…on Twitter. “I renounce the [Mixed Tag Championship], to me it’s worthless, I’ve had it for so many years and never have defended it, the only result is mismatched pairs will fight in an eliminator to face Pentagon and me, I’m not interested in this belt, so I will not fight anyone to defend it, I’ll gift it, end statement.” (Translation courtesy of Cubsfan). Sexy later noted that she was not leaving AAA and her Mixed Tag Championship partner, Pentagon Jr, said he was still willing to defend the titles. Sexy Star & Pentagon won the belts back in April 2014 and have not defended the titles once in all that time. According to Cubsfan, the next two AAA tapings were set to feature a #1 contenders match for the Mixed Tag belts, with Fantasma & Taya vs Bengala & Fabi vs Shani & Pirata and the winners going on to face Sexy Star & Pentagon on the following show. Konnan, who was recently removed as AAA booker, Tweeted out his support for Sexy, which translated as, “Everything falls under its own weight… In life, who does not risk lives repentant.” Cubsfan noted that four AAA titles have been vacated in recent months, the Mega Heavyweight, the Trios, the Tag and now the Mixed Tag, and further more, the champions who haven’t relinquished their titles rarely, if ever, defend them. Taya last defended the Reina de Reinas title four months ago, which Cubsfan noted is “pretty good for a AAA title.” Psycho Clown won the Latin American title in August 2015 and has not defended it once and El Hilo del Fantasma, the World Cruiserweight champions, hasn’t defended the belt since March 2015.
The RAW ratings were down significantly this week and set another record low for a non-holiday, post-football season, show. In an 18% loss from last week’s show the day after the Royal Rumble with the Rock, they averaged 3.37 million viewers over the three hours, with the previous low being 3.46 million on June 29th 2015. 8pm did 3.59 million. 9pm drew 3.46 million and 10pm dropped to 3.09. TNA iMPACT was down slightly, with 295,000 viewers at 9pm and 112,000 for the midnight replay. Last week iMPACT did a combined 442,000 for the 9pm and midnight shows, while this week the combined number was 407,000.