Cubed Circle Newsletter 223 – Good ‘ol Uncle Paul
After a slow news week packed with university commitments we are back with the 223rd issue of the Cubed Circle Newsletter looking at news from the week in wrestling, the most important item perhaps being the announcement of the ‘Global Cruiserweight Series’, as well as Mania direction and Weekend activities. Plus, Ben also discusses RAW from Monday, the go-home show for Fastlane, and a stacked edition of Mid-South wrestling from 1982!
The Pro-Wres Digest for February 14th – February 20th.
WWE sent out a press release on 16/2 announcing a new concept for the Network with the “Global Cruiserweight Series”. The new show will be taped at Full Sail University and is set to premier on July 13th at 9pm EST after NXT on Wednesday evening. The series will run until September 14th and will feature 32 wrestlers, all of whom have to be under 205lbs. Two of the most high profile indie names that were at the WWE try-out camp this week were Cedric Alexander & Tony Nesse and most of the people being looked at during the try-outs were for the new cruiserweight series. Triple H did an interview with, of all things, Channel Guide Magazine to promote the ten-week single elimination tournament. “I’ve always felt that there was this opportunity to do something special with cruiserweights,” Trips told the illustrious publication. He also noted that William Regal had been “out there is every corner of the globe trying to find not only ones who people are aware are the best, but others who nobody is aware of quite yet.” Good ‘ol fun loving uncle Paul said he was, “open to working with other groups that are out there such as Progress, Evolve, Rev Pro and places like that” and noted that “it’s an opportunity to be on a platform to be seen by millions around the world and become much bigger stars. He did mention guys under contract to New Japan and commented that, “I don’t think they are going to have the opportunity to perform in this type of tournament,” and the same almost certainly applies to ROH and Lucha Underground contracted talent. Trips also hinted that there could be some potential signings coming out of the series: “It would be crazy for me to say we are going to bring in 32 guys from around the world and not look at ones we want working for WWE,” he said. Levesque claimed that they, “look for anything and everything” when it comes to hiring talent and added, “it’s really about what people get into and gravitate towards, whether positively or negatively. Reaction is reaction.” Instead of just shutting up after this statement, Trips continued and stated, “People criticize [sic] John Cena for the longest time when half the place is booing him. He’s the most over guy we have. He gets the biggest reaction every night, for a long period of time, and that’s what this is about.” Of course the serious investigative journalists at Channel Guide Magazine failed to bring up that the only reason why Cena is still the most over guy is because Vince McMahon is completely senile and has been utterly incapable of making new stars for nearly a decade. If you want a good chuckle, Trips played up the potential for any of the guys they bring in to be a part of the 32 man tourney to become a huge star and actually stated: “People will say we are a ‘Big Man’ company, but then you see the success of a Rey Mysterio.”
Chris Nowinski was interviewed by Fox Sports’, Alex Marvez, on 16/2 and he commented on Bryan Danielson’s retirement last week. In the story, Marvez reported that Nowinski had spoken to Danielson, however he was unaware how much of an influence his words had on Danielson’s decision to retire.
“I felt extraordinary sympathy for Daniel. It’s tough to walk away when you feel like you could still perform. In a sense, I was lucky because I had headaches I couldn’t kick and other problems that told me I shouldn’t go out and do (wrestling) again. He didn’t have that. He had to really dig deep to find the justification to walk away from the job he loved.
“It has been very interesting to watch the process. I’ve read that he was upset about WWE’s decision, but he saw other doctors and WWE really encouraged him to find another path because they recognized his brain was injured too much.”
Triple H speaks regularly with Nowinski about the WWE’s concussion protocol. Triple H is on the board of Nowinski’s Concussion Legacy Institute and the WWE made a $1.2 million donation to the non-profit organization in 2013. On the subject of wrestlers potentially hiding head injuries in the light of the Danielson situation, Nowinski said, “I’ve always said it’s a shame to lose talent to doing what I did, which is lying about concussions and having my career end early.” However, Nowinski believes guys will be, “more likely to report concussions” due to the potential ramifications later in life if brain trauma is ignored.
Following the retirement of her husband, Bryan Danielson, last week, Brie Bella was on ABC’s Good Morning America on 16/2 and commented that she would also be retiring soon. “Feeling and seeing everything he went through with his retirement, I just feel that it’s time for me to hang up the boots. It’s gonna be hard on me as well, but that day is definitely very close,” Brie noted. It seems like Brie will be staying at least through WrestleMania, as it was revealed that her retirement is expected to be announced, “sometime this summer.”
John Cena has been sending out Tweets all week, potentially teasing an early return from his rotator cuff surgery. On 15/2 he sent out, “Gamble, take risky action in hope of a desired result. Time to gamble I think. It’s gonna be a risky next two weeks.” The plan before Cena got hurt, h, was for a Cena vs. Undertaker match at WrestleMania, however in this week’s issue, Dave Meltzer stated that Undertaker’s match for Mania is set and it will not be against Cena. The opponent is said to be “someone who is not on the roster right now,” which has led to a lot of speculation regarding guys like Sting, Shawn Michaels and, even more absurdly, Steve Austin. Austin & Michaels have stated numerous times that neither of them are interested in doing a comeback match and at 57 years-old with spinal stenosis, putting Sting in the ring could be a huge PR disaster after the high profile retirement of Daniel Bryan.
Pro Wrestling Sheet reported on 16/2 that Wade Barrett would not be signing a new contract once his current deal runs out in June. Ryan Satin of the Sheet noted that Barrett told WWE officials of his decision to leave was down to him no longer enjoying his current role in the company, which is completely understandable. In the Observer, Dave Meltzer commented that “Barrett had been interested in being a soccer analyst in the UK,” which would be a tough deal to sell. There is simply no way that the big TV companies like Sky or BT Sport would ever even entertain the idea of bringing in a retired pro wrestler to be a regular football analyst, as that job is exclusively reserved for high profile former players. I suppose Barrett could land a gig with one of the tabloids like The Sun or the Daily Star, both of which cover pro wrestling in a semi-serious manner, as a football columnist of some sort. However the likelihood of seeing Barrett on Monday Night Football with Jamie Carragher, on Super Sunday with Thierry Henry, or on Match of the Day with Alan Shearer is infinitesimal.
Aside from Kenny Omega becoming the IWGP Intercontinental champion, there were a couple more notable title changes in Japan last week. On 12/2 at Korakuen Hall, Kento Miyahara pinned Zeus in 23:20 to win the vacant All Japan Triple Crown which Suwama had to relinquish after he ruptured his Achilles tendon. Miyahara, 26, became the youngest Triple Crown champion in history with the victory and Takao Omori came out afterwards as the first challenger in Miyahara’s first title defence. On 14/2 at Hataka Star Lanes in Fukuoka, Jimmy Susumu pinned Shingo Takagi in 29:40 to become the Open the Dream Gate champion for the second time, ten years after he first won the title in 2006. Apparently there was a spot where YAMATO tried to throw salt in Susumu’s eyes which went awry, so after the match Shingo challenged Susumu to a rematch and said YAMATO would be kicked out of VERSERK if he didn’t win the title back.
Mike Johnson of PWInsider reported on 18/2 that a few NXT acts expected to be at the “March to WrestleMania” live Network special on 12/3 from the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. According to Johnson, Sami Zayn, Scott Dawson, Dash Wilder, Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady are currently scheduled for the event, however things can, and probably will, change.
In more NXT news, Finn Balor returned from his ankle injury which he suffered performing the double foot stomp during a match with Samoa Joe in Nashville, TN on 5/2. Balor teamed with Austin Aries in the main event of the 18/2 show in Philadelphia and beat Samoa Joe & Baron Corbin when Balor pinned Corbin with the Bloody Sunday. Also on that show, Asuka was tasked with working an eight minute match with Eva Marie and according to reports, Asuka sold for 90% of the match and most of Eva’s offence looked horrendous.
Some ECW on TNN episodes have been added to the vault section of the WWE Network. Currently only seven shows are up and as usual there are a couple of episodes missing in the chronology. There are six episodes from 1999, starting with first show from August 27th, through to episode 8 from October 15th; for whatever reason, episodes 3 & 5 have been omitted. There is also one show from January 7th 2000 (episode 20) that has been added as well. ECW ran for 59 weeks on TNN before being cancelled in the summer of 2000 due to what the network claimed were sub-par ratings, however Viacom, TNN’s parent company, at the same time were in talks with the WWF to acquire Monday Night RAW after the WWF’s deal with the USA Network had expired. The first episode of RAW to air on TNN was on September 25th 2000 and ECW finishes up their run on the network 11 days later, with their final show airing on October 6th 2000.
According to Dave Meltzer in the Observer, “all financial issues between Rey Mysterio Jr with both Lucha Underground and AAA have gotten up to date.” However, Meltzer ran afoul of Lucha Underground executive producer, Eric Van Wagenen with a particular claim in the Observer about the LU’s financial situation. Meltzer talked about the company having a year to raise money and sign deals for a fourth season, since this year’s season is all paid for and will wrap up taping in May and they will have TV in the can until the summer of 2017. The line which seems to have caused the most controversy was, “According to one company source, the amount of money lost thus far is, after two seasons, slightly less than half of what TNA had lost after ten years in business.” Van Wagenen responded with a pair of Tweets on 18/2, stating: “The rumours of @LuchaElRey‘s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Perhaps check with a real source instead of the same old disgruntled one?” and, “The network gives us a seasonal production budget and we produce the show for exactly that, not a penny more. Thats how TV works @LuchaElRey.” Van Wagenen, who has worked on CBS’ The Amazing Race and NBC’s The Apprentice, has been in the TV industry for over ten years and you can’t really blame him for taking exception to being compared with TNA.
There was an update on Bret Hart’s surgery in this week’s Observer. Hart underwent surgery on 10/2 in Calgary and had his prostate completely removed after revealing he had prostate cancer on 1/2 on his Facebook. The report in the Observer stated that the cancer was contained and there is no need for Hart to undergo chemotherapy and he is expected to make a full recovery. Bret posed a picture on Instagram after the surgery and was surrounded by his family at his bedside. He wrote, “Surgery’s over and on the long road to recovery. I want to thank Dr. Hyndman and the nursing staff at Rocky View Hospital for an outstanding job.”
The Baltimore Chief Medical Examiner determined the cause of Brian “Axl Rotten” Knighton’s death was an accidental overdose. At 3:09pm on 4/2, Knighton was found unconscious and unresponsive on the floor of a McDonald’s bathroom in Linthicum, MD and police found drug paraphernalia, including a burnt tablespoon with a “crystalline residue,”and capsules of a brown substance, most likely heroin. Knighton had battled drug addiction for years and was reportedly doing well until the death of his close friend, Hack Myers, in December 2015, which according to many people close to him, Knighton took very hard.
Global Force Wrestling has landed their first TV deal; in New Zealand. National broadcaster, TVNZ, are launching a new channel aimed primarily at males called, “DUKE” and they recently released a launch promo which includes footage from the GFW, Amped show.
The RAW ratings were down this week and it was the second lowest viewed non-holiday, non-football season show since March 1997. The 15/2 RAW show did 3.462,000 viewers (beating out the low record they set on 1/2 with 3,371,000), although the number could have been much worse given that they were up against the Grammy Awards, which did a monster 24,951,000 viewers, and the third hour of RAW was absolutely abysmal; headlined by Big Show vs. Braun Strowman. 8pm did 3,661,000. 9pm did 3,537,000. 10pm did 3,233,000. SmackDown on 10/2 with the AJ Styles/Chris Jericho rematch did 2,414,000 with a 1.72 rating. IMPACT on 16/2 did 273,000 at 9pm and 87,000 for the midnight replay. The combined viewership of 360,000 is the lowest number since TNA’s debut on PopTV 359,000 on 4/1. The 8pm debut of Lucha Underground set a new record for El Ray with 152,000, up 27,000 from last week’s 136,000.
WWE Fastlane is this Sunday from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. The card is as follows:
1) US Championship, 2-out-of-3 falls: Kalisto (C) vs. Alberto Del Rio (Pre-show)
2) Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks vs. Naomi & Tamina.
3) Diva’s Championship: Charlotte (C) vs. Brie Bella.
4) IC Championship: Kevin Owens (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler.
5) Ryback, Big Show & Kane vs. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman.
6) AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho.
7) #1 Contenders for the WWE title: Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns.
If like myself, you aren’t too sure about some of the dates and start times of all of the events over WrestleMania weekend, here is the full schedule of events for all the goings on in Dallas.
March 31st (Thursday):
6pm: WWE Axxess.
6pm: NWA Parade of Champions (Ridglea Theater, Ft. Worth, TX).
April 1st (Friday):
9am – 5pm: Wrestlecon Session One (Hyatt Regency).
4pm: WWNLive Experience: EVOLVE (Eddie Deen’s Ranch).
5pm: WWE Axxess.
7:30pm: Ring of Honor “Supercard of Honor” (Hyatt Regency).
8pm: WWNLive Experience: Combat Zone Wrestling (Eddie Deen’s Ranch).
10pm: WWE NXT Takeover: Dallas (Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Centre Arena).
12am: WWNLive Experience: Kaiju Big Battel (Eddie Deen’s Ranch).
April 2nd (Saturday):
8am: WrestleMania Axxess Session One.
9am – 5pm: Wrestlecon Session Two (Hyatt Regency).
12pm: WWNLive Experience: EVOLVE (Eddie Deen’s Ranch).
1pm: WrestleMania Axxess Session Two.
2pm: Ring of Honor TV Taping (Hyatt Regency).
4pm: WWNLive Experience: SHIMMER (Eddie Deen’s Ranch).
4pm: Jim Ross One Man Show (Dallas House of Blues).
6pm: WrestleMania Axxess Session Three.
6:30pm: WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony (American Airlines Centre).
8pm: Wrestlecon Supershow (Hyatt Regency).
8pm: WWNLive Experience: Mercury Rising Supershow (Eddie Deen’s Ranch).
11pm: Jim Ross One Man Show (Dallas House of Blues).
12am: WWNLive Experience: Wrap Up Party (Eddie Deen’s Ranch).
April 3rd (Sunday):
8am: WWE Axxess.
10:30am: Wrestlecon “Mania Memories” Brunch (Hyatt Regency).
11am – 5pm: WWNLive Experience: Tailgate Party & BBQ hosted by Terry Funk.
2pm: Wrestlecon Party Bus to AT&T Stadium for WrestleMania.
5pm: WrestleMania 32 (AT&T Stadium).
April 4th (Monday):
6:15pm: Monday Night Raw (American Airlines Arena).
11pm: Jim Ross One Man Show (Dallas House of Blues).