Cubed Circle Newsletter 224 – Here Comes The…Our Preposterous Booking Idea
In this week’s newsletter we look at what was a crazy week for pro-wrestling, with the announcement of a WrestleMania 32 mainevent well beyond the imagination of even the most insane of fantasy bookers and fan-fiction writers, we take a look at Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Tomohiro Ishii, and Katsuyori Shibata’s attempts at brain damage, Sami Callihan versus Mike Bailey, NJPW New Beginnings, WWE Fastlane and RAW in-depth, translations from the Shinsuke Nakamura WWE press-conference and more!
– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor
The Pro-Wres Digest for February 21st – February 27th.
The deal with Shane McMahon coming back to the WWE was put together about four weeks ago, according to Dave Meltzer in this week’s Observer. The original idea of John Cena vs. the Undertaker went out the window when it became clear Cena would not be back from his shoulder surgery in time for WrestleMania and the plan to go with Shane vs. Taker was put into place. Meltzer reported that as of right now the deal with Shane is purely as a short-term on-screen talent, however that could all change depending on the direction they go in after WrestleMania. If Shane plans on sticking around, you would imagine that he would get some kind of role in the business side of the company. Before leaving the WWE in October 2009, Shane had many roles in the company which he started working in when he was just 15 years-old. He sold merchandise, was a referee, a producer, spent some time as a faceless goon on TV who would show up to pull apart wild brawls, became an announcer on Sunday Night Heat in August 1998 and was terrible, then soon transitioned into a real TV character and joined his father’s heel stable, The Corporation, at Survivor Series 1998. Shane then started wrestling matches and got over by jumping off the Titantron, taking stupid bumps that nobody else was allowed to take and also by using all the established main eventers‘ finishing moves. Shane’s major role as an executive in WWE was as the President of New Media and Executive Vice President of Global Media and was very progressive when it came to internet marketing and exposure, as well as international deals. But Shane, since he was a young child, obviously believed he would one day take over his father’s empire and was always looking for a chance to prove himself to Vince as a competent promoter. He pushed for the WWF to buy the UFC from Semaphore in 1997 and did the same for ECW in late 2000 when the company was on its deathbed. Each time Vince put the kibosh on the deals, seeing both as money-losers. When ECW was reprised in 2006, Shane wanted to run it as a separate, internet exclusive brand, however with no WWE Network back then, Vince sold the show to SyFy and Shane was left out in the cold again. He even tried to buy Pride and Strikeforce when both companies were struggling, however both deals fell through and the UFC came in to purchase the properties. After leaving the WWE, Shane became the CEO of You On Demand in 2010 and tried to get VOD and PPV off the ground in China. It did not go well at all and as of the end of 2014, the company had lost $71,904,000. You On Demand received a $10 million investment from Bruno Wu’s Sun Seven Stars Media Group Ltd and Wu replaced Shane as the chairman of You On Demand, however Shane is still Vice Chairman of the Board and remains on the board of directors.
If the boy wonder is staying around after WrestleMania, that throws up the question of what they do for the finish of the Shane/Undertaker Hell in a Cell match. Shane McMahon pinning the Undertaker just seems like a completely stupid idea. There has been a lot of talk of Shane getting a surrogate to replace him, which I cannot see happening in a million years, and a lot of fantasy booking, including Undertaker lying down for the “good of the company,” which I don’t see going down to well in front of the WrestleMania crowd. People have also suggested Shane could turn heel and join the Authority, which is possibly the most egregious of all since the last thing we need is more heel authority figures on TV. Then there is the option of Shane beating Taker somehow and them doing another brand extension, with Shane in charge of RAW and HHH running SmackDown. I really don’t know what the best option is here, as they simply do not have the talent depth to split the roster. They could always call up a bunch of guys from NXT, lord knows there are enough talented guys down in Florida who deserve to be on the main roster, however now that they are pushing NXT as a major touring brand it would not do them any favours to deplete the star power of the NXT roster just to patch up a weak brand split. One thing is for sure though; WrestleMania looks a lot more interesting now than it did after the FastLane PPV went off the air last Sunday.
Kota Ibushi announced at a press conference in Tokyo on 22/2 that he would not be signing new deals with New Japan or DDT and would be starting his own promotion, called, Ibushi Pro Wrestling Kenkyujo (Ibushi Pro
Wrestling Research Institute). Ibushi noted that he had recovered from his neck surgery and the doctors had given him the okay to compete. He said continuing to work for two companies made him start to feel like he would be
approaching his limits, “both physically and emotionally” and added that, “I do feel like I’ve done everything I can with my current style.” Ibushi stated that he requested his release from DDT and New Japan in order to, “pursue new possibilities, new adventures in pro wrestling just grow stronger [sic],” and noted, “I personally consider it to be a ‘graduation’ from these companies.” Ibushi will be working the DDT show at Sumo Hall on 21/3 in a Falls Count Anywhere Weapon Treasure Hunt Match which sees Ibushi & Gota Ihashi vs. Sanshiro Takagi & Jun Kasai vs. KENSO & Michael Nakazawa. DDT founder, Sanshiro Takagi commented on Ibushi’s decision and said, “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit sad, but I have high hopes for Ibushi. I know he can get more eyes watching wrestling and explore new possibilities for it. That’s why myself & DDT really want this departure to be an amicable one, and that’s why we accepted his release.” New Japan chairman, Naoki Sugabayashi also made a brief statement on the situation: “We look forward to what new things Ibushi will do. We still welcome Ibushi back to work for NJPW whenever his schedule will allow it.” Ibushi was asked about his thoughts on Sugabayashi welcoming him back to New Japan and said, “If I have the opportunity, or the right time comes, then I will.” Also, he was asked if there was anything he still wished to accomplish in DDT or New Japan and noted, “Not really. I’m already focused on what’s next, what’s new.” With WWE running the Global Cruiserweight Series in July, you would think now that Ibushi is a free agent he will almost certainly be offered a spot in the tourney.
WWE held a press conference on 22/2 in Tokyo at the Hard Rock Cafe to officially announce the signing of Shinsuke Nakamura. It was a big deal in Japan with over a hundred reporters and photographers in attendance. The big news is that Nakamura requested to keep his real name and ring attire, however his entrance music will be changed and he said he had been working with the people who were composing his new music. Nakamura was also interviewed for the Japanese WWE website afterwards. Some of the highlights included a story about how Matt Bloom invited him over to his house to watch the Superbowl, but Nakamura ended up at Fergal Devitt’s house with other foreigners who don’t care for American Football.
He spoke about wanting to wrestle Daniel Bryan when signing with WWE and talked about being room-mates with Danielson and Lyoto Machida in 2003. Nakamura joked that now that he can’t wrestle Bryan, he would like to have dinner with him and joked he would ask him if he would like to be his manager. He also noted he and Hideo Itami had been out for Vietnamese food and said he and Hideo could become friends if Itami can accept a “lazy, irresponsible goof like me!” The plan at the minute seems to be for Nakamura to remain in NXT for at least a few months, but as we’ve seen with Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and even Samoa Joe, some guys end up spending way too much time in developmental than is necessary. WWE are paying Nakamura significantly more than anyone else in NXT and, according to Dave Meltzer, he’s making “WWE headliner money” to work in NXT. – Thanks to @e_key_oide for the translations.
Sexy Starr, after vacating one half of the AAA Mixed Tag Team title on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, no showed the TV taping in Queretaro on 19/2 and her ex-championship partner, Pentagon Jr successfully defended the Mixed Tag titles on his own againist Daga & Taya. Post-match, Pentagon announced that he was also vacating the Mixed Tag Team championship because he no longer had a partner. While the show was going on, Sexy was on Twitter talking about how much fun she was having at home and tweeted about putting her kids to bed. Dorian Roldan also went on Twitter and said, “Only the best win and give up their titles which they know it’s correct,” which was clearly a shot at Sexy for not showing up. Dave Meltzer noted in the Observer that Roldan told the rest of the locker room that Sexy had called the office and informed them she was retiring from wrestling all together. Sexy Starr is one of the major characters on Lucha Underground, so one would imagine that she will continue to work the TV tapings for season three, that is of course if there is no residual heat from her basically walking out and leaving AAA high and dry. Another note from the 19/2 show is that Konnan was not there either and the booking of the show definitely reflected the company’s new/old direction. Villano IV won a Rey de Reyes qualifier over Chessman, Electroshock & Jack Evans, the latter being one of Konnan’s guys and Evans was eliminated from the match first. La Parka went over in another Rey de Reyes qualifier, beating Zorro, Averno & Psycho Clown, who had been pushed as one of the top techincos under Konnan’s tenure with the pencil. At the moment, the Rey de Reyes final is Villano IV vs. La Parka vs. Blue Demon Jr vs. the winner of the final qualifier on 4/3.
Tokyo Sports reported on 22/2 that Kaname Tezuka had stepped down as president of New Japan Pro Wrestling and would be replaced by Katsuhiko Harada. According to Chris Charlton, Tezuka was brought into “tighten the New Japan ship” after Bushi Road purchased the company in January 2012 and was only supposed to be in the role for an interim period of time. “This is Bushi’s phase 2 beginning”, noted Charlton on Twitter. Tezuka oversaw a very successful period of growth for New Japan from 2012-2015, however Bushi Road chairman and NJPW owner, Takaaki Kidani went on record with some absurdly lofty claims about how he wanted New Japan to become a global company like WWE & UFC, which of course was never going to happen. Kidani recently announced that the New Japan World streaming and on demand service is only at 35,000 world-wide subscribers and with houses being down, plus the loss of Nakamura, Styles, Gallows, Anderson and now Ibushi, the image, at least from the outside, is that New Japan is a company on the decline. Whether or not this had anything to do with Tezuka’s resignation is unknown, however most of the press conferences and public deals have been handled by Chairman, Naoki Sugabayashi or Kidani himself so it wouldn’t make much sense for Tezuka to be the scapegoat when he had very little to do with New Japan’s public imagine. In more positive New Japan news, Pro Wrestling Sheet’s Ryan Satin reported on 20/2 that Michael Elgin has signed a two year contract with the company. With WWE snapping up all the free agents they can, inking Elgin to a two year deal is a smart move, as he has got over well with the Japanese fans and could easily be built up for an IC, or IWGP title shot down the line. Elgin will still be able to work ROH, PWG, and any other US indies he wants in between tours of Japan.
The joint New Japan ROH shows drew a combined 3,085 fans for the two nights at Korakuen Hall last week. The 19/2 show did 1,367 fans for the show headlined by Tomohiro Ishii defeating Roderick Strong for the ROH TV title, which was an excellent **** match and the best on either of the shows. 20/2 was a sellout of 1,718 and the main event saw Jay Lethal retain the ROH World title over Tomoaki Honma in a good match, but they couldn’t touch what Ishii and Strong did the night before. Also on the 20/2 show, Kenny Omega & the Young Bucks beat Toru Yano & the Briscoes to win the NEVER Trios titles, which makes it the third time the new belts have changed hands in just over six weeks since they were introduced on January 4th. Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows worked their final dates in Japan, as they put over the Briscoes on 19/2 and their last ever New Japan match was an eight-man tag with Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale against Shibata, Goto & reDRagon.
Lucha Underground will be running their first live event outside of the Temple in Boyle Heights on 15/3 during the famous SXSW (South by Southwest) music, film and art festival in Austin, TX. Producers and wrestlers will be involved in a panel discussion before the show at the Four Seasons Ballroom from 2-3pm and the actual wrestling show will be in the evening at the 4,000 seat Austin Music Hall. Admission is free, however to attend SXSW you can choose different types of passes (music, film, interactive, all inclusive) ranging from $695-$1745 to attend whatever events you choose over the ten day festival from March 11th-20th, so you would think Lucha Underground will receive some kind of financial benefit for running a festival with such high ticket prices.
Joey Ryan proposed to his real-life girlfriend, Laura James, during a match the two were having as opponents on 20/2 in San Diego, CA at a Finest City Wrestling show. The spot saw the referee take a bump and Ryan went to pull a gimmick out of his bag, however instead of nailing James with the dreaded foreign object he dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him. James accepted and the two hugged then Ryan, in a spot that James was clearly not expecting, performed a Small Package on her and stole the pin. The YouTube video is already passed 1.1 million views after just five days and the story was picked up by plenty of major news outlets including the BBC, Fox Sports and, of all things, Russia Today.
Pro Wrestling NOAH drew 1,059 fans to Korakuen Hall on 24/2 for their Second Navigation show, which saw Katsuhiko Nakajima become only the second man, after Naomichi Marufuji on 23/12/15, to pin Minoru Suzuki clean. Nakajima called out Takashi Sugiura and challenged him for the GHC Heavyweight title at the next big show, Great Voyage 2016 in Korakuen on March 19th at Korakuen Hall. TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) will be returning for what appears to be their last tour of NOAH, starting in Tokyo on March 2nd. As of right now, their final advertised date is on 10/3 for a show at Korakuen Hall in the semi-main event against Marufuji & Kitamiya. Also on the 24/2, the newest member of Suzuki-Gun, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, defeated Taiji Ishimori for the GHC Jr Heavyweight title after the usual interference. Marufuji, Shiozaki & Taniguchi beat Sugiura & the Killer Elite Squad and Taniguchi announced that he and Shiozaki would challenge KES for the GHC Tag Team titles on 19/3.
The Arizona State Athletic Commission gave the green light to the wacky ur.tv show for 20/3 this week. Currently advertised for the iPPV is: Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio in a pro wrestling match, Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping in a grapping match, Ken Shamrock vs. Dan Severn in an MMA fight and, most preposterously of all, Roy Jones Jr vs. a fan in a boxing match.
WWE have been playing up Roman Reigns undergoing “surgery” after suffering a “shattered nose” during the main event angle of RAW with HHH. Reigns posted a laughable picture of himself “post-surgery” with a nose protector taped on his face and some cotton shoved up his nostril. The photo also had a heavy filter on which made it kind of hazy in a lame attempt to stop people from figuring out this whole thing is a work. During the beat-down angle, HHH smashed Reigns face into the announce table numerous times and Reigns appeared to bleed all over the place. Video footage later showed Byron Saxton handing a blood packet off to Reigns, just before HHH started attacking his nose. The infamous Dr Chris Amann was quoted for the angle and said, “Reigns will continue to undergo observation as he recuperates but a timetable for his return to action has not yet been discussed.”
The RAW ratings were up 11% this week. The show with the return of Shane McMahon did a 2.72 rating, with 3,869,000 viewers. 8pm did 4,201,000 viewers. 9pm did 4,055,000. 10pm fell drastically to 3,396,000. SmackDown on 18/2 with Brock Lesnar first appearance on the show in 12 years did a 1.76 rating, with 2,458,000 viewers, which was up 44,000 viewers from the previous week. Lucha Underground was down from their record 152,000 last week, with 99,000 viewers for the 8pm premier. The 9pm replay did 62,000, which was up 10,000 from last week’s 9pm airing and makes a total 161,000 combined viewers. TNA’s LockDown show on 23/2 was down 18% from last week and drew the smallest audience on PopTV to date, with the 9pm first-run doing 210,000 and the midnight replay doing 87,000, for a combined 297,000 viewers.