Cubed Circle Newsletter 228 – New Names, New Formats
We are back with a super issue this week with Cross Armbreaker writer Paul Cooke joining the writing team with a discussion of homogeneity in pro-wrestling, Ben returns with a new and improved Pro-Wres Digest format covering all of the week’s biggest stories including wacky Daniel Bryan news, TNA departures, recent EVOLVE shows, UR Fight and more! Plus, coverage of the penultimate, and expectedly drab, RAW on the Road to WrestleMania!
The Pro-Wres Digest for March 20th – March 26th.
The WWE house show at Madison Square Garden on 25/3 was supposed to be “Daniel Bryan Appreciation Night,” however Bryan has been pulled from the show, as well as being removed from some other dates he was scheduled to appear at. Ticket holders for the MSG show were sent a letter with a statement citing a, “scheduling conflict” and were informed that Bryan’s Appreciation Night had been postponed. Bryan is also out of WrestleMania weekend, where he was scheduled to appear at Axxess, however now Shawn Michaels will now be replacing him, and he is off the upcoming European tour in April too. The latest on the situation is that WWE officials noted that Bryan had requested time off, which he was granted, however Brie Bella was not at TV this week either and the speculation and gossip mongers went into overdrive with wacky theories about what the real story is. Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet reported on 25/3 that Brie Bella would be retiring “following the RAW after WrestleMania” and noted that Bryan had been pulled from his appearances to do a “health issue.” Satin’s report claimed that it is unclear what the issue with Bryan is, but according to his “sources” the “health issue” is the reason why Brie was not at TV this week and a major reason why she is moving her retirement up from the summer to after Mania. Apparently, Brie will still be featured on Total Divas and will continue to work for the company in an ambassadorial role.
WWE’s injury plague took down another performer on 21/3, during a post-RAW dark match. Luke Harper’s knee gave out during the Wyatts vs. Ambrose, Ziggler & Zayn and he collapsed in the ring. The injury actually occurred while Harper was on offence and throwing some punches in the corner, when his right leg suddenly gave out and he crumpled in a heap. At the time of writing there is no update on Harper’s status or whether he requires surgery.
TMDK (The Mighty Don’t Kneel), Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste, are headed to the WWE Performance Centre after signing developmental deals. An article on WWE.com broke the news about the Australian duos arrival on 25/3 and mentions that they won the 2013 Tokyo Sports Award for Best Tag Team. Nicholls & Haste finished up their run in NOAH earlier this month and should be arriving at the PC in the very near future.
Do you have at least five years of experience in TV/Film writing? Are you plugged into pop culture and the WWE product, as well as its fan-base? If so, you could be eligible for the new writers position that WWE are advertising on their corporate website. That’s right, these bozos are looking for MORE writers to come on board and come up with a bunch of ideas that Vince McMahon will inevitably change. The position is listed as a “temp” job, which given the rate of turnover with people coming in and out of Creative is quite amusing.
After twelve years of sticking by the company through thick and thin, Bobby Roode and Eric Young have left TNA Wrestling. Mike Johnson of PW Insider broke the news on 19/3 and he noted that the two asked for their releases from the terminal promotion and finished up their commitments for TNA at the iMPACT tapings on 20/3. Both men dropped their respective TNA “championships” at the tapings, with Beer Money losing the Tag “titles” to Decay and Young dropping the King of the Mountain belt to Bram. In typical haphazard TNA fashion, they paid James Storm an inordinate amount of money to bring him back and reform Beer Money only a couple of months ago and now Roode is the one who could potentially end up in NXT. Dave Meltzer noted in this week’s Observer that Roode’s contract ran out on 8/3 and according to sources, TNA had the chance to renew Roode’s deal however due to “business reasons” they were unable to increase Roode’s salary. The situation with Young was a similar deal, as Meltzer reported that Young felt after twelve years as a solidly pushed talent he deserved more money than he would have got from signing a new deal. Both men have done interviews since leaving TNA; Roode was interviewed for the 21/3 Peterborough Examiner newspaper:
“After almost 13 years in a wrestling company, I felt like there was nothing really left for me to do there. I wanted to mutually part ways. I have nothing negative to say about TNA Wrestling. They treated me very, very well. It was just a matter of me being in a part of my life where I’m not sure TNA was the right fit for me anymore. The brand has been stale for the last little while and the growth wasn’t there as it was in the early years.”
Eric Young appeared on Busted Open Radio, also on 21/3, and his comments were surprisingly less diplomatic than Roode’s:
“Things don’t end because they’re good. People don’t get divorced because they’re having an amazing love life and still love each other and things are great. Things end because they’re not the way they’re supposed to be. Things weren’t the way they’re supposed to be for me in my opinion, so it was time for me to step away and do something else.”
Young had been a very staunch and vocal defender of TNA in the past, so for him to quit the company after twelve years and to compare the split to a “divorce” should tell you just how sorry of a state TNA is really in. Roode is 39 and Young is 36, so the window for them to try and make it elsewhere is closing fast. NXT would seem like a perfect fit for Roode, however I don’t see Young fitting in anywhere. New Japan is surely out of the question and Lucha Underground doesn’t seem like the right place either. There’s always Mexico, although AAA is in very bad shape at the minute and CMLL usually are not in the business of bringing in a semi-well known Americans – at least not in any type of main event role. Again, NXT would appear to be the logical destination for Roode, and maybe even Young, since NXT will need some new blood when the current crop of main eventers are eventually called up to the main roster.
Things aren’t all bad on the TNA talent front, depending on how you look at things, as the company announced five new signings this week. Jessie Guilmette (Pepper Parks), Laura Dennis (Cherry Bomb), Marshe Rockett (a Chicago independent guy), Thomas LaRuffa & Mikael Vierege (who were Sylvester Lefort & Marcus Louis in NXT).
In addition to being awarded $115 million by the jury in the Gawker trail, Hulk Hogan was granted a further $25 million in punitive damages on 22/3. That’s a total of $140 million that Gawker have been ordered to pay, although it is highly unlikely that the real figure Hogan ends up getting will be anywhere close to that. Still, Hogan is set to walk away from the case with a considerable chunk of cheddar and the verdict sets a precedent for other scummy websites like Gawker who have no respect for personal privacy. Gawker founder, Nick Denton, couldn’t keep his mouth shut even after having his ass handed to him by the Flordia jury as he posted a blog on the Gawker site, which is in fact still active for the time being. Denton called the decision to award Hogan $140 million, “extraordinary,” and, “a huge pay-day for an indiscretion that would have been quickly forgotten, one among many in the professional wrestler’s personal life.” So basically his argument is that Hogan has done plenty of stupid things in his life – true – and therefore his sex tape should have been posted on the internet without his consent for the whole world to laugh at – false.
The Indie Scene:
William Regal was at both Evolve shows over the weekend in New York and he announced on 19/3 that qualification matches for the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series will take place at upcoming Evolve shows. Evolve 56 was on 19/3 from Queens, NY and the results are as follows: (1) TJ Perkins over Sami Callihan in 16:45. (2) Ethan Page over Jack Gallow in 4:18. (3) Drew Gulak submitted Fred Yehi in 15:10. (4) Chris Hero beat Tracy Williams in 22:00. (5) The Premier Athlete Brand over Team Tremendous in 9:39. (6) Zack Sabre Jr submitted Johnny Gargano in 22:45.
(7) Evolve Title Match: Timothy Thatcher retained over Matt Riddle in 8:45. I didn’t see the show, however most reports have Hero/Williams and Sabre/Gargano at ****+, so there are at least two good reasons to check the show out. The main event seemed to leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths however, as Thatcher retained the Evolve title over Matt Riddle in a very short match after a low-blow and a headbutt. It was almost certainly a move to protect Riddle but all I have heard is that the show ended on a very flat note after such a promising match ended so cheaply.
I did see the Evolve 57 show from Brooklyn, NY on 20/3 and it was your typical solid Evolve show with some very fun moments. (1) Ethan Page pinned Fred Yehi in 5:12 (**). (2) TJ Perkins submitted Tommaso Ciampa in 14:30 (***¼). (3) Matt Riddle submitted Chris Hero in 15:30 (****). (4) Evolve Title Match: Timothy Thatcher retained over Caleb Konley in 25:05 (**½). (5) Sami Callihan pinned Tracy Williams in 19:59 (***). (6) Zack Sabre Jr. submitted Drew Gulak in 27:12 (****). (7) Evolve Tag Team Title Match: Johnny Gargano & Drew Galloway retained over Team Tremendous in 16:47 (***¾). Hero/Riddle and Sabre/Gulak are worth the $14.99 alone, however the rest of the show had some clunky moments and several matches would have been better off five minutes shorter. In particular, Thatcher/Konley and Callihan/Williams. Nevertheless, Evolve’s three big shows over WrestleMania weekend look absolutely stacked; Evolve 59 and the WWN Mercury Rising Supershow feature several matches that have the potential to be the best of the entire weekend.
One guy who will not be working upcoming Evolve shows or any other US indies for a long time is Speedball Mike Bailey. The Ontario native was supposed to work the Evolve shows over the weekend, however he got stopped at the border and was denied access to the US due to not having the required work visa. Bailey subsequently received a five-year ban from entering the US, which all-but kills his independent career for the time being. Dave Meltzer noted in the Observer that Bailey was in the process of getting a work visa through CZW, but it was not processed in time for last weekend’s shows. Mexico is still an option for Bailey, as he debuted for AAA last year, although the economy south of the border is in a bad way so that may not be the most financially rewarding place to go. Bailey could try get some work in Japan, but he would have to find direct flights that don’t make stopovers or connections in the US as it would break the rules of his ban otherwise. There’s always the UK too – Bailey debuted for RevPro in January 2016 – however it would be very tough to make steady money on UK dates alone. Meltzer explained that Bailey could still apply for a work visa and have it approved on a three year term, but, as is the case with most bureaucratic scams, it could take up to two years to process and cost a significant amount of money to push through. Let’s hope Bailey, who had started to build himself a strong cult following in PWG, can find the right people to help him fight the decision and return to the US scene as quickly as possible.
The UR Fight show on 20/3 was something to behold. They brought in Jim Ross, Rampage Jackson & Sean Wheelock as the announce team, which no doubt cost them quite a bit of money alone. Jenn Sterger was the backstage correspondent and former WWE ring announcer, Justin Roberts, handled the MC duties. Ross & Wheelock tried their best to put everything over as seriously as they could, but Rampage clearly didn’t care all that much and pretty much said whatever he wanted. Within the first five minutes of the broadcast, he called Michael Bisping a, “c**t.” The opener saw 45 year-old Shannon Rich, with a record of 53-79 (4 NC) beat Maverick Harvey, 48, whose record was 8-4-1, via Rear Naked Choke at 1:48 of Round 1. The fight started out hot as Harvey threw some wild punches at Rich, who ended up falling through the ropes; Harvey just kept throwing punches and ended up pulling Rich back into the ring by his shorts. Michael Bisping & Chael Sonnen had a boring grappling match that went to a draw after 15 minutes of non-action. Sonnen weighed in at 231lbs and Bisping was at 212lbs. Afterwards, Bisping apologised for the lack of action and Chael claimed he was finished competing in MMA. Uber gimmick white rapper, Riff Raff “performed” during intermission. He appeared to rap the same song over and over again for 15 minutes, while a questionable looking bodyguard and two scantly clad women paraded around the ring. JR rightfully buried his “performance” afterwards. Rey Mysetrio Jr beat Kurt Angle in a solid 2-out-of-3 Falls match that went 16:05. Angle won the first fall with the Olympic Slam and Rey took the second after a 619 and a splash off the top. The finish of the third fall saw referee, Brian Hebner, take a bump and Angle hit a low-blow then tried to use a chair, however Riff Raff got involved and snatched the chair away from Angle. Rey used the 619 and another Splash off the top to get the win. Fittingly for this total carny show, the worked pro wrestling match was the most exciting thing on the show and the crowd were into it more than anything else. Main event saw Roy Jones Jr further tarnish his legacy by offering $100,000 to a “fan” if they could beat him. The “fan” turned out to be MMA no-name, Vyron Phillips, who lasted through the first round; even Ross stated on commentary that he expected Jones to knock him out in the first three minutes. Jones did in fact knock Phillips out with a right hook in round 2.
In addition to their big annual “Summer Sizzler” show on July 10th, which I will be attending, Revolution Pro announced on 25/3 that they have booked a “bonus” show at York Hall for June 12th with Kurt Angle vs. Zack Sabre Jr as the “Dream Match” main event.
DDT drew an impressive 6,938 fans to Sumo Hall for their 19th anniversary show on 21/3; the show featured fourteen matches and clocked in at a mammoth five hours and forty-four minutes. There were some outside talent brought in for the big show, including the newly declared free agent, Kota Ibushi, Minoru Suzuki, Tatsumi Fujinami and his son, Leona, Akebono, Kendo Ka Shin, Joey Ryan & Candice La Rae. Some of the highlights from the show included, Keisuke Ishii & Shigehiro Irie over Akito & Yasu Urano and Joey Ryan & Candice LaRae in a three-way at 9:57 when Irie pinned Akito with the Beast Bomber. Tatsumi Fujinami & Leona beat Antonio Honda & Hiroshi Fukuda in 12:10 when Fujinami used the Dragon Sleeper on Fukuda. Kota Ibushi & Gota Ihashi over Sanshiro Takagi & Jun Kasai and Kenso & Michael Nakazawa in a Falls Count Anywhere three-way. Ibushi pinned Nakazawa at 23:12 with the Phoenix Splash. Afterwards, Ibushi & Takagi shared a respectful moment and the two bowed to each other then said a few words. Takagi congratulated Ibushi on his return from neck surgery and told him he hopes the Ibushi Pro Wrestling Institute will discover new and interesting ways to present pro wrestling. Takagi also told Ibushi he was free to do whatever he wanted and Ibushi thanked him for everything he had done for him then said he would like to return to DDT one day. Minoru Suzuki choked-out Yukio Sakaguchi, the son of Seiji Sakaguchi, in 16:15. Akebono pinned Danshoku Dino in 10:20 with Dino’s own finisher the Danshoku Driver. The main event saw Harashima defeat Isami Kodaka to capture the KO-D Openweight Championship in 18:15 with a springboard Somato knee strike. – As always, check out JamieOD’s Dramatic DDT blog for full coverage of the show.
NOAH’s Great Voyage at Korakuen Hall on 19/3 drew 1,496 fans, which is more than the usual 800-1,000 people they usually draw at the building. Main event saw Takashi Sugiura retain the GHC Heavyweight title over Katsuhiko Nakajima in 29:40 with an Avalanche Olympic Slam. The match had the usual interference from Suzuki and Nakajima gigged after a bunch of chair shots. Some fans threw garbage, mainly plastic bottles, in the ring after the main event. In the semi-final, the Killer Elite Squad retained the GHC Tag Team titles over Go Shiozaki & Shuhei Taniguchi in 18:32 when Smith pinned Taniguchi after the Killer Bomb. Yoshinobu Kanemaru retained the GHC Jr title over Taiji Ishimori in 18:07 after the Touch Out Brainbuster in a match with more Suzuki-Gun interference from Taka & Taichi. Afterwards, Harada, Kotoge, Kenoh & Ohara confronted Kanemaru and Harada stepped up as the next challenger for the Jr title. Early in the show, Kenoh & Hajime Ohara captured the GHC Jr Tag Team titles from Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge in 19:12 when Ohara submitted Harada with the Muy Bien Clutch. Elsewhere, Naomichi Marufuji, Muhammad Yone & Mitsuhiro Kitamiya beat Minoru Suzuki, Shelton “X” Benjamin & Takashi Iizuka in 11:56 after Marufuji hit Iizuka with a Shiranui. Post-match, Suzuki accepted Marufuji’s challenge for the main event of the upcoming Suzuki-Gun show at Korakuen Hall on 27/3. Genba Hirayanagi, Hitoshi Kumano & Captain NOAH beat Taichi, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku in 9:27; they are still doing the Desperado friction with Taka & Taichi and Despy took the fall again here. Opener saw Akitoshi Saito & Yoshinari Ogawa over Quiet Storm & Kaito Kiyomiya in 6:29.
The New Japan Road to Invasion Attack show in Hyogo on 20/3 was made available on demand through NJPW World a day later on 21/3 and was a pretty fun multi-camera, no commentary show. In the main event, Tomohiro Ishii retained the ROH World TV title over EVIL at 21:39 after a Brainbuster. The match was just as good, if not better than their great match in the New Japan Cup earlier this year. Second from the top was Kazuchka Okada & Hirooki Goto over Tetsuya Naito & Bushi in 11:18 when Goto pinned Bushi with the GTR. Match of the night was a Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks defending the NEVER Trios titles over Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin & Juice Robinson. The Elite retained in 16:34 when Omega pinned Juice with the One Winged Angle; everyone should go watch this match right now (****). The rest of the show was mostly the usual “Road to…” tag matches, although Kushida beat Gedo in the second match in 9:51 with the Hoverboard Lock. TenCozy beat Katsuyori Shibata & Captain New Japan in 10:10 when Tenzan submitted Captain with the Anaconda Vice to set up Tenzan for a NEVER title match with Shibata.
Dynamite Kansai announced her retirement at the OZ Academy show at Korakuen Hall on 20/3. The thirty year veteran will hang up her boots after one last match at Korakuen on December 11th. She was diagnosed with lung cancer four years ago but still continued to work while fighting the disease and even beat it into remission.
March 21st marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Perro Aguayo Jr and his father spoke publicly for the first time since the tragedy for an interview with record.com.mx (read the full translated article here). The article notes that Aguayo Sr (70) is in, “a delicate state of health” after years of wrestling and the sadness of burying his son. He commented, “I gave my life, my effort and all I’m wrestling, and now do not understand why I took the most important thing was that my son.” There were no other direct quotes from Aguayo, other than a brief note where he explained that he didn’t want to talk about what happened because he did not know how to explain it to people. AAA held a mass service on 21/3 at a church in Mexico City and invited “friends and the general public” to the ceremony. Many luchadors also did interviews about Aguayo Jr during the week, including Hilo del Santo, who told El Universal that he met Rey Mysterio to talk about what happened. “He (Mysterio) already knew it was an accident, that he is not guilty of anything,” Santo remarked. Hilo del Santo also commented on Mysterio being upset by the memes and images that made light of Aguayo’s death and in some cases blamed Mysterio for what happened in the days that followed. In another interview for the Record, Mr Aguila told a story about Aguayo Jr saying the best thing that could happen to him would be for him to die in the ring.
Lucha Underground started production on season three last weekend and held tapings on 19/3 and 20/3 at the Temple in Boyle Heights. Rey Mysetrio Jr worked the first night of tapings but was unavailable for 20/3 as he was booked on the UR show against Kurt Angle. Joey Ryan was in Japan working for DDT, while Angelico was away in Europe after participating in the 16 Carat tournament for WXW. Jessica Havok made her LU debut at the tapings and Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet reported on 23/3 that Sami Callihan had signed with Lucha Underground and is set to debut at the tapings coming up this weekend (26/3 & 27/3). On a related note, this week’s episode was Aztec Warfare II and it was a really fun show – much better than the Royal Rumble match. Jeff Cobb made his long awaited debut as the monster, Matanza Cueto and destroyed everybody left in the match to become the new LU Champion. They did such a fantastic job building up Matanza as a murderous behemoth that the reveal of the 5’10 Cobb was a little underwhelming. On the plus side, Cobb is at least 250lbs and built like a refrigerator, not to mention a former Olympic wrestler, so this seemingly immortal monster that literally ate a man’s face off was in there suplexing and throwing men all over the place. It may seem a little far-fetched, but in Lucha Underground a caged monster with perfect amateur technique is way down at the bottom on the list of outlandish gimmicks.
Elite Lucha Libre drew a sellout of 2,800 fans on 20/3 to Arena Naucalpan for a show with a main event that rivalled the Toyko Gurentai: Tokyo Dream 2015 main event for a bunch of old guys working a match. Mil Mascaras (75) teamed with Caristico & Mascara Dorada and beat El Canek (63), Negro Casas (55) & La Mascara. The Gurentai match I am referring to was from December 1st 2015 and saw Dory Funk Jr (75), Great Kabuki (67), Masakatsu Funaki (47) & Mil Mascaras (75) beat CIMA, Kaz Hayashi, Nosawa Rongai & Yoshiaki Fujiwara (66).
Next Week’s Issue
In next week’s issue we preview WrestleMania Weekend with a schedule for all of the weekends events to be published mid-week, plus the go-home RAW, pre-Mania Mixed Bag, and much more!
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