Cubed Circle Newsletter Issue 229 – It’s Here Everybody!
Say what you will about the build to WrestleMania 32, or even recent WrestleManias in general; I don’t think that many would argue with the idea that WrestleMania Weekend is the best time of the year to be a wrestling fan – perhaps only rivalled by the G1 Climax. If you are a fan of professional wrestling there will be something for you to enjoy this weekend, of that you can be sure.
We have a light issue for everyone this week, as we get ready for one of our best and biggest issues of the year in our annual WrestleMania issue next week. As always, Ben covers all of the news in the Pro-Wres Digest, as well as coverage of the go-home edition of RAW from Monday night!
The Pro-Wres Digest for March 27th – April 1st.
We unfortunately have some heartbreaking news to start what is the biggest week of the year for pro wrestling, as 32 year-old British wrestler Kris Travis tragically passed away after an 18 month battle with stomach cancer on 31/3. Travis was diagnosed with the disease in October 2014 and had to pull out of the second season of TNA British Bootcamp because of the diagnosis. In 2015 he underwent surgery to remove a tumour and a part of his stomach then went through 18 weeks of intensive chemotherapy, which appeared to put him on the road to recovery. Travis defied all doctors expectations and returned to the ring at a Preston City Wrestling show on August 7th 2015. He proceeded to work seven more shows for various promotions around the UK, with his last match being against Marty Scurll at the Progress: Chapter 21 show on September 9th 2015. A couple of weeks later on September 21st 2015, Travis announced on Twitter that he had been suffering from stomach cramps and had undergone a second surgery on his stomach.
“I‘m basically in the hospital…… Had an operation. Not going to go into much detail here. Thanks everyone for kind words. Xx” – Kristoffer Travis (@RealKrisTravis)
“I’m going to put this out there right now….. I won’t ever be wrestling ever again. Gutted yes. But I have to accept this. Lots of love. X” – Kristoffer Travis (@RealKrisTravis)
There was an outpouring of support for Travis following his retirement from people within the business and he received messages of support on a daily basis from fans and wrestlers alike in his fight against the terminal disease. In October 2014, Preston City Wresting promoter Steven Fludder set up an indiegogo account to help Travis with the cost of his treatment and the £5,000 goal was met in just two months. The news of his death was announced by Fighting Spirit Magazine editor Brain Elliot at around 12pm GMT on 31/3 and within minutes messages of condolences flooded in from the wrestlers who worked with Kris and the fans who saw him perform.
“I only met Kris twice but he made me feel like we’d been friends for years. If I feel this way, I can’t imagine what longtime friends feel.” – Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight)
“Kristopher Travis was a true inspiration to me. He gave hope to every human being he ever crossed paths with. A true hero. Deeply saddened” – Vince Russo (@THEVinceRusso)
“Woke up to the news of Kris Travis passing. Genuinely gutted. He should be an inspiration to everyone for never giving up. RIP Kris.” – Jimmy Havoc (@JimmyHavoc)
“RIP Kris Travis. In the ring you were brilliant, out of the ring you were the bravest man I knew X” – Jim Smallman (@jimsmallman)
We would also like to send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Kris Travis. I got to see him wrestle live on a couple of occasions and he was indeed one of the top performers on the UK scene, however his courage and fighting-spirit outside of the ring in battling his disease was even more impressive and inspirational.
Triple H held his usual pre-Takeover conference call on 31/3 and the only real big news from the call was the announcement of seven names for the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series. Zack Sabre Jr is the biggest independent name on the list, and Akira Tozawa from Dragon Gate is probably the most surprising guy to be a part of the Series. Scottish-born UK wrestler Noam Dar and Ho Ho Lun from Hong Kong will also be brought in to work alongside NXT regulars, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa & Rich Swann. We’ve got more on the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series, which will debut on the WWE Network on July 13th, later on in this week’s Digest.
Last week Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that Brie Bella would be retiring following the RAW after WrestleMania. Well this week Ryan Satin and co. reported that Nikki Bella would not be returning to in-ring action on a full-time basis after being told by doctors it would be too risky. Satin’s sources claim that Nikki was supposed to appear on RAW this week, however after meeting with doctors she was told that any kind of accidental bump would severely set back her recovery from neck fusion surgery. The report is that Nikki is set for a CAT scan in July to see if her neck has fused correctly, however Satin noted that she was told a full-time return to action, “will never be possible based on the severity of her injury.” In this week’s Observer, Dave Meltzer disputed Ryan Satin’s report last week regarding Brie Bella moving up her retirement due to an issue with Bryan Danielson’s heath. “Her retirement decision for sometime shortly after WrestleMania was decided on well before Bryan retired,” the Observer noted. Meltzer also added that he believed the “health issue” report regarding Danielson was inaccurate and noted that Bryan was training Jiu Jitsu with UFC fighter Bryan Barbarena at the MMA Lab in Glendale, AZ on 29/3.
Mike Johnson of PW Insider reported on 31/3 that Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows are scheduled to be at TV this week for WWE and they will also be backstage at WrestleMania. Johnson noted that Anderson & Gallows are expected to bypass NXT and debut on the main roster under the “Balor Club” name, so it would appear like Finn Balor’s time in NXT is coming to an end and his main roster debut it imminent as well. Just so you don’t have to infect your computer with a bunch of malware by going up to the PW Insider site, here is what Johnson posted on 31/3:
“Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows – The Bullet Club – are scheduled to be at this week’s WWE TV Tapings, PWInsider.com has confirmed with multiple sources. It”s expected they will be at WrestleMania, at least backstage at the event, as well. As we had reported previously, the pair were expected to debut on the main WWE roster, bypassing NXT, in late March/early April. It appears their debut is imminent. The belief is that the team will be using The Balor Club name. “
This all-but confirmed Dave Meltzer’s note in the Observer this week about the debut of Anderson & Gallows being imminent.
Unbelievably, TNA apparently has found another money mark and are in “serious talks regarding a new investor coming in,” as reported by Dave Meltzer in the Observer this week. In a similar deal to when Toby Keith wanted to buy them out, Dixie Carter wants to keep 49% of the company so she can retain controlling power. The word is the new investors, who at the moment remain anonymous, want at least a 55% stake in the company, so unless Dixie finally relinquishes power then TNA are in serious danger of running of what could, and in all honestly should, be their last chance at survival. In more TNA news, Angelina Love is gone after letting her contract expire during her pregnancy and PWInsider reported on 28/3 that Velvet Sky’s contract is up next month also. EC III was pulled from some UK dates he was advertised for this week. Carter was booked for Southside Wresting on April 2nd and a Preston City Wrestling show on April 3rd, however TNA cancelled his appearances due to supposedly needing him for something more important. TNA are not running any shows or taping TV over
WrestleMania weekend, so Carter was not pulled from the UK dates due to a scheduling conflict. A similar situation occurred with James Storm, who was set to work the WrestleCon Supershow, but was also pulled from the event. TNA claimed that Storm & Carter were needed for “promotion work,” however their own World Champion, Drew Galloway, will be working the Evolve shows and several TNA guys, including Matt & Jeff Hardy, will still be on the WrestleCon Supershow. Go figure.
After only three months with the WWE, Mauro Ranallo announced on Twitter on 28/3 that he will be calling the WrestleMania pre-show. The two hour Kick-off show begins on the WWE Network at 5pm EST and the first hour will feature the US title match between Kalisto & Ryback. The USA/WWE Network simulcast begins at 6pm EST and Ranallo will also have the “honour” of calling the 10 Diva Tag match, plus the Usos vs. the Dudley Boyz. Originally, the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was scheduled for the pre-show as well, however it now appears that it will be on the actual WrestleMania main card. Additionally, Ranallo noted that he would be a part of the NXT pre-show panel before the big Takeover: Dallas show on April 1st. Ranallo has made SmackDown a much more enjoyable show to watch in the short time he has been doing play-by-play and it will be fun to hear his voice calling a WrestleMania, even if it is only for the pre-show. Although, it would have been awesome to hear Ranallo and Corey Graves calling Takeover: Dallas, especially the Nakamura/Sami Zayn match.
Mike Johnson of PW Insider reported on 29/3 that former All Japan Triple Crown Champion, Joe Doering, is battling brain cancer. Doering was diagnosed on February 25th and underwent successful surgery to remove the Stage 3 tumour on March 4th. He is set to undergo chemotherapy and radiation sessions starting next week, with the treatment expected to last at least six weeks. Doering is said to be hopeful that he will one day be able to return to the ring. Best of luck to Doering on a speedy recovery.
The Indie Scene:
With Evolve already announced as hosting qualification matches for the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series, two of the hottest promotions in the UK are getting in on the act and cashing in on the WWE’s new found acceptance of the indie scene. Progress Wrestling founder Jim Smallman announced on 27/3 that the 24/4 show at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, North London – Chapter 29: Practically Progress in Every Way – would feature two qualifying matches for the WWE Cruiserweight Series. No names have been announced yet, however tickets go one sale for the show on April 4th so it won’t be too long until we know who will be featured in the qualifiers. The following day (28/3), it was announced by promoter Andy Quildan that Revolution Pro would also be hosting at least one qualifying match up for the Series. No dates or matches were given on Rev Pro’s website, but Quildan said it was an honour to be selected as one of WWE’s “global partners” and noted, “we are very excited for the opportunity to share our product with fans across the globe.” In the past both Progress and Rev Pro have provided footage for WWE video packages on Finn Balor and, in the case of Rev Pro, Shinsuke Nakamura. Rev Pro working with WWE is an interesting development, as the company has a strong relationship with New Japan and they bring over top Japanese stars to the UK for big shows at least twice a year. There is no doubt that the partnership facilitated Will Ospreay heading straight into New Japan as a top junior heavyweight, so one would logically assume that Ospreay would not be able to compete in any qualifying matches for the WWE Series, although I suppose he could always lose a qualifier if all parties agreed to it. Rev Pro also has a relationship with ROH and has used guys like Roderick Strong, Jay Lethal and ACH in the past, which could be another political minefield as WWE clearly view ROH as competition for NXT.
New Japan sold-out Korakuen Hall (1,741 fans) on 27/3 for the Road to Invasion Attack show that featured a mini best-of-five series between NJPW vs. the Bullet Club. It was a fun, easy show to watch and it was nice to see New Japan putting some effort into making the Korakuen shows feel somewhat important again. (1) Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Roppongi Vice beat Kushida, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask & David Finlay in 9:49 when RPG Vince hit Strong Zero on Finaly (***). (2) Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi over Katsuyori Shibata, Ryusuke Taguchi, Captain New Japan & Juice Robinson in 10:54 when Nagata pinned CNJ with his Backdrop Hold. They told a fun story of Shibata going after Tenzan to set up their Never title match. (** ¾). (3) NJPW vs. Bullet Club Match: Michael Elgin pinned Cody Hall in 7:09 with a Powerbomb; it wasn’t very good (* ¾). (4) NJPW vs. Bullet Club Match: Kenny Omega over Jay White in 10:25 after the One Winged Angel. Arguably the best match of White’s career and possibly the best on the show too (*** ¾). (5) NJPW vs. Bullet Club Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi over Yujiro Takahashi in 8:55 with the HFF; poor Tana tried his best with Yujiro (**). (6) NJPW vs. Bullet Club Match: Bad Luck Fale pinned Tomoaki Honma in 9:45 with the Bad Luck Fall (** ¼). (7) NJPW vs. Bullet Club Match: Togi Makabe beat Tama Tonga via DQ in 8:46 when Tonga Roa (Camacho) hit the ring and beat up Makabe. Tama Tonga declared themselves the Guerrillas of Destruction and they beat up some Young Lions (**). (8) Los Ingobernables de Japon (Naito, Bushi & Evil) over Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi in 17:35 when Naito pinned Yoshi-Hashi with Destino. Match was very good. LIJ beat the hell out of Okada, Goto, Hashi and Gedo. Naito even nailed Red Shoes Uno with a sliding kick and LIJ stood tall at the end of the show (*** ½).
AAA ran their big Rey de Reyes show last week on 23/3. It was announced the day before that the show would be available on iPPV, however on the actual day of the show the iPPV was cancelled. Instead, the footage will be shown on AAA TV, which is what they usually do for the Rey de Reys show, on 2/4 and 9/4. The 7,000 seat Plaza de Toros Monumental El Paseo in San Luis Poto was reportedly sold-out, although the Cubs Fan noted that the show was heavily promoted around a special tribute to Hijo del Perro Aguayo. The ceremony for Perro opened the show and was used to set up an angle between the remaining members of Perros del Mal (Pentagon Jr, Joe Lider, Daga & Taya) and a new Perros del Mal stable made up of former members, Halloween, Damien 666, Nicho, as well as independent talent, Pagano. Pentagon won the Rey de Reyes final over Villano IV & La Parka; the match was originally supposed to be a four-way with Blue Demon Jr but he no-showed the event. Afterwards, the new/original Perros stable attacked Pentagon’s group and called the AAA version of Perros del Mal imposters. So the angle is two teams are feuding over the rights to a stable named after a man who passed away last year. The main event saw Texano Jr beat El Mesias to win the AAA Mega Heavyweight Championship for the second time. The title had been vacant since November last year when Alberto Del Rio was stripped of the belt due to him jumping ship to WWE. Texano’s first reign was the longest in the nine-year history of the title (735 days) and he was the man Del Rio beat for the title back on December 7th 2014. Also on the show, Dr Wagner Jr beat Psycho Clown (Latin American Champion) in a non-title bloody brawl and demanded a title shot afterwards. Chessman & Averno retained the AAA Tag Team titles in a TLC match over the teams of Daga & Joe Lider and Argenis & Australian Suicide. Argenis was subbing for Jack Evans, who missed the show due to food poisoning. Zorro, Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria retained the AAA Trios titles over Aerostar & Fenix & Drago and the opener saw Octagon Jr, Fabi Apache, Mascarita Sagrada & Pimpinela Escarlata beat Taurus, Taya, Mini Psycho Clown & Mamba.
Thanks to the holiday weekend, CMLL drew some impressive crowds for a couple of Arena Mexico shows last week. 25/3 saw 8,000 fans show up to see a pretty average card, with a first time ever match between Ultimo Guerrero & Cibernetico being the only big match on the show. Guerrero fouled Cibernetico with a low-blow in the third fall and the referee called for the DQ at 12:18. The main event was Atlantis, Mascara Dorada & Volador Jr over Barbaro Cavernario, Mr Niebla & Negro Casas in two straight falls at 6:42. On the undercard, Los Ingobernables (La Mascara, Pierroth & Rush) beat Caristico, Marco Corleone & Super Porky. After the match in a backstage interview, Caristico challenged La Mascara to a mask vs. mask match at the Anniversary show in September. Remember, this is Mexico and guys make idle challenges all the time that end up going nowhere. They were back at Arena Mexico on 27/3 and drew close to 5,000 people for a completely nothing show that saw Mephisto, Mr Niebla & Rey Escorpion beat Mascara Dorada, Mistico & Volador Jr in the main event.
There was a note in the Observer this week regarding the status of King Cuerno, who is one of the many Lucha Underground talents signed to a seven year contract. Cuerno was reportedly offered a spot in the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series but neither AAA nor LU would allow him to participate. Cuerno, who works as Hilo del Fantasma in Mexico, has not worked for AAA since 4/3 and has not been apart of any of LU season three tapings. The fact that he is not a bigger star in both companies is pretty inexplicable: he’s fluent in English, has a great body and is on the higher end of the scale when it comes to good luchador workers. If Cuerno wants to go to WWE, or more importantly if WWE are seriously interested in him, then it will probably happen one way or another.
The WrestleMania 32 program lists the HHH/Roman Reigns WWE title match as a No DQ. On a similar note, the program also seems to suggest that Shinsuke Nakamura will be only using his surname going forward, however on WWE.com he is still listed under his full name.
PW Insider reported that the WWE will be rebranding the Diva’s division after WrestleMania and it will simply be known as the Women’s division. SE Scoops “verified” the report and noted that a new Women’s Championship belt has already been commissioned and it bares a strong resemblance to the WWE World title, only mounted on a white leather strap and is obviously smaller in size.
TNA announced on 31/3 that they will be holding taping iMPACT TV tapings on April 21-24 at the Impact Zone in Universal Studios. The saga continues for now.
Ivelisse Velez was injured at the Lucha Underground tapings last weekend. She Tweeted an update on 31/3 and confirmed she had two fractures and a torn ligament in her ankle which have caused her to pull out of her WrestleMania weekend bookings.
On the live Steve Austin Podcast with Mick Foley from Axxess on 31/3, Foley officially announced that his WWE Network show would debut in August. The show – called “Holy Foley” – will be the usual mind-numbing scripted family reality TV series and will follow the Foley’s around in their “everyday” lives. Noelle Foley will be a big part of the show and she came out during the Austin Podcast and talked about how the show would document her training to become a Diva. She is obviously a very good looking girl, but her appearance on the podcast was brutal and she clearly needs a lot more work at public speaking.
Squaredcirclesirens.com apparently got the scoop on new casts members for the next season of Total Divas. Lana & Renee Young are set to become the two newest members of the show, while Naomi is believed to return as a regular character for season six.
The go-home RAW before WrestleMania did a 2.65 rating with 3,761,000 viewers. 8 pm did 3,818,000. 9 pm did 3,845,000 and 10pm did 3,629,000. It’s not a terrible number, but last year’s Mania go-home show did a 3.03 rating with 4.19 million viewers and in 2014 the show did a 3.13 with 4.38 million viewers.
Last week’s SmackDown (24/3) with Brock Lesnar did a 1.75 rating with 2,501,000 viewers, which was up from the 1.71 and 2,260,000 million viewers the week before.
Lucha Underground on 23/3 with Aztec Warfare and the in-ring debut of Rey Mysterio set the all-time record for the company with 163,000 viewers.
Impact from 29/3 did a combined 312,000 viewers overall. The 9 pm premier did 236,000, while the midnight replay did an additional 76,000. The number was down from 331,000 last week.
Total Divas on 29/3 drew 563,000 viewers, down from 663,000 last week.
**Happy WrestleMania weekend everyone!**
Next Week’s Issue
We have a giant issue coming up next week with special editions of both the Pro-Wres Digest and Mixed Bag covering all of the best and worst matches, moments, and general happenings from the most important weekend in the pro-wrestling year – WrestleMania Weekend 2016!