Cubed Circle Newsletter 231 – Slow Going
After the insanity that was the 2016 WrestleMania Weekend, we are back this week with one of our smaller issues of the year looking at the week’s top news stories, including all sorts of Lucha wackiness and RAW fallout. We will be back as always next week with what I hope to be a brand new quasi-weekly column, but this has yet to be confirmed.
The Pro-Wres Digest for April 10th – April 16th.
Once again we regrettably start out with the sad news of another untimely death, as Balls Mahoney passed away on 12/4, one day after his forty-fourth birthday. There isn’t much information available at the moment, however Dave Meltzer reported on some of the “sketchy” details in the Observer this week. Mahoney (Jonathan Rechner), was apparently injured during a fall a few days before his death and became violently ill; Meltzer noted that the early reports stated that he became so sick that he ended up passing away. Mahoney had been in rough shape for a few years and his appearance in the 2013 documentary “Barbed Wire City” alongside his former tag team partner, Axl Rotten, who also passed away in February this year, was a sad and sobering sight to behold. Our sincerest condolences go out to the family and friends of Jonathan Rechner, who leaves behind a wife and seven year-old son.
WWE announced ten new developmental recruits to the Performance Centre this week, with Mikey Nicholls (30), Shane Haste (30) & Nikki Storm (26) being the most well-known and experienced members of the new class. The rest of the signings were relative unknowns: Babatunde Aiyegbusi (27) is a 6’9, 350 pound Polish native who tried out for the Minnesota Vikings and got cut, so he really must have sucked. Bianca Blair (25) was a college track and field athlete and a fitness model. Nikola Bogojevic (24) is Greco-Roman wrestler who trained for the 2016 Olympic team but finished third at the Pan American Games in 2014 and didn’t make the cut. At 5’8 and 285 pounds, he certainly has a unique look. Carolyn Dunning is a fitness model and bikini contest competitor. Macey Estrella trained with Tom Caiazzo of America Premier Wrestling and is a former US Marine. Terrance Jean-Jacques was a Division III All-American wrestler at the University of Rhode Island in 2015 and is 6’2, 265 pounds. Danielle Kamela is a former Phoenix Suns dancer and Arizona Cardinals cheerleader. She tried out for Tough Enough last year but didn’t make it onto the show then began training at Rikishi & Gangrel’s Knoxx Pro Wrestling school.
There was a bizarre situation this week with the Undertaker seemingly being pulled from the European tour, only to be added again a few hours later. Taker was originally advertised for all of the dates on the tour, however he was removed from most of the shows which somehow led people to speculate that he had been taken off the tour altogether. Taker was, and still is, advertised for the RAW & SmackDown tapings on 18/4 & 19/4, plus a house show in Newcastle on 20/4. There was a note in the Observer this week about Undertaker telling some people that he thought his match with Shane McMahon would have been his last at WrestleMania. Although that was also the case two years ago when he lost to Brock Lesnar, so take that for what you will. Imagine if it really does turn out to be Taker’s last WrestleMania and Shane McMahon continues to run RAW. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Hanstock of Cage Side Seats reported moments before this newsletter was published that Undertaker has in fact been removed from the European tour…for now anyway.
Bray Wyatt suffered an injury at a house show in Milan, Italy on 13/4. The injury occurred during the main event match with Roman Reigns and WWE.com reported that the issue was with Wyatt’s right calf. The match had to be stopped and Braun Strowman & Erick Rowan were sent out to attack Reigns. The Usos & the Dudleys also ran out to join the brawl and Bray Wyatt was helped to the back by the trainer. Wyatt was kept off the following night’s show in Florence and was replaced by Sheamus.
The first qualifying matches for the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series were announced on 15/4. The tourney begins on 24/4 in Camden, London at the Progress: Chapter 29 show and the matches set to kick the tourney off are, Zack Sabre Jr vs. Flash Morgan Webster and Jack Gallagher vs. Pete Dunne. At the Evolve 61 show on 7/5 in Queens, NY, TJ Perkins vs. Fred Yehi and Tracy Williams vs. Drew Gulak are the qualifiers for the Series. So far, the names announced for the tournament are: Rich Swann, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Noam Dar, Akira Tozawa, Ho Ho Lun and Lince Dorado.
WWE also announced the date for the next NXT TakeOver live special this week. They will be back at Full Sail on June 8th for the TakeOver show and the following night on the 9/6 they will be running the usual post-TakeOver TV tapings.
More woes for TNA this week, as the punchline of a promotion moved out of their Cummins Station offices in Nashville and “relocated” their operation to the TNAShop.com warehouse. Mike Johnson of PWInsider initially reported that the move had been planned for some time, however Dave Meltzer reported that the company were actually evicted from the building and had no choice to move into the merchandise warehouse. Dixie Carter had been in the Cummins Station office for years, as the PR company she ran prior to her involvement in TNA rented the space and when she was appointed president of TNA by her father TNA took over the premises. They have until the end of the month to pack up and vacate the property. On top of being turfed out on the street, TNA were also dealt a blow by their TV partner Pop TV this week when it was announced that Pop would no longer be airing the midnight replay of iMPACT on Tuesday nights. The show will now only air once on Tuesday at 9pm Eastern and 6pm Pacific; the replay has been moved to 11:30am on Saturday morning. TNA are still apparently in “negotiations” with investors and looking to sell a stake in the company, so all of this certainly isn’t going to give them much leverage at all. Of course, the “negotiations” will almost certainly go nowhere if Dixie Carter refuses to give up her majority stake.
Two years after being relegated out of the Tokyo Dome main event by a fan vote, Tetsuya Naito defeated Kazuchika Okada to become the 64th IWGP Heavyweight Champion at New Japan’s Invasion Attack at Sumo Hall on 10/4. From a creative standpoint, the show was a big success and the shot in the arm that New Japan has been needing since the Nakamura & Bullet Club exodus, as the company made new stars and set up fresh major matches. Naito pinned Okada in 28:50 with the Destino after a bunch of interference from his Los Ingobernables stable. The match was very good and pretty heated throughout. A mysterious masked man showed up and gave Okada an Ace Crusher and a Moonsault, which ultimately led to Naito getting the win. The masked man revealed himself to be Seiya Sanada and he is now the newest member of LIJ heel group. There is a back-story to Sanada joining LIJ, as he started with Bushi in All Japan almost ten years ago. The fans, in the same building where his doomed babyface run began after winning the 2013 G1, were heavily behind Naito and Okada was booed more than at any other point during his time as champion. During his post-match promo, Naito threw the belt down and said none of the titles meant as much as getting to feud to him and sarcastically thanked Kidani for watching on NJPWWorld and supporting him. Tomohiro Ishii stepped forward as the first challenger for Naito, however the crowd were so into the Los Ingobernables celebration that they chanted, “kaere,” which means “go home/go away,” at Ishii, who is usually one of the most over guys where ever he goes.
Elsewhere on the show, the Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tana Loa) beat Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma for the IWGP Tag Team titles in 16:54. Katsuyori Shibata retained the NEVER title over Hiroyoshi Tenzan in a fun 10:47 match, although there were a couple of unnecessary unprotected headbutts. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin & Yoshitatsu became the NEVER Trios champs over The Elite (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks) in 14:46. Afterwards they set up Elgin as the next challenger for Kenny Omega’s IWGP IC title. Kushida retained the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title over the debuting Will Ospreay at 15:07 (**** ½). This was the match of the night and Ospreay looked absolutely tremendous in his first match in New Japan. Afterwards, Jushin “Thunder” Liger challenged Kushida for the Junior title and said Kushida could be the man to write the “final chapter” in the Legend Liger’s book. Roppongi Vice beat Matt Sydal & Ricochet for the IWGP Jr Tag Team titles in 15:48.
There was a scary moment for Cody Hall during the NEVER Trios match and he ended up being hospitalised after a balcony dive from Nick Jackson went awry. Jackson did a Senton off the balcony onto everybody in the match and Hall (who was the Elite’s second) took the full impact of Nick’s legs on the top of his head, causing his neck to bend at an alarming angle. Hall didn’t move at all for at least five minutes afterwards and eventually they brought a stretcher out for him then took him away in an ambulance. Thankfully, x-rays showed no signs of a concussion or broken bones and Hall escaped with only a severe stinger.
New Japan announced the cards for their next two big shows. Wrestling Hinokuni is on 29/4 from Kumamoto and sees Kenny Omega defending the IC title against Michael Elgin in the main event. Also on the card is Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale and Katsuyori Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata for the NEVER title, two matches they set up on the Invasion Attack show. Sydal & Ricochet get a rematch for the Jr Tag titles against RPG Vice and there is a huge eight-man tag with Los Ingobernables de Japon (Naito, Sanada, Evil & Bushi) vs. Chaos (Okada, Ishii, Goto & Ospreay).
Wrestling Dontaku is in Fukuoka on 3/5 and the main event is Naito vs. Ishii for the IWGP Heavyweight title. Other matches announced are: Okada vs. Sanada. Goto vs. Evil. Kushida vs. Jushin Liger for the IWGP Jr title. Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Makabe & Honma in a rematch for the IWGP Tag titles.
Kota Ibushi will be working the IGF show at the Edion Arena in Osaka on 29/5 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Antonio Inoki/Muhammad Ali match. No opponent for Ibushi has been announced yet, however Ibushi commented that he was eager to experience the “Inoki-ism” side of pro wrestling. Alexander Otsuka is also expected to be on the show as well. The Ali vs. Inoki match took place on June 26 1976, so this show is a full month before the actual anniversary. I imagine Inoki will have something planned to mark the official date on June 26th as well.
Pro Wrestling NOAH’s annual Global Tag League kicks off on 21/4 and will run until the finals on May 4th. This year the league will be a one block system with all eight teams facing each other then the two teams at the top of the table will face off in the final. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima from New Japan will be part of the tournament, along with the reigning GHC Tag Team Champions Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr, Takashi Sugiura (GHC Heavyweight Champion) & Shelton X Benjamin, Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka, Naomichi Marufuji & Toru Yano, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya, Muhammad Yone & Quiet Storm, and Go Shiozaki & Maybach Taniguchi.
Mitsuhiro Kitamiya of Pro Wrestling NOAH announced on 11/4 that he would be changing his name to Masa Kitamiya to honour Masa Saito. Kitamiya was trained at the Kensuke Office Dojo in 2011, where Saito was working at the time – although he did not actually help train him. Saito (73) has been battling Parkinson’s disease for the last few years and gave permission for Kitamiya to use his name as he is no longer able to compete.
On June 14th, Kenta Kobashi’s Fortune Dream promotion returns to Korakuen Hall for the first time since December 2014. Only three matches have been announced so far, with Go Shiozaki & Yuji Okabayashi vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Hino looking like the main event. Shuji Ishikawa & Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Kohei Sato & Maybach Taniguchi, plus Hiroyo Matsumoto vs. Kairi Hojo are also set for the show. There will also be a special “Talk Battle” between Kenta Kobashi & Kensuke Sasaki.
Rizin FF will run their third show this weekend on 17/4 from Gaisha Hall in Nagoya. The card isn’t as freak-showy as the two shows in December last year, although they have still put some questionable fights together. 45 year-old former pro wrestler and Pride star Kazuyuki Fujita (15-10) faces a man half his age in Jiri Prochazka (16-3-1). The main event is a wacky tag team grappling match with Wanderlei Silva & Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Kazushi Sakuraba & Hideo Tokoro; at least Sakuraba won’t eat 75 unprotected punches to the head this time. The only other real fight of any note is Gabi Garcia (1-0) vs. Anna Malyukova (1-0); if it is anything like Garcia’s first fight this should be hilarious.
There was a completely wacky angle this week involving the original Octagon and the former Flamita, who is now working as Octagon Jr for AAA, however it turned out not to be an angle at all and was in fact a complete shoot. Octagon Jr was at an autograph signing at the CaraLucha restaurant when Octagon showed up with his family and three bodyguards, who were believed to be armed. Octagon berated Octagon Jr for using his mask without his permission. Octagon Jr remained calm the entire time and said he was just doing his job. Octagon then pulled his mask of and Octagon Jr had to cover his face and leave the signing, which was attended by a lot of families and young children. Octagon had people film the entire thing and the video ended up going viral and was even covered by the Mexican ESPN site. Dorian Roldan called Octagon unprofessional in a Tweet and said AAA would stand behind Octagon Jr; he also claimed that they were looking into taking legal action for assault – good luck with that in Mexico. Octagon initially issued a half-hearted apology on Twitter, however he soon rescinded it and once again started bashing AAA & Octagon Jr. Octagon claimed that he would debut his own real version of the next generation of the gimmick with an El Hilo de Octagon very soon. It should be pointed out that AAA owns the Octagon name and gimmick, so they can pretty much do what they want with it. LA Park commented that Octagon never supported him when he was having issues with AAA regarding the La Parka gimmick and stated he had no sympathy for Octagon at all.
Some big news came out of the Lucha Underground season three tapings last weekend, so if you don’t want to know what happened then you know what to do. Sexy Star became the new LU Champion when she pinned Mil Muertes to win the third Aztec Warfare match; the former champion Matanza was pinned for the first time during the match by Rey Mysterio Jr. Pentagon Jr was taken out during the match by four women, most likely Black Lotus and Io Shirai, Mayu Iwatani & Kairi Hojo from Stardom. Sexy’s reign didn’t last long, as she lost the title to Johnny Mundo at the following night’s tapings. It is unclear how long Sexy will actually hold the title when the shows air on El Rey in the Summer of 2017, although Lucha Underground have had a one-week champion before in Fenix. A one-week Sexy Star title reign doesn’t sound like the most productive thing for the prestige of the championship, however there have been many instances in the past of LU spoilers sounding absurd and coming off much better on TV.
Last week we noted the MVP had told everyone at WaleMania that he was working for Lucha Underground as an agent. Well on 8/4, MVP released a video during which he explained that his contract with Lucha Underground had been terminated. In the video he noted that he violated the terms of his deal by interviewing LU talent for his MLW podcast, which breached a non-disclosure clause in his contract. The podcast was taken down and MVP took full responsibility for what happened and said he blew a big opportunity. I didn’t hear the podcast, but I believe the talent in question was Kaylee “Katrina” Perez, who revealed something regarding the age of her character being over 150 years old.
The RAW viewership was down 13.6% and back to the usual levels after the bump last week for the post-Mania show with a 2.50 rating and 3,523,000 viewers for the 11/4 show. 8pm did 3,474,000 viewers. 9pm did 3,687,000 and 10pm did 3,427,000.
TNA iMPACT on 12/4 did 286,000 for the one and only airing of the show at 9pm. The number is up from the 272,000 they did last week for the same timeslot, however they also had 66,000 for the midnight replay last week too which took the number to 338,000 overall. Now, with no midnight replay, their overall viewership has taken a big hit.
Lucha Underground on 13/4 did 139,000 for the first-run and 66,000 for the replay, making for 205,000 combined viewers. That’s down from last week’s 234,000 (156,000 and 78,000).
Total Divas did 632,000 for E! on 12/4, down slightly from 649,000 last week.