Cubed Circle Newsletter #76: WrestleMania Weekend Preview, New Japan Cup Final + So Much More!

Cubed Circle Newsletter – WrestleMania Weekend is Upon Us!

 

It is the final so called “regular edition” of the newsletter for a few weeks, as next week is the long-awaited, highly anticipated, and possibly dreaded (depending on your viewpoint), WrestleMania Weekend, where most people will be attempting to squeeze the most amount of wrestling into the smallest amount of space possible; all the while practically throwing their money at promoters. Also, this wouldn’t be the Cubed Circle Newsletter without technical issues, after all it is kind of the gimmick at this point, so there is no full RAW report this week – yes, it did in fact drop out of my Dropbox. So, there is an alternative in there for better or for worse. We also take an in-depth look at the WrestleMania Weekend, or at least the schedule that I am following, more on the New Japan Cup, RAW, SmackDown and much more. I hope you have a great week, you should probably get lots of rest, as it will most likely come in handy next weekend.

 

– Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor

 

For a full-colour PDF with pictures click here!

 

News

 

WrestleMania Weekend – The End is Nigh

 

This is officially the last “regular” newsletter for the next couple of weeks or so, as next weekend is WrestleMania Weekend, and with seven shows that I have to cover on my own, excluding the show’s that Ben is covering, it is going to be an extremely busy next couple of weeks. As it stands now there is ROH on the Friday, Dragon Gate on the Saturday and Sunday, Shimmer on the Saturday, New Japan on the Sunday, WrestleMania on Sunday, and then a TNA taped pay-per-view somewhere in-between. This isn’t factoring in of course the EVOLVE, CZW and a myriad of other shows over the three day period. I would have been incredibly convenient if WrestleMania fell over the Easter weekend, but unfortunately that is not the case, and it is going to be a mad dash from show to show.

 

Our adventure starts off on the Friday night with ROH’s Super Card of Honor show from a sold-out Hammerstein Ballroom, in what should be the largest ROH attendance in history, and if not that very close. Unfortunately, it is an evening show, so with the schedule in the state that it is, I will almost certainly be watching the VOD – unless of course staying up until 05:00 on Saturday morning with another six shows to watch sounds like fun, and frankly, it does not.

 

The show is headlined by Kevin Steen defending the ROH World Title against Jay Briscoe in what should be a good mainevent. I am remember a Jay Briscoe/Roderick Strong ROH title match from a few years ago that was severely underplayed, but was one of the best matches of that year, and while I don’t expect that here, the lesson learned is to not underestimate Jay Briscoe as a top singles act. The other big match on the show features a man that hasn’t been a part of an ROH show for a number of years, New Japan Star ‘Machine Gun’ Karl Anderson, taking on Roderick Strong in what could be one of the sleeper matches of the entire WrestleMania Weekend depending on what they do with it.

 

The American Wolves of Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards challenge the current ROH tag team champions reDragon (Kyle ‘O Reilly & Bobby Fish), in what should be another very enjoyable affair, unless of course they go too long and hit too many moves, which is a possibility with Richards, Edwards and ‘O Reilly with Fish to a far lesser extent. Jay Lethal and Michael Elgin will also be going at it to determine the number one contender for the next ROH pay-per-view – Border Wars. Given the fact that Elgin is Canadian, and Lethal just had a shot at Steen I would assume that they will be going with Elgin here.

 

In a match that they set up at their last internet-pay-per-view, the 11th Anniversary show, Matt Hardy and Adam Cole will challenge Matt Taven for the ROH TV title, which is probably the match that I am looking least forward to on the card, and that isn’t due to lack of respect for any of the three men, but rather due to the fact that this program in the context of a three-way doesn’t grab me at all. Still, I would expect that Taven will get the win with help from Truth Martini.

 

There is also a single’s match on the show between Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, which should be really fun, as I expect both men to go out there working really hard since it will be one of Benjamin’s final matches in ROH. Also on the show is a SCUM vs. ROH in a ten man tag match with BJ Whitmer, Mark Briscoe, Caprice Coleman, Cedric Alexander and Mike Mondo on the ROH team and Jimmy Jacobs, Cliff Compton, Jimmy Rave, Rhett Titus and Rhino representing SCUM. It should be a decent edition on the undercard, but I am certainly not expecting a blow-away match of any kind.

 

Finally, in what will be the opener of the show, ACH, who is probably one of the future stars of the company, is set to team with Tadarius Thomas to take on QT Marshall and a mystery partner, who I assume will be one of the many people in town for WrestleMania Weekend. All in all the ROH Friday night show looks like one of the most impressive shows of the weekend, if not from an angle perspective, then at least from a work one. They have the ability to have around three or maybe four great matches on the show, so hopefully the card falls into place that way.

 

Shimmer is on WrestleMania Saturday, the 6th, and is an awfully convenient show for me as it is an afternoon show, and therefore I will be free to watch it in the early evening without any issue. The show is mainevented by Saraya Knight, mother of current WWE developmental prospect Paige, defending her Shimmer title against Cheerleader Melisa, in what should be a good match as Melisa is one of the best women’s workers today, at least in the United States. Ayako Hamada also goes up against Athena in what has the opportunity to be another very good match. Amazing Kong makes her return to the independent circuit facing Mia Yim, who has improved a lot over the past year or so. The only other announced match on the card is the addition of Ayumi Kurihara, who will soon be retiring, going up against Mercedes Martinez.

 

Dragon Gate USA’s first show of the weekend, Open the Ultimate Gate, is next up on the WrestleMania Weekend schedule, although much like with the ROH show it is unfortunately going to run until 05:45 local time, which is far too late given that the New Japan show the next day starts at 07:00. It’s a real shame that this show wasn’t placed on the day of WrestleMania, as it is arguably the bigger show of the two, and that show is taking place in the afternoon. Then again, they obviously aren’t planning their schedule around the international market.

 

The show is headlined by Johnny Gargano defending his Open the Freedom Gate title against Shingo, in what may be one of the matches that I am looking most forward to of the weekend. Gargano is a great champion and is extremely diverse when it comes to the amount of styles that he can work, Shingo is obviously one of the best wrestlers on the Dragon Gate roster, and given the fact that they are expecting their largest crowd, and it is in the New York area, I am expecting nothing short of a blow-away match.

 

AR Fox & CIMA defend their Open the United Gate championships in what should be a good match if you are a fan of the style, and that is something that I am very much on the fence about. Samuray Del Sol goes up against Jon Davis, in what should be a very interesting contrast of styles. Ricochet goes up against Akira Tozawa, which depending on what route they take, could be a show stealer. Sami Callihan is set to face the returning Uhaa Nation, and it will be interesting to see just how much the injury has affected Uhaa. Brian Kendrick is also going to go one on one with Rich Swann, which should be…interesting. Other matches include a signature Dragon Gate six-man with Chuck Taylor, Fire Ant, Arick Cannon, Tony Nese, Jigsaw and Shane Strickland. Plus the Super Smash Brothers are set to face EITA and ‘CIMA’s secret weapon’.

 

A mere two hours later is the New Japan ‘Invasion Attack’ internet-pay-per-view, which has the

opportunity to be the best show of WrestleMania Weekend. It will obviously be streamed live on Ustream from the Ryogoku Kokugikan, with the show being headlined by the fourth meeting between Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi following Okada’s victory at the New Japan Cup. I can’t see why they wouldn’t put the title on Okada here, because having him lose a fourth time to Tanahashi would really put him on the back burner. Plus, there is the fact that Tanahashi has pretty much defended the IWGP Heavyweight title against the entire roster at some time or another, so having Okada in their would definitely freshen things up.

 

The thought after Okada won the G1 Climax last year was that he would certainly overcome Tanahashi at the Dome; however that did not happen, and whilst New Japan has stated that Okada had signed a new deal by that point, I am forced to believe that the contract situation hadn’t been finalized by that point – nothing else would make sense. Of course, business has been on the upswing with Tanahashi as champion, but then again I don’t see that changing with Okada on top. Tanahashi is the best champion in the world right now, and everyone comes off looking better after he is done with them, but a title change is needed at this point, and Okada is the perfect man for the job; let’s hope he doesn’t do the job.

 

There is going to be a Junior Tag Title match with Devitt and Taguchi challenging Shelley and KUSHIDA, in a match that probably won’t get enough time to reach the “great” level, but will probably still be a heck of a match – plus, Devitt has been one of the most entertaining performs personality wise over the past few weeks, so it will be interesting to see what the future holds for him. There is your usual eight-man tag match featuring everyone that doesn’t really have a direction for the show this list of men includes Hiroyoshi Tenzan, YOSHI-HASHI, Takashi Iizuka, Tomohiro Ishii, Super Strong Machine, Manabu Nakanishi, and yes Akebono and Bob Sapp once again. There is also a special CMLL tag team championship match, which is apart of the New Japan/CMLL working agreement, with El Terrible & Tama Tonga challenging La Mascara & Valiente.

 

Togi Makabe will be teaming with the returning, yet still free-agent, Tomoaki Honma to take on Yujiro Takahashi and Masato Tanaka. Honma is an extremely overlooked talent along with Tanaka, so this really has the chance to fall into the “surprisingly good” category. Toru Yano faces Minoru Suzuki for what will probably only serve for Suzuki to get his win back from Yano. Laughter 7 (Kazushi Sakuraba & Katsuyori Shibata) are going up against Yuji Nagata & Hirooki Goto, which will presumably lead to singles match feuds breaking off from there with Nagata going up against Sakuraba and Goto up against Shibata. Although Goto and Shibata are the younger half of the four, I have to say that I am more excited to see the Nagata/Sakuraba element of the match more than anything else, as it has the chance to be very unique.

 

Then in the first NWA Heavyweight title match to take place in Japan in quite some time, Rob Conway is going to defend his newly won title against Satoshi Kojima. Simply looking at this match on paper should tell you what the NWA title means at this point. That isn’t to say that it can’t be a good match, as Kojima can still go when he wants to, but the NWA title is really nothing but a lower level indie title at this point.

 

In the semi-mainevent, Shinsuke Nakamura defends his Intercontinental Championship against Davey Boy Smith Jr. who is a better worker than he often gets credit for. Nakamura looks to avenge the first round loss that he suffered at the hands of Smith. It should be a fun match, although I can’t see it being a match of the show, although it probably will surprise a good deal of people. Then in the mainevent as was mentioned earlier Okada will challenge Tanahashi, and hopefully win the IWGP Heavyweight championship. Given the fact that one of the only things holding their Tokyo Dome show mainevent from reaching the five star range was the closing segment, I am expecting great things from this match.

 

As a whole the ‘Invasion Attack’ show is probably my most looked forward to show of the weekend. There are a handful of matches that could reach the great level, and the mainevent could easily be the best match of WrestleMania Weekend. The show is once again $25, but it should certainly be worth it this time around.

 

Moving along with the schedule, there is Dragon Gate’s Mercury Rising show later on in the day, and given that it is an afternoon show I should be able to watch it live, which is obviously a big plus. It doesn’t look to be as strong of a card as the Saturday night show, but it looks like it is going to be heaps of fun. The big match on the show, is Shingo versus Akira Tozawa, which is another candidate for most exciting match of WrestleMania Weekend. There is also what looks to be a crazy all out spot fest in a ladder match featuring Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, AR Fox, Samuray Del Sol, Uhaa Nation, Christina Von Eerie and Facade. Then in a match that will also in fact be crazy, but probably for very different reasons, Brian Kendrick is going up against Chuck Taylor , who hopefully forgot his boots again this year. The other big match on the show is CIMA and EITA together with CIMA’s secret weapon from the previous night going up against Johnny Gargano, Rich Swann and Ricochet.

 

Then comes obviously the event that you have probably forgotten about by this point, WrestleMania on Sunday. We don’t really need to get into the presumed importance of the show, because everyone knows about that already. However, the main note regarding this year’s WrestleMania is the lack of a very strong build, which has been a heavily publicized criticism. It just doesn’t feel like WrestleMania season by the way that WWE has built to the show, and while they could still do something special on Monday, chances are strong that we will be going into a lot of the matches with a lack of build.

 

The mainevent is obviously Rock/Cena in a match that has had a luke warm build. They started the build late, because they waited until after the Elimination Chamber, but with Rock’s media appearances they have only been able to have two really strong segments, with the other week’s featuring nothing of major importance. Making matters worse is that Rock didn’t even mention the WWE or WrestleMania on many of his media appearances, which is not good given that positive media appearances were one of the main reasons that they gave him the championship.

 

I probably will probably be rendered (more of) a fool after WrestleMania, but after watching Monday Night RAW, and looking at their post WrestleMania direction, I think that the chances of a Cena heel turn are as good now as they have been in a few years. Cena will obviously be heavily booed already, so closing off the show with thunderous boos will be a problem if they close the show off with Cena simply winning the championship, plus having Cena turn heel will give them something to do after Mania, since lack of post-Mania direction is an annual problem. It may just be one of those kooky ideas, it won’t be the first time and definitely won’t be the last, but it is a thought.

 

The other big matches on the card are obviously the already semiretired Triple H putting his career on the line against Brock Lesnar in a No Holds Barred match, and CM Punk versus Undertaker with the streak obviously on the line. The Punk angle in particular feels like it has only grown teeth the last week or so, which is a problem given that this Monday’s edition of RAW is set to be the go-home show. When plans of Undertaker/Punk at Mania originally surfaced I was overjoyed at the idea, but suffice to say at this point it is safe to say that they have really dropped the ball on the build for that match.

 

That isn’t to say that it won’t be a good match, or that both men aren’t trying, because both of those statements are false. I am sure that they will be able to put on a great match as long as Undertaker is in relatively good health, the problem is that no one believes that Punk could end the streak, and they definitely could have made some points for him as a contender as they have with everyone else over the past few years. The problem is that the build that is going to get people to believe that Punk could end the streak is not having Punk juggle an urn, and that is going to play into how well the match performs.

 

The Triple H/Brock Lesnar match should be a good brawl judging from the melee that ensued a couple of weeks ago to set up the match; however, the career stipulation simply doesn’t work in this context, as Triple H is already retired, and unless they are actually going to have Triple H retire here, which I doubt, there is really no point in having a semiretired man put his career on the line. The No Hold Barred stipulation also holds little weight, because, despite what you would like to call it, it is a no disqualification match, the bear minimum for stipulation matches. They could have set up numerous other matches, and while this one probably will work out quite well, it doesn’t help in regard to the build.

 

Other big matches on the show include Alberto Del Rio versus Jack Swagger for the World Championship, in a match that should be perfectly fine, although I am sure that most people including myself have very little interest in it. The Shield take on Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus, in what should be a very good match and was one of the matches that they have built up best throughout the past couple of months. They could finally have Show, Orton and Sheamus topple the Shield, but that serves little utility, so I would expect the Shield to get the win here, possibly with the help of Randy Orton. Chris Jericho faces Fandango, in a match that really does feel thrown together, although it is a big test for Fandango, and whether it is just or not, people are going to judge him on his debut at WrestleMania. The Miz challenges Wade Barrett for the IC title, and God knows how fresh that match is. Bryan & Kane defend their Tag Team Championships against Dolf Ziggler & Big E. Langston, which should be a fun match, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ziggler cashed in on Del Rio or Swagger since they have placed him on somewhat of a win streak once again. Finally in what will definitely be the ugliest match on the card, and in all honesty that’s the element of the match that has me excited, Ryback faces Mark Henry.

 

This year’s WrestleMania isn’t the best card in years, although it does have the opportunity to be a really great show; it is being carried by two or three big matches without question. The WrestleMania Weekend as a whole is always the busiest time of the year for wrestling, and this year is no exception. It is going to be an insane rush that I am really looking forward to. Lookout for the two WrestleMania Weekend specials coming next week and the week after that for more.

 

Reid Flair Passes Away

 

In what was probably the biggest, and certainly the saddest news story of the week, Reid Flair passed away at the age of 25 on Friday March 29th from causes that aren’t clear at press time. The story was that Reid Flair was found unresponsive by Ric Flair at 10:30 at the Piedmont Row Drive South in Charlotte, North Carolina. Reid had just returned from a tour of All Japan with Ric Flair on March 17th and was set to do a tour with Flair this weekend.

 

Reid was probably set to be a somewhat regular fixture in All Japan Pro-Wrestling over the coming months, as he was thrown into the mainevent when the Fujiwara tag match with Ric Flair last month fell through. Flair, suffered a blood clot and was unable to compete and hence acted as Reid’s manager. Flair actually suffered another blood clot this week in Philadelphia backstage as the Wells Fargo Center during RAW. He was scheduled for the mainevent legends segment, but was sent to the hospital with a blood clot in the same leg as the clot in Japan. Apparently he did not look too good before the the clot, so you can only imagine what state he is in now.

 

There is no other news at this time, and we will most likely have to wait for the autopsy results, or another statement before anything can really be said on the situation. In the interim we here at the Cubed Circle Newsletter really do send our heartfelt condolences to the Flair family.

 

Reports

 

New Japan Pro Wrestling New Japan Cup Round 2 March 17th 2013

Beikomu General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

This was the best New Cap Cup show of the three, which is ironic given that this was neither the finals nor an internet-pay-per-view. It had two of the best matches of the tournament with the Goto/Ishii match being a clear match of the tournament, and the Okada/Anderson probably being slightly below most people’s expectations, but still being a very good mainevent. It’s a real shame that this wasn’t the internet-pay-per-view, as having it at Korakuen Hall would have made it even better. If you are going to check out one night of the New Japan Cup it should be this one, and if you watch only one match it should definitely be Goto versus Ishii. As a whole this was a thumbs up show.

 

1. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs. BUSHI & Captain New Japan

 

BUSHI feigned a dive, but then executed a topé on Liger seconds later. Tiger Mask called for New Japan, which led to both he and Liger working over New Japan as the definite heels of the match. BUSHI was tagged in, but he missed a crossbody on Tiger Mask and hit his own partner. Tiger Mask then landed a tiger driver seconds later for two. Tiger Mask got the pin on BUSHI in 08:22 with a jumping crucifix hold. This was probably at the level of your average opener although the crowd was dead throughout most of the match.

**

 

2. Togi Makabe, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Gedo, Takashi Iizuka & YOSHI-HASHI

 

It was exactly what you would have expected, only of course without Yano, and with a better worker in his place, Gedo. Iizuka and HASHI did their usual shtick with Kojima and Tenzan. There was the customary distraction of the referee and iron claw spots, Kojima blocked a claw shot and landed a lariat sending Iizuka to the floor allowing for a TenKoji 3D and Kojima lariat on Gedo for the win in 11:58. This was a fun match for what it was, but considering that we have seen the same match so many times it was very dull.

* 3/4

 

3. Shinsuke Nakamura & Jado vs. Lance Archer & Taka Michinoku

 

This actually had the opportunity to be a very good match if Jado and Gedo had switched places on the card. That isn’t to say that this wasn’t a good match, because Jado is over and good in his role, but he isn’t really given the chance to have very good matches considering that his entire gimmick is based around mimicking big North American moves and gimmicks. TAKA and Jado obviously did a ton of comedy, leading to Taka and Archer working over Jado. They built up to the Nakamura tag, which obviously led to Nakamura running wild on Archer with knees and kicks. Jado attempted to run in, he was knocked down by Archer, Nakamura was thrown around and Archer signaled for the chokeslam, Nakamura blocked, Archer turned around and hit it, but Jado was there to break it up. Michinoku and Archer went after Nakamura, but Jado assisted with a bridge on Archer to the floor. Jado then landed a swinging neckbreaker, the biggest move that I have seen him hit in a long time, and Nakamura hit the Boma Ye for the win in 09:34.

***

 

4. New Japan Cup Quarter Final

Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. Yujiro Takahashi

 

Takahashi was wearing Yano style pink tights, which was really strange. Smith went after Takahashi in the early portion of the match, but after that they told the story of Takahashi being the opportunist type heel where as Smith was the big monster that he was trying to beat down. Takahashi worked over the leg and delivered a big boot to the face. Takahashi locked in a kneebar a few minutes later, but Smith made it to the ropes. Smith’s selling was far better than I would have expected here. They finally built to Takahashi landing a clothesline, but Smith refused to go down yelling in the face of Takahashi. He went for the powerbomb, Takahashi grabbed a rollup, Smith then picked him up and dropped him straight down with a powerbomb, but Takahashi kicked out. Smith then got him up for a third time with a jumping sit-out powerbomb for the win in 11:43. This wasn’t a four star match or anything, but it was miles better than expected.

*** 1/4

 

5. Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii

 

Ishii landed a big delayed vertical suplex from the second rope for two. This led to one of many hard hitting exchanged during the match with both men springing up from big German supelxes before falling to the mat after a double lariat spot – the crowd was super into this. Goto landed a big Olympic slam for two and went for a German suplex, and Goto responded with another big German, but still Ishii kicked out. Ishii landed a big backdrop for two and followed it with a powerbomb also for two. They went back to the lariat exchange again, Goto got the better of it, but Ishii knocked Goto down with a headbutt. Goto responded with the over the knee fireman’s carry neckbreaker and his huge lariat for a count of one! Ishii was perched on the top rope, Ishii landed headbutts attempting to fight Goto off, but Goto landed the top rope over the knee fireman’s carry backbreaker, Ishii sold it as if his neck his neck had snapped in two, but still Ishii kicked out! Ishii landed an enzuigiri capping off an exchange and a huge lariat for two, still Goto kicked out. Ishii then landed his brainbuster, but no, Goto would not given. Both men fought for their finish, Goto got Ishii up, but Ishii made his way back down and they had headbutt exchange. Goto finally landed a lariat and the inverted Shouten Kai, yet again no finish. Finally he landed the Shouten Kai for the win in in 18:46. This was the best match of the New Japan Cup and while I did feel as if they went a move or two more than they should have, Ishii came off looking far better than he did coming in, and if you chose to watch just one match from the entire tournament it should probably be this one. Ishii is fast becoming one of the most overlooked workers in the world.

**** 1/2

 

6. Kazushi Sakuraba & Katsuyori Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi

 

Nakanishi went after Shibata, but soon he was brought to the Sakuraba corner; however he managed to fight Sakuraba off with overhead chops. Nagata was tagged in and he too teed off on Sakuraba, but Sakuraba took him to the ground and worked over the knee. Nakanishi landed a strike to the midsection of Sakuraba leading to him rolling out to the floor where Nakanishi was able to pick him apart. Then came what was probably the best portion of the match, which was Nagata and Shibata killing each other with strikes. He and Sakuraba teed off with strikes leaving Sakuraba open to going after the leg of Shibata. Nagata crabbed the crucifix armbar, but in came Shibata with a thunderous slap. He was thrown to the floor, but in came Nakanishi for the fall. He moved Sakuraba down with a lariat, and threw Nagata into both Sakuraba and Shibata. Nakanishi and Nagata landed a lariat and running boot respectively, Sakuraba was up for the torture rack, but he managed to grab a gogoplata, Nakanishi attempted to power out multiple times, but he was forced to submit at 11:13. With Sakuraba, Shibata and Nagata all in there they were able to get a really good match out of Nakanishi, frankly a match that I didn’t know he was capable of at this point in his career.

*** 1/2

 

7. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA vs. Prince Devitt, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tama Tonga

 

Much like in the tag match at the IPPV later on, they had Prince Devitt and Tanahashi start off with Devitt and Tanahashi both doing the eachother’s taunt. They did a lot of the standard multi-man junior tag sequences without a lot of fast tags in and out at the start of the match. If they weren’t running that New Japan angle, it would have probably been more suitable for this match to have been on the IPPV. Devitt and Tanahashi went at it once again towards the end of the match with Devitt missing a double foot stomp and Devitt getting the knees up off of a highfly flow. Tonga was tagged back in landed a backdrop on Tanahashi and going for a neckbreaker, but Tanahashi landed one of his own. Tanahashi followed up with a slingblade and highfly flow on Tonga for the win in 12:18.

***

 

8. Minoru Suzuki w/ Taichi vs. Toru Yano

 

Suzuki was definitely the one playing the underhanded heel here with Taichi landing shots with his crutch on the floor and Suzuki even strangling Yano with a cable. Suzuki grabbed an armbar on Yano, but Yano made it to the ropes. Suzuki went for the sleeper and piledriver repeatedly, Yano countered, Taichi took a few swings on the apron, but Yano pushed Suzuki into him and landed a low blow and cradle for the win and upset in 10:14. After the match Taka Michinoku threw Yano back in and a beatdown ensued, but Nakamura made his way out for the save in half street clothes – Jim Cornette would approve.

** 3/4

 

9. Kazuchika Okada w/ Gedo vs. Karl Anderson

 

Anderson hung Okada up with a gun stun around three minutes into the match. Okada signaled for the rainmaker, Anderson blocked it with a forearm, but Okada managed to land heavy rain for two. Anderson responded with a jumping powerbomb for two, both men went for their finishers. Anderson went for the Bernard driver, Okada made it out and landed a dropkick, tombstone and the rainmaker for the win in 15:27. This match wasn’t nearly as good as their match at the G1 from last year, which isn’t really fair given just how good that match was, and this was a fine mainevent. However, like with the first night of the New Japan Cup Ishii stole the show lower down on the card. After the match Gedo cut a promo for Okada.

*** 3/4

 

New Japan Pro-Wrestling New Japan Cup 2013 Final March 23rd 2013

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

Saying that this show was a disappointment would be far to harsh of a statement, because the reality is that if you were expecting much more out of this show then you were misinformed somewhere along the line. However, to say that this show was not worthy of an internet-pay-per-view would probably be the more correct statement of the two. It wasn’t that it was a bad show by any means, but the fact of the matter is that this wasn’t an internet-pay-per-view level line-up , and while it was nice of them to put it on internet-pay-per-view , all they were really doing was saying that all of their pay-per-views aren’t must see, which simply isn’t the message that you want to send. They did a similar thing last year with the finals of the Tag League, because realistically that show also wasn’t of a high enough caliber to warrant an internet-pay-per-view. With all of that being said it was a fun show, with the only real stand out match being Okada/Goto with everything else being Samurai TV level. If you check out one thing from the show it should be the mainevent, but if you only have time for one match you should probably check out Goto/Ishii from round two instead. Overall this was a fun show that certainly wasn’t worth $25; however, Invasion Attack on WrestleMania weekend should be a very good show and things should be back to normal in-terms of pay-per-view quality, at least in terms of that show.

 

1. Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask IV vs. Yuji Nagata, Super Strong Machine & BUSHI

 

Super Strong Machine (Junji Hirata, 56), was once again back for this show, so I guess he will be somewhat of a regular opening match fixture; and I am fine with that as it brings a welcome change to that slot on the card. Hirata looks pretty good physique wise, especially when you compare him with say Masanobu Fuchi (59), who is in a similar age group. Nakanishi and Nagata had a chop and kick exchange, with Nagata getting the better of it. Tiger Mask and Liger got the heat on Strong Machine for a few minutes until he landed an exploder on Tiger Mask, which led to Nakanishi and Nagata going at it again. Even though Nakanishi is a tin man at this point, these spots were a lot of fun. BUSHI went for a splash, but was caught by Nakanishi in a backbreaker; Nakanishi then locked in the torture rack for the win in 10:07. This was a fun opening level multi-man tag – along the lines of what you would expect. The Nakanishi/Nagata exchanges were fun, but there was nothing else here really.

** 1/4

 

2. Yujiro Takahashi, YOSHI-HASHI & Takashi Iizuka vs. Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Togi Makabe

 

Once again this was a match featuring Takashi Iizuka, and while Yano was obviously booked later on in the card they did most of what they do in ever Yano/Iizuka match. Iizuka would be the crazy wild man swinging chairs and strangling unexpected babyfaces in the guardrails, he would then proceed to choke said babyface and HASHI would do much of the later – rinse, wash and repeat. They built to the Makabe hot tag where he ran wild on Takahashi, continuing their ongoing feud. Kojima and Tenzan landed the 3D on HASHI before Kojima landed his big lariat for the win in 11:13. The big news was really that Takahashi began to beat Makabe down with the chain after the match, until of all people Tomoaki Honma ran down, something that I was very pleased to see, as Honma is a welcome edition to the New Japan roster, and if you don’t believe me his late 2011 match with Tanaka proves the point.

**

 

3. Hirooki Goto vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr. w/ Taka Michinoku

 

Smith sent Goto to the outside and slammed him on the floor before locking in a tight side headlock that he worked for quite some time. Smith took Goto up fro a powerbomb, but Goto caught him with a headbutt followed by a the Goto Special for the win in 08:14. I expected the match to go far longer than it did, but ultimately it didn’t need to go a massive length of time; Goto still had to wrestle the mainevent match against Okada.

***

 

4. Kazuchika Okada w/ Gedo vs. Toru Yano

 

Yano made his way out with one of the GHC tag team championship belts. Yano offered a handshake, but Okada simply responded with the rainmaker pose; Yano responded with a rainmaker pose of his own. Yano attempted to roll out to the floor, but met eye to eye with Gedo, which forced him to roll back into the ring. Yano soon got the upperhand and began to stomp at Okada’s sides and on the arm, smart given the fact that Okada’s finisher is the rainmaker. Yano went for a powerbomb, Okada dropped down, but Yano landed an atomic drop and catapult into the exposed turnbuckle. He landed a last ride stile powerbomb, but Okada managed to kick out. Okada landed his elbow drop and signaled for the rainmaker; however, Yano grabbed a cradle and landed a quick low blow behind the referee’s back, but Okada kicked out and locked in Red Mist for the submission in 10:42. The closing stretch of this match was surprisingly fun, as you normally don’t expect great wrestling from Yano, but he is actually a really fun performer sometimes. The closing sequence was particularly well pulled off; a fun match.

*** 1/4

 

There was a video with current NWA President, Bruce Tharpe, it was so unbelievably cheesy with Tharpe basically playing a nefarious super villain – great! He then introduced the strongest, most technical and best wrestler in the world – Rob Conway! Tharpe said that the NWA would be recognized as the new number one wrestling promotion in the world. Kojima proceeded to accept the challenge.

 

5. Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii & Jado w/ Gedo vs. Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku & Lance Archer w/ Taichi

 

Suzuki-gun attacked CHAOS before the bell with Suzuki going after Nakamura. Back in the ring Archer went after Ishii. Taichi landed some cheap shots on Jado on the floor, as he was worked on by the rest of the members of Suzuki-gun. He responded with some chops to Suzuki and showed some real fire believe it or not, that was of course until he just Flair flopped out of nowhere. He went at it with Archer, but finally ducked the sit down portion of the sunset flip reversal and made the tag to Nakamura who ran wild on Archer. Archer landed a neckbreaker and the tags were made to Ishii and Suzuki. Ishii landed a big backdrop, but was caught with a sleeper, he managed to block the piledriver however and Nakamura came it with a backcracker and Ishii landed a lariat for two. Michinoku was then tagged in, Suzuki ran in with a slap on Ishii, and Michinoku grabbed a rollup for two, but was obviously pinned with a brainbuster, and right in front of Suzuki too, for the win in 14:04. This was a really fun match with it serving to set up a tag team championship match with Ishii and Nakamura against KES. Smith ran out to back Archer up and accepted the challenge. However, he also wanted a shot at Nakamura’s IC title saying that he wouldn’t just be done for a three count, but he would be down “for good”.

*** 1/4

 

6. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Alex Shelley, KUSHIDA & Captain New Japan vs. Prince Devitt, Ryusuke Taguchi, Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga

 

They played up the rivalry between Devitt and New Japan from the first round of the New Japan Cup here with New Japan wanting in, but ultimately it was Devitt and Tanahashi who started off. Tanahashi mocked Devitt doing his aeroplane pose; Devitt responded by landing a big dropkick and mimicking Tanahashi; the same spot that they did on the 17th. New Japan tagged himself in and wanted to go at it, Devitt wanted to make the tag, but his partners dropped off understanding the importance of this rivalry. Somehow, Devitt convinced Taguchi to tag himself in and the tag was made to Shelley on the other side. Tonga manhandled KUSHIDA , which led to Devitt being tagged in and he too working over KUSHIDA. The tags were made to Taguchi and Shelley, but they were both knocked off of their feet and Anderson together with Tanahashi were tagged in. Devitt was tagged in, and once again they had Devitt knock New Japan to the floor. Devitt shot out with a topé con giro on Tanahashi. Tanahashi landed the slingblade and New Japan called for the tag, which finally led to the confrontation that they had been building up for more than the entire match. Everyone shot in with moves until once again Devitt and New Japan were the only men left in the ring, New Japan landed a chokeslam, but Devitt was able to land a double footstomp and bloody Sunday for the win in 13:22 – finally getting his revenge on Captain New Japan. This was another fun match, but nothing that was really pay-per-view worthy. After the match Shelley challenged Devitt to an IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship match on April 7th at Korakuen Hall (I think he meant Sumo Hall). This led to Devitt going nuts saying that he would not only beat Shelley, but take Tanahashi’s title and even New Japan’s mask.

*** 1/4

 

7. Kazuchika Okada w/ Gedo vs. Hirooki Goto

 

Goto grabbed a chinlock on Okada and landed a kick to the back of the neck in the early stages of the match. Okada responded with a couple of lariats and a dropkick to the face. Okada managed to get in control in the following minutes, but was caught with a big lariat from Goto. Okada was dropped to the floor, but made it back in at 18. Okada landed his big vertical leap dropkick knocking Goto to the floor and called for the cameramen to clear as he rammed Goto into the barricade and booted him over the the top of it. Okada went for the rainmaker, Goto ducked, but Okada was still able to land heavy rain for two. Goto telegraphed a dropkick and took Okada down with a big lariat, which led to both men dropping to the mat. The crowd chanted for Goto, as both men engaged in an incredibly fiery elbow exchange. Okada fell to the mat in a heap, Goto picked him back up for more punishment, but Okada was able to land a dropkick. Okada went for red mist, but like a tortured soul attempting to escape the depths of the underworld, Goto pulled himself to the ropes. Goto locked in his three quarter facelock, but Okada got one foot on the rope. Goto landed his over the knee fireman’s carry backbreaker and set up for the Shouten Kai, Okada fought Goto off, but Goto landed a blow to the back of the head. Both men dueled on the top rope, where Goto landed a top rope over the knee fireman’s neckbreaker! Goto went for the Shouten Kai once more, but Okada grabbed a rollup. Okada landed the belly to back over the should over the knee backbreaker, but Goto was able to get the shoulder up. Goto telegraphed a dropkick and went for the Ura Shouten, but Okada kicked out. Goto countered the rainmaker with a shoulderblock,and got Okada up for the Shouten Kai, still Okada countered and landed a dropkick to the back. Okada landed a tombstone followed by the rainmaker for the win in 23:54. I don’t want to say that this show would have been a complete disappointment without this match, but it certainly wouldn’t have been worthy of an internet-pay-per-view. However, Okada and Goto certainly delivered here putting on everything that you would expect from a New Japan pay-per-view mainevent. Nothing else on the show was all that memorable and this match is the only match that you should really go out of your way to see. Tanahashi made his way out with the IWGP heavyweight title after the match and the mic was given to Okada after a Gedo promo. Both men did their possesses and Okada called for Tanahashi to leave the ring. Streamers then reigned from the ceiling.

**** 1/4

 

WWE Monday Night RAW March 25th 2013

Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

I’ll be honest, technical issues happen, and admittedly here at the Cubed Circle Front Office (my house), these things tend to occur far more frequently than in the majority of households around the globe, whether due to fault of my own or forces beyond my control – still accidents happen, which in this case was a file dropping out of my Dropbox (pun not intended). Whether I should just just stop tinkering around I do not know, and my meanderings on that topic are surely not what you subscribe to a pro-wrestling newsletter for, so I will get too the point.

 

The point is this, there will in fact be a RAW report this week, but we will be going old-school, that is if the school, in this case the Cubed Circle Newsletter, is a school old enough. This basically means that instead of running down every single segment like in the majority of issues past, we will simply be looking at the big segments, what they were and why they mattered. It isn’t something that I would necessarily do by choice, but in this case there was simply no choice, as I had to work off only the notes that I could recall from memory, and nothing else.

 

As a whole this week’s edition of Monday Night RAW was an improvement over the prior week, which isn’t really saying much considering that the March 18th show was so bad; however, I would still consider this a fun show. In terms of build to Mania they got a decent amount in with the big Cena/Rock debate (and it was bit in more ways than one), the Fandango/Jericho beatdown, Triple H promo, and finally something meaningful for the CM Punk/Undertaker angle in the opening segment.

 

Punk basically came out with the urn this week, not as a vessel for the kayfabe ashes of Paul Bearer, but rather as a source of Undertaker’s power and possible memento, which isn’t necessarily unique or all that riveting, but it is multiple times better than building the match off of Bearer actually being housed inside of the urn, something that became tasteless very quickly.

 

CM Punk, who is honestly one of, if not the best person in the world right now on promos, cut a very good promo on the Undertaker. The gong sounded, and Undertaker appeared in the ring after the lights had gone off following Punk’s mockery of Undertaker’s pose. A quick melee ensued with Punk and Heyman escaping with the urn. The Philadelphia crowd was into the Undertaker portion of the segment, which helped.

 

Looking at the CM Punk/Undertaker angle as a whole however, makes me feel somewhat anxious. Not, because I think that the show wouldn’t be able to draw a great number even if the match and its build flop, but more due to it being one of the weakest Undertaker Mania builds in the last decade or so. They could pull something magical off with the go-home show next week, because with two great performers such as Undertaker and Punk, they could always pull something off, but it’s going to take a lot given their current direction.

 

After causing Fandango to flee the ring preceding his match, Jerico had a good match with Dolf Ziggler, Fandango of course attacked Jericho after he disposed of Ziggler with the walls of Jericho (another story for another day.). The whole time Fandango screamed “what’s my name”, and delivered a top rope leg drop, and while many of the people reading this newsletter know my views when it comes to Fandango, this was a good segment building to WrestleMania, and was far and away the best segment that they have have placed Fandango in since his debut – once again, not really much of a compliment, but it was a good segment.

 

In a segment that was quite reminiscent of the last time Rock was on the show, Triple H came out to cut a promo on Lesnar. It didn’t go all that long and really didn’t make the impact that it should have. That really isn’t to say that it was a bad promo, because it certainly wasn’t that; however with only two weeks of TV left this segment really should have been more than just having Triple H come out for a forgettable promo.

 

They continued with the progression of honestly one of their most logically booked matches on the Road to WrestleMania this year, the Shield versus Sheamus, Orton and Big Show, this week by having the Shield squash a jobber team of Khali, Ryder and Gabreil. Orton, Sheamus and Big Show then executed a Shield esque ambush before all three men finally fled through the crowd. I am enjoying the build to this match, it may not be the biggest or most important thing on the show, but it has progressed in a very logical manner with strong booking that has made every man in the match look strong.

 

Finally, in the mainevent segment, which somehow managed to go twenty plus minutes past the overrun (with no extra commercial breaks), Cena and Rock made it out for a question and answer segment with Dusty Rhodes, Bret Hart, Booker T and Mick Foley. This is somewhat of a nitpick, but they probably should have had a couple of guys in there that aren’t a part of regular TV, such as a Funk or Flair, but realistically that wouldn’t have changed the segment all that much.

 

It was an interesting segment as they haven’t really done anything like this, at least that I can recall, over the past few years. Cena came off as somewhat of a heel at times, but they did really play up the fact that Cena plays the smiling, happy babyface, when in actual fact he though the Rock didn’t really beat him at last year’s Mania. It took them around fifteen minutes to get to that point, which was perfectly acceptable apart from the fact that they had gone over by that point. The problem is that they continued to ask questions past the segments peak, which was where Cena spoke up about his thoughts on Rock’s victory over him.

 

Doing more didn’t do anyone any favors, but they still had a strong closing run with Cena and Rock facing off, Cena going for the AA, but having Rock lay him out with the Rock Bottom regardless. This wasn’t as good as their segment in week one, which was perfect for that point in the build, and while they did get me excited for the match here, from a build standpoint it doesn’t feel like a big Mania mainevent. It will be interesting to see where they go next week, because they skipped two or three weeks of build where they really should have been doing something with the angle, a problem considering that next week is the go-home show and it still feels like they are far out.

 

As a whole this show was obviously miles ahead of last week, and they did get a fair bit of build in for WrestleMania. The problem however is two fold, in that they have only one week left until Mania, and in terms of excitement and complete story telling they are nowhere near that point. It most likely won’t affect Mania business, but unless they pull something spectacular off next week the build to this year’s WrestleMania will be remembered as lackluster and as a whole, uneventful; suffice to say that isn’t what you want for the year’s biggest show.

 

RAW Ratings March 25th 2013

 

The March 25th edition of Monday Night RAW was up from the slightly above mediocre levels that it has been doing for the past couple of weeks, which shows that the addition of the Rock makes a huge difference, and that in fact having a Road to WrestleMania show that has worthwhile segments, as opposed to comedy and general nonsense will draw a larger amount of viewers; astounding, I know. The show drew a 3.21 rating and 4.61 million viewers, up by around 360,000 viewers on average from last week’s show; however, it is important to note that they were facing less competition with no Dancing with the Stars Premiere or strong NBA game. It was the number one show for the night on cable, with very little else even coming close apart from ‘Storage Wars’, which drew 3.14 million viewers, but even then RAW clinched the first, second and third spots for the night.

 

The show opened well with the Punk/Undertaker segment doing a 3.39 rating. The Jericho/Ziggler match which followed lost 441,000 viewers, understandable given how the show started off on such a good foot. The Fandango segment with Jericho in the post-match and Shield attack on Sheamus backstage gained 117,000 viewers. The Mark Henry/Usos squash lost 54,000 viewers. Then in the 21:00 slot, Del Rio vs. Cesaro and the Jack Swagger post-match attack on Ricardo gained 371,000 viewers to a 3.28 quarter; a decent gain for the 21:00 segment, but nothing extraordinary.

 

The 20:00 to 21:00 hour drew 4.58 million viewers (2,024,000 viewers and a 1.60 rating in the 18-49 demo), both the overall viewership and 18-49 viewership were slightly down from last week; however, it still was the third hour for the night on cable.

 

In the post-21:00 segment, Kane and Daniel Brian vs. The Prime Time Players lost 241,000 viewers, perfectly fine for that segment considering that they were performing pretty well before 21:00. The Triple H interview lost 6,000 viewers, surprising, given that Triple H hasn’t really been a loser this month (doubtful he will be one at Mania too); although 6,000 viewers is pretty inconsequential. Wade Barrett vs. Miz gained 71,000 viewers. Then in the 22:00 segment The Shield vs. Zack Ryder, Gabriel and Khali gained 187,000 viewers to a 3.29, up from the Shield segment in the same timeslot last week.

 

The 21:00 to 22:00 segment drew 4.89 million viewers (2,227,000 and a 1.76 rating in the 18-49 demo), which was the number one hour for the night and very close to what they did last week.

 

The Rhode’s Scholars vs. Clay & Tensai and the Ryback/3MB squash lost a combined 102,000 viewers. Kaitlyn vs. AJ lost a further 257,000 viewers, and finally in the segment that went over twenty minutes past the overrun (yes, 20 minutes past the overrun of a three hour show), the John Cena/Rock debate drew 615,000 viewers to a 3.47, good considering just how long it went.

 

The 22:00 to 23:21 hour drew 4.58 million viewers (2,175,000 viewers and a 1.72 rating in the 18-49 demo), it was the second hour for the night on cable. The show performed well in most of their key demos doing a 2.7 in males 18-49, a 2.1 in male teens, a 1.3 in females 18-49 and a 0.9 in female teens. Overall I would consider this a decent performance, but nothing compared to that run of hot weeks they had a few weeks ago.

 

WWE –NXT

March 27th 2013 – Full Sail University, Florida.

Ben Carass.

 

 

To start this special “Road to WrestleMania” show, we got the Mania promo video then after the titles, Natalya made her way out. Kaitlyn was through the curtain next; Howard Finkel made the in-ring intros for the championship bout and was just as awesome as ever.

 

WWE Diva’s Title Match: Kaitlyn (Champion) vs. Natalya

 

They started out trading holds; Nattie countered a sunset flip from the second rope and went for the sharpshooter, but Kaitlyn escaped then tried for an inverted DDT. Nattie fought out to hit a short-arm clothesline to start the heat; Kaitlyn reversed an abdominal stretch for some hope and Nattie took over again. Kaitlyn started her comeback with a clothesline then hit her gutbuster for a near fall; Nattie avoided a spear and locked in the sharpshooter. Kaitlyn got to the ropes, but the hold wasn’t broken, so she rolled through and sent the back of Nattie’s head into the bottom turnbuckle then hit the spear for the finish.

 

Kaitlyn defeated Natalya via pinfall, at 6:50.

 

This was fine; at least Kaitlyn didn’t do anything stupid and almost injure herself, which she is prone to do. Instead of wrestling Tamina Snuka on the road, Kaitlyn should be in the ring with Natalya every night; she has had the best (or least lamentable, depending on how you look at it) matches I’ve ever seen anyone drag out of Kaitlyn. They had a decent little outing on Saturday Morning Slam a couple of weeks ago and this was perfectly adequate.

 

Alberto Del Rio was backstage with Tony Dawson; this was clearly taped on the road somewhere, as Alberto did not appear at the February set of tapings. Del Rio said he would make things right at WrestleMania by braking Jack Swagger’s “spirit, pride and maybe his arm” then stated he would do the same to Zeb if he sneaked his way into the match. Alberto claimed he was born in in Mexico, but “made in America” and declared Swagger’s dream of a new American and the World title would end at WrestleMania.

 

Is everyone on the booking team completely oblivious to the fact that by having Del Rio pander to both Mexican and American fans, he is unintentionally alienating himself from both?

 

Everybody’s favourite managing luchador, El Local made his entrance; Brodus Clay boogied on down the ramp with The Funkadactyls.

 

Brodus Clay vs. El Local

 

Brodus took over with his strength then held the legs of Local and dropped a headbutt to the stomach, similar to what Bret Hart used to do, only fatter. Local went after the knee briefly for what I assume was the heat spot then Brodus countered a springboard move with his headbutt and went into his comeback, before he hit a big splash to get the victory.

 

Brodus Clay defeated El Local via pinfall, at 2:02.

 

Nothing match; the heat spot was so brief and meaningless and the transition to Clay’s comeback was non-existent. Brodus was in control, then sold for all of 30 seconds and suddenly he had the advantage again.

 

They aired a video package hyping the CM Punk/Undertaker angle, which personally I could take or leave since I have no strong feelings about this programme one way or the other.

 

A promo from The Shield rolled; they talked about amending injustice at WrestleMania and “collapsing the centre of the Universe”; Reigns stole a line and said, “We’re taking over”. Ambrose stated Sheamus, Orton and Big Show were not above the law then called them “sacrifices”. Reigns declared they would have “zero tolerance for mercy” and Ambrose claimed they would “close the chapter on the fake, false heroes” at Mania. Rollins said The Shield’s WrestleMania moment would come at the expense of their opponents, before Reigns closed the video with the familiar “believe in The Shield” line.

 

Dawson was in the locker room of some arena with John Cena; again this was clearly shot long after this show was taped back in February. Cena took the time to joke with the clueless announcer before cutting a promo about how April 7th and his match with The Rock will change the face of the WWE. Cena took a break from hyping the biggest match of all time and tried to get Dawson to do the people’s eyebrow then quickly went back into serious mode and said he would “humanise” Rocky at WrestleMania.

 

This was insipidly horrible; most people that take the time to watch NXT are going to buy WrestleMania anyway, so this promo would have added little buys either way. Still, joking with the Z-string announcer while trying to promote the biggest potential cash cow the business has ever seen is an act of sheer idiocy.

 

Kassius Ohno ran out and attacked William Regal while he sat at the announce table doing a link with Tom Phillips and JR; Ohno pounded Regal and had to be restrained by a group of referees. Phillips and JR put over the assault after the break and Jim Ross proved why he should be on this show as much as possible, so these oblivious goofs can learn first-hand how to get something over.

 

I liked this; after being dropped twice, you knew Ohno would get some heat on himself sooner or later and what is easier than the old jumped from behind gimmick. This feud is definitely heading in the right direction; Regal gets his revenge next week, which leads to a singles match in two weeks. I’m excited to see this as much as any match at WrestleMania.

 

Damien Sandow appeared for the main event and Randy Orton showed up to face the intellectual saviour of the unwashed masses.

 

Randy Orton vs. Damien Sandow

 

Orton shone at the start; he didn’t fall for the heel chase round ringside spot and caught Sandow with a clothesline on the floor. Randy continued to control then went for the hangman’s DDT, but was dumped over the top; Orton landed on his feet, however Sandow sent him into the steel steps for the transition then went for the heat inside the ring. Orton showed some fight, only to be cut off with a Russian legsweep; Sandow went to the second rope, but Orton cut him off and delivered a superplex to transition into his comeback; JR got in a Buzz Sawyer reference when Orton hit his powerslam. Sandow caught Orton with a boot then hit a corkscrew neckbreaker for a near fall; Orton countered a whip into his inverted headlock backbreaker, hit the hangman and followed up with an RKO for the finish.

 

Randy Orton defeated Damien Sandow via pinfall, at 9:51.

 

This was an adequate match, nothing more; Sandow never posed a real threat to Orton and as a result, it was nearly ten minutes of waiting for Orton to hit the RKO.

 

This was an odd edition of NXT; the only regular talent featured on the show was Ohno (besides Ricardo as El Local) and everything else was meaningless. The main roster talent were just booked in random matches, plus the promos from Cena and Del Rio added nothing to a completely missable show. Thankfully, next week we’re back to the regularly scheduled programming, with Big E. defending the NXT title, Paige & Sasha Banks vs. Audrey & Summer plus Regal gets his retribution.

 

TNA Impact March 28th 2013

Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, Arkansas

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

While this week’s edition of Impact wasn’t as good as last week it still was a very good show building well towards the Hardy/Bully Ray title match. Some of the usual problems reared their heads once again in that there were too many Aces & Eights run-ins, because although the Aces & Eights come off looking good, it does interrupt the flow of the rest of the show, which is a problem for the angles that don’t feature the Aces & Eights. I am happy that they have allocated this period of time in Arkansas to build to the Ray/Hardy match in two weeks instead of just doing it on this set of tapings; I just hope that they are able to do the same thing for Slammiversary after that match. From watching this show together with last week’s show I would assume that they will be going with Ray/Angle as the next big program before Styles at Bound for Glory, as Joe was pinned last week by Hardy and Angle almost made the save.

 

Hardy made it out to kick off the show and make his challenge for Open Fight Night. Bully Ray soon made it out with a trail of Aces & Eights behind him to interrupt. He asked if Hardy was going to call him out, Anderson got on the mic and said that Hardy was getting yet another chance. He said that rules didn’t apply to Hardy due to the merchandise sales that he rakes in, and he was going to be a disappointment once again at Corpus Christi, something that they had made no mention of up until that point, apart from a tweet from Dixie Carter; it was only during the tag team match that they actually made the announcement on TV. People really need to know that most people who watch Impact wouldn’t go through to Carter’s twitter account every few days. Hardy knocked Anderson off of the apron, which led to a beat down before the usual TNA suspects made the save. This led to Hardy calling Anderson out, which I guess was a decent enough way to up the challenge. They cut to Chavo and Hernandez conveniently talking about their loss last week. They made their way out for a challenge, and they called Daniels and Kazarian out saying that they were the ones to ruin their title match last week – it was a three-way right? It was also announced that this match would be a number one contender’s match. Chavo and Hernandez did dual dives over the top rope from the ramp into the ring. Daniels and Kazarian got the heat on Chavo, which the crowd was more into that you would have thought. Chavo finally made the tag off of a dropkick and Hernandez ran wild. Chavo then proceeded to suplex Daniels onto the shoulders of Hernandez for a double backbreaker. Daniels went for a roll up with his feet on the ropes, the ref saw and Chavo went for the frog splash. Kazarian took a pounce off of the ramp, which must have been no fun. Finally Hernandez shot in with a catapult shoulder block and Chavo landed a frogsplash on Daniels for the win. So we will be getting no Aries & Roode vs. Daniels & Kazarian match; a real shame. Taz called Chavo out for forgetting to sell after the match. They then cut to a pure fan service segment with Taryn Terrell who was in the middle of getting dressed saying that she knew who she was going to call out later on in the night.

 

TNA are now copying WWE’s ‘Did you know?’ graphic with ‘IMPACT INSTA-FACT’; the graphic didn’t really stay on-screen long enough, but it was basically a graphic putting over Lockdown and its attendance. Terrell came out in the most revealing ring attire that I have seen in a very long time. Terrell called out Kim, who took a few extra seconds to make her way out. Kim asked if Terrell wanted to embarrass herself on live TV; Kim said that Terrell had rubbed other people the wrong way too and brought out Tara for a challenge. Wait, does that mean that a second Open Fight Night challenge overrides the first? I really wish some clear cut rules would be established. Kim attacked Terrell before the bell, which led to a two on one beatdown, but Sky made it out about twenty seconds after her ring music hit to make the save. After the break Sky and Terrell were backstage complaining when Terrell saw Kim and Tara walking by backstage, which led to Terrell lunging at Kim with a pull apart ensuing soon after. There was a Gut Check commercial, which I assume was for tryouts, but there was no contact information. They then cut to Borash backstage with next week’s competitors Adam Pierce and Magno – hopefully Pierce gets the contract. Sting was backstage trying to get passed what looked to be a bodyguard in his early sixties, in order to make his way into Hogan’s office.

 

Hogan was backstage with Hardy saying how Hardy was destined to lead the company into the future – that isn’t what he was saying a month ago. Hogan then said that Hardy could pick the stipulation for his match at Corpus Christi. Sting made his way out against Hogan’s orders. Sting called Hogan out given that he had reused to talk to him since Ray became champion. Sting demanded an apology, but Hogan responded with a fiery promo saying that he messed up the entire company because of Sting. Sting demanded that Hogan man up, but Hogan got even more angry and demanded that Sting get out of his ring. Sting wanted Hogan to make him, which led to backstage personal needing to separate the two. This was a good segment, the problem is that it can’t lead to much, and henceforth is just taking attention away from everything else. They showed some footage from during the break with Morgan saying that Hogan had made yet another mistake in reference to Sting being taken away.

 

There was a recap of the AJ Styles segments over the last few weeks. James Storm made his way out and called Styles out for a match. Styles appeared in the crowd – so at this point the Styles angle is a complete knock-off of the crow angle. Storm said that he could relate to AJ, but they could settle it the Southern way by drinking a beer and talking about it or by fighting it out. The Aces & Eights stormed the ring before anything could happen and Styles walked off while they beat Storm down. Young attempted to make the save, but was quickly disposed off, finally Angle made his way out clearing the ring. Angle then made a six-man challenge for right then and there. The Aces and Eights got the heat on Young before the break. After the break the tag was made to Storm who ran wild. However DOC ran in with a clothesline. The tag was made to Angle a couple of minutes later running wild landing suplex after suplex. Brown ran down for a distraction, Garrett went for a shot with a chain, Angle fought him off, but Briscoe grabbed a rollup for the win. Ray was backstage with Anderson and Devon toasting to their win. Anderson went crazy breaking stuff saying that he would go crazy and put Hardy out of action. Right after he break their was a commercial for WrestleMania, which was quite ironic. There was a video package for the new X Division rules. Borash was backstage with Dutt and Mason Andrews (Scorpio Sky) and a returning Petey Williams; they would have a three way next week. There was a recap of Lockdown.

 

Hardy and Anderson made it out for the mainevent, and they had a decent TV mainevent. Towards the end of the match Anderson wen for cover after cover, Hardy kicked out, however Hebner was knocked down and Anderson went for a shot with the hammer. Hardy then landed the twist of fate and went wild with the hammer for the DQ. He continued with chair shots and a poetry in motion off of a chair on the ramp onto Anderson into the ring. He grabbed a ladder and set up a table. Anderson attempted to fight Hardy off, but Hardy landed a twist of fate and went for the swanton off of the ladder. Ray ran out for the save and turned over the table. Hardy then challenged Ray to full metal mayhem in two weeks.

 

WWE SmackDown – March 29th 2013.

GIANT Centre: Hershey, PA.

Ben Carass.

Kicking off the show was the usual video recap; they hyped The Rock’s appearance on the show and went over the Swagger/Del Rio feud then the narrator inquired about the alliance between Sheamus, Orton and Big Show for the six-man with The Shield.

 

Inside the arena, The Rock came out for the opening segment promo and received a huge reaction from the sold out live crowd; before he said anything, he pulled out a Hershey’s chocolate bar and smiled. Rock then mentioned his senseless “story time” deal from a few weeks back on Raw, in which he rambled about buying a car from a crackhead and said the story needed to continue. Rock talked about living in Bethlehem, PA as a fifteen year old then put up a picture of himself as a teenager on the Titantron; he made a bad joke about looking like a bouncer for Menudo then said he used to come to Hershey with his friends to visit a theme park and to eat chocolate as a set up for the “Finally” line. He continued with a derivative tale about how the phrase “candy ass” came to be; apparently, Rocky got into a dispute with an old lady over a Hershey’s Whatchamacallit and thus the catchphrase was born. Rock explained this story showed a man would go to great lengths to get what he wanted, which meant a Hershey’s Whatchamacallit and beating John Cena at WrestleMania. Finally this abomination of a promo got on track, as Rocky said he knew Cena would come back with more passion and fire than he has ever had in his life, but would still get his “candy ass” kicked. Rock was interrupted by Mr Observer Match of the Year 1996, Big Johnny himself, John Laurinaitis.

 

After a break, Rock asked, “who in the blue hell are you?” and Big Johnny said everyone in the WWE Universe knew who he was then introduced himself as the “former executive vice president of talent relations and the former GM of Raw”. Laurinaitis claimed Teddy Long gave him permission to crash story time then stated he and Rock were “two peas in a pod”. Big Johnny compared the “People’s Champion” to “People Power” and declared John Cena was the reason he was fired; Laurinaitis offered to be in The Rock’s corner at WrestleMania then in the best part of this entire segment said, there was no way…and Big Johnny said No Way that Rocky could lose with him on his side. Laurinaitis told Rock they were like Reese’s peanut butter cups, because they were two great flavors that taste great together. Rock asked the people if they wanted to see Big Johnny team up with “the most electrifying piece of chocolate” the world had ever seen; the crowd booed and Rocky planted Laurinaitis with a spinebuster then dropped the people’s elbow, before grabbing the mic to state that Cena would go down again at WrestleMania.

 

First of all, I am throwing this into the hat for “worst segment of the year”; I mean this was up there with Jericho’s Highlight Reel that died a slow death. I don’t even know where to begin; I literally had to take a break from watching the show after seeing this, just so I could take a moment to allow how bad this thing really was to sink in. Having the opening segment go through a commercial break made this feel torturously long, Rock rambled for 9 minutes before he got to Cena and I assume someone got a kickback for all the brand namedropping. This is the penultimate SmackDown before WrestleMania and since there is no scheduled taping set for next week (they are in Washington D.C on April 1 for Raw, but no SmackDown date is available for the 2nd) I assume they will air mostly promos and hype packages on the go-home show. That means this was the last chance Rock had to really sell the match to the SmackDown viewers (believe it or not I know people that don’t watch Raw and just watch SmackDown) and instead we got irrelevant garbage plus an appearance from a character who hasn’t been seen in over 9 months. Even though it wasn’t smart business last year to have Rock and Cena bury each other every week (which also could be debatable, due to the monster buyrate for Mania 28), at least that match demanded to be seen and felt important. This year, with the title on the line, the build has been considerably weaker in terms of captivating TV and creating a buzz. I don’t know what they have planned for Monday, but it had better be damn good, because this was wretched.

 

Chris Jericho made his entrance then they showed Fandango attacking Jericho last week; Wade Barrett appeared to face Y2J. Miz was on commentary and talked up his IC title shot at WrestleMania.

 

Non-Title Match: Chris Jericho vs. Wade Barrett (IC Champion)

 

Jericho shone early and dumped Barrett over the top with a clothesline; Barrett took over after a big boot which sent Jericho off the bottom turnbuckle to the floor. Wade had the heat after the break; Jericho soon started his comeback and came off the top with an axe handle then went for the lionsault; Barrett moved and cut Jericho off with a Traylorslam to start the near falls. Jericho countered the wasteland and tried to apply the Walls, but Barrett fought out, only to be sent flying over the top again. Jericho missed a springboard and spilled to the floor; Barrett rolled him back inside then began to badmouth The Miz. Wade realised he was going to be counted out, so he returned to the ring, however Jericho caught him with the code breaker and got the victory.

 

Chris Jericho defeated Wade Barrett via pinfall, at 8:10.

 

After the match, Jericho cut a promo; he pointed out that Fanango’s fancy entrance curtain had been set up then made fun of his name. Jericho showed off his pipes and performed the famous bridge from Bohemian Rhapsody, which finally brought Fandango out to the stage. JBL had the line of the night when he uttered: “This is like Baryshnikov crossed with like Ken Shamrock or something”; Cole couldn’t contain his laughter at this wonderfully ludicrous comment. Fandango teased heading down to face Jericho, but the slimy heel turned and left with his dancer.

 

The match was fine, although there did appear to be an edit made during the middle. If the secondary champions weren’t beaten worse than a geek in a bar fight with Haku every week, then perhaps Miz distracting the IC champ and costing him a loss would mean something heading into their match. Sadly, I, like everyone else had forgotten this even happened by the time the next segment started. As for Jericho and Fandango, I’m not into this feud at all and I hope for Jericho’s sake 80,000 people don’t simultaneously kill the match, but it is almost inevitable at this point. I’ll go into their performance at Mania open-minded and instead of regretting the fact that Jericho is being wasted, I am actually intrigued to see if Jericho can pull a Bret Hart, who made Tom Magee look so good one night in 1986, Vince was ready to push him as the next Hogan. Jericho will be fine if that match dies, however it could be the end of Fandango after just one match.

 

A hell of a video package hyped Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania then they aired a “sit-down interview” with Paul Heyman. Josh Matthews conducted the interview and wanted a rebuttal to Triple H’s promo on Raw, Heyman refused then stated not only would Triple H’s career as a wrestler come to an end, but so would his career as an executive and the Chief Operating Officer of a publicly traded, multi-billion dollar global conglomerate. Heyman claimed that a loss at WrestleMania would force Triple H to sit behind a desk and work with all the current talent; Paul.E stated that Triple H would end up resenting the guys that could still work and said he wouldn’t be able to do his job as an executive, because he would be consumed with jealousy. Heyman finished by declaring Triple H had made the two biggest mistakes of his life, by trying to compete intellectually with him and trying to compete physically with Brock Lesnar.

 

As good of a promo Paul.E is, I could have done with just the video package the preceded the interview. This didn’t really add much to the programme and Paul’s outlandish scenario of Triple H crumbling with jealousy only helped further the idea that Triple H is getting the win.

 

Booker T and Teddy Long were on the stage with a bench press gimmick set up for the contest. Book said the contest took place at all the NFL combines then introduced Ryback; Book tried to introduce Mark Henry, but Teddy interrupted and brought out the man he used to manage 10 years ago. The two monsters faced off, but Book went nuts and told them they would be banned from WrestleMania if they violated the GM’s no contact clause.

 

No contact clause? Booker must not have been paying attention when Henry killed Ryback with 3 World’s strongest slams and when Ryback took Henry down with a spear.

 

Mark Henry was up first; with another great line, JBL claimed, “this is like Arcidi vs. Kazmaier”. Book announced that the record was 51 reps; Henry did 53 and Cole put over the “new world record”. Ryback went next and got to 53 also, however Henry stepped in and choked Ryback with the steel bar. Some EMT’s came out to check on Ryback, however he got to his feet as they cut to a break.

 

I’m not going to get into whether they used shoot weights or not; I mean this is pro-wrestling after all, so it doesn’t really matter. Had they not already resorted to physicality in this feud then this angle would have been a pretty creative way of moving the story along. But since they’ve had contact many times, this deal didn’t have nearly the impact it could have done.

 

Dolph Ziggler, Big.E and AJ were in the ring after commercial; Team HellNo and Kaitlyn showed up for a mixed tag match.

 

Daniel Bryan (Tag Champ) & Kaitlyn (Diva’s Champ) w/ Kane vs. Dolf Ziggler & AJ w/ Big E. Langston

 

Bryan and Ziggler started out, however Kaitlyn soon tagged herself in; AJ took control after some heel cowering and a distraction from Dolph. AJ got the heat then Kaitlyn hit a shoulder block and made the hot tag. Bryan ran wild on Ziggler, until Big E. tripped Bryan from the outside and Ziggler scored with a dropkick; Kane caught Big E. with a boot to the face, but ate a dropkick from Dolph. Bryan tried for the “No” lock and Ziggler escaped then dived to make the tag to AJ. Bryan went after Ziggler on the floor and backdropped him into the timekeeper’s area; inside the ring, Kaitlyn hit AJ with a spear for the finish.

 

Daniel Bryan & Kaitlyn defeated Dolph Ziggler & AJ via pinfall, at 3:12.

 

This was ok for what it was; it could have been more fun, but this close to Mania I’m glad they chose not to go the comedy route and just tried to get everyone involved in this match one way or another. The Tag title match should be a solid outing on the undercard and I suppose Kaitlyn vs. AJ is slightly less terrifying than Kaitlyn vs. Layla.

 

A promo from The Shield aired; Ambrose said all the clichés that get thrown around during WrestleMania season were nothing compared to the biggest cliché of them all: Sheamus, Orton and Big Show claiming to have put their differences aside. Reigns said they would choke on their clichés at WrestleMania and Rollins stated the three of them didn’t stand a chance against The Shield. Ambrose declared that the three babyfaces may play nice with each other, but added, “this is not a game; this is a story about justice and the final chapter will be written by The Shield at WrestleMania”.

 

More great stuff from The Shield; I’m praying (or whatever the atheist equivalent is) that they go over Sheamus and Co. It wouldn’t be the end of the group if they lost at WrestleMania, but I think if WWE really wants to put The Shield over the top (not that they haven’t done a better job with them than anybody else in the past 5 years) then The Shield stand tall over the fallen babyfaces on the biggest stage. If the Orton heel turn is coming, I would keep him as far away from The Shield as possible. The last thing they need is to become a bunch of geeks as Orton’s cronies.

 

Zeb Colter led out Jack Swagger to face The Great Khali. For whatever reason, they edited out a pre-match promo from Zeb on the UK broadcast.

 

The Great Khali w/ Natalya & Hornswaggle vs. Jack Swagger w/ Zeb Colter

 

Swagger tried to out maneuver the giant, but Khali used his size and hit some big overhand chops in the corner. Swagger countered the treeslam, but ran into a big boot and some lumbering clotheslines; Khali went for his big chop to the skull, however Swagger rolled to the outside. As Khali climbed over the top, Swagger hung his leg up on the rope; the finish saw Swagger hit a shoulder block to the leg inside the ring then Khali rolled to the outside and Swagger applied the ankle lock as the referee counted both guys out.

 

Great Khali & Jack Swagger fought to a double count-out, in 3:07.

 

Swagger wouldn’t let go of the hold, so Hornswoggle saved his buddy, but paid the price as Swagger tossed him into the barricade. Ricardo Rodriguez came out to the top of the ramp on one crutch and challenged Swagger to attack him for a third time. Del Rio hit the ring while Ricardo headed down the ramp and Alberto pounded on Swagger then applied the armbar. Zeb raked Del Rio’s eyes to break the hold, but Ricardo drilled him with his crutch then tossed it to Alberto; Del Rio swung widely at Swagger, who dodged and fled the ring to safety. Alberto fired up and pointed at the WrestleMania sign.

 

The match was a complete waste of time; why couldn’t Swagger just win clean with his move, what are they protecting Khali for? The angle after was fine, as they tried to tease Del Rio getting his revenge, but Zeb got involved and Swagger ultimately escaped. Neither guy is as over as WWE would have liked, but this feud is what it is and at least they are still trying to tell a good story, even if nobody really cares about it.

 

Renee Young had usurped Matt Striker’s spot and was backstage with Sheamus, Orton and Big Show; she called for footage of the three taking care of The Shield on Raw to roll then asked how they had “been gelling as a group”. Orton said they were focused on a common enemy and Sheamus claimed Big Show knew he had to be a part of the team so there would be no problem; Show stated he never had a problem and Sheamus was the one with the issues; Sheamus replied that was because he didn’t know if the giant was trustworthy. Orton prevented any further bickering and told the two to focus, because they had a match later; Randy told Renee that they were on the same page and that was bad news for their opponents tonight, but even worse news for The Shield.

 

Team Rhodes Scholars and Antonio Cesaro showed up for the main event; Sandow said the heels were the “quintessential six-man team” and stated they all shared a mutual distain for ignorance. Cody added something of little merit then Cesaro actually yodeled.

 

If they give Cesaro a yodeling gimmick then they are asking for one of the best workers in the company to be a mid-carder for life.

 

Sheamus, Randy Orton & Big Show vs. Team Rhodes Scholars & Antonio Cesaro (US Champion)

 

The babyfaces controlled from the outset and all three guys came in to get some shine; after the break, the heels were working over Orton and had the heat. Cesaro delivered his gutwrench suplex then Cody came in and shut down an attempted comeback; Sandow hit the Russian legsweep and his elbow, before working a chinlock. Orton fought up to land his reverse headlock backbreaker as Cesaro was tossed off the top to the floor by Big Show; Sheamus got the hot tag and ran wild on Cody, before drilling both Rhodes Scholars with his clubbing forearms spot. Rhodes hung Sheamus up on the top rope, however Sheamus scored with whitenoise. Cesaro and Sandow double teamed Sheamus, but Big Show hit Cesaro with the KO punch then Orton dropped Sandow with an RKO. Sheamus hit Cody with a Brogue kick for the finish, as Show and Randy played cheerleaders.

 

Sheamus, Randy Orton & Big Show defeated Team Rhodes Scholars & Antonio Cesaro via pinfall, at 10:15.

 

After the match, the faces celebrated then The Shield’s music hit. Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns appeared in the crowd. Sheamus and Orton went after Ambrose and Rollins, while Show focused on Reigns; the babyfaces beat The Shield back up the arena steps then got the better of a brief brawl at the top of that section of the arena. The Shield ran for the door then Sheamus, Orton and Show posed in the crowd as the show went off the air.

 

The main event wasn’t much really, but it served its purpose in getting some steam on the babyface team for Mania. It was nice to see a little hint at the animosity between Show & Sheamus during the backstage promo, as that is a perfect way to distract the fans away from the potential Orton heel turn should The Shield go over.

Also having Sheamus, Show and Orton head up to fight The Shield was a nice touch, since the faces didn’t stand there in the ring like buffoons, waiting for the heels to attack. If you exclude the week where Ryback was announced for the six-man, despite the previous two weeks of TV building Show for the match, this feud has been built as well as anything else for WrestleMania. Granted, other than Brock /Triple H, which had a great angle the first week, the build for most matches has been lackluster.

 

This show was decent, other than the opening segment, which will stay with me for a long time as one of the worst things I’ve seen; it wasn’t just a bad champion babyface promo, but on any wrestling show in history this would have been horrible (and I’m including Thunder and WCW Saturday Night from 2000, plus Impact from 2010). However with no apparent show next week, other than a bunch of hype packages and maybe some pre-taped matches; this was essentially the go-home SmackDown. The main event angle was good stuff and every segment played into the WrestleMania feuds, however since every single match for the show has been set up by some form of physicality, there was nowhere for any of the angles to progress to and as a result, nothing that happened on the show felt important.

 

Next Week’s Issue

 

Yes, and so it begins, next week’s issue will be the first of two giant issues covering WrestleMania weekend and of course all of the regular news and shows of the week – so as TAKA Michinoku would say “Let’s get crazy!”.

 

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Ben Carass’s Twitter Account: @BenDosCarass

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