The Pro-Wres Digest for July 3rd – July 9th.
By the time most of you are reading this, Brock Lesnar will have fought at UFC 200 against Mark Hunt and we will have a pretty good idea what condition he will be in for his potential SummerSlam match. The Lesnar/Hunt fight became the de-facto main event on what was supposed to be the biggest UFC ever when it came out on 6/7 that Jon Jones had failed a USADA drugs test and his Light Heavyweight title unification fight with Daniel Cormier was cancelled. A panicked UFC presumably threw a shed load of money at a way past his prime Anderson Silva to step in for a non-title fight with Cormier and they made a political move by putting Miesha Tate vs. Amanda Nunes in the actual main event. Even so, there can be little argument that with Conor McGregor and later Jones pulled from UFC 200, the biggest draw and the fight with the most interest from casual fans was Lesnar vs. Hunt. WWE did absolutely nothing to promote the fact that Lesnar would be fighting in the weeks leading up to UFC 200 and Stephanie McMahon even stated in an interview with Business Insider that the WWE were, “not supporting the fight necessarily.” Some other gems from Stephanie’s interview included claims that the UFC is not a competitor for WWE and the hilarious statement that UFC can’t make stars because they lose credibility if they fail to win a fight. On 30/6, Brock responded in typical Brock Lesnar fashion when he told MMAFighting.com, “I don’t care what she says.” When asked whether he thought a loss to Hunt would affect his drawing power in WWE, Lesnar stated: “I really don’t give a sh*t.”
On RAW this week, the WWE hyped that Lesnar’s opponent for SummerSlam would be announced on Thursday’s SmackDown show, presumably because they didn’t want to waste announcing the match on a holiday RAW that nobody watched. Although, SmackDown is not exactly doing great numbers every week either. Eventually Randy Orton was revealed to be Lesnar’s SummerSlam opponent, however it wasn’t as straight forward as a simple announcement being made on a TV show. At the SmackDown tapings on 5/7 in Toledo, OH, there was no announcement made to the live crowd which suggested there would be a pre-tape edited into the show for television. With SmackDown airing on Wednesday nights in Canada, WWE decided not to spoil their own surprise and left the announcement of Randy Orton off the Canadian version of the show. It is worth noting that talk of Randy Orton being Brock’s opponent had been widespread for a few days and Dave Meltzer even spoke about Orton being the guy on the 4/7 Observer Radio. The funny thing is that after SmackDown in Canada, the show Aftermath airs on Sports Net 360 – basically a weak panel show with guests talking about the show that just aired – and they openly talked about Randy Orton being Lesnar’s opponent.
Lesnar & Orton were in Ohio Valley together in 2000/01 and have never been involved in a major program with each other. They had a handful of singles matches during the early stages of their careers, the first being a dark match during a Sunday Night Heat taping in Wichita, KS on 30/11/01. They also worked each other at Madison Square Garden on 15/1/02, which was also a dark match for Heat. They met again at a house show in Ontario, Canada on 8/3/02 and their last match was on the SmackDown tapings from Green Bay, WI on 3/09/02. At 36 years-old with a bad neck and a history of injuries, you can certainly question the decision to put Orton in there with Lesnar.
With reports of his ROH contract expiring on June 19th, it looked like Quinn “Moose” Ojinnaka had one foot out the door and was on the verge of being offered a developmental deal with the WWE. Two weeks ago, Dave Meltzer reported in the Observer that, subject to medicals, Moose was expected to be brought into the Performance Centre as part of the new class of recruits in September. Last week Meltzer updated the story and noted that “things had changed” with Moose and the WWE, most likely due to Ojinnaka’s 2009 domestic violence allegation which caused him to be suspended from the NFL for one game. On 6/7, MLW reported via Twitter that Moose had signed a multi-year deal with TNA, however a few hours later they Tweeted that Moose had told them he had an offer from TNA but had not yet made a decision on whether to sign.
On Impact this week, TNA aired the outlandishly wacky blow-off to the Hardy Boyz feud with the much talked about Final Deletion. Part WCW mini-movie, part Lucha Underground skit, the Final Deletion felt like what the Ganryujima Island Death Match would have been like if Inoki & Saito took a bunch of acid beforehand, or if Onita were even more out of his mind during the Jungle Death Match with Tiger Jeet Singh. It’s easy to say “you’ll either love it or hate it” when it comes to something like this, however I found myself in the middle of the spectrum and didn’t have a particularly strong opinion one way or the other. I certainly didn’t think the Final Deletion was the greatest thing in the history of the business like many others, nor did I believe that Matt & Jeff killed the fictitious last remaining piece of credibility the business had left. In the end it came down to a few key points for me: Did the segment work in terms of producing entertaining television? Most certainly, yes. Would all the hype and buzz, which TNA have severely lacked for years, translate to more viewers for Impact? TNA did their highest rating ever on Pop TV this week with 410,000, so that would be another tentative yes – the big test will come next week to see if they can sustain the interest. And finally, can more stuff like this be done in the future and if so will it actually be a benefit for TNA?
This is where it gets kind of tricky. There will undoubtedly be all kinds of copycat segments from other promotions – WWE is apparently going to try and one-up the Final Deletion by having the New Day face the Wyatt Family in some kind of Wyatt Compound match, so Broken Matt’s opus is already starting to have an effect. TNA will inevitably try something similar in the future, as they legitimately received more publicity for anything they have done in years, and they could always do a sequel or nine if they can tie down the Hardys to contracts. The problem they face is that the Final Deletion worked as a one-off special attraction type deal and turning every major feud into a series of absurd mini-movies would surely result in overkill. Lucha Underground already have the market cornered for ridiculous pro wrestling television shows and, as ludicrous as it may sound, they actually present all their spacemen, dragons, pumas, monsters and dead guys with the utmost sincerity. The Final Deletion on the other-hand was directed, shot, acted and presented like a parody of a parody and it essentially came off like Matt & Jeff Hardy entertaining themselves in their backyard. I’m sure the Final Deletion will live on as a post-ironic cult favourite, however I have to believe that with TNA’s record of blithering incompetence they will fail to turn the exploits of Broken Matt & Brother Nero into a long-term positive for the company. Just remember the last time TNA tried something “outside the box,” James Storm tried to murder Mickie James by pushing her onto a railroad track.
Revolution Pro are running their big annual Summer Sizzler show at York Hall on 10/7 and I will be attending the show, so hopefully we have a report of some kind up in the next coupe of weeks. The card is pretty stacked and features the first UK appearance of Katsuyori Shibata, plus the return of Tomohiro Ishii to these shores. Here’s the full line-up:
* Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship: Zack Sabre Jr (C) vs. Katsuyori Shibata.
* Matt Sydal vs. Big Damo.
* Marty Scurll vs. “Speedball” Mike Bailey.
* Undisputed British Cruiserweight Championship: Pete Dunne (C) vs. Will Ospreay.
* Tomohiro Ishii vs. Josh Bodom.
* Moose vs. Sha Samuels.
* Undisputed British Tag Team Championship: Joel Redman & Charlie Garrett () vs. The British Young Bloods vs. The Legion of Lords vs. Johnny Storm & Jody Fleisch.
ROH announced this week they will be returning to the UK to promote their own shows for the first time in nearly a decade in November. The dates for the “Reach for the Sky Tour” are 18/11, 19// & 20/11 however no venue or host cities have been announced yet. For the past two years, ROH has run joint shows in November with Preston City Wrestling in the UK, billed as the Supershow of Honor, and 2016 will be no different, with Supershow of Honor III taking place over three shows on 25/11 & 26/11 in Preston, England.
New Japan ran the final Kizuna Road show on 3/7 in Iwate and the main event saw Katsuyori Shibata retain the NEVER Openweight Championship over Tomoaki Honma in 16:25 with the PK. Semi-final was a big Choas vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon elimination eight-man tag, with Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Yoshi-Hashi & Will Ospreay beating Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Evil & Bushi in 20:00 when Ospreay pinned Bushi with the Os Cutter. There was also a title switch on the show, as the worthless NEVER Trios titles changed hands yet again, as Satoshi Kojima, Ricochet & Matt Sydal beat Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks in 15:20 when Sydal downed Matt Jackson with the Shooting Star Press.
Jay Lethal will be coming in towards the end of the G1 tour for the Ryogoku shows and will be slotted into Los Ingobernables de Japon, following up on Lethal “joining” LIJ back in February. On 12/8 Lethal will be part of a big LIJ vs. Bullet Club match, as he teams with Tetsuya Naito, Evil & Bushi against Kenny Omega, Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi & Adam Page. On 13/8 it will be Lethal, Bushi & Sanada against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kushia & Satoshi Kojima. New Japan also announced that the Briscoe Brothers will defend the IWGP Tag Team titles against Yujiro Takahashi & Adam Page on the final night of the G1 at Sumo Hall on 14/8.
Pro Wrestling NOAH’s representatives in the 2016 Super J-Cup were decided at Korakuen Hall on 5/7. Taiji Ishimori beat Yoshinari Ogawa in 10:30 with the 450 Splash in the first qualifying match. Kenoh downed Genba Hirayanagi in 7:59 with the Rago in the second qualifier and Daisuke Harada beat Hajime Ohara in 13:48 with a German Suplex in the third. Ishimori, Kenoh & Harada join six other outsiders in the Super J-Cup: Yuma Aoyagi (All Japan), Eita (Dragon Gate), Kaji Tomato (K-Dojo), Gurukun Mask (Ryukyu Dragon), Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (Suzuki Gun), which leaves seven spots open for New Japan, ROH & CMLL talent. Main event of the 5/7 Korakuen show had Naomchi Marufuji & Toru Yano retaining the GHC Tag Team titles over Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka in 20:30. Afterwards, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya came out and challenged Yano & Marufuji for the titles, which is noteworthy as Nakajima, Yano & Marufuji are all representing NOAH in the G1 this year. Nakajima & Kitamiya, awesomely named The Aggression, will challenge Yano & Marufuji on 16/7 at Korakuen Hall, just two days before the opening night of G1 in Hokkaido.
NOAH will also be running the tenth annual NTV G+ Cup Contention Junior Heavyweight Tag League, starting on 16/7 at Korakuen Hall and running for five nights with the final on 30/7 back at Korakuen. The field of teams is one single block and all six teams will face each other over the course of the five shows. Here are the teams:
* Daisuke Harada & Atsuhi Kotoge.
* Kenoh & Hajime Ohara.
* Taiji Ishimori & ACH.
* Genba Hiryanagi & Captain NOAH.
* Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado.
* Hitoshi Kumano & Andy Dalton.
The main event of the final night on 30/7 at Korakuen sees Go Shiozaki defending the GHC Heavyweight championship against the former champion Takashi Sugiura.
Tatsumi Fujinami’s Dradition promotion held a special show in honor of the 25th anniversary of Mitsuya Nagai’s debut on 4/7 at Korakuen Hall. Nagai teamed with Kenso in the main event and beat Masakatsu Funaki & Kengo Mashimo in 19:26 when Nagai pinned Mashimo with the Hyper Knee Kuuga. There was a big celebration afterwards involving Nagai’s family and original trainer Satoru Sayama. Tatsumi Fujinami & Jun Akiyama each presented Nagai with a bouquet of flowers and Nagai made a speech about not knowing how many years he had left but said he would continue to compete as long as he could have memorable matches for the fans. Fujinami & Akiyama also worked on the show and beat Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Hiro Saito in 7:46 when Akiyama pinned Saito with an Exploder. Tajiri over Leona in 13:41 with the Buzzsaw Kick is the only other result worth mentioning. Check out puroresuspirit.net for more.
Nagai’s story is quiet interesting, as he started training at Sayama’s Super Tiger Gym while still at high school and tried to get a spot in All Japan, however Giant Baba insisted that he finish school first. After graduating he fell under the tutelage of Akira Maeda while training at the UWF dojo and ultimately followed Maeda to RINGS after the UWF folded in 1990. He tried his hand at kickboxing in 1997, but gave up after a year with a meager record of 0-6-1. Nagai left RINGS shortly after a famous incident following his loss to Maeda in the World Mega Battle Tournament on January 27th 1998, which saw Maeda slap Nagai in the face. A brief stint in Yuki Ishikawa’s Battlearts finally led him to his original goal of working for All Japan in 2000 over a decade after trying to join the company as a teenager. Nagai was also brought into New Japan as part of Tadao Yasuda’s Makai Club in 2003 during the peak of the Inokism era, but the less said about that the better.
Sexy Star appeared without her mask alogside her husband, boxer Jhonny Gonzalez, at a Promociones del Pueblo boxing show at Arena Coliseo on 2/7. Sexy (Dulce Garcia), 34, announced that she is going to become a professional female boxer, however no fight date or opponent were given. Cubsfan noted that while some places are reporting it as an “unmasking,” Sexy had appeared at many boxing events over the last few years without her mask and this was just the first time she actually got in the ring. AAA, whom Sexy had an acrimonious split from in March this year, own the rights to the Sexy Star name and she changed her name to Sexy Ducle on Twitter, although it is unclear what name she will be using when she has her first boxing match. Both Cubsfan and Dave Meltzer stated that Sexy appears to be staying with Lucha Underground until at least until season four and she will almost certainly still be wrestling under her mask.
This weeks Lucha Underground was the first week of Ultima Lucha Dos and the show was built around the 4 A Unique Opportunity Tournament. The Mack beat Cage in the first semi-final and Son of Havoc downed Texano Jr in the second; both matches were stunt-filled spectacles. Havoc went on to beat Mack in the final and Dario Cueto came out with Black Lotus to offer Havoc his unique opportunity. Dario gave Havoc a choice between two briefcases, one with $250k inside and the other containing a contract for a LU Championship match. Havoc picked the title shot, however Dario booked him in another match and said Havoc was fighting for the title shot and his opponent would get the $250,000 if he won. Famous B showed up and revealed Dr Wanger Jr as his new client and Wagner beat Havoc clean in a short match with the Wagner Driver. Ultima Lucha Dos continues for the next two weeks (13/7 & 20/7) and here are the remaining matches:
* Lucha Underground Championship: Matanza Cueto (C) vs. Pentagon Jr.
* Lucha Underground Trios Championship: Johnny Mundo & Jack Evans, PJ Black (C) vs. Aerostar, Fenix & Drago.
* Rey Mysterio vs. Prince Puma
* Gift of the Gods Championship: Night Claw vs. Daga vs. Marty the Moth vs. Killshot vs. Siniestro de la Muerte vs. Mariposa vs. Sexy Star.
* Death Match: King Cuerno vs. Mil Muertes.
* Taya vs. Ivelisse.
* Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. Black Lotus.
RAW on 4/7 did a predictably low number, however all things considered it could have been much worse. The show did a 1.87 rating with 2,658,000 viewers, way down from the 2.21 and 3,093,000 from last week. 8pm did 2,660,000 viewers. 9pm did 2,670,000 and 10pm did 2,640,000.
TNA iMPACT on 5/7 did 410,000 viewers for the Final Deletion show, up from the 322,000 last week. That’s the biggest number Impact have ever done on PopTV.
Lucha Underground on 6/7 did a combined 143,000 viewers. Part one of the Ultima Lucha Dos show did 104,000 for the first run airing, down slightly from 116,000 last week, however the replay did just 39,000, way down from last week’s 103,000.
SmackDown on 7/7 did 2,241,000 viewers, up 161,000 from the 2,080,000 the show did last week.