The Pro-Wres Digest for March 12th – 18th
There is a war coming. Over the last five years or-so the UK indie scene has experienced a boom the likes of which have never seen before on these shores. The level of talent has never been higher and we have reached a point where barely a weekend will go by without a promotion running some kind of buzz-worthy show.
Unsurprisingly, the money marks and marketing geniuses within the UK television industry took notice and on New Years Eve 2016, ITV ran the first original, prime-time, World of Sport TV show in nearly 30 years. The show did a respectable 1.25 million viewers, which was enough for ITV to green-light a weekly wrestling series on the channel. The major issue facing the new super promotion was ITV itself, as the number-crunchers within the company decided it would not be financially viable for ITV to run a wrestling company out of its own pocket. This is where Jeff Jarrett and Anthem Sports come into play. Jarrett met with people from ITV last month and the latest on the deal between ITV & Anthem is that a weekly wrestling show is scheduled to begin in July and will air at 5pm on Saturdays. The Observer this week notes that the plan is to tape “ten or eleven” one-hour shows from 25/5 to 27/5 and ITV will make the decision whether to continue with the series based on the ratings after the short run. If you are confused as to how exactly the ITV/Anthem relationship will work, it is a similar deal to how the old World of Sport TV show was produced during its original 20-plus year run. Joint Promotions (booked by Max & Shirley Crabtree) provided the World of Sport TV block with wrestling content for the majority of the two decades and after their monopoly of the TV industry faded in 1985, a rotation system was put in place with Brian Dixon’s All-Star Wrestling, Joint Promotions, and the WWF, sharing the exposure provided by the World of Sport platform.
This time around Anthem have stepped up as the content provider, meaning the new World of Sport show will feature a lot of Impact Wrestling talent. Dave Meltzer noted in the Observer that ITV’s options for a partner were Impact and What Culture, which is a bit like choosing if you would rather gouge your own eyes out with a spoon or a fork. Obviously, ITV went with Impact and Anthem. The show will still be called “World of Sport” and will feature as much UK talent that is not signed up elsewhere, but it appears that one of the goals is for Anthem to be able to run UK house shows under the WOS name. What’s interesting about the Anthem/ITV situation is that Impact will start airing on the Spike UK channel on April 21st. With so much great UK wrestling around, Impact’s ratings on Challenge TV took a big hit and the show was eventually canceled late last year. Spike UK’s parent company, Viacom, are in theory competitors with ITV in the UK and the Fight Network in Canada, so how Jarrett and Ed Nordholm are going to navigate this political minefield remains to be seen.
Another unknown entity at this point is 5 Star Wrestling, who recently ran a live two-hour special on Spike UK in January and also announced a series had been commissioned for the channel later this year. 5 Star are planning on running the biggest tournament in the history of wrestling, featuring 128 competitors, with the finals taking place at the Manchester Evening News Arena. Who knows when, or if, such an ambitious event will actually take place.
The WWE already sunk their claws into the UK scene back in January with the two day United Kingdom Championship tournament and last week they announced a TV show for the British market, featuring all native talent. “United Kingdom Championship Live” will be taped on May 6th – 7th at Epic Studios in Norwich, England, the home venue for the Knights’ WAW promotion. Paige’s dad, Ricky Knight, went off about WWE trying to sabotage his business on a recent interview with BBC Radio Norfolk. Knight claimed the WWE knew WAW were doing “so well” and that they company “follows them religiously.” “To me they wanted to cut us open with the announcement [of the UK TV show] and putting their tickets on sale tonight,” he stated. The Knights do not exactly have the most stellar reputation as promoters in the UK, however Ricky actually has a point about the WWE targeting them, as Norwich is a very strange place to hold a TV taping, especially since venues in bigger cities like London or Manchester would be a lot more accessible to traveling fans. The Norwich dates also go head-to-head with a Rev Pro show on 7/5, so WWE will have first booking rights to the regular Rev Pro talent like Pete Dunne and Trent Seven.
The word in the Observer this week is that WWE are looking for “local television” for the UK show in order to run house shows and create stars off the TV. WWE has aired on Sky Sports since its inception in 1991 and have monopolised the largest subscription based sports provider in the UK for years. WCW was essentially blackballed from the Sky Sports network in the mid-late 90s and not a single ad for Nitro nor Thunder ever aired on a Sky Sports channel during the biggest boom period in the history of the business. WCW aired on the UK TNT channel with virtually zero advertisement other than the weekly listing in the TV guide and their PPVs were also never shown on UK television, while over on Sky Sports the WWF PPVs aired for free every month. There was a similar situation with TNA in the mid 2000s, as the fringe channel, Bravo, picked up Impact following the demise of the Wrestling Channel and once again WWE made sure Sky Sports (and its other related stations) never promoted a single episode of Impact. Despite Dixie Carter’s claims that Impact would regularly beat WWE in the ratings in the UK, WWE has always been the number one company in the UK by a huge distance. Impact would do higher ratings than WWE, however that was purely down to them airing in prime-time on a free-to-air channel, while WWE was on a subscription based package airing live shows at 1am in the morning. Make no mistake, since the death of the old World of Sport show in the late 80s, to the British public pro-wrestling in the UK has always meant “WWF/E”.
If WWE want to get the UK show on traditional TV, it will surely be on Sky Sports or another big subscription channel such as Sky One. The problem WWE will face is that regardless of which station picks up the show, it will still pale in comparison to the availability of an ITV wrestling show. ITV is available in around 25 million homes, while the number of Sky subscribers in 2015 was 12 million and not all of them would be signed up to receive the premium Sky Sports package. Clearly, WWE are aware of the consequences that would come with another wrestling product gaining more exposure in the UK market. The UK Championship Tournament in January was a direct retaliation to the World of Sport tapings and WWE suddenly becoming “friendly” with certain UK promotions like PROGRESS & ICW would seem to be a ploy to lock-down individual talent in order to prevent them from jumping to the ITV/Anthem group. Anthem has already been busy making tentative partnerships with NOAH in Japan & The Crash in Mexico, but the ITV deal would be the biggest deal yet for Ed Nordholm and his band of Owl enthusiasts.
If everything goes to plan, we could be looking at an ITV & Anthem versus Sky & WWE war. Such a conflict would almost certainly engulf the UK indie scene, as large and small independent groups alike would be forced to pick sides in order to avoid becoming collateral damage. We saw how this worked out for the territories in the mid 80s and what became of a once thriving scene after the WWF & Crockett snapped up all the talent. This war has been fought before and there has only ever been one winner. Say what you want about the WWE product, but if there is one thing the McMahons know how to do better than almost anybody, it is complete monopolisation and market domination. I just hope the UK indie scene can survive and thrive for as long as possible before the inevitable happens.
Dennis Stamp sadly passed away on 13/3 after a long battle with cancer; he was 68. Stamp’s appearance in the movie Beyond the Mat has become the stuff of legend and he immortalised himself forever with the famous words, “I’m not booked.” Stamp grew up in Brainerd, MN, and in 1965 he won the Minnesota State High School Wrestling Championship in the 175 pound weight division. Verne Gagne broke him into the business in 1971 and he ended up being named the AWA Rookie of the Year. Throughout the 70s Stamp worked extensively in territories all across North America, holding the NWA Tri-State Tag Team titles with Bull Bullinski in 1973, the Vancouver Tag belts with Tiger Jeet Singh in 1975, and the Los Angeles TV title in 1974/5. Stamp regularly worked the Funk’s Amarillo territory as a mid-level heel and held the Western States Tag Team Championships on several occasions in 1976 with Al Perez and Davey O’Hannon. He continued to work on a part-time basis throughout the 80s as enhancement talent on AWA TV tapings and also did a handful of jobs on WWF TV. Stamp was first diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2011 and he beat the disease with the help of chemotherapy, however the cancer came back last September. Our sincere condolences go out to his friends and family.
WWE officially cut Jack Swagger on 13/3. Swagger appeared on Chael Sonnen’s podcast two weeks ago and revealed he had requested his release from the company. Later that day, WWE told Pro Wrestling Sheet that Swagger had not been granted his release and noted that he would have a 90 day non-compete clause when he was finally let go. Swagger took it upon himself to take some booking for last weekend for the Knights’ WAW promotion in Norwich, England. Unsurprisingly, Swagger did not appear on the shows and Chris Masters was brought in as his replacement.
One of the greatest performers of all-time, male or female, announced their retirement on 17/3. Squared Circle Sirens broke the news that Manami Toyota will be calling time on her legendary thirty-year career on November 3rd due to multiple neck and shoulder issues.
The Semi-finals of the New Japan Cup are set for 19/3 at Act City Hamamatsu in Shizuoka, with Tomohiro Ishii vs. Katsuyori Shibata and EVIL vs. Bad Luck Fale. Ishii made his way to the semis by downing Kenny Omega in the first round in a must-see match on 12/3 then beat SANADA in the second round on 17/3. Shibata beat Minoru Suzuki in the first round on 12/3 in a very good match that felt like it was the first chapter in the story then in the second round he defeated Juice Robinson on 15/3. EVIL went over Hiroshi Tanahashi on 11/3 in a good main event and beat Yuji Nagata on 13/3 to make it to the semis. While Fale pinned Michael Elgin on 11/3 and Toru Yano on 14/3 to advance to the semi-finals. The final night of the tournament will take place on 20/3 from Aore Nagaoka in Niigata.
NOAH had a big show on 12/3 and drew a respectable 2,504 fans for the Great Voyage in Yokohama. The show featured some TNA talent as part of the working relationship between the two companies. More importantly, Keiji Mutoh worked a match! (8) Main event saw Katsuhiko Nakajima retain the GHC Heavyweight Championship over Go Shiozaki in 27:01 with the Vertical Spike Brainbuster. (7) Takashi Sugiura & Kenoh beat Muhammad Yone & Masa Kitamiya in the semi-main to win the vacant GHC Tag Team titles. Sugiura pinned Kitamiya with an Olympic Slam; Marufuji & Taniguchi showed up as the first challengers for the new title holders. (6) Naomichi Marufuji & Keiji Mutoh beat Moose & KAZMA SAKAMOTO in 13:50 when Marufuji pinned KAZMA with the Shiranui. (5) Eddie Edwards pinned Atsushi Kotoge in 19:18 with the Boston Knee Party. (4) James Storm beat Kaito Kiyomiya with the Last Call at 8:35. (3) Hajime Ohara retained the GHC Jr Heavyweight title via submission over Hitoshi Kumano in 16:23 with the Muy Bein. (2) Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 retained the GHC Jr Tag Team titles over Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke in 11:41 when Ishimori pinned Tadasuke with the 450. (1) Opener had Maybach Taniguchi, Yoshinari Ogawa & Akitoshi Saito over HAYATA, YO-HEY & Rionne Fujiwara in 6:23 with the Maybach Press on Rionne.
All Japan drew 1,195 fans to Korakuen Hall on 12/3 and the main event was a preview of-sorts for the upcoming Champions Carnival. (7) Takao Omori, Zeus & The Bodyguard beat Kento Miyahara, Shuji Ishikawa & KAI in 10:16 when Omori hit Ishikawa with the Axe-Bomber. (6) Semi-main had Keisuke Ishii retaining the World Junior title over Koji Iwamoto in 14:00; Hikaru showed up afterwards as the next challenger. (5) The saga of the vacant GAORA TV title came to an end, as Jun Akiyama beat KENSO with the Wrist Clutch Exploder to win the belt at 9:28. (4) Suwama & Jake Lee over Ryoji Sai & Naoya Nomura in 10:40. Afterwards, the Great Nita (!!!) showed up and hit Suwama & Atsushi Aoki with mist attacks. Suwama agreed to face Great Nita on 28/5 in Chigasaki. (3) Atsushi Aoki, Hiro Saito & Hikaru Sato beat Masanobu Fuchi, Minoru Tanaka & Soma Takao in a special 30 years of the World Junior title match at 14:03. (2) Atsushi Maruyama pinned Yuma Aoyagi with a Buzzsaw Kick at 8:50. (1) Opener was Yutaka Yoshie, Ultimo Dragon, & Fuminori Abe over Yohei Nakajima, Osamu Nishimura & Yusuke Okada in 8:09.
All Japan also announced the matches for the 2017 Champions Carnival this week. The tournament runs for 11 nights and gets underway on 18/4 at Korakuen Hall, with the finals taking place on 30/4 at Hakata Star Lane. Dory Funk Jr will be appearing in his role as the PWF President and has been announced as a competitor on four of the shows. Dory is scheduled to wrestle on the opening night at Korakuen Hall on 18/4, in Fukushima on 22/4, Tokyo on 23/4, and Niigata on 23/4. Here’s the line up for the 18/4 Korakuen show (you can find the rest of the Carnival matches here):
* B BLOCK: Naoya Nomura vs. Daichi Hashimoto.
* B BLOCK: The Bodyguard vs. Kengo Mashimo.
* B BLOCK: Suwama vs. Shuji Ishikawa.
* A BLOCK: Zeus vs. KAI.
* A BLOCK: Joe Doering vs. Daisuke Sekimoto.
* A BLOCK: Kento Miyahara vs. Jake Lee.
ZERO1 ran a special show on 15/3 at Kita-ku Toyosu PIT in Tokyo to mark the 20th anniversary of Ikuto Hidaka. The show had talent from numerous promotions and featured many of Hidaka’s rivals/partners from over the years. (6) Main event saw Hidaka team up with his long-time tag partner Minoru Fujita to face Naomichi Marufuji & Dick Togo. Marufuji pinned Hidaka at 20:26 with the Pole Shift Emerald Flowsion. (5) Masakatsu Funaki beat Takafumi Ito in 8:23 with a rolling Abisegiri kick. (4) There was a special Exhibition Kickboxing Match, featuring Satoshi Kobayashi & Nobuchika Terado; it went to a draw after two, two minute rounds. (3) Masato Tanaka, Hideki Suzuki & HUB beat Kohei Sato, Jun Kasai & Hayato “Jr” Fujita in 15:23 when Tanaka pinned Fujita with the Sliding D. (2) Akebono, Yuko Miyamoto & Isami Kodaka beat Muhammad Yone & The Brahman Brothers in 12:17 when Akebono pinned Kei with the Yokozuna Press. (1) Opener was Manabu Hara over Fuminori Abe in 5:18 with a Crucifix Hold.
ZERO1 had a show the following night on 16/3 in Tochigi. Main event saw Masato Tanaka & TARU beat Akebono & Shinjiro Otani in 17:51 after Tanaka pinned Otani with the Sliding D.
In yet more ZERO1 news, this year’s Tenkaichi Junior League will be held under a two-block system and the competitors have been announced for the 14th annual installment of the tournament. The first night is from Shinkiba 1stRING on 4/4 and the tourney will run for eight nights, with the final set for 26/4 at Korakuen Hall.
ZERO1 – Tenkaichi Junior League 2017:
FMW are running a special show to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Hayabusa on 22/3 at Shinkiba 1stRING in Tokyo. The main event sees Atsushi Onita and Mr Gannosuke face off on opposite teams in the main event for the first time in two year and is also the first appearance of Gannosuke in the new FMW. Here’s the line-up:
FMW – Hayabusa 1st Death Anniversary Show, March 22nd 2017:
* Keiichi Sato vs. Kotaro Suzuki.
* Fritz von Gosaku vs. Pandita.
* Naoshi Sano, Tomoryu & Raiden vs. Katsunari Toi, Masahiro Sase & Toshiaki Terao.
* Latin American Championship – Chain Death Match: Wild Seven (C) vs. Kancho Nagase.
* Mixed Tag Match: Miss Mongol & Shocker vs. Koharu Hinata & HASEGAWA.
* Hayabusa’s 1st Year Death Anniversary Special Match: Atsushi Onita, Hideki Hosaka, Ricky Fuji & Mammoth Sasaki vs. Mr. Gannosuke, Tetsuhiro Kuroda, Ichiro Yaguchi & Tomohiko Hashimoto.
Kota Ibushi made his UK debut for XWA this past weekend. On 12/3 in Colchester, Essex, Ibushi beat Gota Ihashi in a match that featured a bicycle and an impromptu boxing bout. The following night on 13/3 at the Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green, London, the Ibushi Research Institute was out in full force with a full-on DDT-style “Anywhere” match. Ibushi & Gota Ihashi beat Jimmy Havoc & Cara Noir and they spilled out into the back streets of Bethnal Green. Jimmy Havoc got behind the wheel of his own car and tried to run over Ibushi & Ihashi, but he ended up hitting Noir. Ibushi got on top of the car and set off some fireworks then shot himself with the pyrotechnics for no reason in particular other than he is Kota Ibushi. Gifs of Ibushi’s madness are all over the place and the clip even made it on the Comedy Central network in the US. Pentagon Jr was also on the shows and he won a four-way over James Castle, Johnny Storm & Lance Lawrence on 12/3. Main event of the 13/3 show had Will Ospreay over Pentagon Jr.
The ROH 15th Anniversary show took place at Sam’s Town in Las Vegas, NV on 10/3 and the main event saw Christopher Daniels finally capture the ROH World Championship when he pinned Adam Cole in 21:48. (8) Story of the match was the cocky young champion, being one step ahead of his ageing challenger – a point that became even clearer after Daniels gigged following a Superkick into the ring post. Daniels played the underdog tremendously and tried everything he could to win; he even broke out the Styles Clash to try and put Cole away. Finish was a little convoluted, but it at least fit the story of the match to some degree. There was a ref bump and Frankie Kazarian came out to tease an attack on Daniels, however Frankie ripped off his Bullet Club shirt to reveal a Christopher Daniels “Destiny” Tee underneath and he left Cole high and dry. Daniels had been one step ahead of Cole all along. Notably, Kazarian didn’t layout Cole and Daniels essentially got the clean win with three consecutive BMEs. It was a pretty cool moment for long-time ROH fans and the match is well worth checking out if you got into ROH during the early/golden period of the company. The announcers pointed out on commentary that Daniels had a record of 0-8-1 in ROH World title matches, which reminded me of Hirooki Goto’s plight when it comes to IWGP World title matches. The difference here though was that the fans actually wanted to see Daniels win the title, (***¾).
The rest of the ROH 15th Anniversary was a solid card: (7) Semi-main was probably the best match on the show and saw The Hardys retain the ROH Tag titles over The Young Bucks & Roppongi Vice in a Las Vegas Street Fight in 17:12. There were huge bumps, ladders, tables, thumbtacks; Barreta took a Swanton off a ladder through a table for the finish, (****). (6) The Briscoes & Bully Ray beat War Machine & Davey Boy Smith Jr in 11:44. Match was solid; finish saw Rowe take a 3D from the Briscoes & Bully, (**¾). (5) Marty Scurll retained the ROH World TV title over Lio Rush in a very good outing that ended up being a little over-booked. It was your usual fun Marty Scurll match until Lio Rush got frustrated and teased using the TV belt as a weapon (they had both laid each other out with belt shots in the match build up). It was supposed to be a big dramatic moral dilemma for Rush but it appeared like most of the fans didn’t know the back-story and it came off flat. Rush didn’t use the belt and he ended up getting caught in the Chicken Wing at 18:32, (***¾). (4) The Kingdom retained the ROH Trios titles over Dalton Castle & The Boys in 7:49; they went right to the finish after TK O’Ryan snapped his shin in two places on the guardrail after an errant Asai Moonsault. O’Ryan was rushed to hospital to have his his leg reset and will likely require surgery, (N/A). (3) Jay Lethal beat Bobby Fish at 15:07 of a very good match after the Lethal Injection; this was just two great wrestlers having a straight-up wrestling match and it was awesome, (***¾). (2) Frankie Kazarian beat Cheeseburger, Chris Sabin, Hangman Page, Punishment Martinez & Silas Young in 10:11 to become the #1 contender for the TV title. Fun little under-card multi-man match, (***¼). (1) Open saw Jay White down Kenny King in a solid effort at 9:49; White did a Kokeshi Headbutt as a tribute to Honma and got the win with a Small Package, (**¾).
Ilja Dragunov won the 2017 WXW 16 Carat Gold Tournament in Oberhausen, Germany on 12/3. Dragunov beat WALTER in the main event of the third night and the final match of the tourney.
CMLL & AAA both have big shows this weekend. The CMLL Homenaje a Dos Leyendas card looks like the better line-up on paper, however it will undoubtedly have an inferior main event as Pierroth & Diamante Azul in a mask match tops the bill. The main event of AAA’s Rey de Reyes show is Hijo del Fantasma vs. Texano Jr vs. Johnny Mundo, but the best match on the card looks to be Aerostar vs. Super Fly in a mask vs. hair bout.
CMLL – Homenaje a Dos Leyendas, March 17th 2017:
* Estrellita, Marcela & Princesa Sugehit vs. Amapola, Tiffany & Zeuxis
* Dragón Lee, Stuka Jr. & Titán vs. Euforia, Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja
* Atlantis, Carístico & Marco Corleone vs. Kráneo, La Máscara & Rush
* NWA World Middleweight Championship: Último Guerrero (C) vs. Matt Taven.
* CMLL Trios Championship: Mistico, Valiente & Volador Jr. (C) vs. Ephesto(*), Luciferno & Mephisto.
* Mask vs. Mask: Pierroth vs. Diamante Azul.
(*) CMLL announced on 16/3 that Ephesto was off the show due to blood poisoning. He underwent surgery on 15/3 and is expected to be back in about a month.
AAA – Rey de Reyes 2017, March 19th 2017:
* ??? vs ???
* Reina De Reinas, #1 Contenders Match: Faby Apache vs Mary Apache, La Hiedra, Lady Shani, ?, Goya Kong, Big Mami.
* Reina De Reinas: Taya (C) vs Winner of the #1 Contenders Match.
* AAA Tag Team Championship #1 Contenders Match: Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria vs El Mesías & Pagano.
* Mask vs. Hair: Aerostar vs Súper Fly.
* Falls Count Anywhere: Dr. Wagner Jr. & Psycho Clown vs Monsther Clown & Murder Clown.
* Rey de Reyes: Hijo del Fantasma vs Texano Jr. vs. Johnny Mundo.
+LuchaTV have put up the recent LA Park vs. Rush match from the Baracal Entertainment show on 11/3.
WWE ran Madison Square Garden with talent from both RAW & SmackDown on 12/3; here are the results from the show. (1) Randy Orton pinned AJ Styles with an RKO. (2) Heath Slater, Rhyno & Kalisto beat Breezeango & Curt Hawkins. (3) Dolph Ziggler beat Apollo Crews with a Superkick. (4) Dean Ambrose retained the IC title in a four-way over the Miz, Baron Corbin & Luke Harper when Ambrose pinned Miz with the Dirty Deeds. (5) Brock Lesnar beat Kevin Owens in 3 minutes with the F5; Owens got a little offense in then Brock Suplexed him a few times and beat him. (6) Asuka, Becky Lynch, Tamina & Nikki Bella beat Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, Natalya & Carmells when Asuka submitted Carmella with the Asuka Lock. (7) American Alpha retained the SD Tag titles over The Usos. (8) Bray Wyatt retained the WWE Title over John Cena in about 25 minutes after a low-blow. Cena gave Wyatt an AA through a table afterwards to send the fans home happy.
F4Wonline confirmed on 13/3 that Rusev underwent shoulder surgery last week, which explains Big Show destroying him at the Fast Lane PPV. He’s off the WrestleMania card as a result.
Pro Wrestling Sheet reported on 13/3 that Cedric Alexander recently suffered an injury to his right knee and will be out of action for at least 3-5 months.
Brandon Howard of Fightful.com had a story about the official attendance from last year’s WrestleMania. WWE claimed 101,763 for the April 3rd 2016 show at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, however the number of paying fans at WrestleMania 32 was actually 80,709.
RAW on 13/3 did 3,230,000 viewers, up slightly from the 3,201,000 last week. 8 pm did 3,180,000. 9pm did 3,320,000 and 10pm did 3,200,000.
SmackDown on 14/3 did 2,630,000 viewers, down from last week’s 2,738,000.
Impact on 16/3 did 344,000 viewers, up from 292,000 last week. Those threatening legal letters they sent to fans must have worked!
Thanks for reading, everybody! We’ll see you next week.