The Pro-Wres Digest for May 22nd – May 28th
So in 2016 we are in fact getting another brand split, because it worked so well the last time. SmackDown will be moving to Tuesday nights starting June 19th in the 8-10pm timeslot on the USA Network. Of all places, Variety broke the story and it was reported that there will be a Draft held some time before the first live SmackDown to determine the unique rosters for each show. The move to Tuesdays will be a big help come September when the NFL returns to Thursday nights, but more noteworthy than that is the fact that the second hour of SmackDown will be head-to-head with the first hour of TNA iMPACT on Pop TV. Sky in the UK and SportsNet in Canada will also be airing SmackDown live on Tuesday. The big scoop in the Observer was the news that the current plan is to have Shane & Stephanie in charge of one show each and the belief is that Roman Reigns will remain the top star on RAW, while John Cena will be the main focus of SmackDown. Another idea they have is to bring back a second World title for SmackDown, which will undoubtedly water-down the WWE title even more, although since the whole thing is Vince McMahon’s idea anything can change at this point. The Observer noted that the decision was made in the last two weeks, but talks were held with the major TV partners (USA, Sky, SportsNet) before WrestleMania about moving SmackDown to Tuesdays.
There is no word yet on how the secondary champions will be handled, however it would make sense for the US & IC titles to become brand exclusive titles like they were in the past. The women’s title is an interesting situation, as they just made a big deal about dropping the Divas moniker so it would be a tough sell if they brought back the Diva’s title. They could have the champion work both shows, which would be the ideal scenario for the WWE World Champion, or they could just make a new title and call it something else. The same could be said for the Tag titles, although when they did the original brand split in 2002 they created the current version of the WWE Tag titles because RAW had its own World Tag Team champions. It is likely that we will see guys from NXT getting called-up more frequently, as splitting the crews will undoubtedly weaken the talent pool of each show and the easiest place to find fresh talent is NXT. In turn, NXT will need to be replenished with its own top stars for drawing power at the major house shows. I imagine brother Paul and brother Canyon are saddling up their war horses in preparation to invade and pillage the sovereign states of ROH, New Japan, Evolve, AAA, CMLL, or even the fabled lost city of Impact, in search of new riches.
The new and improved brand split 2.0 will certainly affect the WWE’s business model, however it could also have big consequences for the industry as a whole if all the best workers from around the world and constantly being cherry-picked to keep up with the rate of churn when it comes to making stars on two separate brands. It is also worth pointing out that the original brand split in 2002, just like this time around, was Vince McMahon’s reaction to declining ratings, PPV numbers and live attendance. It didn’t stop the decline at all and in all likelihood it helped speed up the nosedive and the brand extension soon became heavily watered down as a result.
Cody Rhodes Tweeted on 21/5 that he requested his release from WWE and on 24/5 his wife Eden (Brandi Runnels) also announced that she had left the company. Cody released a lengthy statement on 22/5 about the reason behind his decision to leave WWE and noted that his goal was to become WWE champion. Rhodes believed he could be “their star player, their varsity quarterback” but noted that HHH & Vince McMahon didn’t see him at that level. He was mostly respectful of HHH & Vince, however the head writers of RAW & SmackDown (Ed Koskey & Ryan Ward) were buried mercilessly. Rhodes didn’t use Koskey or Ward’s names, but he accused one of them of “pretending to be Brain Gewirtz” and the other of “hitting on developmental divas;” it isn’t too hard to figure out whom he was accusing of what. Rhodes claimed that he would constantly pitch ideas to the writers but they would go nowhere and he referred to the Stardust character as a “half-cocked idea.” He also stated that he didn’t want his father’s legacy to become “Stardust or a series of sizzle reels for NXT,” and finished by declaring, “I’m a wrestler. So that’s what I’ll do…wrestle.” Cody then Tweeted on 24/5 that something was going down with his wife within the next 24 hours and later that night Eden revealed she “decided to part with WWE” to pursue an opportunity outside wrestling. WWE posted an hilarious one sentence statement regarding Eden’s departure and noted that they had granted her request to be released. Eden released her own long-winded statement on her release. She seemed to not like the idea of being told what to do and said she “followed the rules” growing up and now in her 30’s she was “too creative and awesomely weird to hold that sh*t in.” So basically, she has no idea what it is like to be a normal human being working a normal job in the real world.
Adam Rose was finally put out of his misery on 23/5 when WWE released him from the company, per his “request.” Rose (Ray Leppan) was indefinitely suspended by WWE after being arrested for witness tampering and domestic battery on 11/5. He appeared in court on 12/5 when it emerged that this was the second incident of domestic battery involving Leppan. His bond was set at a measly $1,000 and he was ordered to see his pastor once a week for “counselling” until his next court date in June. Leppan was already serving a 60 day suspension for failing a Wellness test on April 16th and he didn’t do himself any favours by disputing the Wellness failure by posting a note from his doctor on Twitter claiming that he was taking medication for ADHD.
Kane did an interview with a local NBC affiliate in Knoxville, TN and revealed that he was seriously considering running as the Republican candidate for the Knox County Mayoral seat in 2018. Glen Jacobs, a staunch libertarian, noted that his goal is to bring an “outside fresh perspective” to the role of Mayor and spouted his wacky libertarian values about Government staying out of the way of free enterprise. The story also claims that there were “rumours” in 2013 that the Tea Party Republicans met with Jacobs in the hopes that he would run against Republican and incumbent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. Jacobs and his wife lived in East Tennessee since 1995 and moved with their two sons to Knoxville three years ago.
Forbes revealed this week that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel was secretly funding the Hulk Hogan lawsuits against Gawker Media. Thiel, a co-founded of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, is reportedly worth $2.8 billion and has personally being footing Hogan’s legal bills in the battle with the smut-pedallers. Gawker founder Nick Denton said in an interview he had a “hunch” that someone in Silicon Valley was providing finical aid for Hogan. In 2007 the now defunct publication Valleywag, which was owned by Gawker, tried to out Thiel as gay before it was public knowledge and Thiel compared the Gawker owned publication to “Al Qaeda.” The presiding judge Pamela Campbell refused to overturn the $140 million payout set by the jury this week. Gawker could pay another $50 million to take the case to the Florida Second District Court of Appeals, although if they lose that appeal the $50 million would go to Hogan as well.
Sasha Banks suffered a concussion at the Charlottesville, VA house show on 15/5 under bizarre circumstances. She was teaming with Becky Lynch & Paige against Eva Marie, Dana Brooke & Lana and somehow the referee Darrick Moore accidentally kneed Sasha in the head very hard. Banks had not been featured on TV much as they were holding her off for a big program with Charlotte for SummerSlam. Dave Meltzer stated in the Observer that Vince McMahon already believes that Sasha is “injury prone” and even compared her to Daniel Bryan in the past. F4WOnline noted in the 27/5 daily update that Sasha would be back working the weekend house shows in Winnipeg, MB and LaCrosse, WI.
Evolve’s next double-shot weekend is June 10 & 11 in Florida. Evolve 62 takes place on 10/6 from Tampa, FL and the main event is Timothy Thatcher defending the Evolve World title against Chris Hero. After his surprise appearance at Evolve 61, EC3 teams with Drew Galloway to face Johnny Gargano & TJP in a Non-Sanction match. Matt Riddle will face Cedric Alexander and Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams will defend the Evolve Tag titles against the Bravado Brothers. Evolve 63 is 11/6 from Orlando and the main event is a “WWE Cruiserweight Flashpoint Elimination Match,” with Johnny Gargano vs. Drew Gulak vs. TJP vs. Lince Dorado vs. TBA. EC3 has an open contract to face anyone on the show, Drew Galloway faces Ethan Page in an Anything Goes match and Matt Riddle takes on Trevor Lee.
AAW announced the line up for their “Killer Among Us” show on 17/6 in Merrionette Park, IL. The three top matches are, Sami Callihan & Dave Crist vs. Eddie Kingstn & Homicide. Zack Sabre Jr vs. Johnny Gargano and Chris Hero vs. Drago.
Legendary UK wrestler Johnny Kidd (60), is working his retirement match on the Chikara show in Manchester, England on 28/5 against Mike Quackenbush. Match will be under World of Sport rules and will two-out-of-three falls with eight three minute rounds.
FIP ran an iPPV on WWNLive on 27/5 and you can order the show on VOD here. Main event saw Fred Yehi challenging Caleb Konley for the FIP World Heavyweight title.
Here are the current standings (as of 28/5) for the New Japan Best of the Super Juniors. Day 7 of the tournament is on 29/5 in Osaka.
Kyle O’Reilly (3-0 = 6 points)
Rysuke Taguchi (3-0 = 6 points)
Rocky Romero (2-1 = 4 points)
Matt Sydal (2-1 = 4 points)
Gedo (1-2 = 2 points)
Kushida (1-2 = 2 points)
Bushi (0-3 = 0 points)
David Finlay (0-3 = 0 points)
Volador Jr (2-1 = 4 points)
Jushin “Thunder” Liger (2-1 = 4 points)
Ricochet (2-1 = 4 points)
Barreta (2-1 = 4 points)
Tiger Mask (1-2 = 2 points)
Chase Owens (1-2 = 2 points)
Will Ospreay (1-2 = 2 points)
Bobby Fish (1-2 = 2 points)
Kota Ibushi made a surprise appearance at the DDT show in Osaka on 22/5 and teamed with Gota Ihashi to win a Tag Team Rumble. In the main event, Konosuke Takeshita beat his mentor Zero in 23:29 with a Cross Arm German Suplex. Takeshita wept and was presented Zero’s mask afterwards and said he was determined to win the KO-D title from Daisuke Sasaki on 29/5.
Real Japan Pro Wrestling announced a rematch from December last year, as Daisuke Sekimoto will defend the Legends Championship against the man he beat for the title, Masakatsu Funaki, on June 23rd at Korakuen Hall.
Jun Akiyama beat Daichi Hashimoto at 15:33 of the semi-main event of All Japan’s show in Yokohama on 21/5 with the Wrist Clutch Exploder. Main event saw Zeus & Yutaka Yoshie beat Triple Crown Champion Kento Miyahara & Jake Lee in 17:18 when Yoshie pinned Lee with a Body Press. Also on the show, Isami Kodaka of Basara beat Yuma Aoyagi in 9:33 with the Zetsuyari. Aoyagi said afterwards that even though he lost he wanted to be on the All Japan vs. Wrestle-1 show in August then added he had intentions of competing in the upcoming Super J-Cup.
All Japan also ran Korakuen Hall on 25/5 and drew a reported 1,396 fans to see Kento Miyahara successfully defend the Triple Crown against the Champion’s Carnival winner, Daisuke Sekimoto in 20:06. Kengo Mashimo came out afterwards and put himself forward as Miyahara’s next title challenger. Suwama made his return from surgery on his right Achilles tendon and announced on the show that he was returning to the ring on July 14th at Korakuen to team with Atsushi Aoki & Naoya Nomura in a match against Zeus, Shuji Ishikawa & Super Tiger.
Io Shirai won a tournament on 21/5 in Barcelona, Spain to become the first ever SWA World Women’s Champion. She beat Kay Lee Ray in the first round and downed Dragonita in the semi-final, before defeating Toni Storm in the final.
NOAH are running Great Voyage 2016 from the Edion Arena in Osaka on 28/5 and on 24/5 they shot an angle for the main event during a press conference. The GHC Heavyweight Championship contract signing between champion Takeshi Sugiura and challenger Go Shiozaki turned into a wild brawl when Sugiura attacked Shiozaki with a chair. Here’s the full line-up for Great Voyage 2016:
* Muhammed Yone, Quiet Storm & Akitoshi Saito vs. Yoshinari Ogawa, Shiro Tomoyose & Kaito Kiyomiya.
* Taiji Ishimori, Hitoshi Kumano, Genba Hirayanagi & Captain NOAH vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku.
* Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya vs. Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka.
* Maybach Taniguchi vs. Shelton X Benjamin.
* GHC Junior Tag Championship Match: Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge (C) vs. Kenoh & Hajime Ohara.
* GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Yoshinobu Kanemaru (C) vs. Hitoshi Kumano.
* GHC Tag Championship Match: Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. (C) vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Toru Yano.
* GHC Heavyweight Championship Match: Takashi Sugiura (C) vs. Go Shiozaki.
All of the teams for the Lucha World Cup have now been announced, so let’s try and make sense of what will be happening during the first week in June. The first show is on 3/6 in Puebla and it will feature the first round of both the men’s and women’s brackets, plus the quarter-finals of the men’s and the semi-final of the women’s division. The finals take place on 5/6 in Mexico City at the Palacio de los Deportes and will feature the semi-finals, third place match and the finals of both men and women’s divisions. According to the Cubs Fan, both shows will be taped for AAA TV although he also noted that AAA have yet to announce anything about either show airing live on PPV or iPPV. The initial idea was for both shows to be shown on traditional PPV in the Mexico, Canada & the US, however that soon changed to only the second show and not long after that it turned out that neither show would be on traditional PPV. AAA had run iPPVs before, with varying levels of success, but haven’t streamed a live show since October last year and have not announced anything regarding the World Cup. Here are the full list of teams for the tournament:
- Team NOAH: Taiji Ishimori, Naomichi Marufuji, Mayback Taniguchi.
- Team Zero One/Ouduo: Masato Tanaka, Akebono, Ikuto Hidaka.
- Team AAA: Pentagon Jr., Texano Jr., Psycho Clown.
- Team Leyendas: Canek, La Parka (AAA), Blue Demon Jr.
- Team Internacional: Rey Mysterio, Dragon Azteca Jr., Dr. Wagner Jr.
- Team TNA: Ethan Carter III, Eli Drake, Tyrus.
- Team Lucha Underground: Brian Cage, Johnny Mundo, Chavo Guerrero Jr.
- Team Rest of the World: Mil Muertes, Rockstar Spud, Apolo.
- Team Japan (WAVE/OZ): Aja Kong, Yuki Miyazaki, Natsu Sumire.
- Team Mexico (AAA): Lady Apache, Mary Apache, Faby Apache.
- Team USA: Santana Garrett, Sienna (Allysin Kay), Cheerleader Melissa.
- Team Canada: Taya, Allie (Cherry Bomb), KC Spinelli.
Dragon Lee re-injured his knee on 23/5 at the CMLL Arena Puebla show after only being back a week. Match was Dragon Lee, Titan & Valiente vs. Euforia, Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja. Lee took a Flapjack and came down badly on his knee and could not finish the match. Things pretty much fell apart when Lee got hurt and they went home as quickly as possible when Guerrero submitted Valiente with the Pulpo Guerrero in 2:16 of the third fall. Also on the show, Okumura, Fujin & Raijin scored a rare foreign rudo win over Esfinge, Guerrero Maya Jr & Rey Cometa.
There was a note in the Observer regarding this situation with Summer Rae, who had not been on TV or wrestled on the road for a month. She returned last weekend after recovering from a concussion and worked Natalya for Superstars on 23/5 and Paige on the Main Event tapings on 24/5.
Chris Jericho took a shot at former WWE writers on Twitter on 27/5. He Tweeted, “Funny to hear ex @WWE “writers” (who worked for the company for a matter of months) give their “expert” opinion on hack podcasts #pathetic.”
Lanny Poffo posted an awesome story about his brother Randy Savage on Facebook this week about Randy rescuing a “one armed kitty” about six months before he died. Lanny added that Randy’s wife still owns the cat, named “JYC” in honour of Randy’s good friend JYD.
The former TMDK, Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste, debuted on NXT TV this week. Their new names are Nick Miller & Shane Thorne and their team name is TM-61. They lost a very good TV match to Johhny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa.
RAW on 22/5 with the Extreme Rules fallout did a 2.29 rating with 3,261,000 viewers, up slightly from the 2.26 and 3,174,000 last week. 8pm did 3,359,000. 9pm did 3,332,000 and 10pm did 3,115,000.
The two-hour RAW replay on Sy-Fy on 20/5 did 467,000 viewers with no promotion whatsoever.
iMPACT on 23/5 set a record high with 359,000 viewers. They were averaging 371,000 for the combined audience when they still had a replay of the show.
Lucha Undeground on 24/5 did a combined 182,000 viewers, the highest number since 20/4. The first-run airing did 114,000, down from 127,000 last week, and the replay did 68,000, up from 37,000 last week. They also had the youngest median viewership age all year: 44.8 years-old.