The road to WrestleMania has officially begun as Edge, and Bianca Belair won their respective Royal Rumble matches. Edge joins the two timers club 11 years after winning his first one, while Bianca Belair becomes the first African-American wrestler to win the Rumble.
On Thursday’s WWE investors conference call, Vince McMahon revealed the company is in talks with major stream service providers to sell the rights to major events such as WrestleMania. McMahon cited the potential deal as “transformative” as distributing more content to “the majors” could increase company revenue. It would also cannibalize the WWE Network. Continue reading “‘Transformative Changes’ Coming to the WWE Network”→
On Sunday, WWE announced the release of The Ascension (Viktor & Konnor), Luke Harper, and Sin Cara from the roster in a move that was somewhat surprising considering the current landscape of the industry. WWE has been scooping up any wrestler with name value, re-signing wrestlers to lucrative five-year extensions, and not granting releases to avoid supplying talent to the competition, All Elite Wrestling (AEW).
So, what changed? Is WWE merely cutting costs, or is there more than meets the eye?
Luke Harper publically asked for his release from WWE in April while Sin Cara expressed his desire to leave a few weeks ago. The Ascension was out of sight, out of mind on television. Unfortunately, they never showed the promise of their NXT run on the main roster due to the way they were booked from the jump.
Sin Cara is a character that never got over whether it was Lucha libre superstar Mistico, who the role was designed for or Jorge Arias, who took over the part when Mistico left the company in 2014. Luke Harper is the big missed opportunity of the four wrestlers that were released. Reportedly, Vince McMahon was never high on him, despite his talent. All four will be looking for work, however, where will they land?
When it comes to The Ascension, the word on the street is that Viktor is a tremendous worker but never got the chance to show it. Konnor is a big guy that is serviceable in the ring. Do they stay together as a team, or do they go their separate ways? While their tag-team act is their most viable commodity, NXT was a long time ago. Perhaps, Viktor decides to bet on himself and work the independent scene to build his name back up.
Jorge Arias will have to reinvent himself fundamentally. He’ll probably find work in Mexico; however, being able to charge a high price for his services in the states will be a challenging venture. Arias never had a viable name beforehand, and WWE owns the Sin Cara character.
Even if Arias comes up with a new gimmick, promoters will feel the need to market him as “formerly Sin Cara.” Honestly, fans might not even care for a wrestler who was so low on the totem pole. If Arias starts churning out five-star classics and becomes the belle of the indy ball, then he won’t need “Former WWE Superstar” etched under his name on an event poster.
Presumably, Luke Harper has the most to gain from his release. The soon to be rechristened Brodie Lee had an excellent reputation for putting on awesome matches before he signed with WWE and continued to do so as a member of the Wyatt Family.
AEW is his most anticipated landing spot because he’s a talented big man, and AEW could use more physical stature on their roster. New Japan Pro Wrestling wouldn’t surprise me either as Harper/Lee has a Bruiser Body look to him that could pay dividends.
The question remains, though, why did WWE cut these wrestlers after having a firm no release policy? This is pure speculation, however, maybe Vince McMahon no longer sees AEW as a threat. Of the ten weeks AEW Dynamite and NXT have gone head to head on Wednesdays, the ratings show AEW won eight of those meetings.
However, NXT won two of the last three weeks with only losing the previous week’s rating by only 1,400 viewers. While specific demographics have recently come into play when comparing ratings, NXT’s hold on people over 50 years old is strong while they are almost neck and neck with the more coveted demos that AEW previously dominated.
It is feasible that Vince McMahon believes he’s either winning the war against AEW, or he’ll win soon enough. If that’s the case, it’s easy to see why WWE has changed its release policy. Several wrestlers are still publically campaigning for their release, and with more cuts rumored to occur, those public requests could be granted.
It stinks getting fired at any time of the year, especially around the holidays. Even though two of the four wanted out, high paying indy gigs are not guaranteed. Besides, those only last so long before the wrestler is no longer a novelty and promoters begin to pay less. Best of luck to the four gentlemen as this new era of wrestling continues to be full of surprises.
Combate Americas 51 emanated from the Payne Arena in McAllen, Texas, with an interesting night of fights where MMA and Pro Wrestling collided. Former UFC Champion Tito Ortiz finished former WWE Champion Alberto (Del Rio) El Patron with a rear-naked choke at 3:10 of the 1st round. The bout was contested at a catchweight of 210 lbs.
The pro wrestling flair fired on all cylinders as El Patron came out with host of luchadores, including WWE’s Sin Cara. Ortiz made his way to the cage to the blaring sounds of Rick Derringer’s iconic song Real American while wearing a “Living the Dream” shirt in the font of WWE’s popular 80’s tv special Saturday Night’s Main Event.
Alberto got the first move of the fight with a lateral drop throw but lost position, and Tito gained top control. Tito passed Alberto’s half guard, but Alberto got to his feet. Alberto was already tired as Tito landed a few punches. Tito took him down and worked top position. Tito got Alberto’s back, flattened him out, hooked in a rear-naked choke, and Alberto’s face turned red as he was forced to tap out.
Tito wore a U.S. Border Patrol hat and a Trump 2020 shirt during his post-fight interview. Tito asked for Alberto’s WWE Title (spinner) belt, which Alberto said he would surrender to Tito if he lost. Tito gave the belt to his two sons and said it was his dream to be the WWE Champion as a kid and can share that with his children.
Other action on the evening saw another pro wrestler take to the cage as former Lucha Underground Champion Sexy Starr made quick work of Anali Lopez Hernandez via guillotine choke at 2:47 of round one. Starr’s boxing was too much for the MMA newcomer Hernandez. Starr walked her down at will with strikes until she found the opening for the choke in what was a total mismatch.
Combate Americas crowned their first women’s strawweight champion in the co-main event as Melissa Martinez defeated Desiree Yanez via split decision. Martinez is a homegrown star of Combate Americas and proved her toughness by coming back from adversity as Yanez dominated her in the second round. Martinez has star potential, but Yanez will be back in the hunt.
There was a lot of competition for the Mexican based promotion on Saturday. DAZN aired the boxing heavyweight title rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz while ESPN aired a big UFC heavyweight bout between Alistair Overeem and Jair Rozenstruik. Combate Americas aired on Fite.tv and had an entertaining presentation of fights with a headline-grabbing battle and some good prospects on the undercard.
Alberto El Patron’s record falls to 9-6 while Tito Ortiz improves to 22-12 with four wins in his last five fights.
-Quick Event Results
Jose Flores over Clarence Brown via submission (rear-naked choke) – Rd 1
Victor Martinez stopped Luis Luna via TKO (strikes) – Rd 1
Edmilson Freitas and Raymond Banda was declared a majority draw
Elias Urbina knocked out Mike Tovar via head kick at 3:14 of Rd 1
-Main Card PPV
Gaston Reyno defeated Rey Trujillo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). This was fought at a catchweight of 150 lbs.
The thirty-third annual Survivor Series emanated from the All-State Arena in Chicago, Illinois, with a new caveat added to the event’s brand supremacy theme. For the first time, NXT competed against Raw and SmackDown. There were several Interbrand matches along with three title matches that made for one of the better WWE pay-per-views of 2019.
WWE didn’t make the wrestlers wear those color-coded brand-specific t-shirts, which were lame. Adam Cole is the big winner here as his matches throughout this pay-per-view cycle exuded superstardom. It will be interesting to see what is in store for him in the next six months.
The match I was looking forward to the most was the Triple Threat encounter between NXT North American Champion Roderick Strong, U.S. Champion AJ Styles, and Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. In some ways, this match was behind the eight ball before it began since it was never going to live up to the impossible expectations fans had considering the talent involved.
While it never got to that fifth gear, it got close as all three wrestlers worked well together. Several big spots got the tough Chicago crowd to come alive. Roderick Strong got the win when Styles hit the phenomenal forearm on Nakamura and Strong ran in, threw Styles out of the ring, and pinned Nakamura.
Adam Cole defeated Pete Dunne to retain the NXT Championship in what is unquestionably match of the night. This was their most high profile match to date. This match could have very easily been a significant misstep considering Vince McMahon usually doesn’t book NXT style matches on major WWE shows. Vince deserves credit for letting NXT shine by allowing them to do what they do best. I’d recommend going out of your way to see this one.
Team SmackDown won the Men’s Survivor Series Triple Threat Elimination Match when Roman Reigns pinned NXT’s Keith Lee to emerge as the sole survivor. I was concerned that NXT would get lost in the shuffle of the main roster star power of Raw and SmackDown.
One point of contention occurred right of the bat when WWE U.K. Champion WALTER, representing Team NXT, was eliminated in four minutes. The crowd hated this, and fans online were equally as upset. WALTER shined against both Bruan Strowman and Drew McIntyre until McIntyre hit WALTER with the Claymore Kick for the elimination.
Looking at this from a promoter’s lens, this was the first time seeing WALTER for a large part of the audience. Booking WALTER to run roughshod over McIntyre and Strowman was done with the idea of getting him over with the uninitiated before he was eliminated. However, it wasn’t enough as all everyone remembers is how quickly WALTER was pinned.
Tomasso Ciampa pinning Kevin Owens with a draping DDT, in front of Randy Orton, was funny because it is a move out of Orton’s playbook. Also, Orton never beats anyone with that move while Ciampa sealed the deal.
Seth Rollins’ next t-shirt should read, “How the mighty have fallen.” The once-popular superstar is now a pariah due to several Twitter faux pas over the past few months. While he didn’t say anything offensive, his comments have made him come off as a company kiss ass while WWE has been pushing Rollins as the cool lead babyface on television.
Keith Lee came off like a superstar in the final frame with Roman Reigns. In defeat, Reigns offered a fist bump out of respect to Lee, which spoke volumes. Typically, fans would have rejected the idea of the top guy giving props to an already popular wrestler.
However, Reigns has only extended his fist to members of The Shield. Lee getting such praise came off as a nice moment that suggests big things are in store for the former Texas A&M defensive end. At 6′ 2″, 320 lbs. and moves like a cat, Lee has the makings of a superstar.
Brocks Lesnar matches at Survivor Series have become an event unto itself. The past two years he tore the house down with smaller opponents in AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan. This year he wrestled the smallest of the small in Rey Mysterio.
The NO DQ stipulation was used well as the mammoth Lesnar threw Mysterio around like a ping-pong ball. Rey found an opening and walloped Lesnar at will with a lead pipe. Rey’s son Dominick got involved and looked as if he was going to throw the towel in. The father and son duo delivered a double 619 to Lesnar, which was fantastic.
Each also delivered an Eddie Guerrero style frog splash to Lesnar. Dominick got some serious height with his splash. Lesnar caught Rey coming off the top rope with an F-5 for the win. While the match was short, it was fun while it lasted and told a great story.
In the main event, NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Bazler defeated Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley. The finish saw Bazler submit Bayley with a rear-naked choke, giving NXT the overall win for the evening with four wins, two wins for SmackDown, and one win for Raw.
NXT’s involvement this year made for one of the better Survivor Series shows in some time. They added a fresh element to the overproduced “brand supremacy” theme and greatly improved the match quality. WWE booking NXT as the heel invaders worked against them, inadvertently making them the babyface underdogs that no one wanted to lose.
It was important for NXT to shine on its biggest stage to date, and their win over Raw and SmackDown could give them the rub needed to beat AEW, in the ratings, consistently going forward. WWE produced a fun show that elevated their most popular asset. I’d say mission accomplished.
Survivor Series Quick Results:
Team NXT (Rhea Ripley, Io Shirai, Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, and Toni Storm) def. Team SmackDown (Sasha Banks [c], Dana Brooke, Carmella, Lacey Evans, and Nikki Cross) and Team Raw (Charlotte Flair [c], Natalya, Asuka, Kairi Sane, and Sarah Logan)
NXT North American Championship Roderick Strong defeated Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura and U.S. Champion AJ Styles
Adam Cole pinned Pete Dunne to retain the NXT Championship
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt def. Daniel Bryan to retain the WWE Universal Championship
Team SmackDown (Roman Reigns, King Corbin, Shorty G, Mustafa Ali, and Braun Strowman) def. Team Raw (Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Ricochet, Drew McIntyre, and Kevin Owens) and Team NXT (Tommaso Ciampa, Matt Riddle, Keith Lee, Damian Priest, and WALTER)
Brock Lesnar defeated Rey Mysterio in a No Holds Barred, No Disqualification Match to retain the WWE Championship
NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler defeated SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley and Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch
New Japan Pro Wrestling announced yesterday a new U.S. based subsidiary called New Japan Pro Wrestling of America. The company will be based in California and begin operations in November. CEO Takami Ohbari presented the three phases of their expansion plan.
-Phase One: Discovering new wrestlers in markets outside Japan and developing talent through the LA Dojo.
-Phase Two: Run events in the US, including at Madison Square Garden and Dallas this year, both independently and with the assistance of other promotions.
-Phase Three: Establish a company within the US, and be ingrained in the everyday fabric when it comes to fans’ wrestling consciousness.
Phases one and two are already completed, and phase three is set as NJPW of America will be putting on twenty-seven live events across eighteen states in 2020. Arenas with twenty-five hundred seat capacity will be the targeted cites for the shows.
This is interesting considering WWE recently tried to purchase two wrestling promotions in Japan to create NXT Japan. Pro Wrestling NOAH and women’s promotion Stardom ultimately turned down their respective offers.
New Japan has made some promotional errors in the U.S., which can be chalked up to a difference in business culture. The opening night of the G1 Climax in Dallas only drew five thousand people. It should have drawn more; however, New Japan promoted the show like they usually do in Japan when they announced the card a few days before the show.
That kind of promotion won’t work with a U.S audience because we’re used to getting the lineup at least a month before the event. People need time to decide if they want to spend their money on event tickets, travel plans, and hotel accommodations.
New Japan also announced they’re staying on AXS TV for the foreseeable future. However, AXS is now owned by Anthem, the parent company of Impact Wrestling (Formerly TNA). Impact’s weekly television show debuts on AXS this evening. Odd are Impact will be the station’s priority, not New Japan.
While some feel New Japan is starting off its American expansion too slow, I think it’s just right. Slow and steady wins the race. NJPW of America needs time to adjust to the American way of promotion and marketing.
WWE is the industry leader. Their lackluster storytelling, however, has led to decreasing ratings, which has ultimately led to the emergence of All Elite Wrestling. Wrestling fans want quality matches and storytelling, and other companies are moving in to fill the void.
Arguably, New Japan has the best in-ring product in the game today. It will take more than suitable matches to get over in the U.S. on a mainstream level. I think New Japan realizes this and doesn’t mind moving slowly with its expansion while ensuring the product doesn’t take a single dip in the quality.
This past Wednesday on AEW Dynamite, Pentagon and Fenix defeated Marko Stunt and Jungle Boy in a match that has become as divisive as The Last Jedi. Some fans loved the match, and others hate it with a burning passion. However, those who dislike it are not upset because it was a bad match. Their anger stems from the participation of a 98-pound wrestler who stands at 5 foot 2 inches named Marko Stunt.
Marko Stunt didn’t do anything wrong or say anything offensive. His diminutive stature was such a turn off that many couldn’t suspend any modicum of disbelief in a professional wrestling match. Famed manager Jim Cornette echoed the sentiments of disapproval when he tweeted the following.
“The most embarrassingly rotten stinky tag match in history of wrestling just took place on #AEWDynamite & the Ding Dongs are now in 2nd place for worst alltime tag team”
In tag team wrestling, there are two wrestlers to a team and four wrestlers in total. Cornette has called foul on an entire team and match due to the presence of one fun-sized participant. The gist of the vitriol surrounds the notion that it was embarrassing to watch grown men act as if Marko could hurt them or kick out of their big moves.
Marko has been wrestling for four years. However, Wednesday night’s match on TNT was by far the most massive audience he’s performed in front of. 1,014,000 million people witnessed the pint-size grappler perform, and many deemed him too unbelievable for an unbelievable sport.
If you watch the match and look at it from solely a performance perspective, it was a great match, and Marko did his job well. Especially considering he was booked in the match on two hours’ notice as an injury replacement for Luchasaurus. However, when I watched the match with the narrative stakes involved, I was nervous because there were a few big moves where I wasn’t sure if Marko should have kicked out.
Marko worked the match as a hit and run underdog, who was pinned by Pentagon, which is how he should have been booked. Unfortunately, Marko’s stature will make it extremely difficult to overcome any carefully crafted booking. However, it’s not impossible.
Wrestling has always had smaller people inside the ropes. Some felt Bret Hart and Shawn Micheals were too small to be credible world champions when they first won their respective titles. People said Sean Waltman was too small to be taken seriously when he made his WWE debut in 1993 as the 1-2-3 Kid.
“How the hell is this guy gonna beat up anybody,” was my reaction when I saw Rey Mysterio walk down the aisle for the very first time. I ate my words once the bell rang as this amazing athlete proved that his talent was undeniable.
If you don’t like Marko Stunt as a performer, then you don’t like Marko Stunt as a performer. However, while not every super small person who is a wrestler can convey the intangibles to produce the ultimate underdog character that people love to cheer. Marko Stunt does that for those who like him.
In some ways, Marko being the anthesis of what a wrestler is supposed to look like is the evolution of professional wrestling. The industry is in the maiden voyage of a new era. New and up-and-coming talent is being featured. We’ve already seen the biggest of the big get starring roles right out of the gate simply because of their monstrous size, only to fail spectacularly.
Why not see what the smallest of the small has to offer?