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March 30, 2020 Observer Newsletter: Corona virus changes co

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  1. Wrestling Observer Newsletter
  2.  
  3. PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 March 30, 2020
  4.  
  5.  
  6.  
  7. WWE finished all its tapings through the 4/6 Raw after WrestleMania this past week, with empty arena shows taped at both the Performance Center in Orlando and Full Sail University in Winter Park.
  8.  
  9. Whether coincidence or not, the tapings were already underway when the county announced a stay-at-home order going into effect at 11 p.m. on 3/26, through 4/9. The first TV show that would not be covered at this point would be either NXT on 4/8 or Smackdown on 4/10.
  10.  
  11. Included in the taping was most if not all of WrestleMania, which was taped on 3/25 and 3/26 at the Performance Center.
  12.  
  13. There are a few WrestleMania bouts that will be done on location, notably Undertaker vs. A.J. Styles. That will be what is billed as a boneyard match, stips not to be announced ahead of time it appears. From promos, sounds like it will be taped in a mock cemetery setting.
  14.  
  15. At least two WWE talents were pulled from WrestleMania due to what were described as symptoms, Dana Brooke and Rey Mysterio. Brooke was supposed to be in a six-way match for the Smackdown women’s title. She arrived for the 3/20 taping at the Performance Center and after being checked medically was asked to quarantine herself. Mysterio had symptoms and stayed in California and quarantined himself. There is no indication either has the coronavirus and it was just a matter of being cautious. We’re told that as of 3/26 nobody in the company has tested positive.
  16.  
  17. The WrestleMania card has also changed. Names are being kept confidential because so few know, but it’s been confirmed that multiple people on the card either said they were sick, which meant instantly being pulled off all shows this week, there were others who did not feel sick but had fevers above 100.4, which was the WWE’s cut-off point of not allowing people to work, and others who, on their own, said they didn’t feel comfortable flying in.
  18.  
  19. Both AEW and WWE had told people that if they don’t want to come, they don’t have to come and that the decisions made now won’t be held against them when it comes to future booking.
  20.  
  21. Jerry Lawler was not used due to his age, although Vince McMahon, who is four years older, was presiding over the shows.
  22.  
  23. At this point we know of 16 scheduled matches for WrestleMania, with the elimination of both the men’s and women’s Battle Royals because that would simply be too many people together at one time.
  24.  
  25. On the Raw side, the confirmed matches are Brock Lesnar vs. Drew McIntyre for the WWE title, Edge vs. Randy Orton in a last man standing match, Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler for the women’s title, Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair for the NXT women’s title, Undertaker vs. Styles in a boneyard match (shot on location), Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins, The Street Profits vs. Andrade & Angel Garza for the tag titles and Aleister Black vs. Bobby Lashley.
  26.  
  27. On the Smackdown side, the confirmed matches are Bill Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal title, John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt (this may be a gimmick match shot on location), Bayley vs. Lacey Evans vs. Tamina vs. Naomi vs. Sasha Banks for the women’ title, Miz & Morrison defending the tag titles against the winners of a New Day vs. Usos match that will air on Smackdown on 3/27 and Elias vs. King Corbin.
  28.  
  29. There were three other scheduled matches not announced. Otis vs. Dolph Ziggler is likely to be finalized this week with some sort of stipulation involving Mandy Rose. At one point Rose was to be the referee, which explains Rose not being in the women’s title match. But that was changed weeks ago and her role is not known.
  30.  
  31. There is to be a women’s tag title match. The plan was the Kabuki Warriors vs. Nikki Cross & Alexa Bliss vs. Natalya & Beth Phoenix, but the last word we had was that Natalya & Phoenix were not a lock and things were not finalized.
  32.  
  33. Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan for the IC title is likely, but the stipulations were that Drew Gulak would have to beat Shinsuke Nakamura on the 3/27 Smackdown in a singles match for Bryan to get his shot.
  34.  
  35. The loss of Brooke took her out of the women’s title match. I’m not sure why someone, Carmella being most notable, wouldn’t be a replacement, especially Carmella above Tamina, who hasn’t even been on television.
  36.  
  37. The Raw tag title match removes a U.S. title match. There had been multiple different ideas regarding the U.S. and Raw tag titles over the past few weeks.
  38.  
  39. Just last week on Raw, Rey Mysterio pinned Andrade in a non-title match. It was not definite that would lead to a title match, but a title match was scheduled as either a singles match or a multiple person match. Besides Mysterio, names like Black, Humberto Carrillo and Garza were thought of for the match.
  40.  
  41. But with the shutdown affecting Hollywood, Lana is available earlier than expected. That could have led to the decision to put Lashley on the show against Black.
  42.  
  43. Rather than adding a new match to the show, the plan after that decision was made was to have the tag title be in a three-way with The Street Profits vs. Andrade & Garza vs. Mysterio & Carrillo. But with Mysterio being out, Carrillo lost his spot.
  44.  
  45. I’m not sure if this is a mistake, well, actually I am sure, but there is advertising in some places listing the price for the 4/4 WrestleMania show on PPV as $9.99 and the 4/5 show as $59.99.
  46.  
  47. Even though Full Sail University was shut down, WWE was able to tape multiple episodes of NXT there on 3/22. So there are weeks of shows in the can. The decision was made for the scheduled and already announced Takeover matches to air on the regular Wednesday night shows starting on 4/1.
  48.  
  49. The Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic vs. Damien Priest North American title match will take place on 4/1. The Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa match, considered the main event for that show, is airing on 4/8. Also airing on 4/8 is the women’s ladder match, which will determine who faces the Ripley vs. Flair winner at a later date. In the ladder match will be Chelsea Green, Mia Yim, Tegan Nox, Io Shirai, Candice LeRae and the winner of a gauntlet series of matches that take place on 4/1. The women in that match are Xia Li vs. Deonna Purrazzo vs. Dakota Kai vs. Aliyah vs. Kayden Carter vs. Shotzi Blackheart. It is believed the planned Walter vs. Finn Balor match, which was being built up but never announced, would not have been part of this because Walter would not have been allowed in the U.S. The tag title match was to be Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne vs. Zack Gibson & James Drake (or a three-way involving Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly). Gibson & Drake are not going to be able to get into the country, so that may explain the quick angle where Saurav Gurjar & Rinku Singh attacked and laid out Riddle.
  50.  
  51. The 4/26 NXT Takeover show at the 3A Arena in Dublin has been moved to 10/25.
  52.  
  53. WWE stock during the past week has had its ups and down. WWE was better equipped to handle an economic downturn because of guaranteed money as the key part of its revenue. Also, as the market started to rebound when it appeared short-term business was politically winning over doctors and science, the stock rose to $39.04 per share.
  54.  
  55. However, after a deal where Vince McMahon agreed to sell 3.5 million shares, which represented 4.5 percent of the company in a futures deal with Morgan Stanley, and a major stock downgrade by Loop Capital, it dropped down to $34.38 as of press time on 3/25, giving the company a $2.658 market value.
  56.  
  57. Loop Capital dropped its target price of $43 per share to $30, when analyst Alan Gould said that the transformative deal, which is the deal where they were looking to sell the rights of their PPV shows to another streaming service for a guaranteed money deal, basically what UFC did with ESPN, doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.
  58.  
  59. In a move that surprised people in the market, WWE released that McMahon entered into a variable prepaid forward contract covering 3.5 million shares of stock, to an undisclosed bank (believed to be Morgan Stanley).
  60.  
  61. The future sale, scheduled to be settled in March 2024, was to provide current liquidity while for the next four years maintaining McMahon’s voting power and dividend rights for those shares. The actual number of shares McMahon sells will be determined by the price of the shares at the time.
  62.  
  63. Bloomberg reported that the sale in question was actually 2.26 million shares officially sold at about $38 (stock was sold at between $37.75 and $38.25, at 2.26 percent below market value at the time of the sale), which brought in an $85 million cash infusion. Essentially what this is, is a cash advance on a sale that will go through in four years. McMahon gets the cash now, which is weird because he sold so much stock of late, roughly $300 million, to fund the XFL for several years. Plus, WWE has $500 million in cash on hand to ride out the current economic storm. McMahon still gets the 12 cents per share quarterly dividend for the four years until the sale goes into effect.
  64.  
  65. With the sale, McMahon would own 25,198,344 shares, which would be 70 percent of the voting power, essentially meaning that even though he would own about 32.6 percent of the company stock, he could not be overruled when it comes to voting power. His stock value would be $866 million at press time, and he would have lost in excess of $800 million in stock value since the start of the year.
  66.  
  67. In March 2024, McMahon would then deliver up to 3,484,006 shares to Morgan Stanley, a number depending on the stock price at the time and dollar value of what $85 million plus whatever interest would be.
  68.  
  69. In addition, another 1.3 million shares of McMahon’s stock has been pledged to Morgan Stanley Bank to secure a line of credit.
  70.  
  71. In the SEC proxy, McMahon stated that he would continue as CEO and Chairman of the company for the foreseeable future.
  72.  
  73. Both WWE and UFC got greater exposure over the weekend with ESPN looking for prime time programming, and had the station’s two most-watched shows of the weekend.
  74.  
  75. WWE aired WrestleMania 30 from New Orleans, the 2014 show built around Daniel Bryan winning the WWE title and Brock Lesnar ending Undertaker’s streak.
  76.  
  77. The deal was put together last minute, but doing so does show a relationship between the two sides. It is not a lock that WWE will make a streaming deal with ESPN+, as the sides were said to be apart on money.
  78.  
  79. WrestleMania 30 aired in prime time from 7-11 p.m. Eastern on 3/22, and WrestleMania 32 from Irving, TX, will air on 3/29. WWE will also air last year’s WrestleMania 35 on 4/5 from 3-7 p.m. as a direct lead-in to the show. On the first show, they did wrap-arounds with Tom Phillips and Corey Graves, and the show was filled with WrestleMania commercials and plugs for this year’s show and for the WWE Network. It actually felt watching it like you were watching a time-buy, because of all the plugs. It probably wasn’t that, since they did the same thing the day before with UFC. But it was clear ESPN was hands off because of the nature of the wrap-arounds being all WWE-speak.
  80.  
  81. The show did 839,000 viewers with an 0.31 in 18-49, which is good for a show with no advanced publicity. If you take out news programming, it was sixth in 18-49 on cable for the day and No. 30 including news shows. WWE also reached a deal with Sportsnet in Canada to air past WrestleManias starting on 3/29 with WrestleMania 30.
  82.  
  83. UFC ran all day on the station on 3/21, with them airing the greatest fights in UFC history all afternoon, drawing between 327,000 and 410,000 viewers. From 8-11 p.m. they aired UFC 244, the Madison Square Garden show from November headlined by Jorge Masvidal’s win over Nate Diaz. That did 725,000 viewers and 0.21 in 18-49. That was 13th for the day in 18-49 if you take out news programs, and No. 40 including news shows.
  84.  
  85. WrestleMania was the most watched show overall and in the key demos on ESPN over the weekend and UFC 244 was second.
  86.  
  87. For a comparison, on 3/23, a Monday night, ESPN aired both Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder fights. The first, at 7 pm., did 356,000 viewers and a 0.13 in 18-49, while the second, at 8 p.m., did 447,000 viewers and a 0.15 in 18-49, although that was the average of the three-hours of the PPV show, and the undercard had little that people would care about seeing again. The second Fury-Wilder fight was far bigger culturally than UFC 244 or WrestleMania in 2014 at its time, and it just took place. The third Fury vs. Wilder fight, which was scheduled for 7/18, is being delayed according to promoter Bob Arum, with 10/3 now being the talked about date.
  88.  
  89. ESPN also announced the recent Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk fight, one of the greatest fights in company history, from 3/7, would be airing on 3/28 in prime time.
  90.  
  91. Even though overall TV viewership with all the big news numbers was higher than a usual Saturday, it still didn’t compare with Sunday viewership. The two numbers for the prime time shows were basically equivalent as far as total viewers, but WWE skewed younger than UFC, unlike what is normally the case. That may be the value of WrestleMania as a name.
  92.  
  93. But these events are great promotional tools for WWE to reach the sports audience that was one of their major 2020 goals to reach.
  94.  
  95. WWE has announced that for a limited time, the WWE Network is free. This appears to be through WrestleMania. The new free aspect is open to everyone. It will not be for complete access. It will be for only a portion of the VOD library. What will be accessible is every WrestleMania, every Royal Rumble, every SummerSlam and every Survivor Series, every Takeover and UK Takeover, all the WWE 24 documentaries, all the Steve Austin Broken Skull Challenge shows, the WWE Ruthless Aggression documentary, the Monday Night Wars documentary series, the WWE Untold shows, the recent Florida Championship Wrestling documentary and recent episodes of Raw and Smackdown.
  96.  
  97. This is actually less than what the company does regularly as far as a free first month. It’s also open to everyone who had been a prior subscriber or had gotten a prior free order, where is the free month, at least in theory, was only a one-time thing, although people have learned to negotiate the system. You still have to sign up for it and put a credit card in.
  98.  
  99. They are pushing that you can get both nights of WrestleMania free. But over the last month before WrestleMania it’s always pushed that you can get WrestleMania free, with the idea that the people who sign up will either like it, or forget to cancel, and thus the amount of paid subscribers increase greatly over the month or so after WrestleMania.
  100.  
  101. AEW has given up the idea of running shows before fans through until 5/20 at the earliest. The company will continue to tape matches every Wednesday provided that it is possible to do so. It is on a week-by-week basis, as is the location. There is another location they could move to and everything is up in the air but everything went fine in Jacksonville this week and they taped a ton of stuff. They are planning at press time to do more taping next week but nothing is for sure.
  102.  
  103. For a number of reasons, the show advertised on 3/18 for 3/25 couldn’t happen. The idea of restrictions on having more than ten people together in one area eliminated both the Blood & Guts match, which would need ten people plus a referee as well as people filming (Matt Hardy & Matt Jackson & Kenny Omega & Cody & Adam Page vs. Chris Jericho & Sammy Guevara & Santana & Ortiz & Jake Hager). For the same reason, the lumberjack match with Luchasaurus vs. Wardlow couldn’t take place because of the restrictions.
  104.  
  105. Due to travel restrictions, Pac and Pentagon Jr., who live in the U.K. and Mexico, were unable to come in so the Death Triangle group has been put on hold. The California crew like The Young Bucks, SCU, Rey Fenix, Excalibur, ref Rick Knox and others were unable to come. Jim Ross and Taz weren’t there either whether it be for reasons of caution or an inability to travel. Tony Schiavone did the announcing on his own, with Cody and Kenny Omega helping out at different times. Bea Priestley, who lives in Japan although right now is in the U.K., and was being groomed for a women’s title program with Nyla Rose, is also out for now, as would be Yuka Sakazaki. If they even do something with Rose short-term, it looks like it would be with Hikaru Shida, who has moved to the U.S.
  106.  
  107. The Blood & Guts match, even without the restrictions to ten people, was likely to have been moved even without the ten person restrictions with the idea it’s not worth wasting that match with no crowd and no guarantee on follow-up storylines.
  108.  
  109. Regarding the ability to tape weekly, it’s noted that Jacksonville’s largest coronavirus testing center will be in the parking lot of HIAA Field, about 100 yards from where they are taping at Daily’s Place. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also talked about cracking down on businesses and employees taking unnecessary risks. AEW has been working with the city regarding the ability to continue to use Daily’s Place for taping each week. As the show was being taped, the only people around were the wrestlers in the one room for the skits, those in the open-aired building, a few production people outside the building in the truck, and Tony Khan as the only person backstage handling Gorilla and timing the show.
  110.  
  111. They did a lot of other taping on both 3/24 and 3/25 as well.
  112.  
  113. Khan also noted that last week was by far the toughest week in the history of the company as far as being able to rewrite, gather talent and put together a show, because some talent couldn’t come in, some talent opted not to come in and there were so many restrictions put on how many people could be there. Most likely with more restrictions on travel and pressure regarding social gatherings coming from the outside, that this week would have ended up even tougher.
  114.  
  115. Last week they brought in a number of independent wrestlers for a combination of what you’d call tryout matches, that were taped for Dark and they did as much as taping as they could. While they don’t have the library that WWE has, where WWE can go forever and put great matches from the past on television and never run out, they would have enough product to fill television easily for three months while doing wrap-arounds from their studio.
  116.  
  117. The company announced that its 4/22 date in Philadelphia at the Liacouras Center is rescheduled for 7/29. Its 4/22 date in Houston at the Fertitta Center is rescheduled for 11/4. Its 5/6 date in New Orleans at the UNO Lakefront Arena is moved to 12/2. And its 5/13 date in Rio Rancho, NM, has been moved to 12/30.
  118.  
  119. They are delaying an announcement for Double or Nothing II on 5/23 in Las Vegas. Obviously the choices are having the show with fans, having the show there without fans, having the show somewhere else without fans, or just postponing the show to a later date, and right now all of those calls are wait and see and likely in the end, out of their hands.
  120.  
  121. Dana White claimed that UFC 249 will take place on 4/18, that it will be a full card with the Khabib Nurmagomedov lightweight title defense against Tony Ferguson. He said that he 99.9 percent has a location but it was being kept secret, and later said he had multiple locations in both the U.S. and overseas. If Donald Trump will be relaxing rules as far as how many people can be in a place at the same time, White has already found places that will allow him to do shows and reports are the location would be in Florida, which means the Florida commission is going to allow it. The Florida commission did allow the only MMA show in the country this past week, a 3/21 empty arena show in Jacksonville promoted by Combat MMA. The commission said it was willing to sanction the show and said it was up to local authorities to make decisions to close such events down. Only 50 people were allowed in the building at any time, and to get in you needed your temperature taken before entering the building and can’t have had contact with someone who has had the virus, or have any symptoms.
  122.  
  123. White came off very bad when talking to Kevin Iole and not answering whether the fighters and officials will be tested for the virus.
  124.  
  125. “We will make sure we take care of everybody like we always do,” White told Iole. “I’m not giving the public and the media all kinds of information on what I’m doing, but I’m not acting like some crazy rebel out here with the coronavirus. I’ve done everything I’ve been told to do.”
  126.  
  127. “You don’t need to know. It’s none of your business.”
  128.  
  129. ““Whether you’re a coronavirus expert or not, it’s like hiding from cancer,” said White in what one of the worst possible analogies. “You can’t hide from this thing. You can’t hide. If you are a high-risk person, this thing’s going to get you. What’s going to happen next flu season? This thing’s going to disappear? No, it’s going to come back, just like the flu. And if it’s what’s going to get you, it’s gonna get you. So I’ve had a great run. If the coronavirus is what’s going to get me, let’s do it. Bring it. I’m ready corona, come get me.”
  130.  
  131. UFC canceled its shows this month to not go against Donald Trump wanting congregated groups to stay under ten people. Evidently they believe that restriction would be lifted by 4/18.
  132.  
  133. This comes at the same time the Association of Ringside Physicians has came out to support canceling all combat sports events in the U.S. for the time being.
  134.  
  135. Another show looking likely to need a new location is the 4/25 show in Lincoln, NE, since the city banned any gatherings of more than ten people through 5/6. The show was to be headlined by Anthony Smith vs. Glover Teixeira.
  136.  
  137. That would also go for WWE and AEW, as they’ve both proved to be able to do sets with ten on them and continue, and if those restrictions are relaxed, there is no reason both sides couldn’t continue legally doing empty arena tapings. Ultimately that will be up to the cities in question although Orlando looks to be shut down as of 3/26.
  138.  
  139. Nurmagomedov has left San Jose, where everything is shut down, to do his final training in Russia. But then the Russian government was shutting down all international flights, both those coming in and those leaving, as of 3/27, so who knows what he’s going to have to do next.
  140.  
  141. White told Kevin Iole that any fighter not comfortable with it is under no obligation to go. Iole noted with such heavy unemployment, maybe he could make the price cheaper for the PPV. White said that he was already losing so much money putting the show on. Actually he’s pretty much guaranteed the money. It is still a profitable show in a big way or he wouldn’t do it, but it won’t be as profitable because they were losing out on millions that they would have made for a live gate in Brooklyn.
  142.  
  143. While also said that they would be back running regularly after 4/18, and that all of the fights scheduled for the canceled 3/21, 3/28 and 4/11 shows, headlined by Tyron Woodley vs. Leon Edwards, Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (there is talk of this fight happening on 4/18) and Walt Harris vs. Alistair Overeem, respectively and the undercard fights would be rescheduled. The UFC was not paying the fighters who were on the canceled shows until they fight. If fighters don’t want to fight right now, they don’t have to. But in the vast majority of cases, there would be an economic need to do so.
  144.  
  145. He talked about possibly doing multiple shows during a week to catch up on the missed dates, perhaps doing shows on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays along with the almost weekly Saturday shows already on the schedule. The key is the contract with ESPN calls for a certain number of shows and each show is very lucrative, valued at $8 million and up, so for budgeting reasons they are going to do the contracted number of shows this year.
  146.  
  147. Endeavor, the parent company of UFC, announced layoffs of 250 employees, which would include some working in UFC. In addition, Ari Emannuel and Patrick Whitesell, who head the company, have said that they will not be taking any salary for the remainder of 2020.
  148.  
  149. Impact officially announced that its scheduled 4/19 Rebellion PPV show from Terminal 5 in New York has been canceled. That show was to be headlined by a three-way with Tessa Blanchard vs. Michael Elgin vs. Eddie Edwards for the Impact title. Impact does tape a few weeks in advance and does have a huge library that they could use to fill time, but no announcements have been made regarding plans. Also canceled were shows on 4/17 in Toronto, and TV tapings on 4/24 and 4/25 in Columbus, OH. The company said that it was looking at alternate ways it can produce these events.
  150.  
  151. In Japan, most of the sports talk revolved around the 2020 Olympics, which on 3/24, were officially postponed until 2021 in a joint statement between Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe ad IOC President Thomas Bach. That was the only reasonable decision to make because there is just too much uncertainty. The Australian, Canadian and American committees were adamant about the move. The dates have not been confirmed at this time other than it would be no later than summer 2021.
  152.  
  153. The country took that news hard, because it was a sign to the public that things are not going smoothly and that the current situation is not going to end this week or in a few weeks. After 41 new cases came up in Tokyo on 3/25, up from 16 on 3/23 and 17 on 3/24, Gov. Yuriko Koike of Tokyo asked people to stay in this coming weekend. Generally speaking, the lifestyle in Japan hasn’t changed and restaurants and bars have been full in recent weeks and subways have remained packed. He also asked that all events be closed down until 4/12. Keep in mind Japanese numbers when it comes to cases aren’t going to be accurate because of how little testing is done, although the difference between 41 in Tokyo and 2,300 new cases the same day in New York sounds staggering. The neighboring prefectures also put out the same announcement.
  154.  
  155. There was talk of Tokyo going into lockdown for longer but right now it’s just for the weekend, although Koike asked people to do so until 4/12. Still, as late as 3/26, the subways were packed in Tokyo and people were out and about. But Abe has not declared a state of emergency. But Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said that he had told Abe there is a high risk of the virus spreading rapidly right now.
  156.  
  157. The K-1 event at the Saitama Super Arena (just outside of Tokyo), which drew a huge crowd, was talked about as being part of the problem with so many people in attendance this past week.
  158.  
  159. Korakuen Hall has now banned spectators at its shows for the time being. That was basically the last vestige of the smaller promotions being able to draw significant revenue.
  160.  
  161. The 2AW promotion ran the last spectator show at Korakuen Hall on 3/25, and Wrestle-1 ran the same night at the smaller Shinkiba First Ring.
  162.  
  163. What was considered positive news last week ended up not being so much. The Korean Basketball League, which last week was scheduled to start back on 3/29 after closing down on 2/29, with the feeling the country had turned things around, has changed course. Instead, after a meeting of team owners this past week, they decided to abandon the idea of restarting the season. This came after their women’s basketball and men’s volleyball leagues made the same call while governmental officials pressured live sports to not start up so early.
  164.  
  165. The message in Japanese pro wrestling was contradictory. All Japan ran a major show on 3/23 at Korakuen Hall with 1,213 fans, the largest gathering for pro wrestling since the crisis began. The audience was down maybe a few hundred from what that show would have been expected to do under normal circumstances. Probably 80 percent of the fans wore masks. The crowd reactions were relatively normal.
  166.  
  167. Stardom ran the next day at Korakuen Hall, drawing only 538 fans for its one-night Cinderella tournament. We’re told at that show, masks were passed out before the show and building officials told all spectators they must wear them as long as they were in the building. Officials were telling some people who didn’t have them on to put them on.
  168.  
  169. All Japan seems to have immediately second guessed doing that show, as they announced that their 3/28 show in Ageo is being moved to 6/14 as a result of repeated discussions with the related parties to prevent the spread of the virus.
  170.  
  171. Pro Wrestling NOAH was back running shows in front of fans this past week, although its shows were drawing under 300 people. At press time NOAH had canceled its 3/27 show in Yokohama and had changed the 3/28 show at Korakuen Hall to an empty arena show. I’m not certain if Korakuen Hall was closed for everything or just events with spectators and given its scheduled for when things are supposed to be shut down completely in the city, I’m not thinking an empty arena show in Tokyo is going to happen.
  172.  
  173. DDT ran its first show with fans on 3/20 at Korakuen Hall before 916 fans.
  174.  
  175. Dragon Gate went back with an empty arena show in Kobe on 3/22, and was talking about having shows in front of fans starting on 3/28 in Gifu, but then as things changed in the country, all of next week’s shows were canceled and now the tentative return date is 4/4 in Shizuoka.
  176.  
  177. Stardom was scheduled for 3/28 in Shizuoka and at press time it had not been canceled and the word was they were going through with the show. That could change in an instant but it is a locally promoted show and there is no doctrine in that city as far as allowable number of people in a gathering and the crowd will be a few hundred, and the local promoter wants to run. But it is a controversial subject.
  178.  
  179. However, New Japan announced that based on the recommendations of Kato they are canceling the 3/31 Sakura Genesis show at Sumo Hall in Tokyo.
  180.  
  181. As noted in recent weeks, there was hope that would be the first show back. No card had been announced since the card was based on what was going to happen at the since-canceled New Japan Cup tournament. Regarding the tournament, no decision has been made whether it will be redone later in the year. New Japan has been largely quiet because the mentality there is not to announce anything publicly until it is finalized and announcing new shows or lineups when you don’t know for certain they will take place isn’t how they do things.
  182.  
  183. They also announced a 4/11 show in Sagamihara is canceled. At this point they canceled only that show and not the tour. Right now the first show back is listed for 4/12 in Hamamatsu.
  184.  
  185. The reports are that all upper management of New Japan decided to take what was called a responsible and cautious approach for the weeks ahead. They don’t want any fans or talent to get sick, so decided against any empty arena shows as they felt it was not worth the risk to talent and that they are looking at health as the first priority.
  186.  
  187. The Best of the Super Junior tournament is scheduled to start on 5/12. Right now, anyone who comes to Japan from a foreign country has to be quarantined for two weeks, so any Americans, Europeans or Mexicans coming for that tournament would have to come two weeks earlier and pretty much stay in a hotel or home, with no going to the gym.
  188.  
  189. Davey Boy Smith Jr., who is part of All Japan’s Champion Carnival tournament, was going to leave Tampa on 3/24 for Japan, even though he was told that if he did leave, he may not have been able to return if the U.S. seals its borders. But he said he likes Japan, is fine with it, and would continue to work there since there’s no work for him in the U.S. right now.
  190.  
  191. But he ended up having to cancel the tournament. His visa ended up being delayed, even though it was supposed to come before 3/24. He then tried to change his flight to 3/25, which would arrive in Japan on 3/26, and then he would do his two weeks in quarantine before the tour started. At first he figured he would be able to stay in a hotel or be confined by the All Japan dojo, but was told he would have to stay in a government building or a hospital for those two weeks. But he was willing to leave, until Mayor Jane Castor of Tampa issued a complete lockdown against travel that started at midnight on 3/25, meaning he couldn’t leave on that 3/26 flight. All Japan still wanted him to come if there was a way to get to Japan, even if he would miss early dates in the tournament. But without the ability to leave at this point, All Japan then announced that Smith, Joel Redman and Lucas Steel, the latter two coming from the U.K., are also no longer in the tournament.
  192.  
  193. Larry Dallas, who is with Dragon Gate right now as an announcer, noted that he was ordered to come home earlier this week or there was no guarantee he would be able to return. He made the decision to stay, because he’s at least got work there and can travel freely which would not be the case if he were to return to New York. But then after doing one empty arena bout, things worsened, shows were canceled, and the key thing he was brought in for, to do English announcing of the bigger shows, isn’t happening with Korakuen Hall and touring shut down.
  194.  
  195. The next actual major New Japan shows would be 4/27 in Hiroshima, called Aki No Kumi Sengoku Emaki, 4/29 in Kagoshima, called Wrestling Satsuma No Kuni, and the two Wrestling Dontaku traditional events at the Fukuoka International Center Arena on 5/3 and 5/4.
  196.  
  197. With the restrictions, it would seem very difficult to get foreigners aside from the full-timers in for these dates. I’d say it would be an impossibility for someone like a Jon Moxley to appear as long as the quarantine is in effect. Will Ospreay, who lives in Japan, would be okay, although he is still in the U.K. at last word.
  198.  
  199. New Japan World has been doing a lot of taping of features and personality profiles, as well as having big matches from the past be voiced-over in English and put on the site.
  200.  
  201. But Stardom, owned by the same parent company, Bushiroad ran Korakuen Hall with fans for its Cinderella tournament on 3/24, although there were restrictions regarding attendance. Everyone at the door coming in had their temperature checked and anyone with a temperature above 98.7 was not allowed in. Masks were also given out to everyone at the door, and when they came, their hands were sanitized.
  202.  
  203. UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, 32, was arrested on 3/26 on DWI charges, as well as negligent use of firearms, possession of an open container and driving without proof of insurance at 1:01 a.m. local time in Albuquerque.
  204.  
  205. The arrest came just days after Jones had posted social media messages urging people to say quarantined.
  206.  
  207. KOAT in Albuquerque first reported that officers responded to gunshots and found Jones in the driver’s seat of his car. Jones was asked about the gunshots and claimed not to know anything about them. The officers believed that Jones was intoxicated. Jones said that he had been driving and was planning on driving again that night.
  208.  
  209. He was asked to submit to a series of sobriety tests, which he agreed to do, and reportedly performed poorly on all of them. He was give a Breathalyzer test and blew above a 0.16 blood alcohol content, or more than twice legal limits. After the arrest, police found a black handgun underneath the drivers seat in his car, along with a bottle of Recuerdo behind the passenger seat.
  210.  
  211. The Guns Violence Reduction Unit will be testing the gun and bullet casing to determine whether the gun was used for any crimes according to a statement by the Albuquerque police to MMA Fighting.
  212.  
  213. This was just one of multiple offenses over the years attributed to Jones. Most notably, on May 19, 2012, he was driving in the middle of the night with two women and destroyed his Bentley by crashing into a pole in front of the home of an Observer reader in Binghamton, NY, who called us to tell us he thought a car had crashed into the house. Jones was charged with a DUI, pleaded guilty, paid a $1,000 fine, had to attend classes and had his driver’s license suspended for six months.
  214.  
  215. In 2014, Jones was accused of writing homophobic slurs on Instagram and claimed his phone was stolen and then his account was hacked.
  216.  
  217. On April 27, 2015, he was involved in a serious hit-and-run accident after running through a red light and crashing a rental car into two vehicles, one of which was driven by a pregnant woman, who was injured in the accident. He then left the scene, then came back to his car to get some of his cash, and fled a second time. A pipe with marijuana inside was found in the car. This was serious enough that UFC suspended him and stripped him of his championship. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was sentenced to 18 months supervised probation, but avoided a felony by completing a series of conditions which included 72 charitable appearances.
  218.  
  219. Jones tested positive for cocaine in a 2014 test, but since it was out of competition, he was not suspended. UFC fined him $25,000 and he said he was going into rehab, but only wet for one day. He was suspended in 2016 after testing positive for clomiphene and letrozole, both anti-estrogen substances which are usually used to kick start testosterone back after a steroid cycle. Jones was able to find a Cialis-like product which contained the substances and eventually was suspended for one year.
  220.  
  221. From August 22, 2017, Jones tested positive numerous times for Turinabol. He was never able to identify a source for why he tested positive. This resulted in his light heavyweight championship knockout win over Daniel Cormier being overturned, and Cormier was given back the title. While it appeared he would be suspended for four years on a second offense, even without being able to provide a contaminated supplement, USADA said that they believed his usage was not on purpose and he was suspended for 15 months due to giving substantial assistance in bringing forward an Anti-Doping policy violator. There is no evidence he actually did that, and he from the start had denied ever doing that. While on suspension, he went more than eight months without being tested. When he was tested again, he failed multiple times for Turinabol, but was never suspended with the belief espoused that Turinabol was pulsing in his system and this all related to the same ingestion from more than 18 months earlier. At one point a second fight with Alexander Gustafsson, scheduled for Las Vegas on December 29, 2018, was moved to The Forum in Inglewood, CA, just days before it was to take place, when Nevada wouldn’t sanction him due to the test failures, but California would.
  222.  
  223. Jones was also charged with battery based on an alleged April 2019 incident where a cocktail waitress at TD’s Eubank Showclub in Albuquerque claimed Jones slapped her, put her in a choke, kissed her on the neck and touched her inappropriately after she had told him to stop. Jones pleaded n contest in that case and received a 90-day deferred sentence where he was told that would to be served if he was arrested, or consumed any alcohol or drugs, and that he was not to return to the club.
  224.  
  225. So this week’s project, which I was actually planning on even in a non-quarantine world, was to look back at the last ten years of awards issues and see what can be learned by Best of the Decades in a number of categories.
  226.  
  227. The idea was to use the placings and come up with best ofs, and also use it to see what modern wrestlers have Hall of Fame credentials. One of the things that people talk about in comparisons is recency-bias. In pro wrestling, I’ve actually noted more of the opposite, that the past is more romanticized. Btu let’s look at the categories and what we can decipher from all this.
  228.  
  229. I used a points system here with the idea of rewarding first place finishes, because to me, with all the wrestlers and all the companies, being first in a category should be a really big deal. But I wanted a system that rewards consistency over the decade. To me, someone who finishes in the top ten for ten years means more than a guy who finishes second once or twice.
  230.  
  231. So this was the system. The first place finisher in a category gets 25 points. If the first place finisher has more then double the number of first place votes as the second place finisher, he’s bonused another ten points for being dominant. Second place gets 15 points and then third gets 14, down to 10th place getting seven. That way ninth and tenth place finishes aren’t meaningless. I did also give 11th place six, down to 16th place with one point, if 11 through 16 got enough points to be honorable mentions in those specific years.
  232.  
  233. Some of the top guys are obviously too young to have been on top all ten years. And this is beneficial to the guys in their late 30s into mid-40s, and not so good for those in their 20s, but for those, perhaps the next decade catches up.
  234.  
  235. I first wanted to note guys who placed in categories at least nine out of the ten years, because they are few. Hiroshi Tanahashi did so nine out of ten years for the Thesz/Flair award, which is unbelievable when you think of it. Assigning the status of all-time great for him is both easy and obvious.
  236.  
  237. Brock Lesnar placed in the Best Box Office Draw category every year in the decade. The Young Bucks placed in the Tag Team of the Year category all ten years, winning five times. Even though these polls only go back 40 years, even if you went back to the beginning of time, there is no way any team would ever have come close to this in history. Most didn’t stay together, and the ones that did would have never placed top ten every year in any specific decade.
  238.  
  239. Tanahashi also placed in Most Charismatic all ten years. Zack Sabre Jr., placed in Best Technical nine times in the last ten years, including winning five times.
  240.  
  241. Ricochet placed in Best Flyer for ten straight years. That’s notable only because people think of him as a new guy when he’s actually been at the elite level for a decade. Also, that category is one where it’s easy to get hurt, so to never miss enough of a year to not place is kind of amazing. It’s hard in every other category. Similarly, Kota Ibushi has placed in the category nine of the ten years.
  242.  
  243. New Japan and UFC placed in Best Promotion all ten years, with WWE and PWG nine times. PWG missed in 2019, which is strange since the show quality remained as high as any promotion and the final night of Battle of Los Angeles would rank among the best live events of the decade, particularly for someone who was a non-fan because of the variety of styles and a comedy ten man tag that was so entertaining even people who didn’t like wrestling would get a kick out of it.
  244.  
  245. For guys who have had at least ten matches over the decade place in Match of the Year, the list has John Cena with 10, Kota Ibushi with 16, Tomohiro Ishii with 12, Kazuchika Okada with 22, Kenny Omega with 16 and Hiroshi Tanahashi with 19.
  246.  
  247. Kevin Kelly also placed every year in the decade in the Best Announcer poll, including winning over the past two years, and by a wide margin this year.
  248.  
  249. When it comes to the Thesz/Flair Award, with the exception of Mistico (now Caristico) in 2006, Kazuchika Okada in 2017 and Kenny Omega in 2018, every winner is in the Hall of Fame. Caristico would be if he wasn’t for his disastrous WWE stint. If Okada doesn’t get in on the first ballot, the Hall of Fame voting is a complete joke and it’s pretty obvious he will and the only question is how close to a record percentage he comes. Omega looks likely in time as well.
  250.  
  251. We did a similar issue in 2010 for the previous decade. In that issue we did a 10-1 points breakdown so it’s probably not quite as good of a system but the end results weren’t going to be that much different.
  252.  
  253. A few things notable were that John Cena was fifth in the 00s and 3rd in the 10s so that is quite impressive. Chris Jericho was third in the 00s and 7th in the 10s. Hiroshi Tanahashi was 13th in the 00s and first in the 10s. Daniel Bryan was 9th in the 00s and 8th in the 10s.
  254.  
  255. The top ten finishers in the 00s were Kurt Angle, Kenta Kobashi, Jericho and Keiji Muto tied for third, Cena and Samoa Joe tied for fifth, Mistico and Shawn Michaels tied for seventh and Yuji Nagata and Bryan Danielson tied for ninth.
  256.  
  257. Of the top 15, the only ones not already in the Hall of Fame were Joe, Mistico (Caristico) and Edge.
  258.  
  259.  
  260.  
  261. LOU THESZ/RIC FLAIR AWARD
  262.  
  263.  
  264. Wrestler    Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  265. 1. Hiroshi Tanahashi    9   157     3
  266. 2. Kazuchika Okada  8   145     1
  267. 3. John Cena    6   96  1
  268. 4. A.J. Styles  5   90  2
  269. 5. Kenny Omega  4   70  1
  270. 6. Shinsuke Nakamura    5   65  1
  271. 7. Chris Jericho    4   47  1
  272. 8. Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson5    5   46  0
  273. 9. C.M. Punk    3   42  0
  274. 10. Kento Miyahara  4   40  0
  275. 11. Brock Lesnar    3   28  0
  276. Tetsuya Naito   2   28  0
  277. 13. L.A. Park   2   24  0
  278. Seth Rollins    3   24  0
  279. 15. Will Ospreay    2   23  0
  280. 16. Rush    2   22  0
  281.  
  282. Others on the list more than once: Cody, Prince Devitt/Finn Balor, The Rock, Becky Lynch, Randy Orton, Davey Richards
  283.  
  284.  
  285.  
  286. Of the top ten, six are Hall of Famers, with those non in being Okada, who isn’t eligible, Omega, Punk and Miyahara. I think most Wrestler of the Decade arguments would come down to Tanahashi and Okada. Tanahashi had three straight wins, two second place finishes and one third place finish. Okada had one win, three seconds , three third and one fourth meaning in the last eight years, since his run was consecutive, he never placed lower than fourth. That would be like a baseball player or basketball player never finishing below fourth in the MVP voting in eight straight years. That’s an easy first ballot guy. Okada would be eligible in 2021 and Kento Miyahara in 2023. Miyahara is certainly good enough as a wrestler, but smaller promotion wrestlers have never gotten in before but if he has four more years like the last few he would make for an interesting case.
  287.  
  288. Regarding 11th through 16th, the guys not in are Naito, who is a strong candidate to get in, Rollins, also a candidate, Ospreay and Rush, who would both at this point be in the category of time will tell.
  289.  
  290.  
  291.  
  292. MMA MOST VALUABLE
  293.  
  294.  
  295. Fighter     Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  296. 1. Georges St-Pierre    5   121     3
  297. 2. Jon Jones    8   108     0
  298. 3. Conor McGregor   5   103     2
  299. 4. Ronda Rousey     5   97  2
  300. 5. Anderson Silva   5   84  1
  301. 6. Daniel Cormier   6   70  0
  302. 7. Brock Lesnar     2   38  1
  303. 8. Cain Velasquez   3   37  0
  304. 9. Chris Weidman    3   35  0
  305. Jorge Masvidal  1   35  1
  306. 11. Demetrious Johnson  4   33  0
  307. 12. Chael Sonnen    3   29  0
  308. 13. Michael Bisping     2   28  0
  309. Khabib Nurmagomedov     2   28  0
  310. 15. Nate Diaz   2   27  0
  311. 16. Donald Cerrone  3   25  0
  312. Robbie Lawler   2   25  0
  313. 18. Amanda Nunes    2   24  0
  314. 19. Junior Dos Santos   2   23  0
  315. Max Holloway    2   23  0
  316.  
  317. Others on the list more than once: Henry Cejudo, Cris Cyborg, Frankie Edgar, Urijah Faber, Stipe Miocic
  318.  
  319.  
  320.  
  321. St-Pierre had three firsts, one second and one fourth place finish in the only years he was active. Jones had three seconds and three thirds, but no firsts.
  322.  
  323. The thing is that measuring year-by-year isn’t the same as a decade. Because the MVP’s for the decade are clearly McGregor and Rousey. Rousey is the more historically important, and really the most historically important fighter in UFC history because of opening doors to women and becoming the biggest star in the company. But McGregor was the biggest drawing card, by far, that the company ever had. St-Pierre was very important, particularly in Canada, while Jones was the best fighter over the course of the decade.
  324.  
  325. The top ten of the last decade were Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop tied in fifth, St. Pierre, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes and Lesnar. Of those who were top 15 both decades, that was St-Pierre, Lesnar and Anderson Silva.
  326.  
  327.  
  328.  
  329. MOST OUTSTANDING WRESTLER
  330.  
  331.  
  332. Wrestler    Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  333. 1. Kazuchika Okada  8   133     1
  334. 2. Hiroshi Tanahashi    8   132     2
  335. 3. A.J. Styles  5   106     3
  336. 4. Tomohiro Ishii   8   84  0
  337. 5. Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson6    6   76  1
  338. 6. Kenny Omega  5   75  1
  339. 7. Will Ospreay     4   69  1
  340. 8. Davey Richards   3   50  1
  341. 9. Kota Ibushi  6   47  0
  342. 10. Shinsuke Nakamura   4   46  0
  343. 11. Prince Devitt/Finn Balor    5   43  0
  344. 12. C.M. Punk   3   36  0
  345. 13. El Generico/Sami Zayn   3   35  0
  346. 14. Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno     3   33  0
  347. 15. Tetsuya Naito   4   32  0
  348. 16. Zack Sabre Jr.  5   30  0
  349. 17. Negro Casas     3   29  0
  350. 18. Shingo Takagi   2   25  0
  351. 19. Johnny Gargano  2   21  0
  352.  
  353. Others on the list more than once: Cesaro, Adam Cole, Kushida, Kento Miyahara, Ricochet, Matt Riddle, Seth Rollins, Daisuke Sekimoto, Katsuyori Shibata, Io Shirai, Volador Jr., Walter, Dolph Ziggler
  354.  
  355.  
  356.  
  357. No surprise it’s an Okada/Tanahashi battle for the top spot. Tanahashi had two firsts, one second and one third. Okada had one first, two seconds, three thirds and two fourths. Once again, in the last eight years, the worst he’s finished is fourth.
  358.  
  359. On the Hall of Fame front, one would think top ten for the decade is a strong qualifier and those not in are Ishii, Omega, Ospreay, Richards and Ibushi. Ospreay’s numbers are incredible given his age. Ishii placing eight times in ten years should make him a Hall of Famer, but he hasn’t gotten much support because he’s never been pushed to the top. Richards would not be considered a candidate in anyone’s book but was having some of the best wrestlers in the world at one point.
  360.  
  361. The top ten in the last decade were Danielson, Angle, Chris Benoit, KENTA, Kenta Kobashi, Shawn Michaels, Samoa Joe, Eddy Guerrero, Nigel McGuinness and Nagata. Besides Danielson, the only other decade repeat was A.J. Styles, who was 11th in the 00s.
  362.  
  363. Of the top 15, those not in the Hall of Fame for that decade were KENTA, Joe, McGuinness, Naomichi Marufuji and Takeshi Morishima.
  364.  
  365.  
  366.  
  367. MOST OUTSTANDING FIGHTER
  368.  
  369.  
  370. Fighter     Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  371. 1. Jon Jones    7   102     1
  372. 2. Demetrious Johnson   6   80  1
  373. 3. Conor McGregor   3`  77  2
  374. 4. Daniel Cormier   6   71  1
  375. Georges St-Pierre   5   71  1
  376. 6. Ronda Rousey     4   58  1
  377. 7. Cain Velasquez   3   56  1
  378. 8. Anderson Silva   3   52  1
  379. 9. Jose Aldo    4   40  0
  380. 10. Israel Adesanya     2   35  1
  381. 11. Khabib Nurmagomedov     3   32  0
  382. 12. Dominick Cruz   3   30  0
  383. Benson Henderson    3   30  0
  384. 14. Amanda Nunes    2   28  0
  385. Max Holloway    2   28  0
  386. Robbie Lawler   2   28  0
  387. Fabricio Werdum     2   28  0
  388. 18. Johny Hendricks     2   27  0
  389. Stipe Miocic    2   27  0
  390. 20. Joanna Jedrzejczyk  2   26  0
  391. 21. Junior Dos Santos   2   24  0
  392. Henry Cejudo    2   24  0
  393. 23. Frankie Edgar   2   23  0
  394. 24. Donald Cerrone  2   22  0
  395.  
  396. Others on the list more than once: Michael Bisping, Rafael dos Anjos, Nick Diaz, T.J. Dillashaw, Urijah Faber, Tony Ferguson, Tyron Woodley
  397.  
  398.  
  399.  
  400. Realistically, Jon Jones was the best fighter of the decade since he won the light heavyweight title early and never lost it in a match. He’s had two close calls in his last two fights after dominating everyone but one (Alexander Gustafsson in their first meeting) for most of the decade. His only loses were to himself, which cost himself a ton of money with two suspensions and a hit and run.
  401.  
  402. Demetrious Johnson won the tournament to become first flyweight champion, set a record for consecutive title defenses before losing a decision to Henry Cejudo and then leaving UFC for ONE.
  403.  
  404. We didn’t have an equivalent award during the entire decade of the 00s.
  405.  
  406.  
  407.  
  408. BEST BOX OFFICE DRAW
  409.  
  410.  
  411. Performer   Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  412. 1. Brock Lesnar     10  138     1
  413. 2. Conor McGregor   5   125     3
  414. 3. John Cena    8   107     0
  415. 4. Ronda Rousey     6   100     2
  416. 5. Georges St-Pierre    5   80  1
  417. 6. The Rock     3   75  2
  418. 7. Hiroshi Tanahashi    6   69  0
  419. 8. Jon Jones    5   61  0
  420. 9. Kenny Omega  4   50  0
  421. 10. Chris Jericho   2   48  1
  422. 11. Kazuchika Okada     4   46  0
  423. 12. Anderson Silva  4   43  0
  424. 13. Tetsuya Naito   3   33  0
  425. 14. C.M. Punk   3   32  0
  426. 15. L.A. Park   3   30  0
  427. 16. Nate Diaz   2   26  0
  428. 17. Daniel Bryan    2   20  0
  429. 18. Chael Sonnen    2   20  0
  430.  
  431. The key takes from this list is that it is amazing that Lesnar was on it ten straight years, and really it would be 12 straight years if we went back to 2008.
  432.  
  433. Now, because this system does overrate longevity as compared to peak value, that does show up more obviously here than anywhere else. McGregor and Rousey for the decade were the two biggest draws. It’s a point that can’t even be debated.
  434.  
  435. Cena, Lesnar and Rock were the biggest draws in pro wrestling. Rock was the biggest peak draw but only did a few matches. Cena was really the biggest due to working a full schedule, but Lesnar in certain instances did larger above usual in the PPV marketplace than Cena, except when Cena was with Rock.
  436.  
  437. While Tanahashi’s numbers aren’t going to be what a WWE star or a UFC star will be, he was the key in taking New Japan from a nearly dead organization to a vibrant one, and Okada and Naito now have taken that torch. Where Omega and Jericho fit in is that their first match, at the Tokyo Dome, was an incredible hit as far as expanding New Japan World and with the Tanahashi vs. Omega match selling out the Tokyo Dome in 2019. Omega and Jericho also kicked off AEW and did an unprecedented number of buys for a pro wrestling show without television.
  438.  
  439. Still, the top six for the decade is very clearly the top six.
  440.  
  441. Cena was second behind Mistico for the prior decade with three through ten being Rock, Kobashi, Bob Sapp, Kazushi Sakuraba, Steve Austin, Naoya Ogawa, Lesnar and HHH. Another dual decade person was St-Pierre who was 15th in the prior decade.
  442.  
  443.  
  444.  
  445. BEST TAG TEAM
  446.  
  447.  
  448. Team    Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  449. 1. Young Bucks  10  216     5
  450. 2. Fish & O’Reilly    5   60  0
  451. 3. Sekimoto & Okabayashi    5   60  0
  452. 4. Mark & Jay Briscoe   7   59  0
  453. 5. Pentagon Jr. & Fenix     3   59  1
  454. 6. Daniels & Kazarian   3   53  1
  455. 7. Usos     4   43  0
  456. 8. New Day  5   37  0
  457. 9. Bernard & Anderson   2   36  1
  458. 10. Rollins & Reigns    1   35  1
  459. 11. Cody & Dustin Rhodes    2   25  0
  460. 12. Omega & Ibushi  2   25  0
  461. 13. War Machine/Raiders     3   25  0
  462. 14. Hero & Castagnoli   1   25  1
  463. 15. Devitt & Taguchi    2   24  0
  464. 16. Edwards & Richards  4   24  0
  465. 17. Santana & Ortiz     2   23  0
  466. 18. Gable & Jordan  2   21  0
  467. 19. Suwama & Ishikawa   2   21  0
  468. 20. Kane & Daniel Bryan     2   20  0
  469.  
  470. Others on the list more than once: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, Tyler Bate & Trent Seven, Jack Evans & Angelico, Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin, Matt & Jeff Hardy, Sho & Yoh, Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder, Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer
  471.  
  472.  
  473.  
  474. The big note is the obvious domination in this category of the Young Bucks. While I think most recognize their wins in 2014 to 2018, but they also had one second place and two third places, and finished lower than fifth only once, which was in 2000.
  475.  
  476. To an extent, the importance of tag team wrestling is not at the level it was in other eras. Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly were second, and would have been much higher if Fish didn’t suffer a knee injury which led to the O’Reilly & Roderick Strong having a third place finish. But aside from the Young Bucks, and even with them it’s debatable, I don’t know of people who would call Fish & O’Reilly, Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi, Mark & Jay Briscoe or Pentagon Jr. & Fenix as Hall of Fame teams. My gut says New Day would at least be on the ballot, but wouldn’t do as well as 80s teams like The Road Warriors, Midnight Express or Rock & Roll Express, or even Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard who are getting a lot of votes but were only together for three years.
  477.  
  478. Also notable is the Briscoes being fourth in the 00s and fourth in the 01s. . The only other repeater were Edwards & Richards, who were 14th in both decades.
  479.  
  480. The top ten of the prior decade were Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Bucanero, KENTA & Marufuji, Chris Harris & James Storm, Mark & Jay Briscoe, Kevin Steen & El Generico, Matt & Jeff Hardy, Team 3-D and Eddy & Chavo Guerrero Jr. Were tied at seventh, Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley and a tie with Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Robert Roode & James Storm.
  481.  
  482.  
  483.  
  484. BEST ON INTERVIEWS
  485.  
  486.  
  487. Performer   Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  488. 1. Paul Heyman  8   125     2
  489. 2. Conor McGregor   5   121     3
  490. 3. C.M. Punk    4   89  2
  491. 4. Chris Jericho    5   80  1
  492. 5. Kevin Owens  7   77  0
  493. 6. Chael Sonnen     4   76  1
  494. 7. The Miz  5   59  0
  495. 8. Daniel Bryan     5   55  1
  496. 9. Jon Moxley   6   49  0
  497. 10. John Cena   6   44  0
  498. 11. The Rock    3   43  0
  499. 12. Jay Briscoe     4   41  0
  500. 13. Samoa Joe   3   31  0
  501. 14. Kenny Omega     3   30  0
  502. 15. Bully Ray   4   28  0
  503. 16. Michael Bisping     4   25  0
  504. 17. Becky Lynch     2   24  0
  505. 18. Tetsuya Naito   3   24  0
  506. 19. Zack Sabre Jr.  2   22  0
  507. 20. Bray Wyatt  3   22  0
  508. 21. Mark Henry  2   22  0
  509. 22. Rush    5   20  0
  510.  
  511. Others on the list more than once: Adam Cole, Cody, Daniel Cormier, Nick Diaz, Enzo Amore, Ric Flair, Ronda Rousey, Minoru Suzuki
  512.  
  513.  
  514.  
  515. McGregor was probably the top guy for the decade but Heyman was around almost the entire decade while McGregor only the second half or so. Punk and Jericho would have been higher if they were around the entire decade, as would Bryan.
  516.  
  517. The top ten of the 00s were Jericho, Ric Flair, Cena and Rock tied, Angle, Punk, Mick Foley, Edge, Rampage Jackson and a tie with Heyman and Christian. Had Flair been top 20 this year, he likely would have been top 20 in five different decades since it’s pretty much a lock he’d have been in the 70s. Heyman would have been there in three decades, and maybe in four.
  518.  
  519.  
  520.  
  521. MOST CHARISMATIC
  522.  
  523.  
  524. Performer   Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  525. 1. Hiroshi Tanahashi    10  140     1
  526. 2. Shinsuke Nakamura    6   107     2
  527. 3. John Cena    7   96  1
  528. 4. Tetsuya Naito    4`  88  2
  529. 5. The Rock     3   85  2
  530. 6. Conor McGregor   5   81  1
  531. 7. Chris Jericho    4   54  1
  532. 8. Brock Lesnar     5   53  0
  533. 9. C.M. Punk    4   46  0
  534. 10. Daniel Bryan    4   44  0
  535. 11. Kenny Omega     3   38  0
  536. 12. Georges St-Pierre   4   36  0
  537. 13. Pentagon Jr.    4   34  0
  538. 14. Rush    3   28  0
  539. 15. Matt Riddle     3   27  0
  540. 16. Becky Lynch     2   25  0
  541. 17. Chael Sonnen    3   25  0
  542. 18. Dalton Castle   3   24  0
  543. 19. Ronda Rousey    3   24  0
  544. 20. Kazuchika Okada     5   23  0
  545. 21. Jon Moxley  2   21  0
  546.  
  547. Others listed more than once: Negro Casas, Enzo Amore, Tomoaki Honma, L.A. Park, Hiromu Takahashi, Akira Tozawa, Sami Zayn
  548.  
  549.  
  550.  
  551. This is really a key category as far as Hall of Fame. In the 00s, every wrestler who made the top 15 on the list but Edge is in the Hall of Fame. Still, for the decade, the most charismatic guys are The Rock and McGregor, and really for the purposes of the business, McGregor. But again, Tanahashi and Nakamura were stars the entire decade while Rock was only around a few years and McGregor the second half of the decade.
  552.  
  553. The top ten last decade were Cena, Rock, Jericho, Eddy Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, Bob Sapp, Steve Austin, Tito Ortiz, Kurt Angle and a three-way tie with Lesnar, Kenta Kobashi and Edge.
  554.  
  555.  
  556.  
  557. BEST TECHNICAL (DANIELSON AWARD)
  558.  
  559.  
  560. Wrestler    Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  561. 1. Zack Sabre Jr.   9   223     6
  562. 2. Daniel Bryan/Danielson   7   172     4
  563. 3. Kyle O’Reilly  5   56  0
  564. 4. Prince Devitt/Finn Balor     4   52  0
  565. 5. Davey Richards   4   52  0
  566. 6. Hiroshi Tanahashi    4   51  0
  567. 7. Timothy Thatcher     5   47  0
  568. 8. Kazuchika Okada  5   43  0
  569. 9. Cesaro   5   43  0
  570. 10. A.J. Styles     5   43  0
  571. 11. Kushida     5   41  0
  572. 12. Minoru Suzuki   5   37  0
  573. 13. Shinsuke Nakamura   3   33  0
  574. 14. Jonathan Gresham    4   30  0
  575. 15. Johnny Gargano  3   29  0
  576. 16. Hideki Suzuki   2   28  0
  577. 17. Yuji Nagata     4   27  0
  578. 18. Eddie Edwards   3   27  0
  579. 19. Katsuyori Shibata   4   26  0
  580. 20. Marty Scurll    2   25  0
  581. 21. Blue Panther    2   21  0
  582. 22. Kurt Angle  2   20  0
  583. 23. Matt Riddle     2   20  0
  584.  
  585. Others making the list more than once: Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno, Mike Quakenbush, Daisuke Sekimoto, Roderick Strong, Dolph Ziggler
  586.  
  587.  
  588.  
  589. Two men dominated the list for the decade. Bryan, as Bryan Danielson, won this category from 2005-2013 consecutively, and Sabre won it every year since. It was an award where winners often repeated such as Tiger Mask (1982-83), Tatsumi Fujinami (1985-86, 1988), Jushin Liger (1989-1992), Chris Benoit (1994-95, 2000, 2003-04) and Dean Malenko (1996-97). All of the dominant names are in the Hall of Fame except Malenko.
  590.  
  591.  
  592.  
  593. BEST BRAWLER (BRODY AWARD)
  594.  
  595.  
  596. Wrestler    Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  597. Tomohiro Ishii  7   205     6
  598. Kevin Steen/Owens   6   146     3
  599. Katsuyori Shibata   5   95  1
  600. Jon Moxley  7   75  0
  601. Togi Makabe     6   74  0
  602. Minoru Suzuki   8   70  0
  603. Brock Lesnar    6   61  0
  604. Pentagon Jr.    4   42  0
  605. Bully Ray   4   41  0
  606. L.A. Park   4   41  0
  607. Samoa Joe   5   38  0
  608. Walter  3   37  0
  609. Sheamus     3   36  0
  610. Brodie Lee/Luke Harper  5   33  0
  611. Jay Briscoe     3   32  0
  612. Sami Callihan   4   31  0
  613. Shingo Takagi   3   26  0
  614. Chris Jericho   2   25  0
  615. Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno     2   22  0
  616.  
  617. Others making the list more than once: Abyss, Tommy End (Aleister Black), Michael Elgin, Hirooki Goto, Yuji Nagata, Roman Reigns, Rush, Daisuke Sekimoto, Big Show, Masato Tanaka
  618.  
  619.  
  620.  
  621. With six wins, this would seem to be a hell of a Hall of Fame credential for Ishii. This is another award that seems to have eras, from Bruiser Brody (1980-84, 87-88), Mick Foley (1991-2000) and then Steen (2010-12) and Ishii (2014-2019).
  622.  
  623.  
  624.  
  625. BEST FLYER
  626.  
  627.  
  628. Wrestler    Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  629. 1. Ricochet     10  197     3
  630. 2. Kota Ibushi  9   175     3
  631. 3. Will Ospreay     5   144     4
  632. 4. Pac/Neville  6   81  0
  633. 5. Rey Fenix    7   74  0
  634. 6. Mascara Dorada/Gran Metalik  6   59  0
  635. 7. Matt Sydal/Evan Bourne   5   52  0
  636. 8. Dragon Lee   5   48  0
  637. 9. El Generico/Sami Zayn    4   42  0
  638. 10. La Sombra/Andrade   5   41  0
  639. 11. Prince Devitt/Finn Balor    4   37  0
  640. 12. Hiromu Takahashi    3   35  0
  641. 13. Volador Jr.     3   31  0
  642. 14. Aerostar    4   30  0
  643. 15. Kushida     4   28  0
  644. 16. ACH     4   27  0
  645. 17. Samurai del Sol/Kalisto     4   27  0
  646. 18. Titan   4   23  0
  647. 19. Flamita     2   23  0
  648. 20. A.R. Fox    2   22  0
  649.  
  650. Others listed more than once: Jack Evans, Kofi Kingston, Rey Mysterio, Soberano Jr.
  651.  
  652.  
  653.  
  654. Ospreay has four wins in his five years since becoming a name wrestler, but because they were already around and known names by 2010, Ricochet and Ibushi are the top two on the list. I think the big take here is that flyers are the ones whose star drops the most in WWE, as even though Pac, Dorada, Sydal, Generico, Sombra, Devitt and Samurai del Sol were among the best flyers of their era, and all looked impressive in WWE, the WWE style doesn’t favor creative flying. Ricochet will probably remain top ten just on talent and ability going forward, but also is unlikely to be winning again any time soon.
  655.  
  656.  
  657.  
  658. BEST PROMOTION
  659.  
  660.  
  661. Company     Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  662. New Japan Pro Wrestling     10  279     8
  663. UFC     10  172     2
  664. WWE     9   116     0
  665. Dragon Gate     8   100     0
  666. PWG     9   98  0
  667. ROH     8   98  0
  668. CMLL    8   76  0
  669. DDT     5   38  0
  670. All Japan Pro Wrestling     4   35  0
  671. AAA     4   30  0
  672. CHIKARA Pro     3   30  0
  673. Progress    3   28  0
  674. Evolve  3   24  0
  675. Lucha Underground   3   24  0
  676.  
  677. Others on more than one list: Bellator, Big Japan Pro Wrestling, Game Changer Wrestling, Pro Wrestling NOAH, OTT, Revolution Pro, Stardom, TNA/Impact
  678.  
  679.  
  680.  
  681. The list is pretty much self-explanatory. It’s weird because Best Promotion should be the one that is the strongest business, which would be WWE or UFC. UFC has the strongest business when it comes to selling to customers, while WWE has the widest viewership, even if the sell-through percentage isn’t that strong.
  682.  
  683. The product is a matter of taste and New Japan ran away with it, with eight first-place finishes in ten years. To New Japan’s credit, their popularity with the public increased at a far higher rate than UFC and WWE, but that’s because they were starting at a much lower level. UFC was the best at making stars. New Japan was the clear, especially in recent years, when it came to storytelling and show quality. WWE probably only got up to third because of NXT. When it comes to legit major league promotions, WWE and UFC are together at the top, with New Japan next, but far behind, and then you’d have AAA, CMLL and ROH. And that would be the case for most of the decade, although New Japan grew in popularity the most, particularly in the U.S, U.K. and Australia. They did that in the U.S. with weak television exposure and the other two markets with no TV exposure. And while they have gotten much better in recent years with English broadcasts and subtitled interviews, when it comes to new markets, New Japan is still a foreign language product.
  684.  
  685. Lucha Underground had a chance, but they went off the rails. TNA had strong television for years, but they collapsed in popularity after being canceled by Spike. PWG didn’t place in the top ten in 2019, the first time ever. Part of this was the switch from it being a three-vote category to one-vote, as PWG wouldn’t get a lot of first, but probably would do well with seconds and thirds. The one thing is, if you look back at show quality and who was on the shows, they probably had more quality wrestlers matched up against each other on a percentage of total matches than any company in history, simply based on that being their appeal. Still, they went from being the pipeline and the place you make a name for a few years and garner a reputation on the underground at, to being the place to get discovered and signed quickly. With the advent of AEW and WWE trying to sign everyone good, PWG will survive, but it won’t be the PWG of the previous 15 years.
  686.  
  687.  
  688.  
  689. BEST MATCHES
  690.  
  691.  
  692. Wrestler    MOY placings    Points  Wins
  693. 1. Kazuchika Okada  22  282     4
  694. 2. Hiroshi Tanahashi    19  238     3
  695. 3. Kenny Omega  16  198     2
  696. 4. Kota Ibushi  16  141     1
  697. 5. Tomohiro Ishii   12  116     0
  698. 6. John Cena    10  110     1
  699. 7. Shinsuke Nakamura    8   99  1
  700. 8. Will Ospreay     9   85  1
  701. 9. A.J. Styles  8   84  1
  702. 10. Shingo Takagi   5   74  1
  703. 11. C.M. Punk   5   68  1
  704. 12. Minoru Suzuki   3   68  1
  705. 13. Katsuyori Shibata   6   63  0
  706. 14. Daniel Bryan    9   62  0
  707. 15. Undertaker  4   57  1
  708. 16. Tetsuya Naito   5   56  0
  709. 17. Brock Lesnar    8   52  0
  710. 18. Johnny Gargano  4   49  0
  711. 19. Davey Richards  3   44  0
  712. 20. Seth Rollins    4   42  0
  713. 21. Young Bucks     4   35  0
  714. 22. HHH     3   34  0
  715. 23. El Generico/Sami Zayn   4   32  0
  716. 24. Hirooki Goto    4   32  0
  717. 25. La Sombra/Andrade   4   30  0
  718. 26. Tomoaki Honma   3   26  0
  719. 27. Shawn Michaels  1   25  1
  720. 28. Tommaso Ciampa  2   23  0
  721. 29. Jon Moxley  4   23  0
  722. 30. Prince Devitt/Finn Balor    3   22  0
  723. 31. Hiromu Takahashi    4   22  0
  724. 32. Adam Cole   2   21  0
  725. 33. Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno     2   21  0
  726. 34. Ricochet    2   20  0
  727.  
  728. Others listed more than once: Atlantis, Cody, Christopher Daniels, Dragon Lee, Michael Elgin, Koji Kanemoto, Frankie Kazarian, Kevin Owens, L.A. Park, Roman Reigns, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Takashi Sugiura, Suwama, Ryusuke Taguchi, Volador Jr., Walter
  729.  
  730.  
  731.  
  732. For match of the year candidates, this has nothing to do with my picks but are based on voter picks. Basically there are points for matches that finish above 16th place every week, and of course match of the year winners and dominant match of the year winners will fare better.
  733.  
  734. I don’t know that there are any surprises on the list. A few notes on the list that are important. It was much easier to place top 16 prior to 2015 or 2016. I can say, from watching the Styles vs. Suzuki 2014 winner, that would not have cracked the top 20 in the past few years. That’s how much things have changed. I actually think a great match in WWE, while not being easy to win, has a huge edge in placing because there are so few in comparison to a New Japan that they ended up being remembered better due to scarcity. In G-1 the past few years, there are literally dozes of great matches that don’t make the top 16 because the ones on the last three days are the ones that have the easier shot. For winning, being a big match on a higher profile show always has the edge. Big names have a major edge as well, particularly now. Five or ten years ago, most people voting will have seen the leading matches. Now, they’ll probably see the top few, but a company like PWG (case in point Bandido vs. Dragon Lee) isn’t going to have as easy of a time because of the nature of how the bouts are distributed. PWG was always at a disadvantage compared to WWE or New Japan, but it’s more prominent now.
  735.  
  736. For Omega, Ibushi, Ishii for sure, and to a lesser extent Shibata and Punk, this does put some things into thought about Hall of Fame candidacy.
  737.  
  738.  
  739.  
  740. BEST NON-WRESTLER
  741.  
  742.  
  743. Performer   Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  744. 1. Paul Heyman  8   218     5
  745. 2. Dario Cueto  4   74  2
  746. 3. Gedo     7   71  0
  747. 4. Vickie Guerrero  4   67  1
  748. 5. Ricardo Rodriguez    4   65  1
  749. 6. William Regal    5   56  0
  750. 7. Truth Martini    6   51  0
  751. 8. Jim Cornette     4   45  0
  752. 9. Zelina Vega  3   45  0
  753. 10. Stephanie McMahon   4   42  0
  754. 11. Daniel Bryan    2`  40  1
  755. 12. Stokley Hathaway    3   33  0
  756. 13. Konnan  4   33  0
  757. 14. Lana    3   32  0
  758. 15. Salina de la Renta  2   28  0
  759. 16. Maria Kanellis  3   27  0
  760. 17. Renee Young     4   26  0
  761. 18. Bruce Tharpe    2   25  0
  762. 19. John Laurinaitis    2   22  0
  763. 20. Michael Cole    2   21  0
  764. 21. Zeb Coulter     2   20  0
  765.  
  766. Others listed more than once: Ric Flair, Katrina, Teddy Long, Vince McMahon, Summer Rae, Xavier Woods
  767.  
  768.  
  769.  
  770. This was clearly going to be the Paul Heyman category. Notable is that Heyman would have been top ten in the 80s, top ten in the 90s, top ten in the 00s and now he’s No. 1 in the 10s.
  771.  
  772. Part of it is the role of manager has not disappeared, but Vince McMahon isn’t big on it and is limited in its usage. Except for Heyman, it’s more about getting attractive women on the show who aren’t wrestlers, not that they aren’t talented, but it’s almost now the prerequisite. AEW is using it with 80s wrestling stars. It’s also for the most part a role that doesn’t last long. Aside from Gedo, who is the booker and a fixture, Dario Cueto was an actor who came and left when Lucha Underground finished, Truth Martini is no longer on the major scene, Ricardo Rodriguez was great but then he was gone, and even Vickie Guerrero was moved on from.
  773.  
  774.  
  775.  
  776. BEST TELEVISION ANNOUNCER
  777.  
  778.  
  779. Performer   Yrs on list     Points  Wins
  780. 1. Kevin Kelly  10  147     2
  781. 2. Joe Rogan    7   134     2
  782. 3. Mauro Ranallo    7   120     3
  783. 4. Jim Ross     6   80  1
  784. 5. Shimpei Nogami   6   77  0
  785. 6. William Regal    4   76  2
  786. 7. Nigel McGuinness     7   75  0
  787. 8. Corey Graves     4   56  0
  788. 9. Mike Goldberg    6   52  0
  789. 10. Michael Schiavello  6   51  0
  790. 11. Steve Corino    4   39  0
  791. 12. Mike Tenay  5   39  0
  792. 13. Don Callis  3   35  0
  793. 14. Brian Stann     4   33  0
  794. 15. John Layfield   3   28  0
  795. 16. Jimmy Smith     4   28  0
  796. 17. Excalibur   3   25  0
  797. 18. Tony Schiavone  2   24  0
  798. 19. Jose Manuel Guillen     4   23  0
  799. 20. Josh Barnett    3   21  0
  800. 21. Chris Charlton  2   20  0
  801. 22. Josh Matthews   2   20  0
  802.  
  803. Others listed more than once: Michael Cole, Dominick Cruz, Lenny Leonard, Tom Phillips, Matt Striker, Renee Young
  804.  
  805.  
  806.  
  807. Kelly’s work in ROH and New Japan got him on the list every year this decade and he was an easy winner this past year, which put him above Rogan for the decade. To a degree, a lot of this is based on what you are calling as a good product will enhance an announcer and a bad product will take them down.
  808.  
  809. Branko Cikatic, one of the first stars of the modern Japanese fighting world and the first K-1 World Grand Prix champion, passed away on 3/23 in Croatia. He was 65.
  810.  
  811. Cikatic was best known in K-1 and later, due to the success in K-1, he was brought into Pride. While not having a ground game, it was early MMA and having a K-1 champion in Pride gave the company a lot of publicity. Cikatic was later one of the coaches of Mirko Cro Cop.
  812.  
  813. Cikatic’s death was attributed to Parkinson’s Disease. Having at least 270 known fights over roughly 30 years would do that. It should be noted that Cikatic was already nearly 39 years old when he first made his name as an international fight star in Japan as kickboxing was a relatively small sport during his prime.
  814.  
  815. He started martial arts in 1966, at the age of 12. He competed in Shotokan karate, Taekwondo, judo, boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai and MMA. At the age of 25, in 1979, he won his first major championship, the WAKO European championship in full contract karate. He won a world championship tournament in that same sport in 1981 in Miami beating Ray McCallum, when McCallum was disqualified for head-butting him. He had big fights, losing to Don “The Dragon” Wilson via knockout on September 12, 1987, in Orlando, a technical draw with Dennis Alexio, one of the stars of the kickboxing world on March 16, 1992, in Las Vegas, and lost a decision to Stan Longinidis in June 1992 in Melbourne, Australia.
  816.  
  817. His career was made on April 30, 1993, at the first K-1 World Grand Prix in Tokyo. This was an eight-man tournament and aired live on the Fuji Network. It was the first event of its type, which later got far more popular years later. Still, it did a very strong television rating on network television in Japan and he was immediately, by winning, a significant sports name in that country.
  818.  
  819. The idea was that they were bringing in the best Muay Thai, kickboxers and karate guys for a tournament, very similar to how UFC sold its first event as the top guys from different disciplines. The idea was that it was the best fights from different disciples and countries, but it was actually kickboxing rules for the most part with no ground fighting.
  820.  
  821. This came before Pancrase had introduced the Japanese to a more complete fighting system and before UFC started in the U.S. Japanese fans had more of a fascination with kickboxing and karate more than most countries, but it had never been presented on such a grand scale.
  822.  
  823. It should be noted that Cikatic was not even supposed to be in the first tournament, but was a late invitee when Alexio pulled out.
  824.  
  825. Cikatic first beat Muay Thai fighter Changpuek Kiatsongrit in 2:35 of the first round via knockout. In the second tournament fight, he knocked out Japan’s great hope in the tournament, a well known karate star, Masaaki Satake, with a left hook in :45 of the third round.
  826.  
  827. This put him against Ernesto Hoost, who would later become one of he greatest names in K-1 history. Hoost had beaten Cikatic in a 1989 fight in
  828.  
  829. The Netherlands via disqualification.
  830.  
  831. Cikatic connected with a right hook in just 2:49 of the first round to win the championship.
  832.  
  833. The win could be comparable to Royce Gracie winning the first UFC tournament, in the sense it would always be remembered. But instead of being on pay-per-view, this was on prime time network television.
  834.  
  835. Andy Hug, who was probably the most popular fighter of the K-1 era, became a star when he defeated Cikatic on March 4, 1994.
  836.  
  837. In the 1994 K-1 World Grand Prix, Cikatic knocked out Andre Mannaart in :16 seconds with a right, but lost in the semifinals to Satake, via decision. Longinidis also became an early K-1 star through beating Cikatic via decision.
  838.  
  839. In 1997, Cikatic had a kickboxing match on the first Pride show, held at the Tokyo Dome, which was headlined by Rickson Gracie’s win over pro wrestling superstar Nobuhiko Takada. Cikatic kicked opponent Ralph White while he was on the ground at 1:52 and the fight was stopped and ruled a no contest.
  840.  
  841. As Pride went from being a mix of different type matches to mostly what is now called MMA, Cikatic had his only two MMA rules fights.
  842.  
  843. On March 15, 1998, he faced Mark Kerr, who was then considered the best heavyweight in the world. The battle of the “Smashing Machine” and the first K-1 champion was the main event of the second Pride event ever, held at the Yokohama Arena.
  844.  
  845. Cikatic continually held onto the ropes to avoid being taken down. He wouldn’t listen when warned, and even at one point to avoid a takedown left trough the ropes. At another point when Kerr was working for a takedown, he both held the ropes and threw illegal elbows to the back of the head. Fans booed his continual cheating, in a ridiculous fight. Finally the referee disqualified him in 2:14 of the first round.
  846.  
  847. He returned on September 12, 1999, just weeks before his 45th birthday. He faced Maurice Smith, himself a former world champion and K-1 star. But by this time, Smith had considerable ground training, and had already held both the Extreme Fighting and UFC heavyweight titles in MMA, the latter beating Mark Coleman in one of the early legendary fights in company history.
  848.  
  849. While the anticipation was one of two kickboxing legends, Smith played the smart game, taking Cikatic down, where he was lost, and Smith won via submission in 7:33 with a rudimentary forearm choke.
  850.  
  851. During his career he amassed a 152-15-3 record with 138 knockouts in amateur kickboxing and Muay Thai fights. As a pro, his kickboxing record was 87-9-1, with 82 knockouts, one draw and one no contest.
  852.  
  853. Cro Cop, under his tutelage, became an even bigger star in Japan as the most popular foreign fighter during the heyday of the Pride Fighting Championships.
  854.  
  855. Cikatic’s health had worsened in recent years, starting with suffering a pulmonary embolism, and later an infection that led to sepsis, in 2018, and started suffering from Parkinson’s disease at the time.
  856.  
  857. On 3/25, AEW did 819,000 viewers and a 0.34 in 18-49, while NXT, with new matches, did 619,000 viewers and a 0.20 in 18-49.
  858.  
  859. The NXT number wasn’t good considering it was a first run show. AEW was what it was.
  860.  
  861. AEW was No. 2 in 18-49 for the night outside of news shows, behind only Blank Ink Crew on VH 1 (874,000 viewers and 0.40) and No. 23 overall in 18-49. NXT was No. 16 outside of the news and No. 56 overall in 18-49.
  862.  
  863. My gut is that NXT was hurt by last week’s show. News shows numbers are through the roof and the constant empty arena shows have started to hurt ratings even with more people home watching television. Smackdown may be the lone beneficiary because unlike weeknights where a lot of people don’t go out, and while TV viewers are up, Friday viewership is way up with people not going out, and the networks and news channels as opposed to secondary channels will benefit more from this.
  864.  
  865. AEW was down 12.1 percent overall from last week but only down 2.9 percent in 18-49. NXT was up 23.4 percent overall and 25.0 percent in 18-49 over last week’s video package show.
  866.  
  867. Most of the AEW decline was in viewers over the age of 50.
  868.  
  869. The show did a 0.11 in 12-17 (down 15.4 percent), 0.18 in 18-34 (down 5.3 percent), 0.50 in 35-49 (down 2.0 percent) and 0.29 in 50+ (down 23.7 percent).
  870.  
  871. The AEW audience was 66.2 percent male in 18-49 and 58.0 percent male in 12-17.
  872.  
  873. Because NXT wasn’t in the top 50 in 18-49 for the day, other details on their numbers won’t be available until next week’s issue.
  874.  
  875. The two-hour Dark Side of the Ring special on Chris Benoit did a 0.14 rating in 18-49 and 320,000 viewers. It was, by a huge margin, the most-watched show in the history of Viceland.
  876.  
  877. The previous record was the one on the Von Erichs, that did 234,000 viewers, followed by the Gino Hernandez episode that did 225,000 and the Bruiser Brody episode that did 214,000.
  878.  
  879. Raw on 3/23 did 2,006,000 viewers, the lowest ever for a live episode of the series.
  880.  
  881. My feeling is, both high and low, you can dismiss these numbers as being indicative of anything since they aren’t normal shows. But the pattern of putting on great matches from the past to fill time, which worked the previous week, did not work here, even airing Brock Lesnar vs Seth Rollins vs. John Cena, which was one of WWE’s best main roster matches of the past decade, and the 2018 WrestleMania Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka match.
  882.  
  883. The audience started low, but tuned out in new record numbers, as the first-to-third hour drop was 24.6 percent, the second largest in history, trailing the 11/11 show which went against a monster NFL game.
  884.  
  885. The audience was down 14.1 percent from last week and 22.5 percent from the same week one year ago.
  886.  
  887. Men 18-49 dropped 19.7 percent from last week to 506,000. Women 18-49 dropped 17.8 percent to 287,000.
  888.  
  889. The three hours of Raw were No. 3, No. 8 and No. 10 in 18-49, while overall Raw was No. 37, perhaps its lowest finish ever, trailing 36 news shows.
  890.  
  891. The first hour did 2,289,000 viewers. The second hour did 2,004,000 viewers. The third hour did 1,726,000 viewers. The third hour was the second lowest-watched hour of a Raw broadcast in modern history, beating only the third hour of the 12/23 taped show. Overall, the only shows that this show beat were December 24, 1998, December 31, 1998 and December 23, 1999.
  892.  
  893. The show did a 0.32 in 12-17 (down 23.8 percent from last week), 0.40 in 18-34 (down 23.1 percent), 0.82 in 35-49 (down 8.9 percent) and 0.93 in 50+ (down 8.8 percent).
  894.  
  895. The audience was 63.8 percent male in 18-49 and 63.6 percent male in 12-17.
  896.  
  897. Smackdown on 3/20 did a 1.54 rating and 2,569,000 viewers (1.38 viewers per home), the second best number so far this year for viewers. The show did an 0.8 in 18-49.
  898.  
  899. The show was down 3.1 percent in ratings, up 4.0 percent in viewers (due to a huge increase in viewers per home) and up 14.3 percent in 18-49, because with people not going out on Friday nights, the 18-49 television viewership overall is way up.
  900.  
  901. FOX placed second behind ABC at 1.0 in the 18-49 numbers. CBS did an 0.7 with all reruns, which is better than they were doing with new shows, although overall viewership wasn’t up. NBC did an 0.75 with new shows, also far better than usual.
  902.  
  903. The increase is more due to so many more people at home, particularly 18-49, and all the network stations but CBS were up. Smackdown tied for second behind Shark Tank at 1.1 in the 18-49 demo, but in 25-54, which is the other key Friday night demo that a lot of advertisers on that night look for, it beat only a rerun of Blue Bloods on CBS and was behind all the other shows. For total viewers, other than Smackdown, no network show did less than 4,011,000.
  904.  
  905. Last year at this time FOX did 3,418,000 viewers and a 0.6, but it was a very different time with less people home and NCAA basketball going on.
  906.  
  907. There isn’t the significance in the 3/18 ratings given world events.
  908.  
  909. AEW got a good number with an empty arena show. As noted last week, there are a number of variables in play. More people were home, but far more were watching the news. There was no NBA and NXT didn’t run any new matches. AEW also promised the reveal of The Exalted One after a several month build.
  910.  
  911. NXT didn’t run a live show, so it could be the AEW increase had more to do with NXT not competing, since the total audience watching wrestling was down, but AEW had a higher share of that audience.
  912.  
  913. AEW had 1.42 viewers per home, a very high figure. NXT had 1.22, a very low figure.
  914.  
  915. AEW had 453,000 viewers in 18-49 while NXT had 204,000, so more than double.
  916.  
  917. In men 18-34, AEW had a 93,000 to 41,000 edge. In women 18-34, AEW had a 43,000 to 37,000 edge. In men 35-49, AEW had a 212,000 to 92,000 edge. In women 35-49, AEW had a 105,000 to 34,000 edge, so they more than doubled in every key demo but women 18-34, and tripled in women 35-49.
  918.  
  919. AEW opened with 982,000 viewers and 476,000 in 18-49 with the promo of Cody, Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson and a later promo of MJF. NXT opened with 637,000 viewers and 281,000 in 18-49 for part one of the Johnny Gargano-Tommaso Ciampa marathon video profile.
  920.  
  921. In the second quarter, AEW lost 26,000 viewers and 28,000 in 18-49 with Pentagon Jr. & Rey Fenix vs. Best Friends. NXT lost 98,000 viewers and 65,000 in 18-49 for more of the Ciampa-Gargano video.
  922.  
  923. In the third quarter, AEW lost 9,000 viewers but gained 3,000 in 18-49 for Hikaru Shida’s four-way win over Riho, Kris Statlander and Penelope Ford, plus the Colt Cabana interview slapping Kip Sabian. NXT lost 49,000 viewers and 23,000 in 18-49 for more Gargano-Ciampa.
  924.  
  925. In the fourth quarter, AEW lost 73,000 viewers and 52,000 in 18-49 for the Jon Moxley promo and Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus vs. Butcher & Blade. NXT lost 18,000 viewers and 16,000 in 18-49 for more Gargano-Ciampa.
  926.  
  927. In the fifth quarter, AEW gained 18,000 viewers and 32,000 in 18-49 for the end of the tag match and the Dark Order reveal. NXT gained 106,000 viewers and 35,000 in 18-49 for the ending of the Gargano-Ciampa video.
  928.  
  929. In the sixth quarter, AEW gained 49,000 viewers and 51,000 in 18-49 for the Jake Roberts promo and the Peanut Butter Falcon knockoff Lance Archer video. NXT lost 5,000 viewers and 7,000 in 18-49 for the first part of the Finn Balor profile.
  930.  
  931. In the seventh quarter, AEW stayed even in viewers but lost 16,000 in 18-49 for the first part of the Cody & Matt Jackson & Adam Page vs. Jake Hager & Santana & Ortiz match. NXT lost 35,000 viewers and 18,000 in 18-49 for the second part of the Balor profile.
  932.  
  933. In the final quarter, AEW lost 15,000 viewers but gained 8,000 in 18-49 for the remainder of the six-man tag match. NXT lost 29,000 viewers and 18,000 in 18-49 for the Rhea Ripley profile video. The 926,000 to 509,000 viewer gap during this quarter had to be the biggest in months.
  934.  
  935. This is the first issue of the current set. If you’ve got a (1) on your address label, your subscription will expire in either two or three weeks, depending on if there is a double issue in the next three weeks.
  936.  
  937. Renewal rates for the printed Observer in the United States are $13.50 for four issues (which includes $4 for postage and handling), $25 for eight, $35.50 for 12, $46 for 16, $69 for 24, $92 for 32, $115 for 40, $149.50 for 52 up through $184 for 64 issues.
  938.  
  939. For Canada and Mexico, the rates are $15 for four issues (which includes $6 for postage and handling), $27 for eight, $38.50 for 12, $50 for 16, $75 or 24, $100 for 32, $125 for 40 issues, $162.50 for 52 and $200 for 64.
  940.  
  941. For the rest of the world, the rates are $17 for four issues (which includes $9 for postage and handling), $33 for eight, $47.50 for 12, $62 for 16, $77.50 for 20, $93 for 24, $108.50 for 28, $155 for 40 issues and $201.50 for 52 issues.
  942.  
  943. You can also get the Observer on the web at www.wrestlingobserver.com for $11.99 per month or $119.99 per year for a premium membership that includes daily audio updates, Figure Four Weekly, special articles and a message board. If you are a premium member and still want hard copies of the Observer, you can get them for $9.50 per set in the U.S., $10.50 per set in Canada and $13 per set for the rest of the world.
  944.  
  945. All subscription renewals should be sent to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, P.O. Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228. You can also renew via Visa or MasterCard by sending your name, address, phone number, Visa or MasterCard number (and include the three or four digit security code on the card) and expiration date to Dave@wrestlingobserver.com or by fax to (408)244-3402. You can also renew at www.paypal.com using dave@wrestlingobserver.com as the pay to address. For all credit card or paypal orders, please add a $1 processing fee. If there are any subscription problems, you can contact us and we will attempt to rectify them immediately, but please include with your name a full address as well a phone number you can be contacted at.
  946.  
  947. All letters to the editor, reports from live shows and any other correspondence pertaining to this publication should also be sent to the above address.
  948.  
  949. This publication is copyright material and no portion of the Observer may be reprinted without the expressed consent of publisher/writer Dave Meltzer. The Observer is also produced by Derek Sabato.
  950.  
  951. Fax messages can be sent to the Observer 24 hours a day at (408) 244-3402. Phone messages can be left 24 hours a day at (408) 244-2455. E-mails can be sent to Dave@wrestlingobserver.com
  952.  
  953. For back issues of the Observer, the “Wrestling Observer Index” lists almost every issue in our history going back almost 38 years with the major headlines by the week. Besides as a guide for ordering back issues, the Index is also a great way to keep a catalog of past issues and use for historical purposes. It is available for $30 from Grant Zwarych, 151 Hart Ave, Peterborough, ON K9J 5C5 Canada.
  954.  
  955. Virtually every back issue from 1982-1990 are available from him at prices listed in the Index. Issues from 1991 to present are available from us at $4 per issue. If you are ordering back issues from us, please denote back issues on the envelope to ensure the quickest response. All payments to Grant & us must be made in U.S. funds.
  956.  
  957. For those who have a previous Index, the 2019 supplement is available for $5 per year in Canada, $6 in U.S. and $9 internationally. Or you can get the supplement year(s) you are missing for a minimum $50 back issue order. He also has re-issues of some of the most popular Wrestling Observer publications of the past. He has the 1983-1990 Observer yearbooks and the 1986 Wrestling Observer Who’s Who in Wrestling book. Grant also has pre-Observer publications of mine, both the California Wrestling Report & the International Wrestling Gazette. For more info, you can email grantsindex@nexicom.net
  958.  
  959. CMLL: The company is still planning to do the El Homenaje a Dos Leyendas show whenever wrestling can return. They also said that there would be a Felino vs. Cavernario hair vs. hair mask, which was supposed to take place this past week
  960.  
  961. The state of Mexico has announced all Lucha Libre and boxing is suspended through 4/20
  962.  
  963. The ten teams in the tournament for the Mexican national women’s tag team titles were going to be Silueta & Magnifica, Marcela & Skadi, Lluvia & Jarochita, Tiffany & Reyna Isis, Comandante & Seductora, Princesa Sugehit & Sanely, Dalys & Infernal, Estrellita & Mystique, Amapola & Metalica and Vaquerita & La Guerrera. The question is if they will even redo the tournament. It was being done in March based on it being women’s history month. It’s not like CMLL needs any more championships and these titles haven’t been around for decades, and were never part of CMLL
  964.  
  965. The newspaper El Universal wrote a story about CMLL talent being paid. They noted that during the H1N1 scare, that CMLL paid talent Christmas bonuses early. But the company doesn’t pay talent a weekly income and wrestlers have to work to get paid. In theory, since there is a union, that should come into play
  966.  
  967. There was at least an attempt to continue the weekly Monday night shows in Puebla. Puebla was allowing events as long as they were less than 5,000 people. So CMLL was going to run but both the Puebla sports director and the head of the athletic commission nixed it. Benjamin Mar, the General Manager of the arena talked about all the people out of work, noting not just wrestlers, but ring card girls, vendors, security, and the people who sell things in front of the building. They are hoping to be back to running in a few weeks
  968.  
  969. When they start back, they will be introduces a new tag team called Los Gemelos Diablos, or The Twin Devils. Some will remember the original version of that team, Jose & Alfredo Sanchez, identical twins, who were heels in Southern California and on top from 1978-81 and were six times Americas tag team champions and two-time world tag team champions during the Chavo Guerrero era. They were known for frequent switches in both singles matches (where one would hold the Americas title twice) and tag bouts. They also wrestled in Florida, Texas and Japan, but not with the same level push as they were smaller guys. It appears the team will be the wrestlers out of Matamoros who were known as The Twin Panthers, or Gemelos Panteras.
  970.  
  971. AAA: The 4/25 TV tapings in Tijuana are officially off. Konnan, on his podcast, was unsure as to whether the Rey de Reyes show, scheduled for this past weekend, if it happens, would have the same card. He also wasn’t sure if the 5/26 Verano de Escandalo show would take place
  972.  
  973. A fan who attended the Vive Latino festival two weeks ago tested positive for the coronavirus. The festival included an AAA show.
  974.  
  975. DRAGON GATE: Right now touring shows with fans are scheduled to begin back on 3/28 in Gifu. They did, for content, do a 3/22 show in Kobe with the wrestlers as fans. The Tokyo-based wrestlers weren’t allowed to travel to Kobe.
  976.  
  977. ALL JAPAN: The first major promotion show in a few weeks was this group running its rescheduled big show from three weeks ago on 3/23 at Korakuen Hall where Suwama won the Triple Crown from Kento Miyahara in 31:25 with a Lou Thesz style Greco-roman back drop and pin. Miyahara had survived two of those in the waning minutes of the match and nearly got his shutdown suplex on late but Suwama was able to block it at the last minute. I’d go ****½ for this, easily the best match since this lockdown got started. It peaked perfectly, if not actually could have gone longer. Suwama is 43, so he’s slower and kind of limited, especially in a match this long but Miyahara can carry a match with the best of them, and as usual it felt so much shorter than it was. It was good throughout but really came alive in the last five minutes and Suwama’s stuff looked great during that period. It kind of made sense for this to be Miyahara’s loss because he was going for two records. If he had won, it would have been his 11th straight title match win, breaking the record of ten set by Toshiaki Kawada in his 2003-05 reign. So that makes that record bigger and creates the need for him to have another long title reign down the line. He was also going for his 21st successful title defense, which is the career record that he was currently tied with Mitsuharu Misawa with at 20. It was also Suwama’s seventh Triple Crown title reign, breaking the record he already held. Both Misawa and Kawada each had it five times, while Miyahara and Stan Hansen held it four times. Miyahara will be holding all the records in a few years. Suwama said that he wants to defend the title against Keiji Muto of all people. Muto is scheduled for a 6/7 show in Kobe. Isami Kodaka & Yuko Miyamoto of Big Japan Pro Wrestling won the All-Asia tag team titles from Jake Lee & Koji Iwamoto in 12:24 when Kodaka beat Iwamoto. The other title match saw Susumu Yokosuka retain the jr. title over Izanagi in 8:25. Yokosuka is really good but Izanagi is pretty green and they did a lot of smoke and mirrors and outside interference even keeping the match short. Yokosuka then issued a challenge for someone from All Japan to face him on a Dragon Gate show and Hikaru Sato came out to accept the challenge. .
  978.  
  979. NEW JAPAN: Kota Ibushi did an interview where he talked about his goal of elevating the IWGP tag team titles to big show main event status now that he and Hiroshi Tanahashi are champions. He felt the titles have been considered secondary for so long. Really, New Japan’s tag titles were rarely put at a high level and never in the modern era. The idea is by putting it on two of the five biggest stars in the company that they can do for it what Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura did for the IC title. Ibushi even talked about having them defended as the main event of a Tokyo Dome show.
  980.  
  981. OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Giulia beat Natsuko Tora via submission with the stealth viper in 12:41 to win Stardom’s Cinderella tournament on 3/24 at Korakuen Hall before 538 fans. Giulia first beat Jungle Kyona via ref stoppage in 8:23 when Kyona passed out in the stealth viper; then beat Momo Watanabe in 4:37 by knocking her over the top rope (eliminations were by pin, submission, knocking someone over the top rope, or a 10:00 draw eliminates both people, but the finals had no time limit), and then Syuri (former UFC fighter Syuri Kondo) in the semis by knocking her over the top rope in 4:06. Syuri had beaten AEW’s Jamie Hayter via armbar submission in the first round. Tora beat Saya Kamitani and knocking Tam Nakano over the top rope. As far as the biggest names went, Utami Hayashishita and Maika were both eliminated via 10:00 draw and Mayu Iwatani and Hana Kimura both went over the top rope together and eliminated each other. Bea Priestley wasn’t in the tournament as she and Will Ospreay are still in the U.K. They hope to return to Japan on 3/28 and then would be faced with 14 days in quarantine, but things don’t look good for being able to leave on that day. If there is a positive side for the New Japan guys who have all those bumps and bruises is that their bodies are getting a break so while they’ll have to work their ways back into ring shape, all the top guys are getting healing time for their chronic shoulder, neck, knee and back issues. Ospreay himself noted that his broken heel that he was working on his fine, and his neck pain is gone
  982.  
  983. Stardom will be getting a time slot upgrade on Tokyo MAX, moving from 12:30 a.m. on Sunday to 9 p.m. in prime time
  984.  
  985. DDT ran 3/20 at Korakuen Hall for its first show with a crowd in several weeks, drawing 916 fans. Masato Tanaka retained the KO-D open weight title in the main event over DDT’s stop star, Konosuke Takeshita, winning in 22:58 with a rolling elbow. After the match, Yukio Sakaguchi attacked Tanaka with a flying knee and Sakaguchi will challenge for the title on 4/12 at Korakuen Hall. Daisuke Sasaki won the Universal title from Chris Brookes in 20:36 with a crossover facelock. Tetsuya Endo beat Royce Chambers in 4:42 with a shooting star press. On the 3/22 show in Kanazawa, which drew 193 fans, Endo & T-Hawk & Lindaman won the KO-D six-man tag titles from Takeshita & Shunma Katsumata & Yuki Iino when Endo pinned Katsumata with a shooting star press
  986.  
  987. DDT announced a 3/30 show in Saitama in the parking lot of a medical center to raise money to fight the coronavirus. Harashima & Naomichi Marufuji will face Cima & Soma Takao on 6/7 at the Saitama Super Arena. Kenny Omega is supposed to be on that show but that’s obviously quite iffy at this point
  988.  
  989. Big Japan started a tournament like their version of G-1 on 3/21 at Korakuen Hall before 680 fans. Actually because of having four blocks, it’s more like Dragon Gate’s tournament. The A block is Daichi Hashimoto, Akira Hyodo, Yoshiki Inamura from NOAH, Ryuichi Kawakami and T-Hawk from Oriental Pro. The B block has Daisuke Sekimoto, Isami Kodaka, Kazuki Hashimoto, Kohei Sato and Taishi Takizawa. The C block has Yuji Hino, Ryota Hama, Quiet Storm from NOAH, Hideyoshi Kamitani and Yuji Okabayashi. The D block has Kazumi Kikuta, Yuya Aoyagi, Jake Lee from NOAH, Yasufumi Nakanoue and Takuya Nomura.
  990.  
  991. HERE AND THERE: Scott Armstrong noted this past week that his father, Bob Armstrong, 80, a legit wrestling legend in the Southeast in particular, is suffering from bone cancer in the ribs, shoulder and prostate. He is not taking treatment by his own choice for it. He noted that his father, who was still wrestling until recently, came over to his house to work out. Bob was an all-time great promo, both as a heel or babyface and had four sons in wrestling, Scott, who later became a referee with WWE, Brian, better known as Road Dogg, who works in NXT for WWE, the late Brad Armstrong, one of the most underrated wrestlers of the last 50 years, and Steve, who was best known for his tag team with Tracy Smothers as the Wild Eyed Southern Boys
  992.  
  993. A lawsuit filed by Hulk Hogan against Cox radio and DJ’s Mike “Cowhead” Calta and Matt “Spiceboy” Loyd was settled out of court this past week between lawyers from Cox Communications and Hogan. Loyd is believed to have stolen the Hogan sex tape video from Bubba the Love Sponge, who he worked for at the time, before he and Bubba had a falling out and Loyd got his own show. The tape was of Hogan having sex with Bubba’s then-wife. The two were accused of leaking the video to The Dirty.com, TMZ and the National Enquirer in 2015 which led to several years of Hogan being persona non grata in WWE due to racist remarks on the tape. Hogan had previously sued Gawker Media, with the backing of Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, and a jury awarded him $141 million. The backing of Hogan’s lawsuit was revenge by Thiel for Gawker outing him as gay in 2007. Gawker went bankrupt and then settled with Hogan for $31 million. Hogan filed the suit four years ago and it was quietly settled this past week. The case was to go before a jury this coming January. Hogan was blackmailed at one point for $300,000 regarding the tape and Los Angeles based lawyer Keith Davidson met with Hogan in Clearwater for the check but Hogan had gone to the FBI, which secretly watched the meeting. However, government prosecutors never filed charges
  994.  
  995. Ricky Morton, 63, noted on his podcast that he was suffering from a bout of Bell’s Palsy. He sad that he woke up on 3/17, was ready to go to the gym, grabbed a cup of coffee and the coffee ran outside of his mouth. He said he was really scared, looked in a mirror and looked disfigured. He went to the hospital and was told he had Bell’s Palsy. In wrestling, that disease, which paralyzes the muscles on one side of the face, in some ways giving the visual looks of a stroke, is most associated with Jim Ross, who has gone through several bouts with it. More recently, WWE’s Piper Niven had it, but she was able to return to action with no real noticeable effects after a few weeks. Many people who get it, like with Ross, at first thought they were having a stroke, and he thought the same. Morton said it was brought on by stress. He said that he can shut his eyes and start talking and he’s already almost fully recovered. Ross’ cases were unusually bad for the disease. . A note regarding the Viceland story on Chris Benoit. In the story, the indication was that Sandra Toffoloni (Nancy’s sister) and David Benoit (Chris’ son) were just put together by Chris Jericho and attended a show together at the Sears Center. Jericho did put them together about three years ago and they did meet at the All In show and the clip shown of them with Jericho was after Jericho dressed up as Pentagon on that show. I watched the Viceland version of the show and talked about it extensively on a podcast with Garrett Gonzalez. As far as information went, there was nothing new about the story that wasn’t really touched upon in last week talking about the Reelz piece. This story wasn’t as much about forensics and such but more of a story about both Eddy Guerrero and Benoit, meeting in Japan, not getting along at first but becoming close friends. The key people in the story were Vickie Guerrero, Jericho, Toffoloni, Chavo Guerrero Jr., David Benoit, Dean Malenko, and wife Julie Simon, along with some with Jim Ross and Matt Randazzo, the author of “Ring of Hell.” Jeff Marek would have been a really strong addition to that panel because he was very close to Chris for some time. What’s really notable with Vickie in particular, as well as all of them, is that almost all were very close to both Eddy and Benoit, as well as Nancy. That shows how much that must have brutally affected them in such a short period of time. Jericho described just how much Benoit was crying on his shoulder at the funeral and his story was identical with me. I mean, uncontrollable unlike everyone else and keep in mind he was a guy who hid his emotions and while he was always nice to me if we were in the same place, it’s not like we were social friends or had a relationship like Jericho had with him. But I knew Benoit was affected more deeply than anyone else and also, when it happened, felt the deaths of Guerrero, Victor Mar (Black Cat in New Japan) and Johnny Grunge in the sport period of time was part of it. I wasn’t aware he was close with Ray Traylor or how close he was with Grunge, but was aware he was friends with Grunge and how he viewed Mar. The new stuff to me is that after the funeral, when Vickie, understandably was in shock, it was Nancy who stayed at the house, took care of her daughters while Vickie pretty much was in bed in tears until Nancy told her she had to go back to living. And then Chris stayed at their home and her describing how he’d go into the bed and grab Eddy’s pillow and cry uncontrollably into it or she’d find him in Eddy’s home gym sitting on the bench and crying was also telling. It did touch different aspects, in the sense Nancy never has never will fully get her due not just in the business but for who she was in real life because Chris was always the subject. And the home movies of David and Daniel as brothers together. Everyone close to him was not just having to deal with losing Chris and his going insane with no answer, but also losses of Eddy, Daniel and Nancy all in a short period of time. But Vickie, Chavo and David and their lives were stories I never really fully got, Vickie and David in particular. With Chavo, you have your uncle who because of their ages, was almost like his brother, and then Chris was one of his best friends. But with Vickie it was her husband, the woman who was with her to grieve for her husband, her husband’s best friend and a nephew. And with David, it was essentially his stepmom, brother and father, plus because he looks exactly like Chris and lives in Edmonton, where Chris was probably one of the most famous people ever to come out of the city, or infamous perhaps, many people who see him see that face and it’s the son of a hideous murderer, and that is probably the worst of all. Plus, aside from Jericho, pretty much everyone in wrestling turned their back on him because they didn’t want that association. Not that this was a big part of the story, but the tribute show was brought up, and there are real questions there. The reality is that I was told, and keep in mind even being told I didn’t believe it, but I was in a state of shock and not in right mind for a few hours there, that it looked like Chris killed Nancy and Daniel and then himself before Raw went on the air and the person who told me had just heard from someone with WWE. This is before the show. But during the show, that did break on real news outlets. The talent didn’t know as the interviews were pre-taped. As far as the timing of that day went, Irv Muchnick’s book on the subject probably had the most detail of anyone. Everyone pointed to William Regal’s comments, including Jericho on the air during the piece, just his tone seemed unusual and there was something about it that was unnerving. Regal lived in Atlanta and was a friend of Benoit’s. Regal said at the time, and John Layfield has said the same story, that just before he went out to do the interview, Layfield said, “You don’t think Chris could have killed that boy,” and it stunned Regal to the point he came across very unnerved in that interview. Besides Marek, another person I’d like to have seen on the episode was Pam Hildebrand, because Nancy confided in her at the end. Paul Heyman would have also been great but for obvious reasons there’s not a chance in the world he’d do it
  996.  
  997. Edward Annis (Teddy Hart), 40, was arrested at 1:15 p.m. on 3/26. This came at about the same time wrestler Ace Montana posted a video of him confronting Annis and accusing him of domestic violence regarding Annis’ girlfriend, Maria Spiro (ROH wrestler Maria Manic), who turned 23 the previous day. Montana wrote in regard to the video, “ literally had to pull my gun on Teddy Hart and throw him out of my friends house. This piece of shit literally choked out and physically assaulted Maria Manic and would not let her get help. she texted me I’m in danger never ever did I think I would meet a piece of shit like this guy who has now been arrested with a felony against him. I don’t think this guy knew how close to death he was. This video is me kick him out before the cops came and arrested him.” This was Annis’ third arrest of the year, following a 2/12 arrest on possession of a Schedule III controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute, which he claimed were because steroids and marijuana was found on his car. A second arrest came due to a violation of his house arrest
  998.  
  999. Ultimo Dragon’s annual DragonMania show in Mexico, which he does for Japanese television, has been canceled for this year
  1000.  
  1001. Producers of a movie on the life of Perro Aguayo Sr., have reported completed it and said it is ready to be released, but it’s impossible with all the theaters closed down
  1002.  
  1003. Brett Lauderdale, Joey Janela and Game Changer Wrestling were able to raise $12,000 for independent wrestlers who performed on their two empty arena shows this past week in a secret location. A lot of clips have gone around of comedic social distancing spots where guys would be six feet apart and one guy would do a move like a huracanrana or choke slam or clothesline and the guy six feet away would take the bump for the move. Obviously some people are going to hate that and some will find it funny. It doesn’t destroy or kill wrestling. The only people who can hurt wrestling are those with the mass exposure to do so, just as they are the only people who can grow the popularity of wrestling. The people on the other levels only role is to provide a product that entertains enough people that it is financially viable for the person putting up the money and hopefully can do continual repeat business. The funny thing is, that was the exact goal of every start-up and established pro wrestling group since the beginning of time
  1004.  
  1005. Regarding the story two weeks ago on Wayne Bridges, Stampede historian Ross Hart said Bridges never worked for his father. There were results of a few shows in April 1975 in Stampede Wrestling with Bridges on them. But Hart, who does have among the most amazing instant recall memories on wrestling, said he can conclusively say that Bridges never worked for his father. Results of shows 45 years ago are hardly impeccable. He also noted that Young Samson who Bridges teamed with in the 1982 New Japan MSG Tag team tournament was a wrestles better known as Billy Samson Negro, a star from Colombia who worked in the 70s and 80s mostly in Germany and Austria for promoters Nicole Selenkowich and Otto Wanz. Bridges left Japan after the first day of that tour because his father suddenly passed away, so the team forfeited the rest of the tournament matches. In the 1983 tournament, the match we listed as Bridges & Otto Wanz beating Andre the Giant & Swede Hanson near the end of the tournament was actually a forfeit win as Hanson was injured
  1006.  
  1007. The city of Torreon, in Mexico, which was scheduled to run two shows over the weekend outdoors at the bullring, had them shut down
  1008.  
  1009. The IWGP promotion out of Naucalpan, which was going to run empty arena shows, announced it would no longer be able to do that
  1010.  
  1011. All boxing, wrestling and MMA in Tijuana was shut down through 4/20 after two coronavirus victims were found in Baja California
  1012.  
  1013. An update on Jeff Bowdren is that he has diffuse large B cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It is above and below the diaphragm and is stage three. He started chemotherapy this past week. He got four days of chemo and then was to come home for three weeks. He’ll be getting six to eight rounds of chemo
  1014.  
  1015. When Dory Funk Jr., at age 79, teamed with the Steiner Brothers in a match in Florida, that made him having wrestled in seven different decades. Very few in history would have done so. The ones I know of would be Adrian Street (1957-2014), Johnny Saint (1958-2015), Cavernario Galindo (1938-1992), Lou Thesz (1935-1990), Mae Young (1941-2010, although Young claimed eight decades and that she started in 1939 but those researching that claim and all records indicate otherwise as she started right after high school and graduated high school in 1941 and there are no records of her wrestling early), Great Kojika (1963-present) and maybe Killer Kowalski (who started in the mid 40s and may have done two matches in 2006). If Mil Mascaras does another match, he would make the list as well. He does seem to show up in Japan about once a year but the last time, while fans treated him well, it felt like a bad idea watching it
  1016.  
  1017. Missy Hyatt was going to come out of retirement for a secret appearance on one of the major indie shows over Mania weekend primarily so the nine-year-old stepdaughter of one of her closest friends would get to see her perform
  1018.  
  1019. James “Koko B.” Ware, 62, is doing a Go Fund Me to raise money for a knee replacement because he has no insurance, an 80s star who came around 20 years too soon because he’d have been a far bigger star in a later time period. Ware, as Sweet Brown Sugar (as opposed to Galton “Skip” Young who also used that name, as did Luis Mariscal) teamed with Bobby Eaton for Jarrett Promotions and they were one of the most underrated teams of the early 80s. He later teamed with Norvell Austin as the PYTs, but was most famous for being “The Birdman” in WWF with Frankie the Parrot in the 80s and part of the tag team High Energy with Owen Hart after that
  1020.  
  1021. The Marriott Westshore in Tampa, the host hotel for WrestleCon, has told people who reserved rooms and paid deposits and then canceled when WrestleCon was canceled that they will be refunding the deposits
  1022.  
  1023. Quebec Prime Minister Francois Legault announced the closing of all non-essential companies in the province. Following the announcement, both sports channels in Quebec, RDS and TVA Sports, announced they were suspending their regular broadcasting at least through 4/13. However, TVA Sports will continue to air a one hour edited French language version of Raw. However, RDS 2 has dropped its once a month two hour wrestling show which is a combination of ROH and the Quebec-based International Wrestling Syndicate matches
  1024.  
  1025. I never knew this but the first TV studio wrestling show in the U.S. was taped on December 18, 1942 at WRBG Studios in Schenectady, NY. It was also the first pro wrestling television show, although almost nobody had TVs at the time. Wrestling first got popular on U.S. television in 1947 out of Los Angeles with Gorgeous George, and some have listed George’s network TV debut as one of the biggest moments in U.S. television history. As far as television goes, from probably 1947 to 1953 or so, pro wrestling was the most mainstream it has ever been in the U.S. George and Milton Berle were the top television stars of the first TV era and wrestling was top ten in the network ratings for a few years. Wrestling and Roller Derby were huge TV hits, and then overexposed and the ratings dropped and the networks lost interest in both. By the late 50s, wrestling struggled in many parts of the country and rebounded in the 60s with the advent of UHF stations, which had lower ratings expectations for programming and wrestling grew in the 60s and had a peak in the early 70s. While not universal, most of the country was hot in the early 70s and fell off in the late 70s. If I were to go with territory peaks, Southern California was strong in the early-to-mid 60s and had a hot period 1970-72. San Francisco was strong from 1961 to 1976, peaking in th early 60s with Ray Stevens and staying strong until the departure of Pat Patterson. Oregon flourished with Lonnie Mayne in the late 60s, and had a second peak in the late 70s and early 80s with Buddy Rose and Roddy Piper. Seattle and Vancouver peaked in the 60s. The AWA’s first peak was around 1968 to 1975 behind The Crusher, Superstar Billy Graham and the tag team of Ray Stevens & Nick Bockwinkel, and had a bigger second peak 1981-83 behind Hulk Hogan, Bockwinkel, Jerry Blackwell, Adrian Adonis & Jesse Ventura and The High Flyers. Texas had the big overall peak 1969-72 during the heyday of Fritz Von Erich, Johnny Valentine and Wahoo McDaniel and the more talked about peak of 1983-84 behind the Freebirds and second generation Von Erichs. The old Mid South peak was 1980-85 behind JYD, and later Jim Duggan, The Rock & Roll Express and others. Memphis’ actual peak was probably 1972-75 behind Jackie Fargo and later Jerry Lawler. There was a second peak in 1982-85 with Lawler and The Fabulous Ones. Georgia’s peak would be during the 70s when the Omni opened behind Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Wrestling & Mr. Wrestling II. Florida’s peak would be 1970-76 with Jack Brisco and Dory Funk Jr., and later Dusty Rhodes. The Carolinas had 1976-83 behind Ric Flair, Paul Jones, Blackjack Mulligan, Wahoo McDaniel, The Andersons and a second peak in 85-86 with Rhodes, Magnum T.A., The Four Horsemen, Road Warriors, and Midnight and Rock & Roll Express. The overall WWWF territorial peak would have been 1975-81 behind Bruno Sammartino, Billy Graham and Bob Backlund and 1982-83 with the emergence of Jimmy Snuka, before the Hulk Hogan era going national (1984-90) and Steve Austin/Rock era (1998-2001). Toronto’s peak was 1970-74 under The Sheik, and then later for Flair and then Hogan. Montreal’s peak was the late 50s with Edouard Carpentier and Killer Kowalski then 1967-74 with Jacques & Johnny Rougeau and Carpentier, and then the International (Rougeaus, Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher) vs. Grand Prix (Jean Ferre/Andre, Don Leo Jonathan, the Vachons, LeDucs and Killer Kowalski). My guess is Stampede’s peak was in the 50s. Vancouver was in the 60s with Gene Kiniski and Jonathan. Michigan and Ohio was late 60s and early 70s with The Sheik, Bobo Brazil and Pampero Firpo. Cleveland and Buffalo was late 50s and early 60s with Kiniski and Fritz Von Erich.
  1026.  
  1027. EUROPE: The last show in Central Europe looks to have been a 3/14 show in Frankfurt Germany. Every other show in Germany, Austria, Hungary, The Czech Republic and Slovakia through mid-April was either canceled or moved to a later date. Forever Wrestling had shows 4/25 and 4/26 with Colt Cabana, Grado, Sabu, Virgil and Jazzy Gabert. Gabert was scheduled to start her own promotion called SIRIUS on 4/19
  1028.  
  1029. A number of promotions in the U.K. ran the weekend of 3/13 and 3/14 over the weekend including Fight Club Pro, Attack, Riptide, TNT and PCW but everything is now shut down
  1030.  
  1031. OTT has moved its Homecoming 3 show from 4/18 to 8/15, and its Banjaxed 2 from 4/19 to 8/16
  1032.  
  1033. A giant convention, For the Love of Wrestling, scheduled for 4/18 and 4/19 in Liverpool, has moved to 10/31 and 11/1 with Shawn Michaels, Bill Goldberg, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Big Show, Kenny Omega, Trish Stratus, Torrie Wilson, The Dudleys, Candice Michelle, Ted DiBiase Jr., Mike Rotunda, Ted DiBiase Sr., Earl Hebner, Madusa, Tatanka, Lanny Poffo, Nasty Boys, Raven, Lilian Garcia, Victoria, Fred Ottman, Barry Darsow and Bill Eadie. It will be interesting on that because it’s some WWE names and WWE does not allow its names to do conventions if anyone from AEW is there
  1034.  
  1035. Fight Club Pro on 3/13 in Wolverhampton started their Openweight title tournament with first round matches of Travis Banks over Shigehiro Irie, Chuck Mambo over Mike Bailey, Kyle Fletcher over Shota Umino and A-Kid over Lee Hunter. The main event saw Dan Moloney & Man Like DeReiss win the tag team titles over Tyler Bate & Trent Seven.
  1036.  
  1037. MLW: They are pushing a Low Ki vs. King Mo feud going forward with the idea both men are knockout artists. The idea is that Low Ki will have Ross Von Erich in his corner to keep Dan Lambert from interfering. They have a Mance Warner vs. MJF empty arena match filmed which obviously is the storyline exit for MJF. The departure of Killer Kross to WWE was from an angle where Mo took him out with a baseball bat
  1038.  
  1039. L.A. Park will have a cooking segment as a regular feature on the television show
  1040.  
  1041. They have gotten television distribution in Poland on the combat sports channel Fight Klub
  1042.  
  1043. Gino Medina is going to have a female manager.
  1044.  
  1045. IMPACT: The 3/31 Impact special on AXS TV, billed as the return of TNA, will air at 10 p.m. right after the regular episode of the show. This is the show taped in Atlanta the night Scott Steiner collapsed backstage. Advertised for the show is Rhino vs. Mad Man Fulton, Steiner doing a live interview, Hernandez vs. Chase Stevens, Johnny Swinger & Kid Kash vs. Suicide & Manik (wasn’t Manik the guy who was Suicide when they did the name change) and David Penzer is back as the ring announcer.
  1046.  
  1047. AEW: It was very fortunate that they signed that new contract in January with TNT because this stretch is obviously financially devastating to a new company with a significant payroll. Things could have been not so good at all if they hadn’t turned ratings around in January because the October to 12/18 declines were significant and losing to NXT in 18-49 that one week was not good at all. But after the first two weeks of January rebounded, TNT quickly moved to make the four-year deal. Still, there are a lot of expenses in producing a weekly show and flying people in and running a company and without that guaranteed TV money it could have been real bad. But they had a strong crowd expected last week for Rochester, and the 3/25 show in Newark, NJ was going to do a $1 million live gate. This would have been the second ever $1 million in the U.S. outside of WWE. The first was the New Japan/ROH show in Madison Square Garden last April
  1048.  
  1049. There was one thing on 3/18 that was positive for having an empty arena show outdoors is they were able to fly the drone to precede the Matt Hardy introduction. They would not have been able to do so indoors in Rochester so that was never planned. But when things changed someone came up with that idea since there was no audience and they were outdoors
  1050.  
  1051. Chris Jericho canceled the April and May Fozzy tour as there really was no choice. They are now scheduled to tour the U.S. from 7/10 to 9/5. This won’t affect his appearing on Dynamite as they aren’t scheduling Tuesday or Wednesday shows. It was the same with the prior tour, and Jericho losing the title to Jon Moxley was a decision made having nothing to do with Jericho touring. The idea was always to go to Jericho to Moxley, and it was just a question of if they would do it now or drag it out for later, and the decision was based on how the storyline was and Moxley being hot, that the Revolution show was the right day to do it
  1052.  
  1053. Nick Massie’s (Nick Jackson) wife Ellen had a baby boy, the couple’s third child, on 3/19
  1054.  
  1055. On BTE there was a scene of Matt Jackson going through the airport that really hit everything hard, as it was a ghost town. The idea of the show was mostly that Omega was going out of his mind hoarding water and stealing toilet paper from everyone’s hotel rooms
  1056.  
  1057. Notes from the 3/25 TV show. Some of this was live and some was taped. The show was completely changed from its original form for obvious reasons. They had to keep under ten people in the arena even though it’s a huge outdoor arena so it was a skeleton crew, the announcers (Tony Schiavone with Omega and Cody), the referee and wrestlers. They did have a room backstage with a handful of people, Billy & Austin Gunn, Shawn Spears, Jimmy Havoc and Dasha Gonzalez cheering on matches at times to provide crowd noise but that would be briefly. The wrestling was good but a wrestling-heavy show with no fans at all is tough to pull off. Cody beat Havoc in 10:40. Cody did a tope. Cody backdropped Havoc on the ramp. Cody also went backstage and ran back out with a windsprint clothesline. Cody won with an Ultimo Guerrero special and two crossroads. Jake Roberts did a taped interview wanting Cody to wrestle Lance Archer. Archer wasn’t there. Roberts was tremendous but he’s still doing old Jake Roberts in getting over Jake Roberts and not in getting over Archer as much. He pushed that when AEW started, they never called him even though he’s the smartest mind in wrestling, but they also never called Archer who they all knew from Japan and were afraid of. Cody said that he dinged his elbow, that Archer is great and that you don’t start at the top you have to work your way up, but that Archer would debut in the ring next week. Darby Allin did a video. He said he didn’t see anything super bad about Kip Sabian. He also wore masks of all the Inner Circle guys, then threw the masks on a table and set the table on fire. This was creative. Allin beat Sabian in 10:22. Penelope Ford pulled Sabian out of the way and Allin crashed into the barricade. Cody throughout the show was making all kinds of 80s wrestling references. Most people will make references about stuff in their childhood but Cody referenced stuff before he was old enough to even understand. Allin won with the Fuller leglock which later was the Gibson leglock, a move from the 70s that Ron Fuller and Ricky Gibson specialized in, and evidently Robert Gibson used as late as 1992. It’s a kneebar into a bridging pin and I always thought it was really cool in the 70s. It’s now being called the last supper. Jake Hager destroyed Chico Adams in 1:05 with a uranage and arm triangle. Hager looked leaner and far more tanned than ever before. Jon Moxley hit the ring after and gave Hager the paradigm shift. However, Hager recovered quickly and went for the ankle lock. Moxley reversed out of it. Moxley grabbed his title belt and started swinging it and Hager backed off. Moxley cut a promo and it appears they are building a title match between the two. Moxley said that Hager walked away from a fight. Next was a vignette with Brodie Lee, Alex Reynolds and John Silver. They were eating at a Morton’s Steak House. The idea was that Lee is Vince McMahon. He yelled at both of them for starting to eat before he was finished, and then got furious when Reynolds sneezed. The spoof was on Vince McMahon’s fondness for always eating steak, not wanting others to eat until he’s done and being mad at people for sneezing, feeling it’s a sign of weakness. Lee then beat QT Marshall in 2:58 with a Bossman slam and discus lariat. Cody said that Marshall had gotten hair replacement surgery. They had a drone fly into Rancho Cucamonga, CA to Nick Jackson’s house and showed him working out in his garage. The idea is that Nick is 61 percent healthy. There was a joke there in that when the drone got within six feet of Matt, the feed went out, and Cody said that the drone needed to practice social distancing. Cody then made a remark about how Nick must be making a ton of money and look at how huge his house is. Cody then said that he saw somebody (guess who) comparing Nick Jackson with Bobby Eaton as a worker and said it was the perfect comparison. I mean, it’s the flyer and most spectacular guy on the best tag team of the 80s and the flyer and most spectacular guy on the best modern tag team. He also likely said because Jim Cornette and his followers just go nuts at that comparison because they’ve been taught the Young Bucks are play wrestlers who suck. Cody was constantly making insider references. Omega beat Sammy Guevara to retain the AAA Mega heavyweight title in 23:24. This match would have probably been awesome in front of a crowd. It was still very good, but it’s tough to do a match this long with no fans. Guevara had caricature drawings of one of the commanders of Star Trek, Brandi Rhodes and Jericho taped to ringside chairs. He at one point hugged the Jericho drawing and later started making out, including aggressively french kissing the caricature of Brandi. Cody was on commentary and didn’t say much, but Brandi, the ring announcer acted totally grossed out. Guevara did a great Oscutter and a Fosbury flop. Omega used a power bomb and V trigger. Guevara used a Spanish fly for a near fall. They traded all kinds of big moves. Guevara was biting Omega’s broken hand. Even though this was really good you could see that Omega wasn’t 100 percent from the broken hand. Omega used a J driller, V trigger and One Winged Angel for the pin. The last segment was the most controversial, with Jericho and Matt Hardy. Jericho was in the ring, talked about how he wanted Hardy to join the Inner Circle, and called him out. Vanguard 1 came out first. He asked Vanguard 1 to join the Inner Circle and cut a promo on the drone, which was preposterous, but in a ridiculous pro wrestling way. He offered Vanguard 1 money, power and Instagram drone models. Vanguard 1 rejected the offer and flew away. Matt showed up in the upper deck of the arena. Then he teleported to the middle deck, the lower deck and finally into the ring. This was one of those segments where people either loved it or hated it. I was kind of mixed. But it doesn’t matter. The Matt Hardy character will get over huge in front of their live audience and the “delete” chant will be big. I’m sure of that. But it’s a question of what the reaction will be for the masses watching on television. It was successful in TNA in late 2016, but that’s a smaller audience and when the character first started. Under normal circumstances, in time the ratings would give us the answer, but right now, with all the outside variables, it’s going to be a lot harder to learn the reaction about stuff like this from the ratings. Jericho wanted Matt to join but he said that he owed the Bucks of Youth a debt for resurrecting him (a recent Matt Hardy video plus the idea that they were the conduits for resurrecting his career that was going nowhere). He said that AEW represents freedom. Jericho said that he’s the guy who resurrects career, saying he resurrected Hager’s career, he brought Moxley here and that he made Ortiz, Santana and Guevara stars. Hardy said that he was no longer Matt Hardy, and that he was Damascus and he’s 3,000 years old. He called Jericho a hole in the ass. Jericho said Matt was always a step behind, a guy who was never on top, living in the shadow of his younger brother and now he’ll be living in the shadow of le champion. Matt kept screaming “Delete.” This segment badly needed a crowd. Matt said that the real Judas stabbed him in the back more than 2,000 years ago. He kept chanting “Obsolete.” Jericho talked about how he’s the master of reinvention. He also said that he’s banned fans from AEW shows until further notice. Hardy said that Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King were in the stands. Jericho couldn’t see them, nor could anyone else. Hardy was singing the “Obsolete” song. Jericho slapped Hardy. Hardy slapped Jericho and knocked him down. Jericho predicted a Hardy beatdown and then Guevara came out and attacked Hardy. They were both beating him down until Cody and Omega ran from the broadcast position with chairs to make the save. Jericho & Guevara went to leave but pyro and flames shot up and they were unable to get backstage until the show ended. No idea why Hager wasn’t out there. Maybe it would violate the limit on ten people. Maybe he was in his tanning bed by then.
  1058.  
  1059. UFC: Conor McGregor earmarked $1.09 million to purchase protective equipment to hospitals in the Leinster region of Ireland, the part of the country most affected by the coronavirus
  1060.  
  1061. Daniel Cormier looks like he will do one last fight. UFC evidently has given him a time and a place for a title challenge against Stipe Miocic. Cormier, who turned 41 this past week, indicated it was a place he wanted, which people have taken to mean either the San Francisco Bay Area, and UFC has been wanting to run a show at the new Chase Center, or near Lafayette, LA, where he grew up. He also hinted that Kamaru Usman would be on the same show. UFC has been wanting to make Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal for the welterweight title, which would be a huge double main event
  1062.  
  1063. Fighters will continue to be drug tested during this period. So will Olympic athletes. Testers will continue to come to homes unannounced, which is controversial given people in many parts of the country are under quarantine. Plus, I’m not sure that testers, who hopefully will be tested themselves before allowed to come to homes, are essential workers at this stage
  1064.  
  1065. The company released a number of fighters this past week. The biggest surprise on the list is Mairbek Taisumov, who had won six of his last seven fights, with five of those wins via knockout. But he had a visa issue that didn’t allow him to get into the U.S. so he could only be booked on overseas shows. Others let go included Tonya Evinger, who was a name women’s fighter who had big fights with Gina Carano and a UFC flyweight title fight against Cris Cyborg, Dong Hyun Ma, who once had a strong fight of the year candidate, Chance Rencountre, Matthew Lopez, Cyril Asker, Khalid Murtazaliev, Talita Bernardo, Jodie Esquibel, Kyle Prepolac, Macros Mariano, Isabela de Pdua and Zhenhong Lu
  1066.  
  1067. Aljamain Sterling vs. Cody Sandhagen was being talked about for a 5/16 show in San Diego. At first UFC was trying to put together Sandhagen vs. Dominick Cruz for that show
  1068.  
  1069. Leon Edwards, who was to headline the 3/21 show in London against Tyron Woodley, that ended up not taking place, talked about how UFC called him up with three hours notice and told him to fly to the U.S. for the fight. This was during the period they thought they would run the show at an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Edwards refused to come on such short notice given the uncertainty in the world and noted that he didn’t see where his team would pick up and fly and leave their families. He told BT Sports, “I went to bed on Saturday night and I got a phone call waking me up at about 9 a.m. on Sunday (this would be on 3/15) from my manager. He said, `The fight’s off in London and you need to get to America today.’ I was like, `Hold up, what? How long?’ `You’ve got three hours.’” “They didn’t care about getting back. They just cared about me getting there. That was the whole talk, about me getting there. Nothing about me coming back.
  1070.  
  1071. Journey Newsom’s 38 second win over Domingo Pilarte on the 2/8 show in Houston has been changed to a no contest after Newsom tested positive for marijuana in a test taken the day of the fight.
  1072.  
  1073. BELLATOR: Scott Coker, who lives in San Jose and is following the quarantine guidelines, said that he is still going with the idea the 5/9 show in San Jose will take place. That show has Ryan Bader vs. Vadim Nemkov for the light heavyweight title and welterweight champion Douglas Lima vs. Gegard Mousasi for the vacant middleweight title. Coker said to MMA Fighting about the reason for the last-hours cancellation of the 3/13 show at the Mohegan Sun Casino was, “We started hearing rumblings about people feeling uncomfortable, my production staff and fighters included. Then the president said he was making an emergency announcement, which created more panic in people. They thought they might get locked in and not be able to go home. We told our staff if you don’t feel comfortable, make your way home and be with your family.
  1074.  
  1075. Ilima-lei Macfarlane, 29, the women’s flyweight champion, was scheduled to get married to musician fiancee Jason Tupuiola-Aiono on 4/1 in Jamaica and after some thought canceled the trip and postponed the wedding and honeymoon. “Yeah, we’re young and healthy, and that would be pretty cool to get quarantined in Jamaica, but we could be potentially carrying the virus and we could be using up resources that should be going to the locals,” Macfarlane told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “Should we get sick, what if we take a hospital bed? That should be going to the locals. The decision was super easy after that. I instantly called up everybody and canceled everything. It’s still legal to travel to Jamaica but we didn’t. We just felt it was morally irresponsible.”
  1076.  
  1077. OTHER MMA: Anthony Cassar of Penn Sate, who defeated Gable Steveson to win the 2019 NCAA tournament, is talking about doing MMA.
  1078.  
  1079. WWE: Bryan, 38, who doesn’t live a very expensive existence and has had a number of huge money years, openly talked about retiring very soon. He noted that he really loves being a dad. He signed a three-year contract that would end in the fall of 2021. He said that WWE was giving him six weeks off when his wife, Brie, gives birth to their second child. After the current contract is up, he said he’d like to wrestle maybe one show a month. At another point in time, he’d have never gotten that approved, but with competition, he’s going in with very favorable leverage provided things bounce back and AEW stays strong. “WWE has been great, they’re gonna give me six weeks paternity leave, which so few places in the United States do that.” he said on the Bella podcast. “So I’ll get to be home that first six weeks. But then after that, it’s not long until my contract is up. We’ve been talking about what we do from there. To me, in my mind, it’s almost like, I think I’m just done being a full-time wrestler. I love being a dad. I will always love wrestling, and I always want to do wrestling. But when I say always do wrestling, that means maybe once a month or once every couple months.
  1080.  
  1081. When the shelter-in–place act was put into effect in Illinois, canceling the empty arena shows that Freelance Wrestling was going to put on, Mustafa Ali still donated the money he had pledged to the wrestlers who were going to work the first show. I will tell you one thing under these situations of duress that we’ve learned is who are really the guys worth cheering in this industry, who are the real frauds in politics, who are the people in power who can adapt under pressure and so many other things
  1082.  
  1083. Regarding reports of interest in C.M. Punk for WrestleMania, Vince McMahon labeled him the one man I just can’t do business with and nobody at the top level, including Paul Heyman has argued the point or pushed for him. Punk’s agent did try to open a conversation and was turned down. It was described that the FOX gig was something FOX wanted and WWE allowed it as a concession to not making waves in their relationship with the network, but it was limited to only one show a month. Even those who would argue a one-time appearance at Mania would be good for business were told that Brooks devalued himself when his wrestling comeback was on WWE Backstage and after the first week, there was no more ratings jump in the show, rather than holding out for a big appearance. I was told that while you never say never in wrestling, there is no interest right now in him for anything in WWE
  1084.  
  1085. WWE and ProSieben MAXX in Germany have renewed their television deal. The station is also airing WrestleMania 29 to 35 on successive days starting on 3/28 in very late night time slots. The WrestleMania kickoff shows will air on live television in Germany as a lead-in for the show
  1086.  
  1087. Some notes regarding television ratings in the U.K. AEW on ITV 4 on 3/13 didn’t make the top 50 shows for the week on the station, meaning less than 81,000 viewers. The 3/6 show did 89,000 viewers. We don’t have a figure on what the show did on Mondays nights on ITV, where it airs in an edited 50 minute form at about 11:40 p.m. That would figure, just because of being on ITV, to be the most-watched wrestling show of the week. The last I had seen it was doing 200,000 to 300,000 viewers. WWE numbers have increased on BT Sports, both due to far more publicity. Raw on 3/2 did 93,200 viewers and on 3/9 did 100,400 viewers. Smackdown on 3/6 did 57,600 viewers and on 3/13 did 84,500 viewers. NXT on 3/11 didn’t do a big number but a replay the next day did 44,900 viewers. A replay of NXT UK on 3/11 did 20,500 viewers which is the first night that show did a measurable number
  1088.  
  1089. Regarding The Revival, there were reports that Scott Dawson’s contract has expired because he tweeted “free at last,” but officially it has not. But it’s just a few weeks away from expiring. As noted last week, because The Revival had already surpassed the downside figure on their contracts and are no longer being booked, they haven’t received a paycheck in nearly two months. A lot of the talent would fall into the category as if they were above their downside, they wouldn’t be getting paid right now except for days worked. Some, like Slater, made sure that their $400,000 downside was paid bi-weekly as opposed to agreeing to take the regular payments every other week based on house shows and merch. For the others, and this is the vast majority, if you don’t make your downside you get the lump sum at the end of the year so if there is a long shutdown, most of the talent won’t be paid until later. With Slater, since he’s rarely booked, he probably wouldn’t be having $8,000 weeks based on his spot and the number of shows he works and merch he sells, so it made sense for him to ask for that option. While everything is different now, for The Revival, they went from wanting to give them the comedy gimmick and starting that story, to cool them off, similar to Matt Hardy’s being buried on departure, to just not using them. That put the pressure on them to sign because they weren’t getting paid and even though Dawson’s deal is up in a few weeks, Wilder’s won’t be until mid-June, so that’s the earliest they could sign elsewhere. So they’d have to not make any money until mid-June unless they sign new deals and also ask to be paid ahead if that would even be an option, because even if they signed and were re-booked, there’s no lock there will be shows to be paid off. So this does put great economic pressure on both right now. It actually does on a lot of people if those goes a significant length of time
  1090.  
  1091. Rusev has pledged $20,000 for those involved in production or security if they need money since they are without income.
  1092.  
  1093. A Raw tour of South Africa from 4/29 to 5/2 has been moved to 9/10 to 9/12 with one show each in Capetown, Durban and Johannesburg respectively. On the original tour, the last two nights were to be in Johannesburg
  1094.  
  1095. The next season of “Total Bellas,” which was to debut on 4/9, has been moved up to 4/2. E! will move the show on Thursdays at 9 p.m
  1096.  
  1097. Kevin Dunn got 17,901 new shares of WWE stock leaving him with 158,173 shares
  1098.  
  1099. Lashley was at first supposed to be on Raw in some form on the 3/16 show to start the build for the Black match, but since he was in South Africa the week before doing promotional work for the since-moved tour, he had to be quarantined
  1100.  
  1101. Although Alberto El Patron talked last week in the press in Mexico about being in talks with WWE and maybe coming back this summer, those in the company say there is no truth at all to that story. You never say never, but he would be a tough hire given his age, track record and that while he speaks well and they always used him for media (Hispanic star, tall, good looking, speaks well in both languages, and in Mexico being the nephew of a movie star/major celebrity of the 60s and 70s), really, the in-ring style standards, which some will laugh about this statement, but they are pretty high. He was categorized to me with C.M. Punk as guys Vince really wouldn’t do business with. Even though I’m told differently, I still see Vince using Punk if only to keep him away from AEW, and while I can say with certainty there are people in AEW who emotionally would not want to do business with Punk, it is a business and Punk can be of value whether people like him or not. For Alberto, there would be no such concern
  1102.  
  1103. They used a skeleton crew to keep within guidelines and only a few producers were brought in for the week. At Raw, it was only Vince, Kevin Dunn, Heyman and Levesque running things
  1104.  
  1105. There was some controversy regarding some comments by Strowman this past week which were ill-advised. The story started with AEW’s Evil Uno posting: “In the wake of all these cancellations, support the independents, be it wrestling, music, etc. Buy their merch, support them through Patreon, share their stuff. The gig economy is going to take a huge hit and many don’t have the safety net necessary to survive this.” Strowman, under his real name of Adam Scherr, then responded, “Here we go with more of the somebody pay for my bills stuff. If you can’t afford to pay your bills maybe you should change professions. That’s why I quit strongman. I loved it but I couldn’t afford to live so instead of making a go fund me or a patreon wanting someone else to take care of me I went out and worked harder than I ever have in my life to get to where I am. What happened to being accountable for your own actions. For anyone that goes that’s easy fr you to say, you’re a WWE superstar, just an FYI 7 years ago I loved to FL (Florida) with everything I owned in a Kia Soul with $150 to my name when I started this.” Naturally this raised the ire of people, because the timing of this was bad, but because he was fortunate to be tall and have a big body, the former of which he was born with and the latter which he worked very hard to get, but he was the exception and very, very few on his team got WWE contracts without spending years on the indies and making huge financial sacrifices and punishment and long drives for little money to learn first, and then make a name. And he did double down when challenged at first, and said people could get other jobs, which, well, right now, that’s hardly easy to do. In the end, he does have friends in the company and was talked to and from what we understand, he does regret saying what he did
  1106.  
  1107. Arn Anderson, on his podcast, said what everyone pretty much knew anyway from listening, about how at WrestleMania 32, Vince McMahon specifically directed the announcers to bury Sting and WCW in the match with HHH. “All it did was give the announcers, and I know this was fed to them, they just buried Sting. `Minnow in a big pond,’ just total condescending, ‘Guy’s out of his element.’ `This is WrestleMania now.’ `You’re just a small minnow in a huge lake.’” I don’t remember it being that hard, but it was amazing to listen to at the time and quite obvious that Vince was still fighting a war that had ended in 2001
  1108.  
  1109. Saree is moving to the U.S. to start here
  1110.  
  1111. The movie “The Main Event” on Netflix, which WWE Studios worked with the service on, debuts on 4/10. This is the movie about the ten-year-old boy who is bullied but gets a magical lucha mask and he asks for a wish of super powers. Among those in the movie are Miz, Otis, Sheamus, Kingston, Keith Lee, Mia Yim and Babatunde. Lee was one of the major stars of the movie. Renee Young and Corey Graves are in the movie as WWE television announcers
  1112.  
  1113. The Big Show Show debuts on Netflix on 4/6
  1114.  
  1115. Rawley has been moved from Raw to Smackdown for the obvious reason. Since Rob Gronkowski works for FOX as an analyst, they wanted him on Smackdown. Since Rawley is his best friend, he was moved to Smackdown to be with him
  1116.  
  1117. R-Truth won the 24/7 title from Riddick Moss in a video released on 3/22. The video showed Moss jogging on the sidewalk wearing the belt. As he was jogging, he saw referee Darrick Moore in an expensive car. He started yelling at him about how a referee can’t afford an expensive car or to live in this neighborhood. He knew he was being ambushed, so of course, he stood there, asked who was in the car, and then Truth came from the trunk and schoolboyed and pinned him. Truth then told him to go back to football, “Randy Moss” (an NFL legend and who Riddick Moss took his wrestling name from). They had the guy beat Ricochet on television and then take the push off him this quickly and in this silly a manner
  1118.  
  1119. Geza Selmani, aka Rezar of AOP has had surgery to repair his torn right biceps. That usually means seven or eight months out. Right now the decision is not to use Akam without him so as of right now there are no plans for either of them for appearing on television
  1120.  
  1121. They taped Main Event at the Performance Center on 3/16 prior to Raw. Black pinned Leon Ruff of Evolve with black mass. Dawkins pinned Murphy with his sit out power bomb. With Rollins in a singles match at Mania and AOP likely out of action for a while, Murphy really has no spot right now, although I suppose he could interfere in the Rollins vs. Owens match at Mania
  1122.  
  1123. The most-watched shows of the past week on the WWE Network were: 1. WWE Untold: Rodzilla (Dennis Rodman) in WCW; 2. Elimination Chamber 2020; 3. Roman Reigns Best WrestleMania matches; 4. WrestleMania 35; 5. Broken Skull Sessions with Bret Hart; 6. Ruthless Aggression episode 5; 7. Royal Rumble 2020
  1124.  
  1125. Notes from the 3/20 Smackdown and 205 Live tapings. I hate to say anything negative about the presentation since the handicaps were enormous, and no approach is perfect, but it felt very tone deaf in many ways. Just the simple fact of where the hard camera was that you could have learned from AEW, or ways to create sound were ignored. They just did it the same way as Raw, although they did change it up on Raw a few days later. Michael Cole came out with a big smile on his face and talked about how WrestleMania is “too big for one night,” which is the new slogan. Just the idea they’d come up with a fake marketing pitch for the move to two nights was an immediate negative. They presented a show while, with the exception of one spot, showed zero empathy with the audience nor any adaptation due to the circumstances and lack of crowd. Cole called out Rob Gronkowski, but Mojo Rawley, his best friend, came out and gave him the intro. Rawley is back to his, “I don’t get hyped, I stay hyped” old character as a babyface. He called out Gronkowski. The two were dancing around. It looked foolish and oblivious to the rest of the world. Gronkowski said that he’s been a wrestling fan since second grade and used to sit in the nosebleeds in Buffalo. He also said he went to FCW and saw a show with five people in the stands to see Rawley. Thankfully he said FCW and not NXT. Gronkowski started throwing chops at Rawley like they were college frat boys having drank too much until Corbin came out. Corbin went to Gronkowski and said he was bigger than him and stronger than him, and that this isn’t football where you have all those pads. He told him to fall in line behind the king like everyone else. Elias came out. That distracted Corbin and Rawley snuck up behind him and bent over so Gronkowski could shove Corbin and eh would take a bump. Both of them challenged Corbin, which looked silly with two faces challenging one heel. And then a third face, Elias, came into the ring and threw Corbin out. Gronkowski said that he was just a host, not a matchmaker, but that he thinks they should make Elias vs. Corbin at Mania. Nakamura & Cesaro & Zayn are now called The Artist Collective. Bryan & Gulak beat Nakamura & Cesaro in 10:02. Bryan & Gulak were both doing the jumping up and pointing to the sky “Yes” chants with no audience. Bryan did a tope on Nakamura knocking him over the announcers table. Bryan did a crossbody off the top but was caught by Cesaro who gave him a quebradora. It was the same pattern as any other WWE tag match but the wrestling was of a higher level. Bryan pinned Cesaro with a sunset flip over the top rope. After the match, Gulak, who is doing a gimmick where he’s Bryan’s coach, was doing stretches with him and Zayn, Nakamura and Cesaro confronted them. Bryan asked for a shot at Zayn’s title at Mania. Zayn said he would give him one if Gulak can beat Nakamura next week. Paige was on Skype. Like last week, she didn’t come live. Not sure why it was imperative she make the announcement, but they planned it and somehow in this case they didn’t want to change plans. Paige’s stuff was taped, not live, so Bayley had to memorize her lines to deliver them in the right cadence. Bayley challenged Paige to a match and then started laughing about the fact Paige couldn’t wrestle. Paige then announced the six-way match. Bayley actually brought up Tamina joking that she didn’t even know if Tamina was still around. She laughed about Dana Brooke. She got mad about Naomi and was real upset about Banks and stormed off. Even though Banks was backing Bayley all through this, they showed her face and she smiled about getting a shot. The idea was, for the third or fourth time, to do a Bayley-Banks breakup angle and feud. They argued against doing the match at Mania since there was no time to build it, so the idea is it starts at Mania and then they will build the feud for the first match later. They aired Cena vs. Wyatt from the 2014 Mania. They have now created a story that Cena beating Wyatt caused him to go into depression and that’s what led to The Fiend. Well, it was a slow depression where The Fiend only came five years after the match. Bliss & Cross were out mad at Asuka for interfering last week. Bliss challenged Asuka to a singles match, which builds to the tag title match at Mania. Miz & Morrison did another Dirt Sheet segment. They asked the non-existent crowd who they should face. Then they dressed up as The New Day, Usos and Heavy Machinery. The New Day stuff was funny. The other two spoofs were pretty bad. Miz & Morrison beat Heavy Machinery in a non-title match via DQ in 15:17. Unfortunately, this got old quickly. The nature of how these guys work the way they do their stuff with no crowd doesn’t work at all although the ending was well done. Tucker did a flip dive off the apron onto both. Ziggler came out with his music and Otis was distracted. Otis was about to do the caterpillar when Ziggler got on the mic and showed photos of himself with Rose on the screen. Otis attacked Ziggler. Otis then destroyed Miz & Morrison both, throwing Miz into the post and catching Morrison who came off the table and driving him into the post. Otis drove both through the barricade. Otis hit both with chairs for the DQ. The main segment was the Goldberg-Reigns contract signing. Both threw chairs out of the ring and went face-to-face. Reigns said that he beat Lesnar, Undertaker, Cena and HHH. He called Goldberg a little bitch bulldog (Goldberg played for the Georgia Bulldogs in college, the rival of Georgia Tech, where Reigns played) sitting in his yard holding a title that he never earned. Both signed. Both then threw over the table and went face-to-face. 205 Live opened with Danny Burch over Joaquin Wilde with a crossface submission. The match dragged, but that’s going to be the case with no fans. They did a video package of last week’s elimination match and showed Cena watching it and putting it over. Isaiah Scott beat Oney Lorcan with a flatliner and a double foot stomp off the top rope in a fast match
  1126.  
  1127. Notes on the 3/23 Raw show. Even though this show featured some of the best WWE’s promos this year, one by Rollins and another by Orton, as well as good work by Heyman, people didn’t stick with the show. They moved the hard camera from facing the empty seats to facing the entrance, which was a big improvement. I couldn’t believe they didn’t for Smackdown after how AEW did it on Wednesday and it was far superior, but stubbornness exists to amazing levels. The reality is they weren’t building to anything and spending the show saying Orton will speak is not exactly Austin will speak. Heyman opened with an interview about Lesnar and McIntyre was on tape claiming he was winning. Heyman & Lesnar came out. You can say you’re sealing the borders, but Lesnar was still getting in. Heyman said that in a time of uncertainty he can give you certainty in Lesnar. He put over McIntyre, said that McIntyre can train his ass off, spar with MMA fighters, but he still can’t beat Lesnar at WrestleMania. He said that after what McIntyre did at the Rumble and in Brooklyn, Lesnar will make it quick but he won’t make it painless. He said that McIntyre in Brooklyn put Lesnar on his back three times, and by doing so, McIntyre is now a made man and will be able to main event for years to come. But he also said when Mania is over, he’ll be just another bitch that tried, and another wannabe that got douched out. After airing Lesnar vs. Cena vs. Rollins, Styles, Gallows & Anderson came out. Styles made fun of Undertaker’s pants. They made fun that he may wear Depends. Gallows called them maternity pants. Styles made fun of a video Undertaker & Michelle McCool did over the weekend regarding saving tigers. They also made fun of the fact Undertaker had a social media account. Undertaker was one of the last guys to go on social media, but at one point when he had become a free agent, before Vince signed him back, he started using social media to do outside bookings. Styles said that he doesn’t want to face the Mark Calaway on social media, he wants the Undertaker from yesteryear. He said that ever since Undertaker lost to Lesnar at WrestleMania, he hasn’t been the same. Styles said he wanted to take Undertaker’s soul but Michelle McCool already took that. He then said he wanted to bring back the dead man in a boneyard match. He said they’ll fight next to the same plot that McCool picked out when she buried his career. Garza & Andrade did an interview. The whole thing was about showing that Charly Caruso has the hots for Garza. Garza & Andrade beat Ricochet & Alexander in 20:11. There were good spots in the match but it went way too long for an empty arena match. There were some timing issues early. The Street Profits came out for commentary which helped in the sense it also provided some sound. Very good last few minutes including Ricochet doing a Fosbury flop on Garza. Andrade hit Alexander with a spinning elbow for the pin. The problem is that this wasn’t supposed to be the pin, but Alexander didn’t kick out. The ref, knowing it wasn’t the planned finish, held up his count, but then counted three. It came off so bad. It’s so funny how WWE & AEW are married to live on days like this when there is absolutely no reason not to tape in advance and edit to make the show better. This was the explanation for what happened. Alexander took a shot early. The ref was unsure whether he was hurt or not. He wasn’t. When Alexander looked rocked by the elbow. The thing is, he didn’t kick out and when that happens, you’re supposed to count as if it’s a shoot. That’s what they teach. Alexander didn’t kick out. The ref was also being asked backstage on his earpiece if Alexander was hurt. So he hesitated and then counted three. As it turned out, Alexander was okay. After the match, the Street Profits hit the ring. Ford did a great dropkick on Garza and the Street Profits cleared the ring. Street Profits beat Brendan Vink & Shane Thorne in 4:05 when Ford pinned Thorne with a high splash off the top rope. They were promoting NXT this week as live, even though it isn’t. Charly Caruso did an in-ring interview with Baszler. Baszler was being arrogant and not saying much. The lights went out and you could hear an attack. They came on and Lynch had hit Baszler from behind with a chair shot. She hit her a second time with the chair shot. Black pinned Leon Ruff in 1:00 with black mass. It was at least an interesting minute. Owens came out and told Rollins to come out. Rollins then came out and did a great promo. The only negative is this was that WWE thing where Rollins just talks and talks and Owens has to stand there like an idiot, being insulted, but never saying a word. Rollins also almost came off as a babyface when talking what appeared to be pretty honestly about his feelings. He said that WrestleMania being in the Performance Center doesn’t give Owens the home field advantage. He said that he didn’t train here, and Owens did. He said the first day he started in WWE he walked into a dilapidated warehouse and was told that everything he did before in wrestling didn’t matter. He said that his whole life’s work went up in smoke. He said Owens would never understand that sacrifice. He said he had to suffer and persevere and succeed not for himself, but for people like Owens, so people like him could get a chance to train in a beautiful facility like this. He said this place doesn’t exist without Rollins. Well, actually that part was a stretch. He said without him, there’s no Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Undisputed Era, no women’s evolution without him, and there’s no Kevin Owens. He said he had more WrestleMania moments than he could count, while Owens’ WrestleManias have been failure after failure after failure. He noted last year, Owens wasn’t even good enough to be on Mania. If you recall, Owens was to challenge Bryan for the WWE title last year, but then Vince switched it to go with the fans and went with Kingston. He said that Owens couldn’t beat him on his worst day and WrestleMania is never his first day. They aired Flair vs Asuka. Flair did a promo and said that Ripley wanted to be just like her. The show ended with the Orton promo. Orton delivered another killer promo here. He said that what he did to Edge came from a place of love even though it’s been taken as a form of brutality and an act of violence. He said that three weeks ago, he lied to Phoenix when he said that Edge was a junkie for the roar of the crowd. He said he’s actually a junkie for his own ego. Adam Copeland is a junkie for Edge. He admitted that he was handed an opportunity based on who his father was and he’s the first to admit it, but being handed an opportunity doesn’t guarantee you a Hall of Fame career. He said he was the youngest world champion in history (as far as world heavyweight title goes, Lou Thesz was 21 years 8 months, Danno O’Mahoney was 22 years eight months, Kerry Von Erich was 24 year 3 months, Orton was 24 years four months). He said Edge was wrong when he said he didn’t have grit, because to him, grit is longevity in a industry that seldom has any. 19 years really isn’t mind-blowing longevity. He said he looks in the locker room and doesn’t see anyone who has accomplished the things he’s accomplished. He said nobody has as much grit as him and he said that everything he did was because he loved Edge and his daughters, and he accepted the falls count anywhere match
  1128.  
  1129. Notes from the 3/25 NXT TV show. This show was taped 3/22 at Full Sail. It was a wrestling-heavy show which is tough with no fans. The used Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton as the announcers, likely because both are Florida based. The one thing this show had the advantage over AEW is that while this show was hard to watch, it did have a story and a direction. Tyler Breeze pinned Austin Theory in 13:22. Theory’s work was better here than in his previous matches. He also kept talking during the match and being arrogant which gave the match more life. Theory kicked out of the Supermodel kick. He appeared to have the match won after an ushigoroshi but Theory grabbed Breeze’s cell phone and teased taking selfies and was showboating. This gave Breeze a chance to recover and he had a spin kick for the pin. This is an example of a television match where it was all about getting Theory over, even though he lost, and if you understand the difference between wins and losses and who is put over, it was Theory who was the one put over. Of course the problem is that inherently when you are booking a match where the loser goes over and the winner goes under, like here, inherently you are also teaching that winning and losing is immaterial. Killian Dain pinned Tehuti Miles in 3:42 with a senton that landed at an angle where it looked like it hurt, and a Vader bomb. Cameron Grimes pinned Tony Nese in 5:39 in a technically good match with the double foot stomp. It was also kept short enough that it didn’t drag, but it’s tough to make the match memorable or mean anything under these circumstances. Aliyah was supposed to wrestle Xia Li for a shot in the women’s ladder match. But somebody took out Li’s knee and she was backstage crying about her knee. They asked her who did it. Somehow in these situations, the victim never knows. Io Shirai came out as the replacement and pinned Aliyah after a moonsault in 1:22. This was Aliyah’s first match since getting surgery on her nose in November. The broken nose was actually done as a storyline to put her out of action but it was a pre-planned surgery. There was a quick video which was for the debut of Dexter Lumis, the former Samuel Shaw, who has been with the company for 13 months. Keith Lee came out. He said that he owes Dominik Dijakovic an apology as he thought Dijakovic was the guy who attacked him. Dijakovic came out and said he didn’t give a damn
  1130.  
  1131. about getting an apology but he wanted a shot at the title. Damien Priest came out and cut a promo about wanting the title so he can make more money and get more women. Priest then pulled out the nightstick. It turned into a three-way brawl. Lee and Priest were fighting on the floor and Dijakovic did a springboard twisting dive onto both of them. Adam Cole did a video by his pool. This was supposed to be a celebration for becoming the longest reigning NXT champion ever. Cole broke the record of 292 days this past week set by Finn Balor in 2015-16. It wasn’t much of a celebration. All he did was tell Velveteen Dream that if he could beat Bobby Fish next week, he would get a title shot. Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch beat Shane Thorne & Brendan Vink in 3:40 with a double submission as Lorcan had a half crab on Thorne and Burch had a crossface on Vink. This was fine, about the right length of time. In a really weird one, Tom Phillips kept pushing what a huge week it was for Thorne & Vink because they got to appear on Raw & NXT in the same week. They got squashed by The Street Profits on Raw and lost a quick match here, but to make sure wins and losses mean little in the fans’ eyes, that was talked about being a great week, I guess just because they were chosen to lose. I can see why they like Vink as he’s about 6-foot-4 or more and has a good look and carries himself with natural arrogance. Candice LeRae qualified for the ladder match beating Kayden Carter in 4:29 with the Gargano escape. The main event saw Matt Riddle beat Roderick Strong in 10:51. This was technically very good. It didn’t drag or go too long and it’s very easy to do both with no fans. Riddle used the Bro 2 sleep for a near fall and Strong used an Olympic slam for a near fall. Riddle won with the Bro Derek. After the match, Saurav Gurjar & Rinku Singh, who were never named and the announcers played dumb on having any idea who they were, hit the ring and double-teamed Riddle. It was clear they are being groomed for the next contenders for Riddle & Pete Dunne. Stokley Hathaway, with his new name of Malcolm Bivens, is their manager. Singh, 31, was the person the Disney movie “The Million Dollar Arm” was based on. He was part of a reality show in India trying to find a guy who could throw a baseball the fastest and most accurate. It should be noted that nobody plays baseball in India. There were 37,000 people competing in the 2008 reality show competition and he won, came to the U.S. to train as a baseball pitcher and was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and played minor league baseball from 2009 to 2012, then suffered injuries that kept him out two years, and after being cut in 2015, signed with WWE, since they are looking for a star from India and he had something of a name in that country by being the first native Indian to play American pro baseball. He also played pro baseball in Australia. Gurjar, 35, is the bigger of the two guys, a kickboxer who became an actor and wrestled in 2011 for Jeff Jarrett’s Ring Ka King group and signed with WWE after that show ended. They announced for next week, Dream vs. Fish, the women’s gauntlet match and the North American title three-way. So they pushed stuff for next week while AEW didn’t push anything going forward. The show ended with HHH out with Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. HHH is now called “The Creator” of NXT. Ciampa came out. HHH told him no physicality and called out Gargano. Gargano wouldn’t get in the ring but HHH told him to get in the ring and there would be no physicality and told Ciampa not to touch him. HHH said that they have to end their feud, and compared them to he and Shawn Michaels and that some day they would learn there’s more to life than what’s in the ring. Gargano said it was supposed to end last year but Ciampa broke his neck and he was mad because he wanted to be the one who broke Ciampa’s neck. They argued back and forth that HHH said he would find a place with nobody but a ring and referee and have a match, and that one guy would walk out and the other wouldn’t walk out. He said that after that, it’s done, because if they try and continue the feud after this match, he would fire both of them. HHH asked Gargano when he wanted the match and Gargano said he was still hurting from the brawl last week. So he said two weeks, so the match will be on the 4/8 show.
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