News of the Week: Ryan Satin discusses reporting in wrestling, Ric Flair shoots on Finn Balor, Looking back at Hulk Hogan in 1988

1:39 | Extra Mustard
WWE’s Highest Paid Wrestlers of 2017
Wednesday May 31st, 2017

Ryan Satin created Pro Wrestling Sheet to provide a different lens on the business of professional wrestling.

 “We’re a wrestling site that operates as a news operation,” said Satin, who has single-handedly broke a number of significant stories over the past two years, including the location of WrestleMania 34 before WWE even made their official announcement. “We’re really doing something good with Pro Wrestling Sheet, and we’re really trying to change the way things are reported and make things much more transparent and free.”

The 30-year-old, who grew up in Diamond Bar, California, cut his teeth in the newsroom during his six years spent working at TMZ. Satin has enjoyed a lifelong obsession with the news. His father, Scott Satin, owned a production company, so he constantly grew up around television sets, which is actually what first connected him to pro wrestling at the age of 10.

“My dad worked on Rhonda Shear’s Up All Night on USA, and she did a whole show from a WWE event,” said Satin. “That was really my first exposure to wrestling, and I loved it. My first time seeing wrestling was behind the scenes, which might have to do with why I’ve always been so fascinated with the behind-the-scenes of wrestling. I saw Yokozuna and Undertaker in their towels playing poker together, and I remember thinking, ‘I want to know more about this world.’”

• Rey Mysterio on Lucha Underground, the growth of British wrestling

Satin’s passion for television brought him to TMZ, which is where he built enough trust with his bosses to introduce a healthy dose of pro wrestling into the TMZ news cycle. His first significant news break came in 2010 when he investigated the story of a Food Network chef who hired some homeless people to kill his wife.

“We got a tip that a possible area where these homeless people were living was the Santa Monica promenade,” said Satin. “So [TMZ founder] Harvey Levin called me and asked me to go talk to homeless people in that area and try to find who was supposed to kill this guy’s wife. So I’m driving there, thinking, ‘I’m never going to find anything.’

“I saw a McDonald’s with a homeless guy in front with a sign that said, ‘Can someone please buy me a Big Mac?’ I thought that was a good way to start the day. I bought him a few Big Macs and said, as he was unwrapping the Big Mac, ‘I’ve got a random question for you. There is story out there that this Food Network chef hired some homeless dudes to kill his wife. Do you know anything about that?’ And he said, ‘Yea, dude, that’s me.’ And he proceeded to tell me the gnarliest story, and I got the whole thing on video.”

 Satin’s goal is to bring truth to people, and he is so passionate about the field that he has promised to keep Pro Wrestling Sheet available to readers for free.

“I address the fake stories and rumors that get out on wrestlers,” said Satin. “

Despite incessant rumors of TMZ paying sources for stories, Satin noted that is a practice he does not employ.

“There are always rumors of TMZ paying for information, but I can definitively say that I never paid for any kind of story,” said Satin. “I pride myself on that. That’s not to say I haven’t licensed a photo from someone, or a video, but that’s because people want to be paid for their work.”

The world of professional wrestling news coverage, Satin noted, is unique since the business remains very guarded and, at times, secretive.

“There are news stories and stories I find newsworthy,” said Satin. “Obviously, I know that Mojo Rawley pouring soy sauce all over Rob Gronkowski [in 3LAU’s new music video “on My Mind”] isn’t necessarily a news story, but it’s a fun thing that people want to see, and I like to have a balance on my site.

“As far as the stories I actually want to break, I try my best to think of what I would want to read. The ones that I really enjoy pursuing are the ones in the moment–hirings, firings, injuries, things of that nature. Those are the ones that, for so long, were reported but never happened. There needs to be a place where you can go and don’t need to say, ‘I hope this is true,’ I’ve really strived to give people a place where they can go and say, ‘These are actual news stories.’’

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A perfect example of Satin’s work is his coverage of the “Sean “X-Pac” Waltman arrest.

“X-Pac got arrested last month, the cops said that one of his drugs tested positive for methamphetamines, and everyone runs these stories–‘X-Pac drug trafficking meth’; ‘X-Pac attempts to traffic meth to the U.K’” said Satin. “These stories were all over. X-Pac had a pretty reasonable explanation for what happened, but 75 percent of the websites didn’t run that. They just wanted attention-grabbing headlines.

“I try my best to track everything along the way, and we just learned that everything X-Pac said was true and the District Attorney rejected the case due to insufficient evidence. I know from working at TMZ what a fake story can do to someone’s career and life, and I hate seeing that. I like to be there to help get the truth out as much as possible.”

Pro Wrestling Sheet, which has its own Twitter account, delivers content seven days a week, but its most active days for breaking news seem to occur on Mondays and Tuesdays. Even the WWE, he noted, has been open to his coverage.

“I think WWE appreciates that I’m trying to do a good thing,” said Satin. “I’m trying to give people a place where they can read truthful wrestling news. I think they see that and appreciate it, as well.”

 ****

Ric Flair was right: Finn Balor is too small to headline a WrestleMania.

Flair’s comment created a maelstrom of responses on social media, the majority of which were not kind to The Nature Boy. Yet the caveat, however, is that Balor is too small to headline a WrestleMania right now as a babyface. Unlike Daniel Bryan, who organically developed an intrinsic connection with the United States audience from his years in both the indies and then in WWE, Balor has spent the vast majority of his career abroad and has yet to connect in a manner that will allow him to headline WrestleMania 34 as a fan favorite.

Yet Balor can absolutely main event ‘Mania as a heel.

Balor should win the five-way match for the number one contender spot at this Sunday’s Extreme Rules, then get absolutely annihilated by WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar at July’s Great Balls of Fire. Size should be a factor in the match-up, as this is a monumental mismatch with Lesnar’s size and strength.

A cursory glance at Balor’s work in Japan shows that he is in his comfort zone as a heel. His promos offer more of an edge, the character makes more sense, and he is tailor-made to lead The Balor Club with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, who desperately need the connection. WWE has presented Gallows and Anderson as a steady mix of class clowns, devastating heels, and enhancement talent; an alliance and heel turn by Balor would completely reinvigorate the pair as one of the toughest teams in wrestling.

Unless WWE plans on turning Seth Rollins heel, then the company is in need of a top villain on Raw. There is no one better fit for that role than Finn Balor.

In other news…

• Jinder Mahal has the potential to have an extremely memorable title reign, but he is going to need a lengthy run in order to make it work. Considering Mahal was a glorified enhancement talent until the April 18 edition of SmackDown, which was only six weeks ago, he is going to need a significant stretch to legitimize his run as champ. My prediction is that Vince McMahon goes all in with Mahal, and we will see him–in spectacular fashion–make a Rusev-at-WrestleMania 31-like entrance at WM 34 in New Orleans with the championship around his waist.

• During Jim Cornette’s return to WWE during the WrestleMania 33 weekend to induct the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express into the WWE Hall of Fame, he filmed an episode of the WWE Network’s Table for Three with Eric Bischoff and Michael “P.S.” Hayes that first aired this past Monday after Raw. Cornette was asked for his assessment of the meal, in addition to the discussion with noted rivals Bischoff and Hayes:

“They actually did give us the dinner and we were picking at our plates,” said Cornette. “I was actually hungry and dying to eat, but I didn’t want to be verbally jousting with two maestros like Bischoff and Michael Hayes while I had a mouthful of skirt steak and potatoes. We picked at the plates during the breaks and the re-lightings, but we really didn’t eat a huge meal, which is a good thing–I didn’t want to fall asleep after a big meal when it was my chance to go after Eric Bischoff. We started off a little adversarially, but we did manage to bond over a mutual hatred of Vince Russo.”

• The two highlights of SmackDown: the announcement of the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank match on June 18, which is certain to be better than Alexa Bliss’ failed attempt at a “This is Your Life” segment on Raw, as well as the news that Kevin Owens will battle Shinsuke Nakamura next week on SmackDown. New Japan World just released a free copy of AJ Styles vs. Nakamura from Wrestle Kingdom 10 in 2016, and the match is a far better indicator of what Nakamura is capable of in the ring than the little he did in his WWE debut against Dolph Ziggler.

• Lucha Underground head writer Chris “DJ” DeJoseph discussed whether the mid-season break helped or hurt the show:

“We didn’t originally write the season to have a break in it, but it ended up as a positive,” said DeJoseph. “When we last left the Temple, Matanza was thrown through a roof by Rey Mysterio, and [storyline owner] Dario Cueto told everybody, ‘Get out of my Temple!’ That was a great way to have a cliffhanger. We’re starting off with a bang right when we come back [tonight], and we’ll see the repercussions of Dario not being happy with what happened with his baby brother.”

Season four has not officially been announced by El Rey Network, which airs Lucha Underground, and DeJoseph, who also was on the creative team in WWE from 2006-2010, was asked if there are challenges in writing for a show that has yet to announce its future.

“I’m always thinking ten steps ahead,” said DeJoseph. “We try to give every character on our show some kind of story, and all these stories are interweaving. We know where we’re going, and sometimes we know where we’re going ten steps ahead. When I worked in creative for WWE, you would try to structure stories that way. The difference between WWE and Lucha Underground is that Lucha Underground lets us run with our story. Considering it’s taped, you can’t just say, ‘This isn’t working, let’s change it this week.’ We don’t have that luxury. The storyline changes every day in WWE, and it’s not just Vince McMahon. In WWE, you write, you come up with your ideas, then you present them to Vince. Vince looks at them, Vince changes them. You go back, you write the scripts. You take the scripts on an airplane with Vince where those scripts are changed. Then you go to three different meetings where everyone has their input. That is one of the advantages and the main reasons of success for Lucha Underground. We will follow through on a story. We won’t give up on a story, we won’t just say, ‘That never happened, let’s ignore it.’

“We write to reward the fan that watches the show every week and pays attention to every detail. Johnny Mundo won a briefcase in season one with $100,000 in it. He used all the money from that briefcase in season three to get himself a title match, which eventually helped him win the title. We like to reward the fan who has stuck with us and pays attention to detail.”

• Ring of Honor world champion “The Almighty” Christopher Daniels threw out the first pitch at Sunday’s White Sox game in Chicago. Daniels, who has built a reservoir of respect in the business, especially within Ring of Honor, as someone who the talent respects and seeks out for insight on subtleties and nuances in their matches, was asked if he is honored to fulfill “The Undertaker role” in the ROH locker room:

“I’m not allowed to say, ‘I’m in ‘The Undertaker spot’,” said Daniels. “That’s not up to me. If that’s how people feel, then that is certainly an honor to be compared to someone like Undertaker as a locker room leader. I’ve been here and interacted with these guys for a long period of time, and they know I’m not out for myself and I’m here to help the product. If that’s what people’s opinion of me are, then I am honored that people feel that way.”

• Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While Christopher Daniels is on top of the world as ROH world champion, Michael Elgin believes that there is no greater championship–ROH included–than the IWGP championship. Elgin also added that his run as IWGP Intercontinental champion, which is the title he lost to current champion Tetsuya Naito, is the highlight of his career:

“I would definitely rank it as number one,” said Elgin, referring to his run as IWGP champion, which he won in New Japan’s first-ever ladder match over Kenny Omega. “As cool as it was to be Ring of Honor world champion, there was just too much baggage going into it to have the special feeling that I knew I should have when I won the Ring of Honor world championship. With New Japan, it’s totally different. The company, the fans, just everything has changed my outlook on wrestling. I never had a period where I didn’t want to do it, but it just changed my outlook and even helped pushed me that much farther. I would definitely put winning the IWGP Intercontinental championship as the biggest thing that has happened in my career. I definitely want to be the Intercontinental champion again, but, above all else, I want to be IWGP heavyweight champion.”

• Do not adjust your television screens (or social media apps): that was Scott Steiner who returned to Impact Wrestling last Thursday on Impact. Steiner was introduced by Josh Mathews, who will wrestle as his teammate at the July 2 Slammiversary against Jeremy Borash and Joseph Park:

“Scott was an obvious choice and a not so obvious choice,” shared Mathews. “I could have picked anyone, no one likes JB or Joseph Park, so the line of people who want to help me destroy them was long. I had options. I wanted someone who is feared. Someone who’s name you hear and you think, ‘Wow! I’ve got to see this!’ Scott Steiner was that choice. He’s mean, tough, and will handle his business. I don’t have to worry about Scott. Did you see what he did to Park? Expect that, and more, at #Slamm15.”

• The Hardys defend their WWE Raw tag team championships in a steel cage match this Sunday at Extreme Rules against Cesaro and Sheamus, but they are embroiled in a far different battle outside the ring with former employer Impact Wrestling over ownership of the “Broken” trademark. The Hardys are fighting for the trademark because they desperately want to debut the characters for the WWE, which will lead to increased merchandise and an entirely new lineup of opponents. “Broken” Matt Hardy versus Bray Wyatt would be appointment viewing.

• The legendary 52-year-old Jushin Thunder Luger is wrestling his last-ever Best of the Super Juniors for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Liger started 0-4 in the tournament, mathematically eliminating him from the chance to advance in the 12–man tourney. Liger has won the Best of the Super Juniors, which begin in 1988 as the Top of the Super Juniors, on three separate occasions, with the last being in 2001. WWE’s Finn Balor also won the tourney in 2010 and again in 2013, and the BOSJ also included Owen Hart in 1988 and 1991.

“When I went to Canada to work with the Harts, I trained with Owen Hart,” said Liger through a translator. Liger first worked with Hart in 1987 during his sojourn to Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary. “Stu Hart was a very tough man, but he wasn’t always around. I trained with Owen and his brothers. Owen was a very, very funny guy. Those are memories I will never, never forget.”

• Coming attractions: New Japan legend Jushin Thunder Liger will return to SI.com next Monday in the Monday Q&A series.

Something to Wrestle with Conrad Thompson

Conrad Thompson and Bruce Prichard return to the MLW airwaves this Friday at noon for the “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast to discuss Hulk Hogan’s run in the World Wrestling Federation in 1988.

“I’m really excited,” said Thompson. “1988 is the year I fell in love with wrestling, and it’s because of Hulk Hogan.”

The episode also serves as a time capsule for the 1980s wrestling war between Vince McMahon and Jim Crockett Promotions, which ran the National Wrestling Alliance until Ted Turner bought the NWA in 1988.

“We start the episode with a cool little story about how the Royal Rumble, which is historically the number three pay per view in the industry, was started simply to counter-program the NWA’s Bunkhouse Stampede. Jim Crockett decided to run a pay per view at the Nassau Coliseum, right in Vince McMahon’s territory in New York, in response to the WWF counter-programming Starrcade with Survivor Series. Vince McMahon decided to respond with a very similar concept to the Bunkhouse Stampede with the 30-man Royal Rumble match, and did it for free on the USA Network. That piece of 1988 is so criminally overlooked.”

The inaugural SummerSlam also takes place in 1988, which is headlined by a tag team match between Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who were known as the Mega Powers, battling the “Mega Bucks” of Andre the Giant and the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.

“We discussed the similarities between the first SummerSlam and the first WrestleMania,” said Thompson. “They’re both in New York at Madison Square Garden, and they’re both Hulk Hogan on top in a tag match. Considering the way the Survivor Series was originally built, with all tag matches, and the tag matches in the main event of the first WrestleMania and SummerSlam, it’s interesting to see how Vince featured his tag matches, despite a reputation for hating tag matches. We’ll also discuss the seeds of the Mega Powers breaking up, as well as one of the best wrestling angles ever–and certainly the best of ’88–from The Main Event where they debuted the winged-eagle belt and had the second heel evil referee in the match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. It’s such an interesting time in the business, and ’88 is one of the more important years in wrestling. It starts with the war between Jim Crockett and Vince McMahon, and by the end of the year, Crockett is out of business, Ted Turner has taken over, and the whole industry is different.”

Thompson and Prichard will also dedicate time on the show discussing Hogan’s failed attempt at wearing a helmet to the ring.

“Bruce explains that was something Hogan wanted to do on his own,” said Thompson. “When Vince saw Hogan wearing it, Vince said, ‘God damn, pal, what are we doing?’ Hogan thought it could be merchandised and turned into the next foam finger. Obviously, it wasn’t meant to be.”

Tickets are still available for this Sunday’s live “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” show at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Baltimore, which will feature Prichard fresh upon his arrival from his Impact Wrestling tour in India.

“If you’re a wrestling fan, you should certainly check this out,” said Thompson. “You never know who’s going to show up. I’m sure Bruce will have some stories from India, and he may still be serving soft times, so we’ll see how it goes.”  

 The Nitro Files: June 2, 1997

The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff will delve into a moment from WCW’s Monday Nitro era. Bischoff – who was the president of WCW during the company’s most successful years – also hosts his weekly Bischoff on Wrestling” podcast with 120 Sports’ Nick Hausman, and has also created the IRW Network, which is currently highlighting over 1,500 hours of independent wrestling, and officially launches on June 1. Bischoff plans to prove every week in the Nitro Files that the truth is out there.

The June 2, 1997 Nitro was live from Dayton, Ohio and followed Eric Bischoff’s strategic plan to defeat Monday Night Raw. Since Nitro was two hours and Raw only aired for one, Bischoff worked to grab the audience’s interest before Raw was even on the air.

“That was a cornerstone of our strategy, as well as our tactics,” said Bischoff. “Creativity was certainly a part of it, but it was more of a tactical maneuver. Scott Hall’s character was extremely compelling at that time, as was Ric Flair’s.

“To the vast majority of the WCW audience–the traditional audience who came along with the NWA when Ted Turner bought the company out of bankruptcy from the Crockett family–Ric Flair was still a very strong character, so it was critical to start the show early with those characters and position them in a way that we were in hot action before the nine o’clock hour.”

The match between Hall and Flair ended in a disqualification, but Bischoff’s tactic was successful. Nitro defeated Raw, 3.3 to 2.5, in the Nielsen television ratings. That edition of Raw featured a match involving Goldust, who wrestled Hunter Hearst Helmsley. It is remarkable to note that Goldust also appeared on the May 29, 2017 edition of Raw.

One of the more memorable moments of Nitro occurred during a tag team match pitting The Great Muta and Masahiro Chono in a battle against the Steiner Brothers. The match ended when Muta pinned Rick Steiner. Bischoff was asked, when dealing creatively with stars like the Steiners, if he ever had an issue telling Rick and Scott that they were going to lose a match.

“That was not difficult at all,” said Bischoff. “The Steiner Brothers did a lot of business in Japan, so neither one had an issue with that creative whatsoever. Plus, they knew that the back-and-forth that took place here in the United States would build to a story that would allow us to go over to Japan and follow-up. Rick and Scott were very familiar with Muta and Chono, and had a tremendous amount of respect for them and New Japan as a whole, so telling the Steiners that they weren’t going over was one of the easier things I did that entire night.”

Bischoff has also been making news this past week, as his IRW Network is set to officially launch on June 1 and his Table for Three with Jim Cornette and Michael P.S. Hayes just aired on the WWE Network .

“We’re coming off of a big weekend on the IRW Network with Wrestle Circus, which is a really hot promotion out of Austin, Texas,” said Bischoff. “Their owner, Al Lenhart, decided to offer the Wrestle Circus pay per view for free on the IRW Network. We got a ton of positive response, and it shows the world of possibilities for the IRW Network. We have such a diverse amount and quality of independent wrestling content to bring to wrestling fans.”

As for the Table for Three, Cornette and Bischoff were given the opportunity for their first-ever real discussion after decades of working against one another in wrestling.

“For all these years, I’ve read the venom that Jim Cornette spewed about me,” said Bischoff. “I’ve never really understood it, because I’ve never spent 30 seconds working with Jim Cornette. I never took the garbage he was posting seriously, and he started the Table for Three show by saying, ‘You probably don’t even remember the last time we spoke!’ And truthfully, I didn’t.

“I’m flattered at the reaction from people who have already watched. For those who have asked, I didn’t go in with any animus. I’ve already heard it all. There was nothing Jim Cornette was going to say that was going to shock me, surprise me, or put me on the defensive. By the end of the taping, I thought, ‘We’re two different people, but he’s not a bad guy.’ If he and I ever happened to be in the same restaurant, I’d sit down with him, crack a beer or two, and share some stories.”

Coming Soon with Brandon Watts

Coming Soon is the newest feature of the Week in Wrestling, and looks at a talent from the independent wrestling scene. In the inaugural edition, 22-year-old Brandon Watts–who just returned from a broken neck–is featured.

Name: Brandon Watts
Age: 22
Hometown: Bronx, New York via the New York Wrestling Connection
Years pro: 4

What about wrestling appealed to you?

There are multiple things that made me want to be a pro wrestler. For one, there were the theatrics, and especially the gear. I was always obsessed with the gear. Now, as a wrestler, I like to always have different colored gear. I was always attracted to Rey Mysterio as a character solely based of the fact that he wore different masks and different pants every single week. I also thought wrestling was one hundred percent real.

You broke your neck during an eight-man tag match on April 24, 2016. How did the injury occur?

Everybody thinks I broke my neck when I did a front flip, but it happened when we did a weird four-way 3D. A guy landed right on top of my head, and as soon as he landed, I knew that I was messed up. I couldn’t feel anything in my fingers and I felt like everything was moving in slow motion. When I watched it back, I was actually moving normally, but, to me, it felt like I was moving in slow motion. Then something crazy happened. Anthony Darden gave me a dropkick in the arm, and I’ll always be thankful for it. Somehow, that gave me feeling back and allowed me to finish the match. I ended up taking two, three, four more moves right after that. I didn’t know that I’d ever get back in the ring, even after the doctor cleared me. I finally knew I could do this when I took my first bump.

Which wrestlers inspired you?

I knew this was what I wanted to do when I watched Jeff Hardy. I would always put t-shirts on my head and pretend I had long hair, and flip it back like he would. Then, CM Punk’s “pipe bomb” made me decide that this was what I was going to do. That was the moment I said, ‘This is exactly what I’m going to do.’

Where did you train?

I trained at the New York Wrestling Connection, and I was trained by Tony Nese, who is on 205 Live now, as well as Alex Reynolds and Francis Kipland Stevens.

The people that I go to the most are the people who trained me, and that’s Tony Nese, Alex, and Kip. They don’t tell me what I want to hear, they tell me what I need to hear. They tell me the truth, and they always tell me, ‘Don’t worry about anybody else, worry about yourself.’

Where can we see you wrestle?

You can see me at NYWC, as well as Beyond Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Magic, and there will be some other bookings that I had before the neck injury that I’m working on getting back.

Who is your dream opponent?

AJ Styles. He’s the greatest of my era. He’s great at everything he does.

Tweet of the Week

Will Goldust bring back the wig and robe in his return to the “Golden Age”?

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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