- All you need to know this week in the world of pro wrestling.
WWE was incredibly smart to threaten Brock Lesnar’s departure from the company if he loses the Universal title at SummerSlam.
Lesnar is signed through WrestleMania 34 and there is no threat of him opting out early. Yet Heyman’s insistence on Lesnar leaving the company if “The Beast Incarnate” loses the title without being pinned or forced to submit will allow Lesnar the time off needed from WWE to begin preparing his next MMA fight, most likely against soon-to-be-heavyweight Jon “Bones” Jones.
Now, for the big question, who is next in line to wear the Universal championship?
The inside track is that none other than Paul Heyman is advocating behind-the-scenes for Samoa Joe to win the title, but the threat of Baron Corbin cashing in his non-specific Money in the Bank contract looms as a compelling finish to SummerSlam.
In other news…
• Everyone is always searching for the next major singles star in wrestling, but for those in Worcester, Massachusetts, this past Sunday, they did not have to look too far. Trent, who wrestled in WWE as Trent Barreta from 2007-13, is entering his prime at the age of 30 and is primed to become the next heavyweight star in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
“This is something I’ve dedicated myself to for the past 15 years,” said Trent. “I’m finally at the point where I have a huge opportunity for me to show, on a large scale, what I can do as a singles wrestler. I couldn’t be more excited about it.”
Trent credited former tag team partner Rocky Romero as the person who pushed his work to another level over the past two years.
“Rocky was like my Japan Dad out of the ring and in the ring,” said Trent. “I can’t say enough good things about him. I don’t want to call his work in the ring underrated, because it pisses me off when people call me ‘underrated’, but he is underrated. No one realizes how good he really is. Rocky could go in front of any crowd and get them completely into the match. Watching him for the past two years has been an incredible learning experience.”
Trent was asked if his goals include next summer’s G1 Climax or a singles title in New Japan.
“I have goals, and my goals are the same as any other guy in wrestling,” he said. “Right now, I’m focused on having that first big match and making people say, ‘Woah. That guy was able to do that?’ I just want to show people what I can do, and I’m taking it one match at a time.”
• UFC great Jon Jones called out Brock Lesnar after his KO victory over Daniel Cormier this past Saturday night. SI.com has learned that Lesnar’s return to the UFC is imminent, and he will fight Jones as well as fulfill his WWE obligations at the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 34. This all affects the upcoming SummerSlam, as the likelihood that Lesnar keeps the WWE Universal championship, or takes any punishing moves, is all but dimmed, which is another reason he will be hidden in this Fatal 4-Way with Braun Strowman, Roman Reigns, and Samoa Joe.
• Former WWE Tough Enough winner Matt Cappotelli, who is only 37, is battling brain cancer for the second time in his life. He was diagnosed in 2006 with a grade 2 glioma, which ended his wrestling career, but was treated with radiation and two years of chemotherapy after most of the tumor was successfully removed in 2007. After nearly 10 years of being in remission, Cappotelli’s brain tumor aggressively returned this past June. He was diagnosed with a grade IV glioblastoma multiforme, which is an aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer. Cappotelli is pursuing the most effective treatment methods, and his family has set up a GoFundMe to support his battle.
“People’s support has been so overwhelming,” said Cappotelli. “It’s come from all different walks of life. The wrestling community has the most loyal fans in the world, and I am also grateful for my family and friends. People who I haven’t even met are touched by what I’ve gone through and continue to go through, and that means a lot to me.”
The money from the GoFundMe, Cappotelli explained, will enhance his pursuit of a cure.
“The fund will help a tremendous amount with the medical expenses,” said Cappotelli. “The bulk of the expenses are in the chemotherapy and radiation, and I’m now in the process of receiving another opinion as far as my treatments. I’m going to Houston to meet at a highly regarded cancer center. I’ve been given several opinions, so it’s making it really hard to make a decision, and some of the stuff is very expensive.
Cappotelli was destined to be a babyface in the wrestling business, which always has a knack for the good guy defeating the villain. His life is again on the line, but Cappotelli is looking to find a way to tap out cancer.
“I did it once, and I plan on doing it again,” said Cappotelli. “Time will tell, but I’m going to give this battle everything I’ve got.”
• Beyond Wrestling’s live show in Worcester this past Sunday featured a TLC match that saw PWG champion Chuck Taylor defeat Hornswoggle, who wrestles now as Swoggle.
“The match came together pretty easily,” said Taylor. “I had in mind from the start what I wanted to do, and the inspiration was Swoggle’s WeeLC match [from Extreme Rules in 2014]. It’s so bizarrely violent, but also hilarious. It was buried on the pre-show, but I thought it was incredible. It’s one of my favorite matches of the last few years.”
The match included a two-foot ladder, six-foot ladder, and ten-foot ladder, thumb tacks, baby oil, whip cream, as well as interference from Taylor’s entourage—which features a swamp monster named Swamp Monster.
“If there is a short guy in the match, then there should be a short ladder,” said Taylor. “To me, having done so many different kinds of comedy matches, I find violence very funny; so heightening the violence to the level that we did is hilarious. I also find it very funny when the crowd is confused, and we definitely did our job.
“The story behind Swamp Monster is that I’m one of the trainers at the Chikara Wrestling Factory in Philadelphia,” explained Taylor. “The head trainer, Mike Quackenbush, randomly called one of our students a ‘swamp monster.’ I thought it was really funny. Then we started to wonder what a swamp monster would look like, and we decided he would wear a ghillie suit that a hunter would wear. So I bought a cheap ghillie suit and added him to my entourage, which also includes ‘Freshly Squeezed’ Orange Cassidy and formerly in the group was Drew Gulak, who is now on Raw as one of the cruiserweights. I think he should have stuck with us, but what do I know?”
Taylor defeated Zack Sabre Jr. in July to win the PWG championship for his first-ever run with the title.
“I don’t care for my wrestling and I think there are way better guys, but the crowd reaction and the sound they made when I won really felt special to me,” said Taylor. “I was very happy with the match, and other people seemed to be, too.”
• The Lucha Bros., which consist of Pentagon and Fenix (who are now known, respectively, as Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix), are active on the indie scene and were in action this past Sunday against EYFBO’s Mike Draztik and Angel Ortiz, who are also tag team champions in Global Force Wrestling as part of LAX.
“One day, I hope the world will know about the Lucha Brothers,” said Penta. “Someday, we’ll be with one company. For now, we work across the world.”
Fenix noted that the style of his matches with Penta varies from the traditional American style directly because of wrestling roots in Mexico.
“In America, the American crowd pays more attention to the moves and the characters,” said Fenix. “We bring a Japanese, American, and lucha style to our matches. In Mexico, there is a babyface and a heel. It’s very different in America.”
The Lucha Bros., who have also starred in PWG matches against the Young Bucks, bring a clash of styles featuring the hard work and sportsmanship of Fenix, which juxtaposes with the outright evil of Penta.
“Every family has bad and good, and the Lucha Bros. are the same,” said Fenix. “I am the good, Penta is the bad. I am the good boy in the family, but Penta likes to be bad, and we like that combination.”
• Conrad Thompson will discuss Paul Heyman on Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard in this week’s podcast, which breaks at noon this Friday. The show will also be broadcast live on Facebook this Thursday at 10pm ET.
“We did our first show, which was on Dusty Rhodes, on August 5, 2016, and we’re celebrating our first year with a video celebration on Facebook Live,” said Thompson. “And it’s going to be all about Paul Heyman and the WWE.”
For people who have not had the opportunity to visit a live show from Prichard and Thompson, this Thursday’s edition will entertain its audience with impressions, anecdotes, and, of course, singing from Prichard.
“Bruce will do his impressions, including Paul Heyman, this Thursday,” said Thompson. “We’re going to specifically talk about the end of ECW and how Paul Heyman became an announcer with WWE. We’ll talk about his time running SmackDown as the SmackDown head writer; some people think that was the golden age of SmackDown with the ‘SmackDown Six.’ We’ll also specifically hone in on the way Heyman was unable to assimilate within WWE. Paul has admitted he may not have always been mature about the way he handled himself and he didn’t always express himself the right way. There are at least a half-dozen good Heyman fights with Vince McMahon that we can expand on during the show.
“I know that people always see that Paul Heyman was a genius, but I do think there is genius in the way he thinks. I think Paul was better at having his finger on the pulse of the fans, and listening to the fans and giving them what they wanted, better than any booker in the history of professional wrestling.”
Thompson was also grateful that Corey Graves and John “JBL” Layfield highlighted the “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast during Bring It To The Table on the WWE Network.
“It’s super humbling to have ‘The Machine’ mention us,” said Thompson. “For Graves and JBL to put the show over as their very favorite on the Network, that was quite the anniversary present from the ‘Evil Empire’ and we’re quite appreciative to Corey Graves and JBL for giving us that love.”
• The Writer’s Corner: Lucha Underground head writer Chris “DJ” DeJoseph discussed the upcoming quarterfinals of the Cueto Cup, which air tonight on El Rey Network. Matches include Prince Puma vs. Dante Fox, as well as Fenix vs. Pindar.
“Fenix has a way about him that sticks out and connects with the audience,” said DeJoseph. “You can feel for Fenix because he has the ability to make the audience feel for him, whether it’s through his selling and his personality. On Lucha Underground, Fenix is the purest of pure. He never does anything evil or malicious, and he is a true, pure babyface.”
DeJoseph also touched on Fenix fitting in seamlessly to the world of Lucha Underground.
“Fenix has prepared to be a wrestler his whole life,” said DeJoseph. “He’s been doing the moves since he was in his back yard as a kid. We do TV differently with our cinematic approach, but I’ll be honest, Fenix was a natural. All young talent need to learn the American style, especially selling, but Fenix excelled right away with his wrestling, acting, and ability to relate with the camera and the audience.
“When we put people under a mask who haven’t worn it before, they sometimes struggle with it and being able to get their emotions across. I’ve also been told it’s a claustrophobic feeling, but some of the luchadors have been wearing the masks since they were children. The mask is part of Fenix’s persona and helps make him into a superhero.”
When asked for his highlights from the upcoming episode, DeJoseph chose the Puma-Fox match and added that there will be some new surprises introduced in this week’s show.
“Puma vs. Dante Fox is pretty amazing,” he said. “There will be some more twists and turns in tonight’s show, with Brian Cage’s gauntlet storyline, with Dario Cueto and his brother Matanza, and even with the Worldwide Underground and the championship we’ve have seen in a while with the Gift of the Gods.”
• Al Snow connected with SI.com for his weekly advice column, Inside Al's Head, and he touched on whether ECW would work in the current 2017 wrestling landscape.
“There is a possibility for a variation of ECW that could possibly work in 2017, but I do not think there will ever be another ECW like there was in 1997,” said Snow, who wrestled with ECW in 1995, ’97. and ’98. “It was definitely the right time for an alternative like ECW to make it on the national scene, but the biggest factor in its success was the pool of talent that had anywhere from 10 to 15 to 18 years of experience that had been broken in back in a time of territorial wrestling. That gave people exposure and experience to audiences that today’s talent pool doesn’t get on the same level. Despite the experience, that ECW talent pool didn’t have the exposure to the national audience.”
A great deal of the ECW talent had an avid and rabid following on the independent scene, but was generally unknown on a national platform.
“The talent had all of that experience and polish,” said Snow. “Terry Funk was also incredible in the role of elder statesmen who gave the rub to all of the younger talent that didn’t have the national level exposure that Funk did. That helped substantiate all of the other talent on a national level, but let’s also not forget about guys like Shane Douglas.”
Snow wrestled Douglas for the ECW championship at Wrestlepalooza in 1998.
“Shane had been wrestling, much like myself, since 1982,” said Snow. “He even wrestled for WWF, for Bill Watts in UWF, for WCW, and didn’t really come into his own and find his own voice until ECW. Sabu, who was broken in by his uncle, the original Sheik, made a name for himself overseas but had not made a name for himself in the U.S. until he did so in ECW. Terry Funk was a very important part of the formation and success of ECW, but we have yet to touch on the biggest thing everyone misses when speaking about ECW. It’s not the violence or the extreme matches; the most integral part of ECW’s success was every single wrestler had a definable character. Paul Heyman was amazing at producing his talent, and never over-producing his talent, and allowing his talent to find their own voice and connect with the audience. He used those characters to create a trend-setting television show.
“There was a need and a void in the wrestling community for ECW. The other two companies, in WCW and WWF, weren’t providing what the audience in Philadelphia wanted. ECW was their promotion, and they really did build and create ECW along with the very wrestlers themselves. And the wrestlers? We felt it was our brand, and we all felt it was us against WCW and the WWF. I started saying backstage that we were ‘the island of misfit toys’. We didn’t fit in or match with the other two promotions, but we survived and thrived in ECW, and I think the fans felt like that, too. People who didn’t identify with WWF or WCW made ECW their own. I would love nothing more than a re-creation, but you will never be able to have all those components fit together so perfectly to create a promotion like ECW.”
Tweet of the Week
The Canadian Umaga!
In what is becoming a weekly tradition, Edge had a fantastic line on this past week’s [pagebreak] regarding the Great Khali’s performance during the Punjabi Prison match at Battleground:
“My favorite part of the entire thing was Khali grabbing the heavyweight title away from Jinder and holding it up so he would get that photo-op in the Indian newspapers the next day: ‘Great Khali’s champion!’ or something…I was like, ‘Khali, you bastard! You’re still that way! … then he handed it back to Jinder, which was nice of him. That was my favorite part.”