SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
News of the Week
Bobby Roode has appeared on SmackDown Live the past two weeks, and the “Glorious One” believes that he is going to become a fixture in the WWE.
“This is what I love to do,” said Roode. “I have passion for this, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I’ve been doing this for two decades, but believe me, we’re just getting started.”
Roode, who was a two-time heavyweight champion during his 12-year run in TNA, noted that a highlight of his career was working with the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in 2010. Roode was also part of the brilliant TNA segment between Flair and Jay Lethal, whose imitation of Flair was a hit amongst the fans and wrestlers present for the encounter, which included Roode.
“That moment with Ric was such a great moment,” said Roode. “In that particular moment, I didn’t keep a straight face. I don’t think anyone in that ring kept a straight face. If you thought we did, it was just good editing by the camera crew.”
Roode is also fresh off his 203-day run as NXT champion. The time spent in WWE’s third brand and the Performance Center, Roode explained, rejuvenated his career and reignited his affection for the business.
“NXT brought my passion back,” said Roode. “I got the chance to work with all the coaches down at the Performance Center, and I was able to pick Triple H’s brain, too. Also, working with Shawn Michaels was amazing. He’s been very supportive of me, and extremely helpful.”
Unlike on SmackDown, where he debuted as a babyface, Roode spent his time in NXT as a heel, working programs with Tye Dillinger, Shinsuke Nakamura, and, most recently, Drew McIntyre.
“This past year was really gratifying on many different levels,” said Roode. “To come here with the experiences I’ve had, and to have the year I’ve had and be looked upon in the locker room as a leader with people coming to me for advice, it’s still surreal to me.”
Roode was asked if he has any concerns over adapting to the stresses and rigors of the main roster, both on and off screen, but he is confident in his ability to succeed because of his willingness to learn.
“There are so many great minds within this company, and I’m learning every day,” said Roode. “I truly believe that, in this business, you can never learn enough.”
Roode accepts that there will be those who question his ability, yet noted he fuels himself with that doubt.
“I’ve been in this business for two decades,” reiterated Roode. “But the fun is just about to begin.”
Triple H tweeted out a photo during the NXT tapings on August 24, and the picture was newsworthy because of the men surrounding WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events, and Creative.
Pictured with Triple H are Progress Wrestling co-owners Jim Smallman and Jon Briley, EVOLVE owner Gabe Sapolsky, and the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels.
Sports Illustrated spoke with a source close to Paul “Triple H” Levesque, who noted that the photo was not posted by mistake. Levesque’s management style is to surround himself with bright minds, which is evident by the men in the picture.
Levesque and Michaels share years of respect and chemistry, and are able to relate on a unique level as they have both headlined WrestleManias and stood atop the entire industry. Yet everyone in that picture contributes to the success of NXT, and it was shared with SI that Levesque believes in gathering as many opinions as possible before making a final decision. He welcomes different points of view, which is why that picture features such a diverse set of minds.
Sapolsky is an important piece of the picture. His wrestling roots were formed in ECW at the learning tree of Paul Heyman, and he is deeply connected with the inner-workings of independent wrestling. Like Levesque and Michaels, Sapolsky received his first real breaks in wrestling in the 1990s, but what makes him unique is his ability to build a product. Levesque craves an indie-wrestling feel for the NXT product, and Sapolsky has spent the past two decades developing a cognitive bandwidth toward the independents after building Ring of Honor and EVOLVE from the ground level.
Smallman and Briley add a foreign perspective from what is successful in wrestling in the United Kingdom. Progress’ voyage to the United States was met with sell-out crowds, and they have created a phenomenon in the U.K. all within the past five years.
A source close to SI explained Levesque is open-minded to different viewpoints, values the chance to hear them, and prefers a think-tank culture to bring wrestling into the future. He has built an unselfish environment at NXT, with people welcome to contribute whenever they see fit.
The natural question from this photo is, what comes next? Will Sapolsky, Smallman, and Briley continue to work with WWE? Each provide information-based wrestling seminars, with Sapolsky up next on September 22, and SI will continue to follow if and when more news is released regarding Sapolsky’s connection with WWE.
This photo did not mark the first time these men have worked with Levesque, but it was the first public acknowledgment from WWE. The picture marks an interesting admission as WWE looks to create new ways to engage fans and continue to build its audience for the WWE Network.
In other news…
• Alberto Del Rio is playing a role in the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.
“We’re trying to help people affected by the situation, starting with paying for hotel rooms for families who lost their houses or are currently unable to live in their houses,” said Del Rio, who is now known as Alberto El Patron, and is working on the charity efforts with his fiancée, Paige. “We want to help families get back on their feet, and we just had a charity event in San Antonio with the Salvation Army to bring food to families and their pets in the areas affected by the hurricane.”
In addition to helping raise his three children, Patron runs his restaurant, La Cantinita, in San Antonio, but has put his entire focus on giving back to the community.
“We just want to give back to these people,” said Patron. “We are blessed and lucky to not be affected by the hurricane. If we ever faced something like that, I would love to have people saying, ‘Here I am to help you.’ I know a lot of people aren’t as lucky as we were with the hurricane, so why not help? Good things happen to good people.”
Patron may no longer have a visible presence on Global Force Wrestling, but he is set to debut with David Marquez’s Championship Wrestling from Hollywood on Sept. 10.
“It’s going to be a fantastic partnership,” said Patron. “California has always been nice to me. I remember winning many championships in California, and it is one of my favorite places to work in the world.”
The show is particularly important for Marquez’s promotion, as this is the first card to air nationally on 110 of The CW stations for Championship Wrestling from Hollywood.
“I just came back from a four-day tour of Austria, and I had a lot of fun,” said Patron. “Now I’m really excited, and even anxious, to show the Cali fans all that Alberto can do.”
A question that continues to be asked of Patron is if he will ever return to Global Force Wrestling, and if he holds any ill will toward Jeff Jarrett or Anthem for stripping him of the company’s title.
“I’ve been in touch with Global Force Wrestling, and we’re working to bring back Alberto El Patron to the company,” said Patron. “We’re working to find something that will please the fans. At the end of the day, I work for the fans; they are the ones I work to please. I am going to put all my heart, all my passion into making this work. I am completely focused on where I want to take the company in November, and I promise to make the company great again, and Alberto is going to be on top again.”
• California-based indie Pro Wrestling Guerrilla–better known as PWG–held its crown jewel tournament this past weekend in “The Battle of Los Angeles”, which saw Ricochet overcome a 24-man field, including a triple threat main event against Keith Lee and Jeff Cobb, to earn his spot as one of the top indie wrestlers in the world.
The win helps cement Ricochet, who also won BOLA in 2014, as arguably the top independent talent in North America.
The BOLA finals end in an elimination-style triple threat match, which becomes a one-on-one affair after the first pinfall or submission, and featured consecutive finishes that were sudden.
The first pinfall came after Lee hit “Ground Zero”, which is a fireman’s carry jackhammer, on Cobb at the 19-minute mark. Ricochet immediately springboarded into the ring, came at Lee with a crossbody that was reversed into another Ground Zero, but Ricochet reversed the reversal into a roll-up for the win. The two pinfalls took place within 10 seconds of one another.
The match featured a number of vastly different styles, presences, and auras on display, with a big suplex guy in Jeff Cobb, a very strong high-flyer in Ricochet, and a super heavyweight in Keith Lee.
The finals on Sunday also marked the third match of the night for Ricochet, Cobb, and Lee. All three had one match–the battle with Matt Riddle for Cobb, the victory over Donovan Dijak for Lee, and the Travis Banks match for Ricochet–that was particularly draining in a building that was close to 100 degrees.
With his victory, Ricochet has, once again, put the wrestling world on notice.
• Although wrestling’s hottest feud between factions is currently taking place in New Japan Pro Wrestling between Bullet Club and Los Ingobernables, the two most compelling singles feuds in wrestling are John Cena/Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar/Braun Strowman.
For the second straight week, Cena verbally abused Reigns on Raw. At this point, in order to save face, WWE will have to position Reigns as a physical threat to Cena once they finally lock up. Reigns going entirely silent could also be a positive for his character during the build to No Mercy.
As for Lesnar and Strowman, who wrestle for the Universal championship at No Mercy, the unsung hero in the feud is the Big Show. There have been three weeks in particular, all during Raw main events, where Show allowed Strowman to shine and look like an unstoppable beast. Monday’s steel cage match was one of those aforementioned showings, and tossing Show through the cage was an incredibly strong way to build to the Lesnar match without even needing an appearance from Lesnar.
• SantinoMarella wrestled his farewell match 10 days ago at his Battle Arts Academy in Mississauga, Ontario in a handicap tag team match, teaming with Chavo Guerrero against RJ City, Stone Rockwell, and Scott D’Amore.
“I never had the opportunity to say, ‘This is it,’” said Marella, who has undergone three neck surgeries. “When I injured my neck [with WWE] in Toronto, I addressed the crowd and said, ‘This might be it,’ and I didn’t like that. My only other regrets were that I never had the chance to be introduced from my home, Mississauga, and I wanted the chance to wrestle as myself.”
Marella is 43-year old Anthony Carelli, who wrestles a very different style than the comedic Marella, and he was able to successfully erase all his regrets in one evening.
“I loved being Santino, but my preferred wrestling style would have been very different from Santino,” he noted. “I was also introduced from Mississauga, which meant a lot to me as a very proud and patriotic Canadian. I was never able to embrace that on television. I loved paying homage to my Italian roots and I became a dual-citizen with Italy, but that’s only half of who I am.
“I just wanted one match, and Chavo was the perfect partner. Some people think I hurt my neck in the match, but I did not. The match did remind me why I’m retired, and was a reminder that this is not something I should be doing on an ongoing basis.”
The finish came after a Guerrero frog splash on City, followed by the Marella-inspired Cobra from Carelli.
“Chavo handed me the mic after the match, and the crowd was chanting, ‘You still got it!’ and ‘Please come back!’” said Marella. “But that match made me realize I don’t have it and I can’t come back, but I thanked people for wishing I could.”
Marella is a former WWE United States champion, WWE tag team champion, and two-time Intercontinental champ. Yet he will forever lament that he was one second away from becoming a Grand Slam champion when he wrestled Daniel Bryan for the WWE title at the end of the 2011 Elimination Chamber for WWE’s world heavyweight championship.
“I was recently looking at that match on Youtube, and I forgot how crazy the crowd was,” said Marella. “I had Daniel Bryan less than a half-second away from defeat, and that would have been the world title for my ‘Grand Slam’. The building was shaking, and that will forever be one for the history books for me.”
Marella did note his farewell from the ring did not mean he was walking away entirely from professional wrestling.
“I am definitely not done with the wrestling business,” said Marella. “I’m a coach and I enjoy being a coach, and I’m producing some top athletes. Will I ever be an on-screen talent again? We’ll see, but stay tuned. The adventure will continue.”
• The “From The Top Rope” podcast has only aired for 16 episodes, but Robbie Fox’s creation has quickly established itself as a landing spot for some of the top names in wrestling.
“The show isn’t about breaking news or being an insider,” explained Fox. “I do have connections to the business where I’ll get information before the masses, and I’ll share it as long as it’s not a catastrophic spoiler, but I’m not here to spoil wrestling for anyone. The podcast is really positive because [co-host] Jared Carrabis and I enjoy wrestling.”
In addition to building friendships, Fox is also proud to have designed gear worn at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania, which is a massive event in the Tokyo Dome that occurs every January 4 entitled Wrestle Kingdom.
“I designed gear that Rappongi Vice wore at Wrestle Kingdom 10 as well as the Young Bucks at this past year’s Wrestle Kingdom 11,” said Fox. “But WrestleMania remains my white whale.”
Fox, who works for Barstool boss Dave “El Pres” Portnoy, was asked whom Portnoy most closely resembles in WWE.
“I hate to say, because it’s the most obvious answer, but it’s very clearly Vince McMahon,” said Fox. “Pres is the one running the ship, he’s the one driving everything, and he’s also an on-screen character for us. And, like McMahon, he’s really god-damn evil.”
• Two of the most important matches on a wrestling pay per view are the opener, which sets the tone for the entire evening, and the main event. The Young Bucks are the only tag team in wrestling able to open or close a pay per view. Moving forward, the Bucks’ Matt and Nick Jackson will have that opportunity with Ring of Honor.
The Bucks will be defending their Ring of Honor tag team titles, as well as their ROH Six Man Tag titles with Adam “Hangman” Page, at the upcoming Death Before Dishonor pay per view on September 22. Although Cody Rhodes vs. Minoru Suzuki is certain to close out the show, ROH would be wise to showcase the Bucks in both the opening and closing roles for a major show.
The Bucks spent their weekend with “Elite” partner Kenny Omega, wrestling at PWG in a six-man tag in Reseda, California this past Saturday against Rey Fenix, Penta El 0M, and Flamita. The finish saw Omega pin Flamita after a One-Winged Angel.
The Bucks will be featured on SI.com this Friday, and will discuss Tetsuya Naito’s recent insults hurled at the Bucks’ Bullet Club, whether Hulk Hogan would be welcomed into Bullet Club, and their true feelings toward The Revival’s Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson.
• MLW’s One-Shot, which takes place in Orlando on Oct. 5 and will be available on a delayed online stream, will feature a main event of Ricochet vs. Shane “Swerve” Strickland, and an undercard of MVP vs. Sami Callihan as well as UFC talent Tom Lawlor against Jeff Cobb.
“This is a huge opportunity for me,” said Cobb. “The people involved with the event, like Court Bauer and MSL, and so many people at MLW were employed by WWE. For them to want me to come in and wrestle, it’s an honor. Add that to the fact that I get to wrestle Tom Lawlor, who was awesome in UFC, and I cannot wait.”
Cobb, who was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, has a devastating side suplex finisher called the “Tour of the Islands”. Cobb kindly offered to give Lawlor an individual tour on October 5 at One-Shot.
“I don’t know if Tom has ever been to Hawaii, but the people to whom I’ve given the tour are no longer too fond of Hawaii,” said a laughing Cobb. “Tom is a talented individual and I know he’s going to bring it. I am really looking forward to seeing what we can do together.”
• Head writer Chris “DJ” DeJoseph touched on the behind-the-scenes nuances of tonight’s new episode of Lucha Underground.
DeJoseph was first asked about his writing style from last week’s episode, which included a match between 4-foot-5 masked luchador Mascarita Sagrada and non-mini Son of Madness.
“Mascarita is one of the most talented performers on our roster,” said DeJoseph of the 52-year-old masked mini. “The things he can do are amazing. When you put Mascarita in a match, you know it’s going to be amazing and you know the fans are going to have fun. Anyone on our entire roster would love to work with him. He’s like a little Superman in white when he puts on his gear.”
Seven episodes remain in season three of Lucha Underground, and a feud that continues to intensify is between Marty the Moth and Fenix. The two are building to a mascara contra cabellera–which, to the English-speaking audience, is a hair vs. mask match–on the season finale.
“This is a story that we knew we wanted to explore before we even started season three,” said DeJoseph. “Marty’s character has grown and become bigger and better. He is a true heel in Lucha Underground, and there is a part of our audience who really wants to see Marty get beat up. Fenix is a pure babyface, and he has pure intentions, so those two are perfect for each other.”
DeJoseph also added that there will be some new developments this week concerning Lucha’s upcoming 100th episode, which airs next week.
“We’ll have Matanza vs. Rey Mysterio, as well as another match that will be announced,” said DeJoseph. “There will also be some new developments for Ultima Lucha, including Johnny Mundo-Prince Puma, and a super fun match between Cortez Castro and Joey Ryan in a “5-0 Street Fight”, which is a police-themed match.”
Another unique aspect of Lucha Underground is authority figure Dario Cueto. Unlike Raw GM Kurt Angle and SmackDown Live GM Daniel Bryan, Cueto feeds off violence.
“Dario is a complex character with so much at stake in his life,” said DeJoseph. “He is a very interesting character who is always planning his next move, and I think he’s more complex than most authority figures. I wouldn’t brand Dario as a ‘heel authority figure’ because he shattered that stereotype. There are a lot of people who love Dario Cueto, and he doesn’t always have bad intentions in mind. He is fueled by his love for violence and fighting.”
• Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard returns this Friday with a brand new podcast on the “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
“We’re going to go more granular with Randy Savage,” said Thompson. “We’ll be touching on behind-the-scenes stories with Randy, traveling with Randy, working promotions with Randy, and booking Randy. We’ll be looking at Randy the man.”
Prichard missed some key moments in Savage’s career, but he started his career in the World Wrestling Federation right after Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat stole the show at WrestleMania III.
“Bruce was first there for Randy’s march out of the Intercontinental title picture into his transition to world champion,” said Prichard. “We’ll have lots of info on that, and we’ll cover all of the big moments, pay per views, and angles of Savage’s WWF run.
“We’ll also spend a lot of time on the ambassador that Randy was to the company, even during the ‘New Generation’ when they were pushing these new stars. He was out of the limelight and behind the announcer’s table, and we’ll also cover his exit in more detail.”
“Bruce took a little bit of water damage at his house, but he and his wife are doing fine,” said Thompson. “His wife has a passion for animals and spends a lot of time at an animal rescue, and that shelter took quite a bit of damage. Bruce has really doubled down on his focus there, and he does have friends and family in Houston who lost everything, so he’s trying to be a real life superhero and help as much as he can. If you haven’t already, we encourage everyone to make a donation at LoveforHouston.com.”
• Remember Sept. 5, 2017 as the first noticeable crack in WWE’s brand split.
Corey Graves appeared on SmackDown Live last night, and he is replacing JBL for color commentary as well as keeping his weekly spot on Raw. This is by no means a knock on the talented Graves, but in order to continue to make the brand split successful, the two brands need to be separate and as different as possible.
Why not take a chance on someone new in that spot? WWE took a chance on Daniel Bryan in his commentary during the Cruiserweight Classic, and his voice perfectly fit the style and story of the tourney. What if we saw Bryan, at least temporarily, in this role? Or found someone entirely new to give SmackDown Live its own voice? Had he still been with the company, Austin Aries would have fit perfectly.
• Stat of the week: At 447 days, The Miz has passed Tito Santana (444) on the list of combined days as Intercontinental champion to claim the spot as fourth all-time. Next up to pass is The Honky Tonk Man at 454 days, but Miz has a ways to go in order to catch Don Muraco (541 days) and Pedro Morales (619 days).
The Intercontinental championship has struggled to stay relevant over the past decade, but keeping the title attached to The Miz until WrestleMania 34 would add tremendous interest to the man who finally dethrones him.
• Al Snow’s weekly advice column, Inside Al's Head, touched on JBL’s exit from the WWE.
“When JBL and I first came in to WWE in 1995, we rode together with Dutch Mantel, Glen [Kane] Jacobs, and Barry Horowitz,” said Snow. “We’d ride together, room together in a hotel room to save money, and we had a great time. We developed a great sense of camaraderie.”
Snow, who is busy with his Collar x Elbow clothing line and two brand new projects that he will soon be announcing, explained that JBL no longer sees familiar faces in the locker room. At the age of 50, JBL has outlasted his peers and outgrown a lot of the talent currently populating the roster.
“In wrestling, just like all of sports, the locker room is a very big part of the experience,” said Snow. “The locker room has a shared passion and shared drive. In wrestling, there is a very dichotomous relationship because every single guy in the locker room is your competitor.
“Wrestling is ultra, ultra-competitive, and quite honestly, dog-eat-dog. There is someone in that locker room that wants your 30 seconds of TV time, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it. Yet, at the same time, these same people are even closer to you than your own family because you spend more time with them than your own family. You travel with them, you share hotel rooms together, you eat with them, you perform with them, and a bond is created.”
With JBL, Snow noted, the locker room has certainly changed over the last 20 years.
“A lot of JBL’s contemporaries are no longer there,” said Snow. “I’m sure JBL has comradery with the guys, but not the same way he did with the group he came in with. The old guard in the locker room has changed, and JBL’s locker room no longer exists.
“Let’s face it, he’s been a major success in wrestling. He lives in Bermuda, and WWE flies in from Bermuda to TV, which tells you how highly Vince McMahon thinks of him, but that grind is starting to wear on him.”
Snow connected with Jerry “The King” Lawler over the past weekend, who filled in on Raw last week for Booker T. Lawler’s appearance marked his 997th time on Raw, and he admitted to Snow that he is unsure if he could ever again handle the rigorous demands of weekly travel.
“Jerry Lawler probably has a very similar mindset to JBL,” said Snow. “You can’t do what Lawler and JBL have done and not have a passion and love for your work, but Lawler has publicly said he’s not sure he could handle the travel every week. He has a condo in Florida, and he’s now finally able to enjoy it. For JBL, that freedom is the appeal for him, too. He’s accomplished everything there is to accomplish, there are no more mountains for him to climb, and it’s time for him to move in another direction.”
Tweet of the Week
WWE issued a cease and desist on the Young Bucks from using the iconic “Suck It!” phrase, and it appears the Bucks have two words they’d like to share in response…