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
Cody Rhodes returns to Northeast Wrestling this Friday, but he is not coming alone. In addition to the Ring of Honor world title, the “American Nightmare” will bring his Northeast Wrestling championship to NEW’s Holiday Havoc in Waterbury, Connecticut.
“I am very proud of what I gave NEW and I am very grateful for what NEW has given me,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes’ tenure in NEW has enough highlights to produce a greatest hits compilation. Despite the doubt that surrounded his departure from WWE, Rhodes entered the indies, with NEW leading the way, and delivered memorable encounters with Rey Mysterio, Adam Cole, Jack Swagger, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and two matches–including an unforgettable cage match–with Kurt Angle.
“When I first made my ‘list’, I made the list with NEW in mind,” said Rhodes. “I knew NEW could grant me some of the matches I was asking for, because they have this sustained brand.”
The intersection between Rhodes and NEW dates back to Rhodes’ father, Dusty Rhodes, and NEW promoter Mike Lombardi, who was once the agent for both the elder Rhodes and Jerry Lawler.
“One of the most important things in the world to me is loyalty,” said Rhodes. “Mike Lombardi supported my family during some genuine hard times, so when NEW needs me, I’m there in a heartbeat.”
The Holiday Havoc show also features Corey Graves, an appearance from Christian, as well as match including Jack Swagger and The Kingdom.
Due to his Ring of Honor contract, Rhodes announced that this Friday will be his last match with NEW, which naturally led to speculation that he will lose his championship in a three-way match to either Travis “Flip” Gordon or Brad Hollister. Rhodes was quick to articulate that he has no plans to drop the title, or follow the tradition of losing on his way out of a promotion.
“I’m not in the habit of doing the traditional,” said Rhodes. “I don’t have an exemption from Ring of Honor, but I think there is definitely a future–and a near-future–where I can be back at NEW. That is still being discussed. But I’m in opposition of the habit, so there will definitely be something unexpected in our match.”
Rhodes also touched on the current climate in America today, which is dealing with political unrest and an uncanny amount of racial tension.
“It bothers me, but even surprises me when racism pops up,” said Rhodes. “I had a fan tweet to tell me he’d been a fan for a long time, but he had the Confederate flag as his profile picture. I said, ‘Hey man, you’ve got to get rid of that,’ and he did, but what surprised me about that interaction was the amount of apologists who defended what the Confederate flag actually stood for. That always surprises me–that there are still apologists, essentially, for racism.
“We don’t need to be educating people on the Confederate flag, it just needs to be gone. In Germany, there are not swastikas on every corner. That part of their past is history and they’ve progressed. I’m always shocked when I see apologists for racism, which has no place. We’re all in this together. Why would we ever divide?”
Rhodes also firmly grabbed hold of people’s attention regarding the “All In” independent show he is planning with the Young Bucks when he announced on Busted Open Radio that his dream opponent in a 10,000-seat arena is Daniel Bryan.
“I’m the son of the ‘American Dream’,” said Rhodes. “Of course I’m a dreamer. My dad had no fear. As a promoter and businessman, he had no fear. I’m 32 and entering the prime of my career, so why would I be afraid? I’ve found these friends and businessmen in the Bucks, and I believe the business cannot continue to go on the path it’s going. It has to continue to change, and there have to be people who are going to change it. I really can’t claim to be any of that until we fill this joint up, but I am not afraid of what we are about to do.”
Rhodes was also asked to touch on the Bullet Club’s “Invasion” of Raw from this past September, which left several high-ranking WWE officials displeased.
“It made a bigger impact than we imagined it was going to have,” admitted Rhodes. “I actually got in the car with my wife, Marty, and Hangman [Page] right after, and I said, ‘Just so you know, this is going to change a bunch of stuff.’ Marty was like, ‘No, I don’t think anything will come of it,’ but then the amount of stuff that came out of it, which is public with a cease and desist, and there were a lot of entertained fans and pro-WWE fans who were disappointed.
“People should watch it, because it’s done in the context of ‘Being The Elite’, which was almost a parody of what was done very well by Degeneration X in 1998. I definitely don’t have any regrets. It’s unfortunate if it upset some people, which it did, but I don’t have any regrets. We had a permit to film, so this wasn’t as guerrilla style as people think it was. It was about ‘Being The Elite’ more than it was about being against WWE. No regrets.”
Rhodes has a loaded itinerary on his schedule, with an ROH title defense against Dalton Castle at the New York City Final Battle show on December 15, as well as the chance to dance with New Japan star Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in January. Yet his priority remains this Friday’s NEW show.
“I am the main event, and the main event is not allowed to say ‘This is a house show’ or ‘This isn’t televised,’” said Rhodes. “The responsibility of the main event is to give the fans the best thing they’ve seen all night, and literally send the crowd back to their car wanting more wrestling. So the most important main event is the one first one this Friday.”
This is the 100th column of the Week in Wrestling.
The heartbeat of wrestling is storytelling, and a big component, perhaps even the bloodline, of the business are rumors. I have always been a firm believer that the “official” story is only a rough draft of the truth, and that has served as the foundation for this column. For the past 100 weeks, it has been my privilege to address those rumors and dig deeper into the first draft of the truth.
The weekly column is far from a one-man show. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Gray approached me in 2015 with the idea of presenting a weekly column in addition to our feature stories. Andy wanted more than just WWE coverage; he wanted to cover all of wrestling. The concept immediately resonated with me. I’d pitched a weekly wrestling column while I was writing for the Boston Herald, which was rejected, I was told, because not enough people would read it. I genuinely believed a weekly column from a mainstream outlet would provide a unique outlet for wrestling-addicted readers. Personally, I wanted to read more about the Young Bucks, learn more about the dynamic between Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay, hear more from “Broken” Matt Hardy, and receive the occasional updates from legends like Bruno Sammartino and Harley Race. This column has provided the opportunity to do that, and I am grateful for those who read every week.
People continually ask me why wrestling, so suddenly, is covered in the mainstream more than ever. The truth is that wrestling fans have always existed, but we are finally receiving more opportunities to fill our insatiable need for wrestling news, reports, and features.
The Week in Wrestling is a weekly battle to provide you, the reader, with the best content possible. I appreciate all of the calls, emails, and tweets with feedback every week. There is nothing more intimate than the relationship between reader and writer, and please know that is an integral part of writing that I do not take lightly.
I hope you enjoy reading. We’re onto 200.
In other news…
The wrestling world is abuzz with the potential re-emergence of “Broken” Matt Hardy in a WWE ring.
Sports Illustrated has learned that WWE is creating its own new character for Hardy, who will not be labeled as “Broken” but will be very similar.
There were legal matters between Hardy and Anthem Sports and Entertainment over the ownership of the “Broken” intellectual property, but Anthem’s Ed Nordholm recently retweeted an upcoming Hardy signing before the Hardys’ November 18 appearance at the Wizard World Comic Con in Austin, Texas.
There have been no new negotiations between Hardy and Nordholm, nor has there been any discussion of revenue sharing over profits made off merchandise. SI.com reached out to Anthem for further clarity, and Nordholm replied with this statement:
“We have seen the character development and will be interested to see where they take the concept. Our new talent agreements all incorporate language that allow talent to continue to use their IMPACT persona after they leave the company. We are working with our legal team to amend our existing agreements to extend this to all of our current and former talent.”
A return to the “Broken” role would infuse new life into Hardy’s character, and give WWE an effervescent personality it has never before quite experienced. There remain those who doubt Hardy’s ability to succeed as a star on his own, yet he proved with far fewer resources in Impact that he could be the face of a major company.
The question for Hardy in WWE is whether Vince McMahon will invest the time necessary for the character to succeed. Hardy will need time to explain his subtleties and nuances, which are part of the brilliance of the character. On a three-hour Raw, there is no reason that Hardy cannot receive the time needed to make the character a success.
• There is still a possibility that a second season of The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness returns to its home on the WWE Network.
“In terms of where we could have time to film it and fit it in, that was the big difficulty,” said Edge, whose drama series, Vikings, premieres its fifth season tonight on the History channel. “The show was a lot of work, but we had a great time with it.
“We wrote it, produced it, directed it, and were really hands-on. There were 14-hour days and it was pretty intensive from a time perspective. There are still talks, and they want to do it.”
The biggest complication for the show remains finding the time to film.
“If I can somehow cram it in, we’ll make it happen,” said Edge. “We have a hiatus on Vikings over the summer, so maybe I could squeeze it in there, but I want to spend time with my family, too. It’s a matter of trying to juggle all these things, but the top priority is being dad and partner, and then comes acting and any other commitments, all the while doing the podcast, too. It’s a matter of wearing a lot of hats, but I just don’t know if my head is big enough for all of them.”
• Only months after staring death in the eye, Ric Flair made his return to the WWE locker room two weeks ago on SmackDown and also appeared this past weekend at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex for the NWA-inspired Starrcade house show.
“I love being around the guys,” said Flair. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen everyone.”
His health continues to remain a concern, but Flair shared that he is slowly regaining his strength.
“I’m doing a little better every day,” said Flair. “People’s support means the world to me. Since I’ve been able to communicate again, I can’t thank people enough for their support. I’ve been overwhelmed by it. And the respect from my peers, even the guys 30 years younger than me, showed me so much respect and it meant the world to me. I’m a lucky guy in a lucky place in life.”
Flair was scheduled to appear for a meet-and-greet at Northeast Wrestling’s Holiday Havoc this Friday in Waterbury, Connecticut, but the promotion announced on Monday that, due to a vendor issue, Flair will no longer be appearing. Northeast Wrestling is working with Flair to schedule a new appearance in early 2018. Cody Rhodes headlines the Northeast Wrestling card this Friday, and the names Rhodes and Flair remain synonymous. Flair feuded with Cody’s father, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, for nearly 20 years, and Flair is a proud supporter of Cody.
“Cody is honest, sincere, and I can’t say enough good things about Cody Rhodes as a person and performer,” said Flair. “I think it was a huge loss for the WWE for him to go away for a while, but if it worked out good for him, then I’m happy for him.”
Flair sees very little similarities between Cody Rhodes, who calls himself “The American Nightmare”, and his father Dusty.
“There is only one ‘American Dream’,” said Flair. “They don’t even match up in terms of physical appearance. Cody is built like a model, as handsome as a model, and as gifted an athlete as you’re going to see in the business. But his dad was a different kind of cat.
“That’s not a slap at Cody, but a compliment to his dad. His dad was one of a kind. Not only a great talent, not only charismatic, but also extremely smart. He put together a lot of the big shows–The Great American Bash, Starrcade, War Games, and so much more for the business.”
Flair was also in the news this past month for his 30-for-30 documentary on ESPN. The “Nature Boy” is no longer surprised at his ability to generate headlines, even 36 years after his first NWA world title victory.
“ESPN wanted me to be honest, and I gave them the best I could,” said Flair. “I didn’t pull any punches. There are always going to be things that are upsetting, but I thought they were very fair to me. The reactions I’ve got from people have been really good, including from professional athletes and pro coaches, and that’s always real nice to hear.”
• The Undertaker ignited all sorts of speculation at the Survivor Series by watching the show on a backstage monitor with Jerry Lawler and Kane. Lawler noted on his Dinner With The King podcast, “Just looking at him the other night, I think there’s some more matches left in The Undertaker.”
Although this decision would leave Brock Lesnar without an opponent, the most compelling match for ‘Taker at WrestleMania 34 is a rematch with Roman Reigns.
• Kurt Angle revealed during a Facebook question and answer session that he tore a muscle in his leg two days before the Survivor Series, which is why his leg was so heavily taped at the show.
Angle was noticeably hampered by the injury during the match, but WWE’s decision to bolster ticket sales by including Angle, Triple H, and John Cena in the 5-on-5 Raw vs. SmackDown elimination match actually hurt the action. Angle and Triple H, in particular, can both look good with the right opponent in singles or even tag action, but being surrounded by the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, Bobby Roode, and Samoa Joe showed off their flaws more than accentuated their highlights.
• Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard returns this Friday at noon ET with a new podcast, and co-host Conrad Thompson is looking forward to taking a thorough look at the career of Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
“Jake Roberts is one of the most iconic figures in the history of professional wrestling, and he managed to become so without ever really carrying a belt,” said Thompson. “Jake had success in other promotions, and held the TV title in Georgia, but his most historic run was with WWF and there was nary a title run that whole run. We’ll take a deep dive and look at one of the most iconic characters who never needed to be champion but was still an icon.”
Prichard spent time with Roberts in Mid-South Wrestling, and there will also be pre-WWF stories shared and as much behind the scenes information as possible. There is even rumor and innuendo that Roberts’ popularity hurt him in the eyes of Hulk Hogan, who was atop the card and allegedly thought there was no room for Roberts next to him.
“We’ll dive into all that,” said Thompson. “We’ll examine his relationship with Hulk, and he made more money when he was on Hogan’s card, but Jake may have felt he was over enough to want that top spot.”
Roberts played his character extremely close to the vest, which allowed fans the opportunity to suspend their disbelief when watching him perform.
“Jake understood the magic of wrestling,” said Thompson. “I don’t think anyone made you believe more than Jake Roberts. He made you believe that he was the most devious of all, and he intimidated you with his words. When Jake turned it on, it was real.”
• Brendan Docherty’s Wrestling Arcade just launched its rebranded website, which offers the best wrestling GIFs on the internet.
Some of Docherty’s finest GIFs include an unforgettable scene from Brutus Beefcake’s Barbershop between the Rockers, Taz and Bam Bam Bigelow crashing through the ring, a Power and Glory suplex to Marty Jannetty, as well as more recent moments with a Sami Zayn/Shane McMahon interaction and Kenny Omega/Toru Yano GIFs.
“I’ve always wanted to contribute to the pro wrestling business,” said Docherty. “I’ve loved wrestling for most of my life, and the response has been amazing.”
The idea of Wrestling Arcade originated from a parody video that Docherty produced where he reimagined WWE 2K15 as a Super Nintendo game.
“I used old sprites from various 16-bit games, mostly WWF Super WrestleMania,” said Docherty. “I put the video on YouTube and people loved it. I use WWF Royal Rumble sprites from the Sega Genesis/Megadrive in the animations as it was my favorite game as a kid.”
Docherty explained that the GIFs are not too challenging for him to make, minus the time they take to produce.
“It takes me roughly six hours for four-to-five seconds of animation, although they’re taking me longer now as I try to include more movement and detail,” said Docherty. “I basically paint each frame in Adobe Photoshop then stitch them together using Premiere Pro.”
Wrestling Arcade continues to grow, and Docherty has even launched a new website offering design, video production and social content creation services.
“I’m looking to work with smaller promoters who need help with everything from posters to social media videos,” he said. “The Young Bucks and the ‘Being The Elite’ lads have helped me out massively, too. I really relate to their DIY ethic, so to contribute to such a great show is b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.”
• PCW Ultra is ready to write its own chapter in wrestling history this Friday in Wilmington, California.
The Refuse to Lose card features a return to the ring for Terry Funk, as well as matches including Penta El Zero, John Hennigan, Zack Sabre Jr., Ethan Page, and Brian Cage.
“We started in January of 2016 and we’ve run 11 shows,” said PCW Ultra owner Mike Scharnagl. “The birth was a fluke. I went to a wrestling show, and the promotion had great wrestling, but I was disappointed in the event itself. So I asked the person next to me what starting a wrestling promotion would cost, and I said, ‘OK, we’re going to start one tomorrow.’ And that’s how we were born.”
Scharnagl works for a company that sells car care chemicals as the lead of its online sales department, and he runs the finances of PCW Ultra. His partner, Joseph Cabibbo, is a disciple of Kevin Sullivan and wrestled as the Almighty Sheik, and has over 20 years of experience in wrestling.
“We have been very methodical in terms of vetting out who does what online, but our events normally end up online about a week later through our on-demand channel on our website.”
The company recently rebranded from Pacific Coast Wrestling to PCW Ultra, and Scharnagl confirmed that PCW Ultra will runs its first iPPV in 2018.
“We’re coming down to the nitty-gritty and deciding which company will handle that for us,” said Scharnagl. “People are going to see a great show. Joe is a hell of a booker, and his philosophy is to sprinkle in a little bit of everything. There is hardcore wrestling, Lucha libre, catch wrestling with Joe Graves, who is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion. We bring in the best of the best.”
Scharnagl has big eyes toward expansion for PCW Ultra.
“A big difference you’ll see between one of our events compared with other promotions is our crowd,” said Scharnagl. “They’re up and loud from the first bell to the last bell, and it’s very reminiscent of the old ECW crowd. We’re bringing in the best independent wrestlers in the world. When you watch the show, you can feel it.”
Tweet of the Week
David Starr opened up a discussion worth reading on social media, stemming from his belief that the independent wrestler working as Mathias Glass is profane and offensive.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.