SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Kurt Angle Puts Drew McIntyre Over Again
Kurt Angle and Drew McIntyre delivered a powerful story in this week’s Raw main event.
The story, which Sports Illustrated learned was drawn up by Angle and Vince McMahon, was for McIntyre to brutalize Angle and destroy any hopes he has of captaining the Raw Team for the Survivor Series.
After meeting with McMahon, Angle presented the creative to McIntyre, who delivered in full force on live television.
Angle and McIntyre have history from their time together at TNA, wrestling twice in 2016. They were only scheduled to have one match, but Angle specifically requested a rematch before he exited the company, stressing that he wanted to do the honors for McIntyre. Their final TNA encounter took place in Manchester, England, which was the same city that hosted the match this past Monday on Raw.
Monday’s match struck a cord on a variety of levels, especially considering that Angle helped re-establish McIntyre as a star in TNA. Even though he still desperately wants to compete and perform at an acute rate, it was apparent that Angle has aged, yet McIntyre made sure to protect him in a manner reminiscent of the way Angle once elevated him.
“Kurt is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time,” McIntyre told Sports Illustrated in 2016. “To have Kurt Angle say, ‘I never knew how good you actually were in the ring until we wrestled,’ that just blew my mind. Then we had our second match in the U.K., and Kurt wanted to put me over and pass the torch. That’s Kurt freakin’ Angle, so it was unreal.”
Two years ago, with a return to WWE still uncertain, Angle had more to prove while closing out his TNA run. On Raw, Angle made the focus all about McIntyre.
Monday’s match saw Angle be absolutely selfless and help tell the story that he wanted to compete but the big, young, ruthless kid was just too much to overcome. During the end sequence, the viewer could really feel the moment, especially when focusing on Angle’s expressions.
McIntyre has had a career full of ups and downs, but the 33-year-old is finally on the path to a WWE world title run.
‘El Toro Blanco’ Ready to Rush the United States
A highly anticipated wrestling debut is on the horizon.
Known in Mexico as “El Toro Blanco” (Spanish for “The White Bull”), Rush is a star in the historic CMLL promotion, and he travels to the United States to work this Thursday’s Major League Wrestling television taping at Cicero Stadium in suburban Chicago.
“You no longer have to wait for the arrival of ‘El Toro Blanco,’” Rush said through a translator. “Starting at MLW, I will accomplish all of my goals in America.”
Rush is the leader of Los Ingobernables, which, outside of Bullet Club, is one of the most well known factions in wrestling. He co-founded the group in 2014 with La Mascara and La Sombra, better known as Andrade “Cien” Almas in WWE. New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Tetsuya Naito also became a member in 2015 while wrestling for CMLL, then started the Los Ingobernables de Japon extension of the group in New Japan.
“Naito and Andrade, they are my blood, my brothers,” said Rush. “They are both superstars. Naito is a superstar in Japan, and Andrade is the next star in WWE. Both of them bring the blood of Los Ingobernables to what they do. Los Ingobernables is around the world. We are the present and the future of lucha libre.”
Although Rush is not yet the most prolific star from Los Ingobernables, that will quickly change as he brings his electric style of lucha libre to Major League Wrestling. His MLW debut is against Sammy Guevara, and Rush explained that the opportunity to show off his skills to wrestling fans in the United States is an opportunity he has been patiently awaiting.
“My goal is to conquer wherever I present myself,” said Rush. “I will not have mercy on my rivals, and I will reaffirm that the I am the one who is in charge.
“I see on social media how badly people are waiting for ‘The White Bull’ to come to Major League Wrestling,” said Rush. “That fills me with a lot of energy. I will give my maximum and show the MLW fans that I am different and that there is no one better in the United States. I’m simply going to do what I do in every battle, and that is show why I’m already number one in Mexico. People will see with their own eyes how we humiliate our opponents.”
In other news…
• Another show of note this weekend takes place on Friday as Kenny Omega comes to America to wrestle Rey Fenix at Northeast Wrestling’s “Redemption” show in Poughkeepsie, New York.
The show, available to watch live on Highspots Wrestling Network at 8 p.m. ET, embodies Omega’s belief that he can change the world of wrestling as IWGP champion.
Friday’s card also includes Jerry “The King” Lawler, Rob Van Dam, Pentagon, Jack Swagger, and an appearance from Mick Foley. But Omega is the headliner, showcasing New Japan Pro Wrestling’s premiere talent—and its prestigious IWGP heavyweight championship—in front of a rabid fan base in New York.
Not often does the wrestling world see the IWGP champ wrestle on an independent show against non-NJPW talent. Omega and longtime NJPW star Hiroshi Tanahashi are in the middle of a public dispute leading up to January’s Wrestle Kingdom show, as both men have differing ideologies on the role of the IWGP champion.
This match against Fenix for Northeast Wrestling highlights how Omega is willing to put in the work, and the travel, to showcase his title to a wider audience. Along with the Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes, Omega will also be part of the mega Big Event signing in New York on Saturday.
Fenix has starred for Lucha Underground and is also a key part of the rise of Major League Wrestling, where he is one half of the tag team champions with real-life brother Pentagon.
One of the most talented luchadores in the world, Fenix was also a part of the six-man tag main event at All In this past September. Beforehand, he watched as Omega defeated Pentagon in the show’s match of the night. This Friday’s “Redemption” card allows Fenix the chance to show he is the same caliber of star in singles competition as Pentagon.
• David LaGreca is the host of SiriusXM’s Busted Open, overseeing wrestling’s signature radio show.
Over the past nine years, the show has transformed from one that only aired three times a week to now appearing live every weekday from 9 a.m. to noon ET on “Fight Nation,” which is channel 93 on the XM dial.
Listen to Dave LaGreca and Bully Ray debate Braun Strowman’s potential:
“I’m a fan, and everything I talk about is from the fan’s perspective,” said LaGreca, who just returned from broadcasting live from the Chris Jericho Cruise. “That’s how the show started, taking calls from ‘The Nation’ with cohost Doug Mortman, but I always wanted to bring a new dynamic to the show. That started after a discussion with Bully Ray about the Wrestle Kingdom match between Kenny Omega and Okada.
“I thought it was one of the greatest matches of all-time and Bully disagreed, and we argued about it on social media, text messages, and then over the phone. That’s when I knew that was the dynamic I needed to bring to Busted Open.”
LaGreca’s vision has been a tremendous success, as Bully Ray, Tommy Dreamer, and Mark Henry have each added a unique touch and insider’s perspective to the show.
“Bully Ray, Tommy, and Mark Henry are completely different personalities,” said LaGreca. “Tommy is more of a fan. When he hosts with me, we wind up talking about Georgia Championship Wrestling from 1983 or World Class Championship Wrestling from 1984. Bully is more of the bottom line, business perspective, and Mark has a different point-of-view from both of them.”
The 47-year-old LaGreca worked for a decade as a producer for SiriusXM’s morning NFL show, and he has brought many of the most compelling characteristics of sports talk to the wrestling world.
“We’re live five days a week, atop of the news as it happens,” said LaGreca. “You can pick up the phone and give us your perspective, live on the air.”
• Nita Strauss is no stranger to wrestling fans, making an indelible mark upon the WWE universe when she played Shinsuke Nakamura to the ring at WrestleMania 34.
More recently, Strauss played for WWE at the all-women’s Evolution pay per view, showcasing a brand of electric guitar that few in the world can rock.
“I have been in a male-dominated world the majority of my career, so it was incredibly meaningful to play at Evolution,” said Strauss. “Getting to watch Evolution and be a small part of the historic event was an honor and privilege.”
Strauss could not resist the chance to shake Vince McMahon’s hand at Evolution.
“I made a point to go up and thank Vince personally,” said Strauss, who has been touring this year with rock legend Alice Cooper. “He’s so in the zone backstage, and he had his headset on and was so focused on the monitors, but I was able to thank him for the opportunity.”
Strauss’s “Mariana Trench” track was selected by Triple H as the theme song for NXT’s War Games later this month, which is a piece from her debut solo album “Controlled Chaos”. She starts her very first U.S. solo tour on November 19.
“It’s a proving ground for me,” said Strauss. “I’ve spent the past 16 years touring, but I’ve never seen my own name on a marquee. This will be the first time in my entire career I’m going out under my own. I’m not playing guitar for someone else’s band, this is me going out there. I get a thrill just thinking about it.
Strauss singled out “Our Most Desperate Hour” as the song wrestling fans will like most, as it is the best representation of her as a musician.
“That song covers all the bases,” said Strauss. “It’s aggressive, it’s dark, but it also has melody and a story to the song.”
Strauss extended her gratitude for the support of the wrestling community, which she noted has been an amazing source of inspiration.
“The wrestling world is very much like the rock world, and we love looking out for our own,” said Strauss. “I’m a wrestling fan, and it’s been so nice to be embraced by wrestling fans.”
• NWA executive Dave Lagana was present for the Ring of Honor shows this past weekend, which will naturally lead to speculation that ROH and the NWA could be teaming up in some capacity.
Lagana is the seminal content creator for the NWA. The Young Bucks’ “Being The Elite” show is the most popular wrestling series on the web, and the only other series with that type of buzz and following is the NWA’s “Ten Pounds of Gold” videos. Those videos, of course, are Lagana’s creation.
There is not a Dave Lagana-type creator at ROH. He is one of the best storytellers in wrestling, and an official partnership between ROH and the NWA would be mutually beneficial.
The groundwork has been laid for a partnership. ROH granted permission to Cody Rhodes, who was one of their contracted performers, to drop the NWA title to Nick Aldis on a competing pay per view at the NWA 70th Anniversary show.
ROH has to prepare for the potential departures of the Bucks, Rhodes, and Hangman Page, but introducing NWA champ Aldis into the ROH title picture adds a different element to their product. Also, Aldis could defend the NWA world title at Madison Square Garden—for the first time in decades—during WrestleMania weekend, which would be a moment of real significance on the show.
• Conrad Thompson returns for a new “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” this Friday at noon discussing the WWE run of William Regal.
“Regal came into the company with a great reputation as a television performer in WCW,” said Thompson. “We’ll also take a look at the demons he battled, and how he had to make some hard choices and how his relationship with WWE changed over the years.”
Regal’s style of wrestling was markedly different, utilizing ground work and more of a traditional wrestling base that told a story in the ring.
“With Regal, there was no Sting face paint, Ultimate Warrior tassels, or Hulk Hogan muscles,” said Thompson. “But he was still able to carve out a niche for himself. We’ll cover his introduction into WWE, and how in the hell they came up with the ‘Real Man’s Man’ gimmick.”
Thompson also wants to explore Regal’s run as on-screen commissioner in 2001.
“I’m looking forward to hearing what Bruce thought about the way Regal felt,” said Thompson. “A lot of wrestlers aren’t ready to be out of the ring, even when they have to. Even a guy like Corey Graves, who is great at commentary, must think, ‘I wish I was still in the ring.’ Regal could technically still work in the ring but was better suited for the commissioner role, and whether he enjoyed the role or if he was frustrated by it. In more recent years, he has become one of the more pivotal figures in finding talent for NXT. It will be fun to take a deep dive into all things William Regal, and no one has a story quite like his.”
Thompson just returned from weekend shows in Baltimore and Nashville with “83 Weeks” podcast partner Eric Bischoff, and he enjoyed comparing and contrasting the experience with his signature live shows with Prichard.
“I approach the shows very differently,” said Thompson. “Bruce and I can finish each other’s sentences, especially during the live shows. But this was entirely new territory for Eric and me.
“I’m very much a prepper, and I have two or three or four dozen pages of notes for our podcasts, but for the live show, I just need to position my partner in a position to tell good stories. Pulling all that out of Eric and seeing him make it his own during the live shows this past weekend was really fun. Eric is a performer, and he showed in Baltimore at Jimmy’s Famous Seafood that this is his element. I’d put that show up against any show I’ve done with Bruce.”
Thompson will continue to tour with both Prichard and Bischoff, and he is also holding his first live show with Tony Schiavone this Sunday at the Comedy Zone in Charlotte.
“You can also get a picture of yourself with Tony against the old-school TBS 6:05 wrestling backdrop,” said Thompson. “F-----g A, that is a cool photo-op.”
Tweet of the Week
Along with Vince McMahon, the one other individual over the past 30 years to constantly evolve and remain relevant in the business of professional wrestling—zigging, as he likes to say, when everyone else zags—is Paul Heyman.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.