SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Becky Lynch ready to become the new face of WWE
Becky Lynch made her first appearance Monday night on Raw as the undisputed champion of women’s wrestling.
In controversial fashion, Lynch pinned Ronda Rousey at Sunday’s WrestleMania to give the well-protected Rousey her first singles loss in WWE—and in the process became both the Raw and SmackDown women’s champion.
“It’s amazing to prove people right, it’s amazing to prove people wrong,” said Lynch. “I’ve got a lot of people to prove right, I’ve got a lot of people to prove wrong. I wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for the fans, if it weren’t for the people.”
For the past fifteen years, the 32-year-old Lynch has dedicated her life to the pursuit of a livelihood in pro wrestling. Despite some roadblocks along the way, Lynch is resolute in the belief that she was built for this business—unlike, say, Rousey.
“Only four months after having a part-time schedule, after making her debut at WrestleMania—having been on the cover of everything, just handed everything, she was crying in her kitchen about how she couldn’t make her husband breakfast,” said Lynch. “She couldn’t hack our schedule. Yet we do this every single night, 52 weeks a year, yet she couldn’t handle it for four months.”
Lynch has undergone an incredible transformation after appearing on the preshow at WrestleMania 34, evolving into “The Man” and the hottest act in the business.
“I approach this as a political campaign,” explained Lynch. “Any time I’ve the opportunity to get my voice out there, get myself heard and my message across, I use it. I want to make sure I do the people proud.”
In a move reminiscent of pairing a red-hot “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in a program with Dude Love following Austin’s coronation at WrestleMania 14, Lynch was placed in a new feud this week with an unproven Lacey Evans.
The big question for Lynch following her “WrestleMANia” moment is what comes next. With uncommon prowess and flair, Lynch has been a sight to behold over the past year. Armed with imperial dreams and past conquests, she is now hungry to headline WrestleMania for a second consecutive year. Starting with the Evans feud, there is a long way to go in order to reach that pinnacle.
“This is when the hard work starts,” said Lynch. “I’ve got two championships to make.”
Viceland to Debut “Dark Side of the Ring” docu-series
“Dark Side of the Ring” premieres Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET on Viceland, providing an alternative look at some of pro wrestling’s most controversial moments.
The series was created by producer Evan Husney and directed by Jason Eisener, and the pair put significant care into making sure their subjects were covered in a fair and honest manner.
“This project was a complete labor of love for the both of us,” said Husney. “We had never seen the prestige documentary treatment in wrestling, and we grew up learning about all these crazy stories that are unique and singular to the world of wrestling. We wanted those stories to reach a broader audience.”
The six-episode pro wrestling documentary series covers six different topics, beginning with “The Match Made in Heaven” and its behind-the-scenes look at the relationship between the “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Future episodes explore a myriad of topics, including the “Montreal Screwjob,” the murder of Bruiser Brody, a look at the tragedy suffered by the Von Erich family, the mysterious death of emerging star Gino Hernandez, and a reexamination of the career of the Fabulous Moolah. (The Bruiser Brody episode is currently available in full on YouTube.)
“Wrestling is the only sport where its performers live in two worlds,” said Husney. “They have to live their gimmick in and out of the ring. And when you take stories of a true crime nature, as our show explores, and you put that element, that’s what makes such a compelling story. It can be really hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake.”
The series also shines a lot on some of wrestling’s forgotten heroes.
“There was no slant or angle or spin on these stories, we just wanted to hear people tell their stories,” said Eisener. “We spent a lot of time researching WCCW where Gino, the Von Erichs, and Brody all wrestled, and that was such a more lawless time in pro wrestling. These men were incredible artists, and we have a lot of respect for their art form.”
The main theme of the show is examining the blurred lines of reality and fiction in pro wrestling.
“People don’t realize there is so much humanity behind these stories,” said Husney. “We wanted to tell what inspired and drove these people, and we really wanted to take this crazy, singular world and show all the complexities and humanity behind it. These stories are unlike any other arena.”
New Champions Crowned in New Japan and Ring of Honor
The New Japan Pro Wrestling/Ring of Honor show this past Saturday at Madison Square Garden crowned two new world champions.
Ten months after dropping the title to Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada regained the IWGP heavyweight title. Following the win over “Switchblade” Jay White, the 31-year-old Okada—who now enters his fifth reign with the top title in Japan—spoke to the press about his triumph.
“Jay White was a great champion and he is still young,” said Okada through a translator. “This defeat only makes Jay greater. I believe I’m going to wrestle against Jay White so many times in the future. He is a great opponent—thank you so much, Jay.”
Okada’s victory was slightly overshadowed by the transcendent work of Kota Ibushi, who defeated Tetsuya Naito earlier in the card for his first run with the IWGP Intercontinental title.
Matt Taven also finally got his first taste of the ROH world title in a ladder match victory over Jay Lethal and “The Villain” Marty Scurll.
Taven is likely to continue working with both Lethal and Scurll, who he took delight in criticizing following the match.
“Marty barely made the height requirement to climb that ladder,” said Taven. “Marty didn’t deserve to be in this match in the first place. All these little dorks that want to jump on the Villain Enterprises bandwagon because Marty joined the Bullet Club because he didn’t have the b---- to stand out on his own, that’s their fault. They are brainwashed, they are delusional. They are what I call Melvins.
“Marty never deserved a shot at this title in the first place, and he never deserves to hold this title in the future—because I have no plans of letting this out of my grips.”
Lars Sullivan spoils Hardys tag team title win
The Hardys won their first-ever SmackDown tag team titles on Tuesday night, defeating The Usos in an extremely entertaining match. With the win, Matt and Jeff Hardy have now won tag team gold together in WWE on nine separate occasions.
The Usos just re-signed with WWE, and they have quietly established themselves as one of the best tag teams in the world over the past six years. They also finally had their WrestleMania moment, successfully defending the tag titles in a four-way match against Aleister Black and Ricochet, The Bar, and Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev.
The Usos and Hardys will combine for an entertaining series of rematches, and it will be worth watching to see if WWE would ever consider placing a tag team in the main event of a pay per view.
Following the match, the Hardys’ moment was spoiled. Lars Sullivan came to the ring and manhandled both of the Hardys. Granted, the Hardys were spent after an exhausting match against Jimmy and Jey Uso, but couldn’t Sullivan—who WWE is building as a monster—have attacked almost anyone else on the roster?
Call me overprotective of the tag team division, but I disagree when a singles star dismantles a tag team, let alone the tag champs.
AAA coming to MSG
Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide held a press conference last Thursday in the Chase Lobby of Madison Square Garden, officially announcing that AAA will be performing this fall at MSG on Sunday, September 15.
Dorian Roldán, who is the Managing Director of Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide, touched on the importance of the September 15 show date.
“The timing of the event is very important for everyone of Mexican heritage,” said Roldán. “It is the eve of Mexican Independence Day and is also recognized in the U.S. as the unofficial kick-off of Hispanic Heritage promotions. We anticipate that all of New York’s diverse Hispanic community will join us at Madison Square Garden to enjoy this truly-Mexican spectacle in New York’s most iconic sports venue.”
A number of AAA stars were present for the announcement, including Pentagon Jr., Fenix, Blue Demon Jr., Drago, Tessa Blanchard, Taya Valkyrie, Aerostar, Puma King, and Konnan.
During the press conference, SI asked Pentagon if he was surprised by the overwhelming popularity of lucha libre outside of Mexico.
“Being here at the most famous arena, it’s fantastic,” said Pentagon through a translator. “But the real conquest would be for lucha libre luchadores to become the most popular lucha in the whole world and the United States.”
Sports Illustrated will continue to report more information on AAA’s “Invading NY” show as it becomes available in the ensuing months.
The Rock’s Rock
Dwayne Johnson wasn’t at this year’s WrestleMania, but those seeking some extra content from The Rock will not be disappointed today.
In a new video posted on Wednesday called “The Rock’s Rock,” Johnson details his relationship with his lifelong friend and hero, Milton McBride-Rosen.
Rosen has Down syndrome and is a Special Olympics athlete, and the piece explores Rosen’s triumphs in the Special Olympics and throughout his life. Rosen also played a role between the relationship of The Rock and his father, Rocky Johnson, and the elder Johnson plays an important part of the story.
If you enjoy content from The Rock, then you’re going to thoroughly enjoy this video.
Conrad Thompson on this week’s “Something to Wrestle”
Conrad Thompson returns this Friday to “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” to discuss Steve Austin’s WWE run in 1998 and ’99.
“We know the build and how the Austin era began at WrestleMania, but we’ll focus on his next opponent in Mick Foley,” said Thompson. “That’s the biggest takeaway—his work with Dude Love. Was that really the right character for Austin? Not Foley, but Dude Love. But Foley hit a home run as Dude Love in those matches, which were extremely underrated, and that series came out of nowhere. No one would have thought Dude Love was the right character to put against Austin.”
Austin’s run atop the company was not as long as Hulk Hogan, but there are few other eras as explosive as the time when “Stone Cold” was atop the business.
“We’re going to hear an inside perspective from someone who was there when the rocket was strapped to Austin and the WWF was at their all-time most profitable moment,” said Thompson. “We’ll go through each pay per view and all the major moments.”
Thompson’s next “83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff” will take an in-depth look at the April 10, 2000 episode of Nitro where Bischoff and Vince Russo reset World Championship Wrestling.
“We’ll break down every part of it,” said Thompson. “This is the first time Russo and Bischoff ever worked together, and it will be interesting to see, going into the relationship, what Bischoff’s hopes and expectations were. We’ll also cover the business side, and how they decided what this reset button would look like. Who else was involved? What were the longterm goals?
“We know this blew up by July, and this April, so you’re not talking about very much, but it was a big night – and the night Mike Awesome, the world champion from ECW, made his debut. Paul Heyman was apparently sending faxes all day to WCW, and we’ll cover all the behind-the-scenes parts of this scenario.”
Tweet of the Week
The amount of time and consideration Zack Ryder puts into his work makes his wins that much more meaningful.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.