SINCE BECOMING RING of Honor’s savior, AEW President Tony Khan has delivered four winning moments for the brand: kicking off the March 2 edition of Dynamite with the acquisition announcement itself and a match featuring two of ROH’s founding fathers, Bryan Danielson and Christopher Daniels; moving forward with Supercard of Honor on April 1, despite the fact it ran directly against Rampage; finalizing a deal with ROH champion Jonathan Gresham …
And the fourth? The dramatic AEW debut of Samoa Joe on the April 6 Dynamite. Joe finished off a very game Max Caster with a big elbow and a muscle buster in only four minutes to advance to the inaugural Owen Hart Foundation Cup tourney. Joe capitalized on that momentum on the April 13 edition, defeating Minoru Suzuki in a brutal strike-fest for the ROH TV title, which Suzuki had won from Rhett Titus at Supercard of Honor only 12 days earlier.
For a shining moment, it seemed that Khan had played the wrestling game perfectly. Joe was showing signs of his ROH/TNA prime, and fans were thrilled by the ROH influence on AEW.
Enter the 7’3”, 290-pound Satnam Singh, accompanied by Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt. As an exhausted Joe celebrated his win, Lethal and Dutt taunted him from the entrance ramp, with Lethal lifting the lid of a gift box to reveal his own protruding middle finger (strike one). Then, the lights went out and were soon restored, revealing Singh behind Joe in the ring (strike two). After beating down the new TV champ with the assistance of Lethal and Dutt, Singh clamped his massive hands on both sides of Joe’s head and squeezed mercilessly, channeling, among others, the ghost of Giant Gonzalez (strike three).
The segment smacked of WCW or TNA desperately mimicking WWE. And, really, what was wrong with allowing fans to savor Joe’s victory to close the show? It should have been an ROH moment, but became an unentertaining spectacle.
Khan’s logic was understandable. Singh, the first native of India to be an NBA draft pick (chosen by the Dallas Mavericks in 2015), could become a box-office draw.
Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer revealed that T.K. was motivated by the bigger corporate picture, and not a one-night reaction. Meltzer also noted that Khan wanted to make a positive impression on his partners at Eurosport India, a Discovery-owned channel. As it turns out, WarnerMedia, owner of TBS and TNT, has just merged with Discovery. AEW is expected to negotiate its domestic TV deal with WarnerMedia-Discovery by the end of the year.
And that’s what led to Satnam Singh squeezing Samoa Joe’s skull.
Khan addressed the issue in his weekly call to SiriusXM’s Busted Open, explaining that he accepted bad advice from a 30-year veteran and received no resistance to the idea during a production meeting with plenty of creative minds. Some Twitterers questioned the AEW president’s notion of taking responsibility, resulting in Khan getting into a social-media skirmish.
At least he cares what they think.
Then, there’s the issue of talent closely identified with Ring of Honor losing championships to “AEW wrestlers” at Supercard of Honor, with FTR defeating The Briscoe Brothers for the tag team belts and Wheeler YUTA beating Josh Woods for the Pure title.
At the core of this analysis is one key question: If Ring of Honor is owned by another wrestling company, is it still Ring of Honor?
We shall see.
WWE’s recent filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission revealed the salaries of its top executives, including Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, who was set to receive $2-million in 2022, followed by WWE President Nick Khan at $1.2-million and Chief Financial Officer Frank Riddick at $850,000.
It’s notable that compensation for Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon and EVP of Global Talent Strategy & Development Triple H is below that, with the once-presumed heirs receiving $730,000 each. Thank goodness they’re a two-income household!
By the way, these figures don’t include the considerable stock assets owned by all.
This year’s SummerSlam will be held unusually early, taking place July 30 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey are advertised, indicating long-term plans for these expensive stars. Remember, WWE needed the main event of Roman Reigns vs. John Cena for the Universal title to fill Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium at last year’s SummerSlam.
Why the earlier SummerSlam date? WWE’s first stadium show in the U.K. in three decades will take place September 3 at Principality Stadium in Wales. It will mark the 30th anniversary of the historic SummerSlam at Wembley Stadium, featuring Davey Boy Smith’s Intercontinental title win over Bret Hart with 80,355 fans in attendance.
Amazingly, WWE has already set a new record, with 59,000 presale registrations, surpassing all other WWE events, including all WrestleManias, according to Alex McCarthy of TalkSport. WWE is well on its way to filling Principality Stadium’s capacity of 74,500 seats, with the possibility of more seats being added to the floor.
Boxer Tyson Fury confirmed that he has been considered a possible opponent for Drew McIntyre, and this event needs a marquee of that magnitude. And I hope the roster of the long-ignored NXT U.K. brand is utilized for the show, which will most likely stream on Peacock and internationally on the WWE Network. Imagine Pretty Deadly strutting down that ramp!
Big E won’t require surgery after Ridge Holland dropped him head-first while executing a belly-to-belly suplex on the arena floor on the March 11 broadcast of Smackdown. But, given that Big E is 36 years old, he may require several more months—rather than the typical recovery time of 12 weeks—to fully heal from fractures to his C1 and C6 vertebrae. In a tweet, E indicated how close he came to disaster.
“Had my first doctor’s appointment and learning (because of the C1 fracture) I narrowly escaped a stroke, paralysis, or death is very sobering,” the former WWE World champion tweeted on March 22. “Life feels even more precious and valuable now.”
Best wishes, Big E!
Kazuchika Okada continued his dominant IWGP World title reign, successfully defending against Zack Sabre Jr. in a 28-minute thriller at Hyper Battle, held April 9 in Tokyo. Sabre earned his title shot by winning this year’s New Japan Cup on March 27, pinning Tetsuya Naito in the final. Interestingly, Naito had defeated Okada in the semifinals.
Six months after suffering a catastrophic hip injury at an NJPW event, Chris Dickinson realized his goal of signing with New Japan, returning April 1 at Lonestar Shootout in Dallas, where he lost a close one to Tomohiro Ishii. Two weeks later, “Dirty Daddy” teamed with Josh Alexander, Alex Coughlin, Ren Narita, & Fred Rosser to defeat Team Filthy, comprised of Black Tiger, Royce Isaacs, JR Kratos, Danny Limelight, & Jorel Nelson, at Windy City Riot in Chicago.
Speaking of Team Filthy, Yuji Nagata goaded Tom Lawlor into putting his STRONG openweight belt on the line in what was supposed to be a non-title bout. The former IWGP champ put together a fiery offense, at one point stringing together a Nagata lock, a Justice knee, and an exploder suplex off the top turnbuckle. The savvy Lawlor wore down the 53-year-old legend with a couple of chokes and ultimately a knee to the back of the head to score the pinfall.
Other headlines coming out of Windy City Riot were Jon Moxley’s scintillating win over Will Ospreay, and Scott Norton (yes, that Scott Norton!) joining the Bullet Club.
This ’n’ that: JONAH turned in another captivating performance, this time defeating PCO in a battle of the monsters on IMPACT Wrestling … MLW’s 40-man Battle Riot IV will take place June 23 at the Melrose Ballroom in New York City … Willow Nightingale is seemingly everywhere, competing for MLW and the NWA, in addition to appearances for ROH, AEW, and IMPACT over a two-week period in early-April … Sammy Guevara regained the AEW TNT title from Scorpio Sky at Battle of the Belts 2, April 16 on TNT … Rick Boogs underwent surgery to repair the torn quadriceps muscle he suffered during the opening bout of WrestleMania 38 … WWE released Nash Carter following abuse allegations made by his wife, Kimber Lee, according to Pro Wrestling Torch.
Scott Hall, who helped revolutionize the industry in the 1990s, died March 14 at age 63. Hall had been on the floor of his Georgia home for days when “Diamond” Dallas Page found him during a wellness check. He developed a clot after subsequent hip replacement surgery and suffered three heart attacks before being placed on life support.
Some of the all-time greats groomed Hall for the business as early as 1984, including Dusty Rhodes, Mike Rotunda, Barry Windham, and Hiro Matsuda. He and Dan Spivey competed as American Starship in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic, and Central States. He finally broke through in the AWA, first as a singles star, then as the “perfect blend of style and substance” with Curt Hennig as AWA World tag team champions.
Hall reinvented himself as The Diamond Studd, managed by Dallas Page in the early-’90s. This was a precursor to the Razor Ramon character he would portray in the WWF, first as a cocky heel and then as a breakout babyface. He became the first four-time Intercontinental champion, and his ladder match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 10 was widely considered the greatest WrestleMania match up to that time.
Even without the “Razor Ramon” name, Hall still oozed machismo when he defected to WCW and flicked a toothpick in Eric Bischoff’s face, the first shot in what would become the Monday Night War. Soon joined by Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan, Hall was the original architect of the groundbreaking New World Order faction.
Hall, Nash, Hogan, & Sean Waltman—as the NWO—were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2020.
“I’m going to lose the one person on the planet I’ve spent more of my life with than anyone else,” best friend Kevin Nash posted on Instagram. “My heart is broken … I love Scott with all my heart, but now I have to prepare my life without him in the present … My life was enriched with his take on life.”
Other notable passings include: Dan Mirade, the highly opinionated co-owner of the Massachusetts-based Millennium Wrestling Federation (with John Cena Sr.) who was instrumental in the early careers of Tommaso Ciampa and Eddie Edwards (age 41); Rocky King, a popular preliminary wrestler loosely affiliated with Jimmy Valiant and The Fabulous Freebirds in the NWA and WCW, respectively, who had been active in several programs for troubled youth (age 64); and Joe D’Orazio, who served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, appeared on ITV’s World of Sport during the U.K.’s golden age of wrestling, and served as president of the British Wrestlers Reunion until January 2022 (age 99).
That’s all for now. Save a ringside seat for me.
WE’RE SO SPOILED!
Despite my mild critiques of Tony Khan and the ROH experiment, we shouldn’t lose sight of the roster he’s put together over the past year, which includes ROH Hall-of-Famers CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Samoa Joe under contract, and The Briscoes only a phone call away. To put that into perspective, that’s like having Hulk Hogan, Bob Backlund, and Bruno Sammartino on the WWF’s active roster in the mid-1980s. Great times!
IT WASN’T THE TOKYO DOME!
David Finlay, Juice Robinson, & Brody King—and their opponents, JONAH, Shane Haste, & Bad Dude Tito—delivered a hard-hitting Chicago Street Fight at Windy City Riot, complete with stop sign. Kevin Kelly likened it to The Road Warriors and Ahmed Johnson vs. The Nation of Domination at WrestleMania 13. Is this why I watched an NJPW payper-view? Stick with Lawlor-Nagata or Moxley-Ospreay, please!
WHALE OF A TALENT
JONAH took plenty of punishment in that street fight—and dished it out, too—and revealed that he has untapped charisma, which can be overlooked because his size commands so much attention. In addition to his incredible agility, JONAH was a convincing heel in his feud with FinJuice, even splashing David Finlay’s younger brother, Brogan. The Australian has proven that WWE missed out, now that he’s a real force in NJPW and IMPACT.
That was the headline on the May 1999 issue of The Wrestling Analyst, depicting Hall with a milk mustache—a riff on the “Got Milk?” marketing campaign of the 1990s. Bill Apter worked with Hall to get just the right shot, and noted that Hall’s playful nature worked well in this case, whereas other times it could be difficult to get him to pose for pictures. That’s my take on Hall: He was considerate of friends and fans, but saw no need to conform. ■