POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE – The WWE prepares for the Greatest Royal Rumble in Jeddah

The WWE prepares for one of the most controversial events they have produced, a preview of the card, Ronda Rousey speaks about her losses in MMA, Sean Waltman notes that Shawn Michaels was asked to do Rumble match, review of NXT, Michael Bisping teases retirement, Frank Mir vs. Fedor Emelianenko, and more.

POST IT NOTES

**We have a new edition of Keep It 2000 posted on the main page with Brian Mann and Nate Milton being joined by Kath Barbadoro of the WrestleSplania podcast. The three sit-down and chat about the July 18th, 2000 episode of WCW Monday Nitro, featuring the one-night tournament to crown a new United States champion. You can download the podcast on the site and subscribe to Keep It 2000 at https://www.postwrestling.com/subscribe/.

**Wai Ting and I will be back late Friday to review the Greatest Royal Rumble show for members of the POST Wrestling Café. If you sign up or are already a member, you will get that show and a new Rewind-A-Wai this Sunday reviewing WWF Backlash 2000.

**The feedback thread for Rewind-A-Wai is up at https://forum.postwrestling.com/t/rewind-a-wai-feedback-wwf-backlash-2000/2290/2.

WRESTLING NEWS

**The WWE will hold the Greatest Royal Rumble card Friday from the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium and the first event of a ten-year deal the WWE has entered with the Saudi General Sports Authority. This is a show that is impossible to eliminate the politics. The wrestling is merely the item in the display window with the real story being the partnership and political message the WWE is attached to. Personally, I feel there has been a lot of great analysis and coverage throughout professional media going behind the politics and understanding this show for what it is. The lack of female performers is the lightning rod, but the politics go so much deeper and forces one to render what their line is and how far this crosses it. Some people will be able to divorce a professional wrestling company from the politics and actions that a Government participates in, citing many examples of big companies that do business in countries such as Saudi Arabia. In that sense, the WWE is being complicit where money is exchanged, and they can privately tell themselves they don’t condone this Government’s actions and the lack of rights enjoyed by a portion of its citizens. The next level is what the WWE is acting upon and that includes entering an agreement where their female talent is excluded, they are inherently stating that despite their public stance of “female empowerment”, that notion has its limits, and sadly, a price. The broadcast and presentation will be a big story coming out of Friday with how far the WWE is going to present the host country in a favorable light and serve as a commercial for the country. Again, these are actionable examples where the WWE is not just turning a blind eye but actively engaging as window dressing for a country with a terrible record with regard to civil rights.

**Deadspin has a comprehensive look at the WWE’s deal with the Saudi Arabian Government with David Bixenspan and Karim Zidan tackling the social and political issues raised in the leadup for the event.

**Todd Martin broke down his thoughts on the Saudi Arabian deal on PW Torch’s “The Fix”. The show is behind a paywall but it’s a listen worth checking out. Todd’s argument is that the women being left off the show is a by-product of a much bigger picture that the WWE is endorsing through their involvement and he takes a more macro look.

**CBS Sports is reporting that the WWE will take a 15-minute break during the Greatest Royal Rumble to observe a prayer hour. It is said it won’t have an impact on the viewing audience at home.

**Here is the full card for Friday’s Greatest Royal Rumble with the kickoff airing at 11 am Eastern and the main card beginning at Noon:
*Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns in a steel cage match for the Universal title – This one could go either way depending on Brock Lesnar’s extension length. The easy conclusion to make is that they delayed the title change until this show and it should be a hot audience for a Reigns victory. On the other hand, the feud has run its course and Reigns was hurt by the WrestleMania loss. Neither outcome should be a surprise and without knowing Lesnar’s plans, it’s a toss-up.
*AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE title – Nakamura has been very effective in the heel role and winning the title on this show isn’t out of the question. At the minimum, they should have a disputed finish rather than Nakamura suffering another loss. This feud has legs beyond this show and a disputed finish leading to a quick turnaround at Backlash could happen.
*John Cena vs. Triple H – Neither are attached to any storylines on television, so it feels like a non-canon match. When in doubt on this card, I would go with the babyface winning and Cena has lost a lot of late.
*The Undertaker vs. Rusev in a Casket Match – Bury me softly, brother.
*Seth Rollins vs. The Miz vs. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe in a ladder match for the Intercontinental title – There are a few ways you can go with Joe winning the title and taking it to SmackDown, especially if Reigns loses the main event. The Miz could win the title to take it to SmackDown as he’s associated so much with that title. The IC and U.S. titles are easy ones to flip-flop back-and-forth to each show and it isn’t like the titles mean a whole lot where it matters who or where they end up.
*Jeff Hardy vs. Jinder Mahal for the United States title – Contingent on the ladder match outcome. Hardy is scheduled for Randy Orton next weekend at Backlash but if Miz or Joe win the IC title, that probably means Mahal will take this title to Raw.
*The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The Usos for the SmackDown tag titles – I think this is the sleeper match on the show and you’re going to get the WrestleMania match The Usos had hoped for. The angle on SmackDown eliminated the undefeated run for The Bludgeon Brothers and made it more believable they could lose, but in the end, should retain.
*Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt for the vacant Raw tag titles – This seems a lock for Hardy and Wyatt with The Bar staying on SmackDown.
*Cedric Alexander vs. Kalisto for the Cruiserweight title – This could be a great match as well and could be the opener.
*50-man Royal Rumble Match – I would say Braun Strowman and Daniel Bryan are the leading picks to win the match. This isn’t going to be a show where you are trying to build heat and I expect a lot of babyface wins up and down the card with few exceptions. This is going to be a very long match with 50 entrants and could eclipse the 90-minute mark, although I’m sure the time between entrants will be sped up when necessary to eliminate the obvious dead time a match like this is bound to come by.

**Sean Waltman stated on his podcast this week that the WWE made a pitch to Shawn Michaels to enter the 50-man Royal Rumble on Friday in Saudi Arabia. According to Waltman, Michaels immediately shot it down and said he had a prior commitment with his family and didn’t seem to have any interest in working a match. It shows you how big this event is for the WWE with the money being spent on talent and going so far as to attempt to bring Michaels out of retirement and have his first match since 2010.

**Ronda Rousey took part in a Q&A with director Peter Berg at the Wild Card West Gym to promote “Mile 22”. The Q&A featured Rousey addressing her losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes and why it was so difficult to handle them:

My parents expected me to be special, so I expected to be special. I was just trying to create the job I wanted, and I wouldn’t have the audacity to do that if my mom didn’t tell me I could. But one thing my mother never taught me was how to lose. She never wanted me to entertain it as a possibility. She’d say: ‘Let it suck. It deserves to suck.

**Impact Wrestling wraps up their week in Orlando, Florida on their final night of television tapings tonight. Tonight’s episodes will take them through the June 21st episode of Impact with the remaining episodes before Slammiversary being taped on June 1st and 2nd in Windsor, Ontario.

**Tonight’s episode of Impact Wrestling will feature the fallout from the Redemption pay-per-view at 8 pm Eastern on POP TV and the following:
*Eli Drake and Scott Steiner vs. LAX for the Impact tag titles
*Allie vs. Taya Valkyrie for the Knockout’s title
*Austin Aries holds a town hall meeting with the locker room
*Moose vs. Braxton Sutter

**New Japan Pro Wrestling has a “Road to Dontaku” card Friday at 5:30 am in Hiroshima and will stream on New Japan World with the following card:
*Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and KUSHIDA
*Hirooki Goto vs. Juice Robinson for the NEVER Openweight title
*Minoru Suzuki, Killer Elite Squad, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado vs. Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, Sanada, Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi
*Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi vs. David Finlay, Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin & Toa Henare
*Roppongi 3K and Rocky Romero vs. Taichi, Taka Michinoku & Takashi Iizuka
*Yuji Nagata, Shota Umino & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi
*Ren Narita vs. Yuya Uemura

**There was a really cool gesture by Kassius Ohno on Wednesday’s NXT broadcast. During the segment where Johnny Gargano is being taken to the back, Ohno can be seen wearing a Larry Sweeney t-shirt. The last set of NXT tapings took place on April 11th, which was the same date that Sweeney died in April 2011. Sweeney (Alex Whybrow) was a super-talented manager, who some compared to a young Bobby Heenan. He was most associated with CHIKARA and Ring of Honor. Whybrow suffered from depression and took his life in 2011 at the age of 30.

**Zack Ryder had to miss the Greatest Royal Rumble after suffering a knee injury this past Monday during a match with Mike Kanellis for Main Event. Ryder flew to Orlando for an MRI and the fear was he may require surgery. Ryder received positive news and provided the following update:

Got some good news this morning…MCL/ACL/Calf muscle strains…nothing completely torn…no surgery will be needed” he said. “Thanks to everyone who reached out. It’s time for #Raw to get #Zacked!

**Evander Holyfield and Elijah “The Pope” Burke were backstage at the SmackDown tapings on Tuesday night in Louisville.

**Cody Rhodes has stated that the lowest ticket price for the “All In” event will be $25 at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois on September 1st.

**MLW has added a singles match between Chelsea Green and Santana Garrett for next Thursday’s television taping in Orlando at the Gilt Nightclub. The following matches have been announced for the show: Shane Strickland vs. Pentagon Jr. for the MLW heavyweight title, Rey Fenix vs. ACH, MVP vs. Maxwell Jacob Freidman, Jeff Cobb vs. Jake Hager (Jack Swagger), Brian Cage vs. Joey Janela, Fred Yehi vs. Tom Lawlor, Green vs. Garrett.

**For those curious, MLW’s “Fusion” television show is airing on beIN Sports in Canada on Friday night. The Canadian channel can be found on Rogers on Channel 391 and 491 and on Bell TV channel 1412.

**DEFY Wrestling has a card this Saturday in Tacoma, Washington at the People’s Center with X-Pac and Randy Myers teaming against Drexl and Doctor Kliever, Moose vs. SCHAFF, and Rey Horus vs. Sonico. Tickets be purchased at www.defywrestling.com.

TELEVISION REVIEW

WWE NXT (April 25th)
-The big angle was an attack by Tommaso Ciampa from behind as Johnny Gargano was making his way to the ring for his NXT title match with Aleister Black (who didn’t come to Gargano’s aid). Ciampa is clicking on all cylinders in this role and has real heat with the audience. Gargano did the big stretcher job and they had this brilliant cutaway shot as the ambulance left Full Sail University as it panned to Ciampa standing on the roof waving at Gargano. It feels like they are going to hold off Gargano challenging for the title until he vanquishes Ciampa with Gargano chasing the title as the big journey they are telling.
-With Gargano injured, Black took on Eric Young in an impromptu match and won with Black Mass. He proceeded to lay out Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dane with the Black Mass and appeared to be the group’s departure from NXT. Nikki Cross is being groomed for a run with Shayna Baszler as Baszler has several opponents lined up with Cross, Kairi Sane and to a lesser extent Dakota Kai.
-They did the turn with Tino Sabbatelli walking out on Riddick Moss during their match with Heavy Machinery. It’s hard to say how Sabbatelli and Moss are going to fare on their own. Sabbatelli has been a project but the bar is very high when it comes to in-ring and he is beneath it. He has a great look and this turn will be the test to see if he can connect as a performer.
-The Undisputed Era kicked off the show with the introduction of Roderick Strong to the group. This faction has a main event presence about them and they commanded the ring for the promo. These guys could easily be a top act together on SmackDown but given the big numbers on the main roster, they shouldn’t be in a rush and will have a major role within NXT together. Cole beat Oney Lorcan with the help of Strong delivering End of Heartache on the floor behind the official’s back and Cole hitting a shining wizard.

MMA NEWS

**Bellator has a big card Saturday night from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois with the Heavyweight Grand Prix continuing. The show is headlined by Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir and the winner will advance to face Chael Sonnen in the second round of the Grand Prix. Bellator’s viewership on Paramount Network has not been strong this year and if the show does below 500,000 viewers it would not be a good sign for the health of the brand. Emelianenko and Mir are two well-known names with the entire show built around this one fight. Emelianenko fought last June and was stopped by Matt Mitrione after both knocked each other down but Mitrione recovered. Mir is a beatable opponent for Emelianenko and there are many questions regarding Mir’s game after being out for more than two years. Mir’s last fight was in March 2016 where he was stopped by Mark Hunt and then failed his drug test submitted the day of the fight. He was suspended by USADA and requested his release, which was granted. Mir will turn 39 years old next month and I would favor Mir as the more versatile fighter of the two presently. There is also the concern that Emelianenko can’t take many punches and Mir is extremely smart when it comes to breaking down an opponent’s weaknesses. That said, Emelianenko was able to drop Matt Mitrione, who is a quality heavyweight, so he could tag Mir and makes it a hard fight to call. Here is the full lineup for Saturday’s show at 9 pm Eastern on the Paramount Network:
*Frank Mir vs. Fedor Emelianenko
*Emmanuel Sanchez vs. Sam Sicilia
*Gerald Harris vs. Rafael Lovato Jr.
*Neiman Gracie vs. Javier Torres
*Dillon Danis vs. Kyle Walker – Danis is a world-class jiu-jitsu competitor and is making his pro debut. He is well known with his association as a training partner with Conor McGregor.

**Bellator president Scott Coker has announced that the heavyweight fight between Mirko Cro Cop and Roy Nelson at Bellator 200 on May 25th will be an alternate bout for the ongoing Grand Prix. The two will headline the Bellator 200 card from the SSE Arena in London, England and the winner will be the first alternate if one is necessary.

**Former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping indicated on his podcast that there is a chance he won’t fight again. Bisping stated he has not been offered any fights and hasn’t made it official regarding his retirement. He is open to fighting Nick Diaz but stated he will not fight at middleweight again because of the big cut necessary. He would like to have his last fight at light heavyweight or a 195-pound catchweight if Diaz were open to it. Diaz has not fought since January 2015 and has displayed no interest in pursuing any fights so it’s a longshot Diaz would come back for Bisping. Bisping suffered consecutive losses in November to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden and returned three weeks later and knocked out by Kelvin Gastelum.

**Brett Okamoto reported on Wednesday that Nick Newell will get an opportunity at a UFC contract when he competes on the next season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Newell is a congenital amputee, who wrestled as an amateur throughout high school and college before entering mixed martial arts in 2009. During his career, he has gone 14-1 and fought for the XFC and then signed by World Series of Fighting. His lone loss is to current UFC lightweight Justin Gaethje in July 2014 and announced his retirement following a victory in October 2015. Newell came out of retirement this past March and submitted Sonny Luque at the LFA 35 event.

**Ariel Helwani at MMA Fighting reported that the UFC has signed heavyweight Blagoy Ivanov, who is 16-1 with 1 no contest and was the reigning WSOF / PFL heavyweight champion. Ivanov was first noticed in MMA circles after defeating Fedor Emelianenko in a 2008 Sambo bout and later transitioned to mixed martial arts. He was nearly killed in 2012 after being knifed at a bar where the blade punctured his heart and remained in a hospital for three months. He returned from the knifing incident to fight to September 2013 and gone 9-1 since his return. He became World Series of Fighting’s heavyweight champion in June 2015 when he submitted Smealinho Rama and defended the title four times. He last fought in November where he earned a unanimous decision over Caio Alencar after World Series of Fighting was rebranded as the Professional Fighters League.

**If this clip doesn’t sell you on the EA Sports UFC game, nothing will.

*****
KEEP IT 2000: Ep. 29 – “Body Positive Mike Awesome” with Kath Barbadoro (July 18, 2000)
https://keepit2000.podbean.com/mf/download/3nzxpu/Keep-It-2000-July-18-2000.mp3
*****
REWIND-A-SMACKDOWN 4/24/18: Nakamura vs. The Club, Rumble Predictions
https://postwrestling.podbean.com/mf/download/ff4c3z/180424_RASD.mp3
*****
REWIND-A-RAW 4/23/18: Raw is Bruno, Greatest Royal Rumble
https://postwrestling.podbean.com/mf/download/f4mm9t/180423_RAR.mp3
*****
Impact Redemption 2018 Post Show w/ John Pollock & Nate Milton
https://postwrestling.podbean.com/mf/download/vu457c/180423_IMPACT_REDEMPTION.mp3
*****
ANDRE THE GIANT DOCUMENTARY REVIEW (Patreon bonus show)
https://www.patreon.com/posts/andre-giant-w-18288387
*****

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About John Pollock 1836 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling.He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.