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**This week’s edition of the Café Hangout features a big discussion on the news of Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff being named Executive Directors of WWE programming. On the show, former WWE writer Brian Mann joined us to discuss the news and the big questions regarding the appointments. Plus, Damian Abraham joined us for his weekly segment discussing this week’s episodes of The Wrestlers on Viceland with an episode dedicated to the DDT promotion and the other on the CWF that puts on shows on native reservations throughout Canada.
**The latest Rewind-A-Wai show is up today for members of the POST Wrestling Café. This week, Wai Ting and I review the WWF’s In Your House ‘Canadian Stampede’ card from July 1997. This is considered one of the promotion’s best cards of all-time from the Saddledome in Calgary with an electric crowd. The features Bret Hart, Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart & Brian Pillman vs. Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, the Legion of Doom, and Goldust in the main event. Plus, The Undertaker vs. Vader for the WWF title, the Great Sasuke vs. Taka Michinoku, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Mankind.
**We will have lots of coverage throughout the weekend with written reports on the Ring of Honor pay-per-view and the UFC card from Minneapolis on Saturday night. On Saturday afternoon, WH Park will be joined by Chris Thunder ‘From Down Under’ with a bonus audio show reviewing New Japan’s Southern Showdown card in Melbourne, Australia.
**On Saturday night, Wai Ting and Davie Portman will be LIVE with an AEW Fyter Fest POST Show. You can watch their review immediately after the card if you are a Double Double, Iced Capp, or Espresso member of the POST Wrestling Café. The podcast version will be up Sunday morning.
**We will have two new editions of Cruel Summer out Saturday & Sunday morning. WH Park will be reviewing the 1999 finals of the G1 Climax with Matt McEwen on Saturday and 2000 final with JP Houlihan.
**Thursday’s news regarding the appointments of Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff as the respective Executive Directors of Raw and SmackDown will be the major WWE story to watch this summer. The news has brought skepticism that will only be quelled once the two are in position and the power dynamics are at play. In the world of WWE, Vince McMahon is not handing over the reins of power and the dance has always been maneuvering within that world. Paul Heyman has been in-and-out of that system for the better part of two decades while Bischoff has always been in tune to that aspect of the company.
No one will question the need for a hard reset on the main roster’s television, which has gone beyond a ‘lull’ as an adequate description. Viewership declines, attendance drops, and apathy towards characters and programs have been consistent for a while. The two are tasked with a loaded roster of talent, a serious competitor that is the talk of the industry, and on the precipice of their most important television deal in history this fall. The stakes are high and these two are being placed as the public faces of ‘change’.
This was not a case of the company making changes where news got out. This was a public message from the company and putting a face and name to creative, which the company has rarely done. Ultimately, Vince McMahon is still the showrunner and that becomes the challenge when the most powerful piece on the chess board is the one everyone must write for. The danger of catering to the ‘audience of one’ is the threat of having a public audience of none. Yes, that’s a figurative statement, as there will always be an audience for the company but what are their strategies for growth? The fight this spring has been maintaining their audience at a time when growing the audience needs to be addressed. The crux of the Fox deal is that they will be in more homes and in theory, attract more viewers. While everyone expects an increase from the move to network television and the promotional push from Fox, the elements that will keep those new viewers in December and January are the building blocks that needed to start yesterday. It is not focused upon enough how arduous the idea of becoming a WWE consumer is today with the commitment of following the product week-to-week. Typically, it’s a star that breaks through and that star isn’t there and you can’t snap your fingers to create one.
Heyman has had an active role with creative for a while, he is familiar with the stories and characters and if given more than a token title will leave most optimistic and open to his ideas. Good or bad, Heyman has always possessed an ability to take tried and true methods and apply them to a modern audience. He’s been around this block several times as lead writer on SmackDown from July 2002 until February 2003 and later during the revival of ECW in June 2006 until his departure at year’s end. Had Heyman been able to install his ideas and philosophies to the re-launch of ECW, it would have been a fascinating product that many believe would have put the company ahead of the curve rather than behind when they finally launched NXT and it became their boutique product in 2014 and grew into a promotion that can run major buildings and cities, when appropriate.
The ECW experiment put the creative dynamic under a microscope with Heyman going to war every week at television to fight battles. The reality was, the second that property when from being a web-based series to a television entity on SyFy, his power was diminished. He would be naïve not to go into this role in 2019 with his guard firmly in place. To his credit, Heyman has been calculated when it comes to insulating himself from failure. Over the years, he had talks with MMA organizations, and in 2010 had serious discussions with TNA to the point that he spoke publicly about them. Ultimately, he was still going to answer to Dixie Carter and it never materialized.
For Bischoff, he comes with a lot more skepticism and questions regarding his role in a creative capacity. We lived through TNA where he had the opportunity to succeed or fail and it’s a not a period viewed with fondness. He has largely been removed from professional wrestling since 2014 staying attached with his weekly podcast with Conrad Thompson and doing conventions and speaking tours. To the outside world, Bischoff and Heyman carry weight because they were cornerstones of an era that is still fondly obsessed over through nostalgia and some fans want nothing more than to return to 1998. Bischoff serving as a liaison to Fox sounds like a solid choice on paper. On the creative end, Bischoff cannot be expected to be the one booking week-to-week and has always been distinguished as a producer rather than booker/writer. Inevitably, it seems Bischoff will make his way back on-screen as he’s tremendous in that role and they will be pulling out every stop on Fox, so I expect that one for sure.
It was reported by Ryan Satin at Pro Wrestling Sheet that the changes will not be immediate with the two expected to ease into the roles. From a timing standpoint, now is the time to make that change where summer numbers don’t carry much weight and treat the summer as the acclimation period for the fall.
The programming will be under a microscope, not just from the fans but also from Vince McMahon and therein lies the source of pessimism. The best course of action would be giving each the proper amount of leeway to succeed or fail on their own. Patience has never been a virtue for the company and sending these two out to produce results within 4-6 weeks will only lead to short-term shock value and would ignore the foundational issues this company is dealing with. They don’t need a band-aid, they need a blood transfusion.
**Tonight, Ring of Honor presents the Best in the World pay-per-view from the UMBC Event Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The pre-show airs at 8:30 pm Eastern on Facebook Live and on the pay-per-view channel. Here is the card for the show:
*Matt Taven vs. Jeff Cobb for the ROH title
*Shane Taylor vs. Bandido for the ROH Television title
*Jay Lethal vs. Kenny King
*Marty Scurll, PCO & Brody King vs. Mark Haskins, Tracy Williams & PJ Black for the ROH six-man tag titles
*Silas Young vs. Jonathan Gresham in a Pure Rules match
*Dragon Lee vs. Dalton Castle
*Nick Aldis & TBA vs. The Briscoes
*Angelina Love & Mandy Leon vs. Kelly Klein & Jenny Rose
*Flip Gordon vs. Rush on the pre-show
I don’t sense any buzz for the card in the week leading up to the show. ROH needs a major shot in the arm with a combination of an excellent show tonight and some big news coming out of it. I feel Jeff Cobb would be a great champion for them but switching the title onto Cobb right after the G1 Climax doesn’t seem likely, but it would be my move. It puts your champion on a stage for the six weeks with the best wrestlers in the world and if he has a great showing in the G1, ROH will reap the rewards when he comes back. In 2019, having great wrestling matches is not enough because every company is putting out strong wrestling and your company must fill a vacant hole that is worthy of a fan’s most limited resource – their time.
**AEW’s Fyter Fest goes down Saturday night from the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida and will stream free on B/R Live. For those without B/R Live, it will be available on Fite.tv for $9.99 and that includes Canada and the U.K/Ireland. While it’s not one of their major shows, the company has so much momentum that I feel it’s going to feel like a big show coming out of it. On paper, it’s a solid lineup and the experiment of limiting the matches of the top guys makes it feel important when they finally wrestle. Here is the card for Saturday’s show:
*Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks vs. Pentagon Jr., Rey Fenix & Laredo Kid
*Cody vs. Darby Allin
*Jon Moxley vs. Joey Janela in a Non-Sanctioned match
*Hangman Page vs. MJF vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. Jungle Boy
*Christopher Daniels vs. CIMA
*Riho vs. Nyla Rose vs. Yuka Sakazaki
*Chuckie T. & Beretta vs. Private Party vs. Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky on the Buy-In pre-show
*Michael Nakazawa vs. Alex Jebailey in a Hardcore match on the pre-show
**AEW has also released the opening video that will kick off Saturday’s Fyter Fest show:
**Tommy Dreamer shared a frightening story on his House of Hardcore podcast this past week. Dreamer was speaking about football player Junior Seau, who committed suicide in May 2012. Dreamer spoke about how deeply depressed he became after ECW shut down and the animosity he held against Paul Heyman. Dreamer said he was in Texas the week of WrestleMania X-Seven in 2001 and was initially to debut during the TLC match, but it didn’t happen. Dreamer was informed that within the state you can carry a firearm and he had thoughts of jumping the guardrail at WrestleMania and said on the podcast, “I was gonna whack Paul E. in the back of the head right at the announce table, then I was gonna whack myself.”
Dreamer said he was thankful he didn’t do it and how dumb it would have been to do. He added he didn’t know if he would have done it, but he did think about it each day leading up to the event. He credits a phone call from Jim Ross and a message telling him to hang tight regarding a deal with the company as saving him.
This was a very alarming story to hear and I hope that if anyone reading this has ever had thoughts or depression clouding their judgment, to understand the importance of reaching out and speaking to someone.
**WWE held their first of two shows at Sumo Hall in Tokyo on Friday morning. The card was headlined by Seth Rollins defeating Shinsuke Nakamura to retain the Universal title. It would be a great idea to show footage of this match on television as it enhances the global image of the company and would also present Nakamura as a superstar on television with his homecoming presented. Nakamura is very cold, and this would be the kind of match you could show clips off on television for the above reasons and then send people to the WWE Network or YouTube to watch the match in its entirety. On the same show, The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) defeated The IIconics to receive a future women’s tag title match. There was also a ceremony where Hisashi Shinma was presented with the Legacy Award following this past year’s Hall of Fame ceremony.
**Jinder Mahal posted a picture and stated he recently underwent surgery for a ruptured patella tendon. Mahal said he sustained the injury during a match with Ali on June 15th in Denver, Colorado. He said the surgery went well and his knee was better than expected.
**EVOLVE is running cards Saturday and Sunday night in Queens and Brooklyn, New York respectively. The WWE is sending Tommaso Ciampa, Tyler Breeze, Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish for meet-and-greets with Breeze and Strong wrestling on the shows. Below is the card for Saturday night at 6 pm Eastern and available on WWN Live:
*Austin Theory vs. Leon Ruff for the EVOLVE title
*Roderick Strong vs. Anthony Henry
*Tyler Breeze vs. AR Fox
*Joe Gacy & Eddie Kingston vs. Curt Stallion & Anthony Greene for the EVOLVE tag titles
*Josh Briggs vs. Arturo Ruas (formerly Adrian Jaoude)
*Shotzi Blackheart vs. Brandi Lauren
*JD Drake vs. Sean Maluta vs. John Silver vs. Stephen Wolf
*Harlem Bravado vs. Babatunde
*Adrian Alanis & Liam Grey vs. Brandon Watts & Randy Summers
**Sunday’s EVOLVE card takes place at 8 pm Eastern from Brooklyn and includes Austin Theory taking on Roderick Strong in a non-title match, JD Drake vs. Babatunde for the WWN championship, Tyler Breeze vs. Anthony Greene, Anthony Henry vs. Arturo Ruas, Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy vs. AR Fox & Leon Ruff vs. John Silver & Alex Reynolds in a non-title match, Josh Briggs vs. Brandon Taggart, Curt Stallion vs. Sean Maluta, and Brandi Lauren vs. Natalia Markova. This weekend’s shows will set up the rest of the EVOLVE 131 card on July 13th, which will air live on the WWE Network from Philadelphia.
**A Death Match between Mance Warner and Bestia 666 has been added to MLW’s Kings of Colosseum card at Cicero Stadium on Saturday, July 6th. If you missed last weekend’s episode of Fusion, Warner cuts an excellent promo while he’s outside by a stream of water. It’s just Warner riffing on a bunch of different people, including Salina de la Renta and coming off so natural as his character. One of the elements I enjoy most of about Fusion is that they get outside of the wrestling arena frequently to build their characters.
**Jushin Thunder Liger will be going to CMLL and wrestling at Arena Mexico for the final time on Friday, July 19th ahead of his retirement next January. Liger will be facing three opponents in a “Relevo CMLL” match where his opponents can tag in and out and it’s one fall to a finish. Liger is set to take on Negro Casas, Ultimo Guerrero, and Caristico.
**Here are the matches for tonight’s episode of Impact Wrestling at 10 pm Eastern on Twitch and the Pursuit Channel ahead of next weekend’s Slammiversary card:
*LAX & Laredo Kid vs. The Rascalz
*Sami Callihan vs. Fallah Bahh
*Taya Valkyrie & Rosemary vs. Su Yung & Jessicka Havok
**Below are the matches for Saturday’s episode of MLW Fusion at 9 pm Eastern on beIN Sports:
*Tom Lawlor vs. Josef Samael in a non-title match
*Austin Aries vs. Adam Brooks
*Jacob Fatu vs. Two Wrestlers
**Ring of Honor continues Saturday night with television tapings at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia following the pay-per-view. They have announced the following for the tapings:
*Matt Taven, Vinny Marseglia & TK O’Ryan vs. Jay Lethal & The Bouncers
*The Briscoes vs. Dragon Lee & Rush
*Flip Gordon vs. Marty Scull
*Sumie Sakai vs. Karissa Rivera
*Stella Grey vs. Tasha Steelz vs. Angelina Love vs. Jenny Rose in a #1 contender Four-Corner Survival
*Silas Young vs. Josh Woods
*Kenny King vs. Jonathan Gresham vs. Jeff Cobb vs. Dalton Castle in a Four-Corner Survival
**Miz & Mrs. is set to return on Tuesday nights on the USA Network beginning on August 6th. The upcoming episodes will be part of the first season with USA already ordering a second season for 2020.
**WWE has released a feature on their longest-tenured referee Mike Chioda:
**The UFC has a Fight Night card coming up Saturday from the Target Center in Minneapolis. The main event was originally Tyron Woodley fighting Robbie Lawler in a rematch from July 2016 when Woodley won the welterweight title. Woodley sustained an injury and the new main event is a heavyweight fight between Junior dos Santos and Francis Ngannou. This main event has stakes as the winner would be on a shortlist to fight the winner of the Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic rematch in August. JDS is 1-1 against Miocic while never fighting Cormier and Ngannou was blown out by Miocic in January 2018 but has since won two fights. Ngannou can also become the first fighter to defeat both Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos with a win Saturday.
Here is the full card and results from Friday’s weigh-ins:
MAIN CARD (9 pm Eastern on ESPN, TSN 5 in Canada)
*Francis Ngannou (255.5) vs. Junior Dos Santos (249)
*Joseph Benavidez (126) vs. Jussier Formiga (125.5) – In theory, this would set the next flyweight title challenger. Champion Henry Cejudo just had shoulder surgery and is a two-division champion now after beating Marlon Moraes.
*Demian Maia (171) vs. Anthony Rocco Martin (170.5)
*Vinc Pichel (155.5) vs. Roosevelt Roberts (156)
*Drew Dober (156) vs. Marco Polo Reyes (155)
*Paul Craig (204) vs. Alonzo Menifield (204.5)
PRELIMINARY CARD (6 pm Eastern on ESPN)
*Journey Newson (135.5) vs. Ricardo Ramos (136)
*Eryk Anders (205) vs. Vinicus Moreira (206)
*Dan Moret (155) vs. Jared Gordon (155.5)
*Dalcha Lungiambula (205) vs. Dequan Townsend (205)
*Emily Whitmire (115) vs. Amanda Ribas (115)
*Junior Albini (266) vs. Maurice Greene (256)
**UFC fighter Desmond Green is facing charges related to his August 2018 vehicular accident that resulted in two people dying. ESPN is reporting that the 29-year old is out on a bond of $194,000 and faces four DUI manslaughter charges along with five counts of DUI causing property damage, operating with a suspended license, and in possession of cocaine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. His attorney spoke to the outlet with Green pleading not guilty and plans to refute the testing of his blood/alcohol level and argue its validity with their side requesting a jury trial. Green fought for Bellator and Titan FC before signing with UFC and competing for the promotion since April 2017. Since the accident, Green has fought three times and is coming off wins over Ross Pearson and Charles Jourdain earlier this year.
**Titan FC has a card tonight at 9 pm Eastern on Fight Pass headlined by Juan Puerta fighting Claudio Ledesma for the promotion’s flyweight title.
**LFA takes place from Madison, Wisconsin tonight at 9 pm Eastern on AXS TV and is headlined by Renan Ferreira vs. Brett Martin in the semi-final of their heavyweight tournament.
**Dave Meltzer of MMA Fighting looks at an interesting story from last weekend’s televised MMA cards. With the UFC and Bellator both holding events, it was Combate Americas with the most viewers for their Midnight broadcast last Friday night on Univision. The Combate card averaged 416,000 viewers with a card from Hidalgo, Texas headlined by Cooper Gibson defeating Ricky Palacios with a first-round arm-triangle submission. The UFC’s prelims on Saturday aired on ESPN with 413,000 viewers and Bellator’s taped-delayed card from England averaged 386,000 viewers on the Paramount Network.
REWIND-A-WAI #39: WWF In Your House ‘Canadian Stampede’
John Pollock and Wai Ting review WWF In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede (1997) from Calgary, Alberta featuring The Hart Foundation vs. Team Austin in one of the most acclaimed PPVs in WWF/E history.
upNXT MOVIE REVIEW: Logan (2017)
Braden Herrington & Davie Portman are back with their own Marvel Review as they look at the greatest movie in th X-Men franchise, Logan (2017).
Café Hangout feat. Brian Mann & Damian Abraham
Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff are named WWE Executive Directors. Ex-WWE writer Brian Mann joins us to discuss the story. Damian Abraham discusses The Wrestlers’ profiles of DDT Wrestling and Canada’s CWF.
upNXT 6/27/19: “The Evil Genius (of the Sky)”
The BDE chat all about the June 26th Edition of WWE NXT including Io Shirai vs. Shayna Baszler in a steel cage match, Joaquin Wilde vs. Angel Garza from the NXT Breakout Tournament, and Keith Lee in action.
DOUBLE SHOT: WWE 365 Alexa Bliss, WWF Raw 6/30/1997, BTE
John Pollock & Wai Ting review the WWE 365: Alexa Bliss special, Pollock goes over the 6/30/1997 episode of WWF Raw, plus BTE and Road to Fight for the Fallen.
BWE 6/26/19: OTT Wrestlerama, WWE on BT Sport, Half Year Report, Lionheart
Martin Bushby & Jamesie are joined by JP Houlihan to chat OTT WrestleRama, John Lister discusses the WWE-BT Sport deal, Andy Ogden stops by, and they remember ‘Lionheart’.
RAR 6/24/19: Kicking Ass & Undertaking Names
John Pollock and Wai Ting review WWE Raw following Stomping Grounds featured a surprise appearance from The Undertaker to set up a match at Extreme Rules.
WWE STOMPING GROUNDS POST SHOW
John Pollock & Wai Ting review WWE Stomping Grounds from Tacoma, WA headlined by Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin for the WWE Universal Championship with a mystery referee.
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