POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE: “From the bars and smoky arenas”

John Pollock looks at the fall of the territories and the overall health of the industry prior to Vince McMahon's national expansion.

POST IT NOTES

**Rewind-A-Dynamite is live at 10:05 p.m. ET tonight with Braden Herrington & Davie Portman joining me to review Dynamite. The three of us will chat about the latest news items and take your feedback at the end of the show. We will be streaming the show live on the POST YouTube channel and it will be available to download late tonight.

**The next G1 Climax podcast for POST Wrestling Café members will be released on Friday. I’ll be joined by Bruce Lord to discuss Friday’s card from Ehime.

G1 CLIMAX PODCASTS (POST Wrestling Café)

Day 10 (Will Ospreay vs. David Finlay)
Day 8 & 9 (Tanahashi vs. ZSJ, Naito vs. EVIL)
Day 7 (Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tama Tonga)
Day 6 (David Finlay vs. Juice Robinson)
Day 4 & 5 (White vs. Ishii, Naito vs. Tanahashi)
Day 3 (Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito)
Day 2 (Shingo Takagi vs. Juice Robinson)
Day 1 (Kazuchika Okada vs. Jeff Cobb) – FREE

PAUL LEVESQUE ON LOGAN PAUL’S PODCAST

Paul Levesque was a guest on Logan Paul’s Impaulsive podcast, which was recorded prior to SummerSlam over the weekend and released on Tuesday. I don’t think anyone had the impression this would be a hard-hitting affair with only passing references to Vince McMahon and absolutely nothing regarding the allegations being addressed.

Levesque had an insane week between the tryouts in Nashville over three days and he actually flew to Atlanta for SmackDown and back to Nashville afterward. It’s been said already but it’s not just one 24/7 position he is assuming but two, given his role as head of talent relations and long-term, I cannot see that being a balancing act one can maintain and should probably be divided regardless.

The comment that raised the most ire was Levesque stating that McMahon took this industry from bars into a global space, as a slight alteration using bars as a metaphor instead of the “smoky arenas”, which was the often-used analogy.

Obviously, the expansion period for WWF/WWE that took form in 1984 through McMahon’s relentless efforts to navigate oppositional markets across the country had its positives for his company but dire consequences for the overall business.

If one were to survey the health of the industry in 1983, you would see a thriving industry with more full-time jobs between the successful territories that had unique fan bases, television penetration in the market, and the ability to draw on a weekly basis. McMahon was not successful in every territory and it was the ones with a deep-rooted history that were not automatic conversions to the WWF product such as the Mid-South cities, Memphis, and Houston among them. McMahon had a lot of advantages given the territory he bought from his father being the richest to draw from and did not have any inhibitions regarding his tactics. This included paying to get his television onto his competitors’ home stations, showcasing outside talent on All-American Wrestling as a perceived favor and then snatching that talent away, and throwing the gauntlet down in the example of the AWA, who was hit among the hardest from McMahon’s strategies. For some, it’s all fair game in the quest for market capitalization and McMahon did see the future with the power of cable television and higher production values.

McMahon was not this lone visionary regarding national expansion but he was the one that saw it through to the end. Georgia Championship Wrestling was on WTBS in 1972 and the game was changing when a viewer with cable access could watch that product regardless of their location. While GCW did venture outside of its parameters in the state including Ohio and Michigan, there was a hang-up on true national expansion and was the catalyst for Jack & Jerry Brisco to engage in dialogue with McMahon. This ultimately led to enough of the shareholders selling to McMahon in 1984 and provided him with controlling interest in GCW and the valuable time slots on WTBS. World Class operated beyond Texas, Joe Blanchard’s Southwest Championship Wrestling out of San Antonio was on the USA Network and it was inevitable that the regionalized boundaries were going to be broken.

As the ‘80s came to a close, it was a two-horse race between WWF and Jim Crockett Promotions, which was sold to Turner in November 1988 and in theory, had a war chest of resources being attached to a media company, which didn’t pan out. Mid-South closed shop and was sold to JCP in 1987, Florida and Central States were absorbed, World Class crashed from its earlier boom that decade, the AWA was struggling but did get onto ESPN in its final years, Portland closed by 1991, and Memphis continued through a low payment structure into the ‘90s. If you were to contrast the business of 1983 to the one of 1993 in the United States, it actually looked dire.

It is a completely different industry today where ticket sales are a fraction of the overall pie and it’s not the driving force of WWE. The major revenue is guaranteed and is at a scale that was unfathomable a decade ago. While stars are always desired and can swell one’s business in many ancillary forms, there has never been less reliance on them. UFC is a great example because of its similarities. During the pandemic, they had no inclination to schedule Conor McGregor to fight when their revenue from ESPN+ was guaranteed and they couldn’t monetize McGregor’s fights through a live gate, which can easily go into the eight-figure territory. Not only did UFC not suffer from this decision, but they also thrived in the pandemic. In 1986, the loss of Hulk Hogan was catastrophic for WWF’s business and today there is no reliance on one star making all the towns and working each event.

It comes down to one’s philosophy and what they want out of their fandom. For the well-being of the talent, you would want as many full-time jobs as possible and as many thriving companies to have the means to provide them. After all the WWE cuts since 2020, we have seen a large reduction in those full-time jobs and the industry has shown there are not enough spots for the number of significant names that were cut. AEW has created a leverage situation for talent and performers should be praying AEW gets a major media rights renewal to increase the pool for talent acquisitions.

The upper class of wrestling has never been richer, but it’s less spread out than in 1983. The business could support so many more people in more territories with access to a wider pool of fans supporting all those companies. As well, talent in the upper class of today’s business has less flexibility. If you’re a WWE performer making high six figures, it’s tremendous money, but you can be cut at a moment’s notice and the gulf between WWE and the next available option is vast. If AEW doesn’t want you, your options of remaining in the industry in a well-paid position are heavily reliant on leveraging your name for high-level independents, conventions, and signings coupled with a small concentration of full-time positions outside of the two major U.S. companies. A high mid-card performer leaving WWWF in the early ‘80s had a drop-down menu of options to make comparable or greater money elsewhere through the health of the territories.

There are many great historical resources out there and I would highly recommend Death of the Territories by Tim Hornbaker to learn more about this subject.

G1 CLIMAX AT THE MID-WAY POINT

**The G1 Climax is at the mid-point with ten shows done and the same amount remaining. The final three shows air from Nippon Budokan on Aug. 16-18 with the final round-robin matches on the first night, semi-finals on night two, and finals on the third.

In the A Block, Kazuchika Okada is the leader with six points and a 3-0 record with matches against Lance Archer, Tom Lawlor, and JONAH still to come. With one more win, the eliminations are going to start. Okada can stand to lose at least one match in the round-robin portion. For Lawlor or JONAH to pin Okada, it would make their tournament and I’d lean toward JONAH. Archer pinning Okada sets up a rematch either in the fall for New Japan or in AEW with Okada coming over. This block has been weighed down by Bad Luck Fale, who has struggled throughout the first half.

The B Block has Jay White on top with six points and along with Okada are the only ones with a loss. Like Okada, I don’t see any chance White doesn’t win the block and the only question is whether he runs the table at 6-0 or loses to set up a title match before the end of the year. White has matches remaining with Taichi, Great O-Khan, and Tama Tonga and the latter would seem like the top candidate to pin the IWGP champion. White is having a great G1 and all his matches have been top-shelf. Ishii is having his regular stretch of high-level matches, although the one with Great O-Khan was on the lower side.

The C Block has the most parity with Hiroshi Tanahashi, Zack Sabre Jr., and Hirooki Goto tied with four points each and the rest have two. Tetsuya Naito started 0-2 but picked up his first win against EVIL and stands to go on a run and remains the favorite to win the block. KENTA also started 0-2 and won his first match against Goto. Naito and ZSJ meet on the last night of round-robin matches and I assume the block will come down to those two and plays off last year’s G1 where they wrestled on the first night and Naito was injured and missed the rest of the tournament. They are telling a story of Goto’s son making a wish that his father will become the IWGP champion and the last opportunity for Goto.

The D Block has been the story of David Finlay, who is having the run of his career with wins against Juice Robinson, Shingo Takagi, and Will Ospreay in main events and also cutting some great show-closing promos. His elevation has been the standout one of the G1 and has been really entertaining to watch his ascent this year. Ospreay and Takagi wrestle in Osaka this Saturday and could be the match of the tournament. Ultimately, I see this block coming down to Ospreay or Takagi.

My top matches so far have been David Finlay vs. Juice Robinson on July 26th, Will Ospreay vs. El Phantasmo on July 16th, Shingo Takagi vs. YOSHI-HASHI on July 23rd, Jay White vs. SANADA on July 16th, and Zack Sabre Jr. vs. KENTA from July 17th.

WRESTLING NEWS

**AEW Dynamite takes place from the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio tonight. Below are the matches and segments listed for the show airing at 8 p.m. ET on TBS and TSN 2 in Canada:
*Chris Jericho vs. Wheeler Yuta – If Yuta wins, he gets the interim title shot against Jon Moxley next week
*Thunder Rosa & Toni Storm vs. Dr. Britt Baker & Jamie Hayter
*Orange Cassidy vs. Jay Lethal
*Matt Hardy vs. Christian Cage
*Dumpster Match: The Acclaimed vs. The Gunn Club
*Powerhouse Hobbs in action
*The return of The Undisputed Elite
*Jon Moxley to appear

**AEW is not taping Rampage tonight as they will be holding a double taping on Friday in Grand Rapids, Michigan with Rampage and Battle of the Belts III. WrestleTix reported a big movement in tickets for Friday’s show in Grand Rapids. As of Tuesday night, there are over 5,900 tickets out for the event and representing an increase of almost 1,900 tickets since last Friday, which coincides with the announcement of Claudio Castagnoli vs. Konosuke Takeshita for Battle of the Belts.

**Dakota Kai appeared on WWE’s The Bump on Wednesday and discussed her return at SummerSlam and her relationship with Bayley: (Transcribed by Jeremy Lambert at Fightful)

Honestly, it still feels like a whirlwind to me with everything that happened. It all happened so last minute too. To be talking with you guys is insane to me. Everything that happened since Saturday has been insane. It’s been crazy. Bayley and I, we’ve been kind of talking about something like this for a long time. It hasn’t been something that was spurred overnight. This has been something we’ve wanted for years. The fact that it actually happened and to be under her guidance is insane because she’s literally amazing and great. IYO and I, we’ve known each other a long time, when I first went to Japan and she is literally one of the best in the world. To be alongside these two women is a dream.

**In Canada, this week’s episode of WWE Raw averaged approximately 275,000 viewers and 128,000 in the 25-54 demographic on Sportsnet 360 and was the top sports program on Monday night. It was the most-watched episode of Raw in the country since April 4th following WrestleMania 38 weekend. The first hour aired commercial-free in Canada just like the U.S., although SN 360 did not run the picture-in-picture footage as USA Network did. Last week’s numbers in Canada were 258,000 and 119,000 in the demo.

**Friday Night SmackDown averaged 108,800 viewers and 35,700 in the 25-54 demographic on Sportsnet 360 this past Friday. The numbers were down from 124,500 and 55,100 the week prior on the day the news of Vince McMahon’s resignation came out.

**WWE is hosting a WrestleMania 39 launch party next Thursday at SoFi Stadium in California. The event will include live matches, interviews, and the chance to purchase tickets for the two-night event before the public on-sale the next day. WWE has announced that Snoop Dogg, JoJo Siwa, Gabriel Iglesias, Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch, The Miz, Maryse, Bianca Belair, Liv Morgan, The Usos, Theory, Street Profits, Alexa Bliss, Carmella, Corey Graves, Rey & Dominik Mysterio, and Ricochet will be appearing at the event. Admission to the launch party is free. WrestleMania will take place at SoFi Stadium on April 1 & 2 next year.

**The NWA women’s tag titles will be defended in a Kingshighway Street Fight at the promotion’s 74th-anniversary pay-per-view this month. Pretty Empowered will defend the titles against Marti Belle & Allysin Kay on August 28th on the second night of the NWA’s events at the Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis, Missouri. The NWA will run back-to-back nights at the venue with the second night including the NWA world heavyweight title match between Trevor Murdoch and Tyrus.

**Congratulations to Shawn Spears and Cassie Lee, who have announced they are expecting their first child.

MMA NEWS

**Ariel Helwani reports that a fight between Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier is “close” to being finalized for UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden this November. The lightweight would be Poirier’s first since his submission loss to Charles Oliveira for the lightweight championship. Chandler is coming off an incredible knockout victory against Tony Ferguson at UFC  274 this past May.

ON THIS DATE

Bret Hart won his fifth and final WWF championship at SummerSlam against The Undertaker in 1997. It was also on this show that Steve Austin suffered a stinger during his match against Owen Hart where he landed on his head during a tombstone spot. The implications were significant for Austin, who returned later that year but his neck ailments would curtail his in-ring future and would have his final match less than five years later (prior to this year’s return match against Kevin Owens).

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About John Pollock 3973 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.