THIS WEEK: ALL-IN is SOLD OUT, Rousey's First Title Opportunity, Chris Jericho Returns to New Japan, Cool Gear in Indy Wrestling and more!
1. ALL IN is SOLD OUT
Big congratulations to Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, and all involved in promoting September 1's "ALL IN" event - slated to be a 10,000+ seat event in Chicago.
The amount of buzz around this show put the onus on wrestling fans - if a group of accomplished wrestlers were to announce a lofty goal, without the backing of ANY of the major promotions, would the fans buy in and spend their money.
The answer? Yes - at a rather frenetic pace.
Wrestling has always been a niche attraction. However, with online marketing and fans maturing and being able to travel more, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that this event did so well. Will this lead to promotions like Ring of Honor and New Japan trying for bigger venues in the US? Time will tell.
Former ECW Head of State, Paul Heyman summed it up nicely:
2. Jericho's New Japan Return - Is He Chasing A Title?
It didn't get AS much buzz on this side of the world as his first challenge to fellow Winnipeg-raised star Kenny Omega did, but Chris Jericho made another return to New Japan Pro Wrestling, this time during the Wrestling Dontaku event which happened nearly two weeks ago in Fukoka, Japan. (Caveat: I'm really trying to stick to the "5 topics a week thing).
If you don't follow New Japan that closely, Jericho's presence is a great reason to tune in. Now that he is challenging a Japanese star, it's also a great chance to learn more about the stars of that promotion. Long before Shinsuke Nakamura was the "Rock Star" of SmackDown Live, he literally ruled NJPW. Other Gaijin (foreign) wrestlers of note to work there in the last decade include Kurt Angle, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, Prince Devitt (Finn Balor), and of course, AJ Styles.
Jericho hasn't been seen in NJPW since after his loss to Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom. The following show, he did a run-in attack on Tetsuya Naito, but it has been over four months since that first strike. After competing in WWE's Greatest Royal Rumble, Jericho once again flew to Japan to kick the new feud into gear, as Naito, the current IWGP Intercontinental Champion, was leaving the ring.
Could Jericho be vying for a "championship opportunity"? Time will tell. Perhaps the match will be set should Jericho find a way to cost Naito his title... exciting stuff!
3. Cool Gear on the Indies
Speaking of IWGP Intercontinental Champions, the first to ever hold the title, MVP revealed some cool new gear, while at the same time making it know that he is going to be approaching his final days as an active wrestler.
When I first started being allowed to work Independent wrestling shows - mostly as ring crew and a photographer, the thought of an independent worker investing a ton of money into gear was something that was only done if they had a tryout with WWE, WCW, or ECW. They wanted to get noticed, and look like stars. The rest of the time, gear would be... well... Indy.
Occasionally, you'd see a once big name on TV show up in the same gear he wore 10 years prior... looking like the gear was 20 years older.
Seeing the level of investment that talent still put into their gear today should be considered not only a reflection of their own success, but the success of wrestling in general. Not every wrestler out there is making huge paydays, but it seems this generation - even the established veterans - still take the time to keep their look fresh. In addition to investing in themselves, this is also clearly a salute to fans, who get to see the stars of their favorite promotion, LOOK like stars.
4. ROUSEY'S TITLE OPPORTUNITY IS A SMART MOVE
Chicago has once again made itself a combat sport and sports-entertainment hotbed. Between CM Punk's imminent UFC Return and ALL-IN selling out, WWE has upped the draw for their June Pay-Per-View, by having current WWE Raw Women's Champion, Nia Jax, challenge Ronda Rousey for the red brand's title.
With no Universal Championship match slated, we could be watching a Women's Division main event match. No disrespect to AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, or Seth Rollins and whoever his opponent for the rising Intercontinental Championship could be, this could be one of the most interesting matches of the year. Jax has evolved into a powerful fan favourite, but Rousey's "instant hit" of a debut could be opening the door for even more mainstream attention to be drawn to the biggest brand in the world. Who's your pick to win it? Will it take the Main Event slot in the show?
5. CLASSIC MATCH OF THE WEEK
With Money in the Bank ladder matches coming our way, it's hard not to look back at ladder matches of the past. WWE seems to have had the magic formula to making these matches memorable. While it was Bret Hart who first brought the match to WWE in a match that is a little hard to find - if you don't have WWE Network at least, one of the most memorable ladder matches NOT to be at a Pay-Per-View happened between then Undisputed WWE Champion The Undertaker, vs. today's United States Champion, Jeff Hardy. I remember watching this match on Raw when it aired CONVINCED we would have a new champion.
As for podcasts you should check out, I'm going to take things in a slightly different direction. While this show doesn't focus directly on wrestling, they have covered different wrestlers of the past, and researcher/lead host James Pietragallo drops a lot of subtle wrestling references into every episode.
"Crime in Sports" is a True Crime vs. crass comedy podcast that while lengthy, is painstakingly researched and delivered in a brilliantly ruthless way which while not making light of the crimes, finds a unique way of telling the stories. Along with Jimmy Whisman's hilarious jabs, the podcast reveals some of the weirdest stories in sports and sports-entertainment. It's not for everybody, but if you're looking for something different, it's worth checking out - if for no other reason than to see how James fits in some random reference to a wrestler.
That's it for this week! Thanks for reading! As always, comments are welcome below!