Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Past Week in Action with Eric Armit


-Caleb Plant scores upset win over Jose Uzcategui to win the IBF super middle title

-Devin Haney marches on with win over previously unbeaten Xolisani Ndongeni

-Guillermo Rigondeaux returns with a first round win in a poor match against Mexican Giovanni Delgado

-Prospect Brandon Figueroa impresses as he destroys Moises Flores in three rounds

-Venezuelan veteran Jaider Parra outpoints Fabian Maidana to ruin the night for Marcos Maidana who was staging his first promotion on the same show former IBF super light champion Cesar Cuenca loses to Jonathan Eniz on his comeback

-Eric Armit returns to work!

World Title Shows:

January 13

Los Angeles, CA, USA: Super Middle: Caleb Plant (18-0) W PTS 12 Jose Uzcategui (28-3). Feather: Brandon Figueroa (18-0) W TKO 3 Moises Flores (25-2,2ND). Light Heavy: Ahmed Elbiali (19-1) W TKO 3 Allan Green (33-6).Super Feather: Guillermo Rigondeaux (18-1) W KO 1 Giovanni Delgado (16-9). Welter: Ryan Karl (16-2) W TKO 5 Kevin Watts (12-3). Super Light: Lindolfo Delgado (8-0) W KO 3 Sergio Lopez (22-13-1).

The IBF super middleweight title changed hand as the relevantly unknown Plant outboxed and floored champion Jose Uzcategui twice on the way to a unanimous decision. Plant was giving away height and reach but boxed on the outside being quicker to the punch and using good movement to negate Uzcategui’s power and aggression. In the first round Uzcategui kept marching forward but was not throwing enough punches and unable to land anything of consequence or deal with the jab and move tactics of Plant. Early in the second Plant landed a quick left hook to the chin which put Uzcategui down. It was not a heavy knockdown and Uzcategui was up quickly and back on the prowl but Plant was just too quick and slick for him. Plant outboxed Uzcategui in the third but in the fourth was cut over his right eye in a clash of heads. That spurred Uzcategui into attacking fiercely but as he shaped to throw a left hook Plant fractionally beat him to it and dropped Uzcategui for the second time. Again Uzcategui was up quickly and taking the fight to Plant but he was just too slow to hunt Plant down.

Plant took the fifth as he constantly pierced Uzcategui’s guard with his jab. Uzcategui finally won a round in the sixth. He let his punchers go more and did a better job of cutting off the ring forcing Plant to stand and trade. That proved to be a false dawn for Uzcategui as Plant outboxed him and outlanded him in the seventh and eighth to extend his lead. Finally the pace he had set began to tell on Plant and in the ninth he was no longer moving but standing in close and trading and Uzcategui had Plant reeling with some of his trade mark left hooks. Uzcategui had Plant hurt again in an exciting tenth rocking him with a terrific right cross. Plant saw the danger signs and went back to his boxing moving and jabbing and he edged the eleventh. With the fight won Plant was just looking to stay out of trouble in the last and Uzcategui never really threatened to find the knockout he needed.

All three judges had Plant a clear winner with Max DeLuca and Zachary Young both scoring it 116-110 and Lou Moret 115-111. It was a very emotional victory for Plant. When his 19 months old daughter Alia died two years ago Plant promised he would win a world title and he fulfilled that promise here. Plant 18-0 (10) was a huge underdog but with the IBF title is now a major player in the super middleweight mix. In the amateurs Plant, 26, won a gold medal at the 2011 National Golden Gloves but failed to progress throught the US Olympic Trials for the 2012 Games. He made one appearance for the USA Knockouts, a winning one, in the World Series of Boxing.  Mexican-based Venezuelan Uzcategui, 28, was a huge disappointment. He had impressed in 2018 with wins over Andre Dirrell and Ezequiel Maderna looking strong and dangerous. In this fight he was exposed as being one-paced and that pace was slow.

Figueroa vs. Flores

Young Figueroa may be a new name on the block but he showed in this fight that he is definitely a fighter for the future as he overwhelmed and destroyed the former interim WBA and IBO champion Flores. “The Heartbreaker” from Texas holds the CompuBox record for the most punches thrown in a round and he lived up to that No 1position here. In the first he bombarded the more experienced Flores with a whole array of punches shaking Flores time and again with shots to head and body. Flores looked as though he had aged overnight as he was blown this way and that. He tried to stand and trade but Figueroa was constantly switching guards and scoring with jabs, hooks and uppercuts from both hands. It was more of the same in the second with Figueroa on top of Flores for the whole three minutes.

Flores had a bit more success than in the first and Figueroa was marked around his left eye but again he had outpunched Flores all the way. Heads clashed a couple of time in the third and Figueroa was now cut over the left eye. That made no difference to the outcome as a huge overhand left from Figueroa crashed onto the side of Flores head and sent him down heavily. He made it to his feet but Figueroa jumped on him and stunned him with a long right. A series of punches rounded off by a big right cross sent Flores down again and the referee immediately waived the fight off. It was a few minutes before Flores recovered.

Figueroa is still only 22 having turned pro at 18. Last time out in September he moved up to ten rounds for the first time and stopped former interim WBA champion Oscar Escandon in the last round. He is already rated WBA 5/IBF 9(7). Flores was 25-0, 2 No Decisions until losing to Daniel Roman for the WBA super bantam title in June last year. He was knocked out by Guillermo Rigondeaux in June 2017 but the kayo punched was ruled to have been delivered after the bell to end the first round so it was a No Decision.

Rigondeaux vs. Delgado

Rigondeaux returns with a win that provides no satisfaction for anyone. His Mexican opponent was too poor to provide any sort of useful work for the Cuban star. Rigondeaux just padded after the ever retreating Delgado who never took a forward step and hardly threw a punch. Just a few seconds before the bell to end the first round Rigondeaux landed a strong straight left which then saw Delgado take a couple of steps back and go down on his knees., The referee indicated to the timekeeper that the punch had landed before the bell and that he was going to apply a count and he tolled out the ten. This is the first “fight” for 38-year-old Rigondeaux since his loss to Vasily Lomachenko in December 2017. He weighed 122 ¼ lbs so can make super bantam if that is his plan. Poor Delgado has now lost 7 of his last 8 fights but in fairness they have been against a high standard of opposition such as Diego De La Hoya, Emmanuel Rodriguez and Brandon Figueroa.

Elbiali vs. Green

Elbiali destroys oldie Green inside three rounds. The Miami-based Egyptian sent Green to the canvas in both the first and second rounds. He ended the fight in the third putting Green down again with a right and the referee waived the count.  The 28-year-old Elbiali won his first 16 fights before being stopped in six rounds by Jean Pascal in December 2017. This is his second win since then and his fifteenth win by KO/TKO. Green, 39, was looked upon as a possible world champion as he went 29-1 in his first 30 fights. He had scored wins over Carl Daniels, Carlos De Leon Jr and the 25-0-1 Tarvis Simms but then lost every round against Andre Ward in a WBA super middle title fight in 2010. He then went 3-3 in fights against good level opposition before being inactive from October 2013 until returning to the ring with one fight in 2018.

Karl vs. Watts

Sweet revenge for Texan “Cowboy” Karl as he punches too hard for previous conqueror Watts. It was an entertaining scrap while it lasted. Despite suffering a cut over his left eye Karl gradually punched the resistance out of Watts until the fifth round when with Watts shipping heavy punishment in a corner the referee halted the fight. When these two met in April last year Karl was in front on points until he was knocked down and stopped in the fifth round. Tenth win by KO/TKO for Karl. “Playboy” Watts has now lost 4 of his last 5 fights.

Delgado vs. Lopez

Mexican Olympian Delgado makes it eight from eight as he stops Lopez in the third round. Delgado was always in control in this one until a body punch sent Lopez down in the third and he was unable to beat the count. Eighth win by KO/TKO for the 24-year-old Mexican prospect. He was a top level amateur winning silver medals at both the Pan American and Central American and Caribbean Games and competing at the 2016 Olympic. He fought in the World Series of Boxing for four seasons ending with a 9-4 record. The experienced Lopez suffers his eighth loss by KO/TKO.

January 11

Shreveport, LA, USA: Light: Devin Haney (21-0) W PTS 10 Xolisani Ndongeni (25-1). Heavy: Frank Sanchez (11-0) W KO 2 Willie Jake Jr (8-2-1). Feather: Ruben Villa (15-0) W PTS 8 Ruben Cervera (10-1,1ND).

Haney vs. Ndongeni

Another scarily impressive performance from Haney as he floors and outpoints previously unbeaten Ndongeni. The South African tried to establish his jab in a speedy first round but Haney had quicker hands and feet. Ndongeni tried some long punches but Haney closed the round by raking Ndongeni with a left hook, an overhand right and a vicious straight right. Ndongeni made a fast start to the second firing jabs and overhand rights and showing some sharp movement but as he moved across the front of Haney he was nailed with a right hook that sat him on his rump. Ndongeni was up quickly and for the rest of the round he used clever footwork and upper body movement to frustrate Haney’s attempts to catch him again. In a close third Ndongeni scored with a couple of good rights and a left hook but Haney finished the round strongly with jabs and rights of his own.

A low key fourth also went to Haney as he was getting his punches off first and dodging Ndongeni’s. Haney upped the pace in the fifth. He hounded Ndongeni for three minutes firing more combinations than in the earlier rounds. The pressure was forcing errors from Ndongeni and Haney made him pay for them. The sixth was closer. Again Haney did the pressing and was landing lightning quick jabs and strong rights but Ndongeni did some good work to the body. Haney had been taking the close rounds but Ndongeni had a good seventh. He was able to take Haney to the ropes and work to the body. Haney was coming up short with his jabs-apart from one that jarred loose Ndongeni’s mouthguard-and he outworked Haney to edge the round. It had been Ndongeni’s tactics to make a strong start to each round and he did that in the eighth. He rattled Haney with a couple of long rights to the chin but then Haney began to move inside cutting down Ndongeni’s space and landing short vicious shots inside. He rocked Ndongeni with a left hook and the South African began to hold for the first time in the fight. Haney ended the round with a series of right to the head with Ndongeni looking to be in trouble and tiring.

Haney dominated the ninth. He stalked Ndongeni around the ring getting inside and working the body with Ndongeni relying on wild rights but always missing. After a slow start to the last Haney forced Ndongeni to the ropes and just kept firing hooks with both hands and kept Ndongeni there to the bell. Scores 100-89 twice and 99-90 for Haney. Although the highest rating Haney had before this fight was No 8 with the WBA the 20-year-old “The Dream” is on his way to a world title shot either by the end of 2019 or early in 2020. He has prodigious talent. A natural with moves you can’t teach a fighter so there are exciting times ahead for Haney. Ndongeni “The Wasp” was set an impossible task for his second fight in the USA but he showed enough to indicate he is capable of giving most rated fighters a tough night and will be in some big fights in the future.

Sanchez vs. Jake

Sanchez dismantles Jake inside two rounds. Sanchez forced the fight hard in the first with the heavier Jake not quick enough with his punches or his movement to compete as Sanchez connected with some powerful rights. There was then a delay for a problem with the ropes Sanchez then continued pressing the heavier Jake who tried to tie-up the unbeaten Cuban on the inside. Sanchez shook himself loose and landed a crunching right to the head. Jake backed into a corner and then under a series of punches from Sanchez he slid down the ropes and ended face down on the canvas. The referee started to count but then waived the fight off. The one big right that Sanchez did throw in that series landed on the left glove of Sanchez and it looked like Jake was taking the easy way out.

The 26-year-old 6’4” has nine wins by KO/TKO. His No Decision came when he bundled his opponent through the ropes and he was unable to continue. Sanchez was an elite level amateur. He won a silver medal at the Pan American Youth Championships and thrice won a bronze medal in the Cuban Championships. His best result was a victory over Erislandy Savon in taking a gold medal at the Cuban Giraldo Cordova Cardin tournament. He looks powerful and is one to watch. Southpaw Jake had won his last five fights but against inferior level opposition and this is his second loss b y KO/TKO.

Villa vs. Cervera

Villa wins every round against Colombian Cervera. Villa controlled the action with his sharp, accurate right jab. He was just too quick and slick for Cervera. The Colombian connected with a good right in the first and was pressing forward for most of the fight but Villa was slotting jabs through too quickly for Cervera to block and then following with hard and accurate straight lefts.  Villa used good movement to change angles and was firing rapid combinations with Cervera often a step or two behind and swishing air with his punches. On the down side despite his total dominance even when Villa sat down on his punches he never really had Cervera in trouble. Scores 80-72 for Villa from all three judges. The 21-year-old Salinas southpaw was National Golden Gloves champion in 2014 and 2015. He scored two wins over Shakur Stevenson but lost the chance to go to the Rio Olympics when Stevenson beat him in the US Olympic Trials final. He has won 8 of his last 9 fights on points so could be short on power. Former Colombian featherweight champion Cervera was having his first fight outside of Colombia and his first fight since February 2018.

Santa Ynez, CA, USA: Super Welter: Madiyar Ashkeyev (11-0) W PTS 10 Luis Hernandez (16-7). Middle: Meiirim Nursultanov (10-0) W KO 2 Ramon Aguinaga (13-2).

Kazak Ashkeyev outpoints Hernandez. After a shaky start when he was buzzed by a punch from Hernandez in the first Ashkeyev took over the fight and outboxed Hernandez all the way despite various infractions by Hernandez as he tried to rough up Ashkeyev. The Kazak fighter was already on his way to a wide points win when he dropped Hernandez in the last but just could not get Hernandez out of there. Scores 98-91 twice and 99-90. Ashkeyev, 30, was in his first fight scheduled for ten rounds. He is based in Oxnard, California alongside Sergey Kovalev, Oleg Usyk, Olexandr Gvozdyk and Vasyl Lomachenko. Puerto Rican Hernandez has lost 5 of his last 6 fights but all against good quality opposition.

Nursultanov vs. Aguinaga

Nursultanov, another member of the Oxnard outfit flattens Mexican Aguinaga with a brutal right. Nursultanov prowled after Aguinaga in the first looking to land his destructive right but Aguinaga made it the bell without too much danger. In the second a straight right from Nursultanov crashed onto Aguinaga’s chin. He sagged and then fell back into the ropes and bounced off ending face down on the canvas out cold. The 25-year-old Kazak now has eight wins by KO/TKO. He won a gold medal at the Asian Championships and was 13 -1in fights in the World Series of Boxing including two victories in the semi-final matches against the British Lionhearts. Aguinaga had won 8 of his last 9 fights but the loss was in his last fight in July against French hope Christian Mbilli.

Tacoma, WA, USA: Super Feather: Giovanni Mioletti (15-0) W TKO 3 Antonio Escalante (29-10).

Mioletti rolls on with win over experienced Escalante. After a tentative start to the first round Mioletti started to find the distance with his jab and Escalante had no real answer to it. In the second Mioletti put Escalante down with a left hook  but Escalante got up and made it to the bell. In the third a right staggered Escalante and a following left floored him again. He made it to his feet but when the eight count was finished so was Escalante who indicated he wanted out. Born in Seattle but based in Chicago Mioletti , 24,gets his sixth win by KO/TKO. He has had five fights and five wins under the banner of Brian Halquist Productions “Battle at the Boat” series at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma. In those five wins is a victory over unbeaten Ray Lampkin the son of the former WBA lightweight title challenger of the same name. El Paso-based Mexican Escalante was 24-2 before losing to Daniel Ponce De Leon in WBO featherweight eliminator but has fallen away and was inactive for over three years before returning with a loss in October.

Mar Del Plata, Argentina: Light Heavy: Walter Sequeira (22-5) W PTS 10 Facundo Galovar (10-5-1).

Sequeira continues his run of form with majority decision over Galovar. This was a war. Not much evidence of skill but entertaining for the fans. Sequeira made a slow start conceding the first round to a busier Galvan but Sequeira landed enough accurate punches to edge the second and had Galovar hurt by a right in the both the and fourth rounds. Galovar came back into the fight in the fifth and sixth as Sequeira’s work rate dropped. Sequeira had a good seventh once again shaking Galovar with a right but the eighth and ninth could have been scored either way but a left from Sequeira in the last put him in control and he emerged a clear winner. Scores 96-94 twice for Sequeira and 95-95. Now 31, Sequeira makes it five wins in his last six fights and collects the vacant WBC Latino title. His National title was not on the line. His loss in those last six fights was a fourth round stoppage against unbeaten Anthony Yarde in October. Three losses in a row now for Galovan.

January 12

Mar del Plata, Argentina: Super Light: Jaider Parra (33-2-1,1ND) W PTS 10 Fabian Maidana (16-1).Super Light: Jonathan Eniz (23-11-1,1ND) W PTS 10 Cesar Cuenca (48-3) . Bantam: Fernando Martinez (8-0) W PTS 6 Abel Silva (5-3-3).

Maidana vs. Parra

On a mixed night for the Maidana family Marcos stages his first promotion and younger brother Fabian loses for the first time as a pro in a clash of younger brothers”. Parra, the younger brother of former WBA flyweight champion Lorenzo, proved too experienced and clever for Maidana. The visitor took a round to get into his stride but then proceeded to outbox Maidana. Parra was able to penetrate Maidana’s defence with jabs and sharp rights and was ducking under and around Maidana’s punches and took the third. Maidana managed to trap Parra on the ropes and land some hooks in the fourth but a right in the fifth opened a cut on Maidana’s left eyelid and Parra did most of the scoring in the sixth and seventh. With brother Marcos climbing into his corner Maidana finally landed some heavy punches in the eighth and rocked Parra with a left in the last but by then it was already a lost cause. Scores  98 ½-94, 98 ½-94 ½,97 ½-95 ½ all for Parra.

The 36-year-old Venezuelan lost inside the distance in challenges for both the WBA super feather and interim lightweight titles and had won 10 of his last 11 fights. It would have been 11 out of 11but after he stopped Spanish prospect  20-1 Nicolas Gonzalez in January 2017 he tested positive for Clenbuterol and the result was changed to a No Decision. This win over Maidana will generate more work for Parra. Maidana, 26, had scored wins over Johan Perez and Andrey Klimov and was rated No 9 by the WBA. He was looked upon as one of the best prospects in Argentina but even though his trainer Manny Robles was flown down to be in his corner he was flat and flummoxed by the more experienced Parra.

Eniz vs. Cuenca

With Eniz only rated No 9 in the National ratings he looked a comfortable opponent for the return to the ring of former IBF lightweight champion and fellow southpaw Cuenca. This was Cuenca’s first fight since April 2016 and not surprisingly the young Eniz dominated the first two rounds. Cuenca began to find the target in the third and was expected to pick up the pace and kick on from there. That did not happen. Using a focused body attack and some vicious hooks Eniz put himself in front over the middle rounds. There were plenty of fierce exchanges with both landing heavily but although Cuenca finished strongly he was well beaten. Scores 98-94, 98-94 ½ and  97 ½-94for Eniz.

The 24-year-old from Dolores was 2-2 in 2018 scoring two low level wins but being knocked out in seven rounds by unbeaten Kazak Batyrzhan Jukembayev in Montreal before performing above expectations in losing a split verdict to unbeaten Luis Veron. This win will boost his profile way up. Cuenca, 36, lost his IBF title to Eduard Troyanovsky in 2015 and was stopped in seven rounds in a return match in 2016. No talk of retirement from Cuenca.

Martinez vs. Silva

Olympian Martinez extends his 100% record to eight fights with unanimous decision over feisty Silva. This was a battle all the way. Martinez had the harder punch but Silva refused to back up and despite shipping heavy punishment banged back with some heavy punches of his own. Martinez ‘s power was decisive and he poured on the punishment as Silva tired to take the decision. Scores : 59 ½ -55 ½ , 59-56 and 59 ½ -56. Martinez, 27 represented Argentina at the World Championships and the 2016 Olympics and was a member of the Los Angeles Matadors team in the World Series of Boxing. Third loss in a row for Silva.

Perez, Argentina: Light; Gustavo Lemos (20-0) W TKO 4 Galvis Guerra (16-3-3).

Lemos dismantles overmatched Colombian. Lemos was piling forward connecting with hooks and overhand rights to the head. Guerra lacked the power to compete and had a leaky defence so Lemos was driving him back and rocking him with punches in close. Guerra survived a brutal third but it was all over in the fourth. A straight right from Lemos saw Guerra tottering back across the ring to the ropes where he dropped to one knee. He beat the count but suddenly without Lemos landing another heavy punch Guerra turned away from the action and again crossed the ring to the ropes and knelt down and the referee stopped the fight. Tenth win by KO/TKO for the 22-year-old “El Electrico” from Tres Arroyos and his fourth defence of his IBF Latino title. He is Argentinian No 1 and IBF have him at No 14. Second loss by KO/TKO for Guerra who is now 0-3 in fights outside of Colombia.

Tokyo, Japan: Super Bantam: Ryoichi Tamura (12-3-1) W PTS 10 Mugicha Nakagawa (24-6-1). Minimum: Norihito Tanaka (18-7) W TKO 8 Shin Ono (23-10-3).

Tamura vs. Nakagawa

Minor upset as Tamura wins the vacant National title at the second attempt . With 14 wins in his last 15 fights Nakagawa was the favourite but Tamura was off the mark quickly attacking strongly and scoring well to head and body. Nakagawa answered the pressure with some strong jabs and uppercuts but Tamura outscored him and at the half way mark was up 50-45, 49-46 and 48-47 on the three cards.  With his greater experience Nakagawa was expected to claw back the deficit over the second half of the fight and although he landed some sizzling rights it was Tamura who was stronger blunting Nakagawa’s attacks and emerging a comfortable winner. Scores 99-91 twice and 97-93 for Tamura. He was 3-2-1 at the start of his career but has turned things around with 9 wins in his last 10 fights with the loss being in a challenge for this title in 2017. Nakagawa, 30, had won 14 of his last 15 fights but this was only his second fight scheduled for ten rounds. To his credit he is canvassing with some success for cloud funding to help children in the Philippines.

Tanaka vs. Ono

Another surprise here as Tanaka halts Ono to lift his Japanese title.  Despite Ono having the edge in height over tiny Tanaka the challenger punched his way inside negating southpaw Ono’s greater skills. He shook Ono in the second and floored him with a right in the third and after five rounds all three judges had him ahead 49-45. Ono had the better of the action in the sixth using his reach to collect the points. Tanaka was getting past the jab in the seventh and a harried Ono was deducted a point for holding. Tanaka’s attacks overwhelmed Ono in the eighth and he was battered to the floor with the referee immediately stopping the fight. Tanaka was winning a title at the third attempt. He was outpointed by future world champion Akira Yaegashi for this same title in April 2011 and was inactive from November 2011 until returning to action in February 2017. In his second shot at a title he lost to unbeaten Tsubasa Koura for the OPBF crown in April last year. Former WBA and IBF title challenger Ono was rated in the top 15 by all four sanctioning bodies so this was a severe blow to his hopes of a third world title fight.

Fight of the week (Significance): Caleb Plant as is win over Jose Uzcategui will open many doors for him.

Fight of the week (Entertainment): Plant vs. Uzcategui supplied plenty of action.

Fighter of the week: Has to be Plant but with honourable mention to Devin Haney.

Punch of the week: The right from Meiirim Nursultanov was a real thunderbolt and the right that gave Brandon Figueroa his first knockdown against Moises Flores was special.

Upset of the week: Plant beating Uzcategui was unexpected as was Jaider Parra’s victory over unbeaten Fabian Maidana, Parra vs. Maidana.

Prospect watch: Plenty on show this week with Brandon Figueroa, Meiirim Nursultanov and Frank Sanchez all impressing.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Is AEW the WWE’s Worst Nightmare?

2018 was a defining year in what is becoming a storied career for “The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes. The son of the late great “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and brother of Goldust saw his career skyrocket to all-time highs as he continued to wrestle for every significant promotion in the world not named WWE with Ring of Honor, New Japan, and the NWA to name a few, capturing titles, and establishing himself as a household name along the way. It’s easy to say the man who once carried the moniker Stardust has left those days far behind.

Cody and The Elite even produced what was arguably one of, if not the, best pay-per-views of the year with the hugely successful All In. Cody wasted no time ensuring his momentum would continue at its frenetic pace, barely into 2019, as he unveiled an all new wrestling promotion last week along with his Elite cohorts, The Young Bucks and Hangman Page. The promotion, appropriately coined All Elite Wrestling or AEW, announced its initial roster and it is loaded with a bevy of talent already.

Here is the roster at the time this article:

Cody Rhodes

Matt Jackson

Nick Jackson

Hangman Page

Christopher Daniels

Frankie Kazarian

Scorpio Sky


El Lindaman

Joey Janela

Maxwell Jacob Friedman


Takehiro Yamamura


Chris Jericho

Brandi Rhodes

Britt Baker

Penelope Ford

Billy Gunn (Producer)

B.J. Whitmer (Producer)

Aside from The Elite, other highlights of this list include the former Ring of Honor stable SoCal Uncensored (Daniels, Kazarian, & Scorpio Sky), Pac (formerly known as Neville in WWE), and the bombshell signing of the Ayatollah of Rock’n’Rolla, Chris Jericho. Additionally, the rumors have already begun to swirl with fans speculating whether this will be the promotion to sign Kenny Omega and potentially draw C.M. Punk back to the world of pro wrestling.

The next point to explore is whether this company can be a legitimate competitor to the WWE. Since the demise of ECW and WCW, no other promotion has really applied the pressure on WWE. Sure there are a lot of great promotions out there but for one reason or another, they just don’t have the complete package put together to contest for brand supremacy. TNA/Impact continues to be able to pull cable TV deals and produce pay-per-views but unfortunately it’s been a necessity for them to operate with an economical approach by proceeding with practices such as completing their TV tapings in clusters and sharing talent with other promotions, while only being able to fill venues that hold maybe a few thousand at most. 

New Japan Pro Wrestling is arguably the largest promotion in the world outside of WWE but their exposure to the North American audience is limited to streaming and their major events air live when most people are sleeping. 

Ring of Honor is a phenomenal promotion but unfortunately they haven’t had a national TV deal since they were dumped by Destination America and have become the WWE’s source of talent vulturing - some examples include Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson), Seth Rollins, The Undisputed Era, and War Raiders (War Machine) to name a few.

Here’s how AEW appears to set themselves apart from these promotions: 1) They have already announced their first show labeled “Double or Nothing” which will emanate from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV on May 25. 2) There are apparently several possibilities for TV deals with rumors swirling of potential suitors including the Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV), WGN America, TNT/TBS, and even DAZN. 3) They have the financial backing of multi-millionaires Shahid and Tony Khan who are the owners of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars (starting to get a sense of déjà vu??).

Now nobody should be disillusioned to think they will become an instant competitor to WWE but at least there’s a glimmer of hope - hope that a metaphorical fire will be lit under the ass of WWE to put some effort into their product. I personally find NXT to be the most entertaining and fresh programming they produce outside of an occasional episode of Smackdown. Other than those exceptions, the product has become stale with poor storytelling, mediocre promos put forth by the talent, and mismanagement of the roster. 

When one explores the history of WWE, their most entertaining eras were the days when Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Randy Savage were regular headliners and, without question, The Attitude Era. The Attitude Era wasn’t just entertaining because of the TV-14 rating, but also because it was the only time they’ve ever been legitimately challenged by another promotion. The future looks very promising for AEW and WWE certainly took notice after the Jericho signing which was evident by their immediate movement of his profile on their website to the Alumni section.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Lew Jenkins: An Improbable Story of Redemption

By TWI Staff 

Check out Luis Cortes' recent feature article for The Sweet Science on boxing historian and TWI contributor, Gene Pantalone's latest book, From Boxing Ring to Battlefield: The Life of War Hero Lew Jenkins.

Lew Jenkins: An Improbable Story of Redemption

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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Impact Wrestling Homecoming Recap

By Steve Ward

Impact Wrestling returned to The Asylum in Nashville, TN where Jeff Jarrett and his father Jerry created Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) after the demise of WCW back in 2002. Having survived through multiple ownership battles, roster overhauls, and several network changes, this pay-per-view seemed to symbolize a sort of rebirth for the company…again…as they returned to their roots and are about to embark on another new TV deal beginning this week as they move from Pop TV to the Pursuit Channel (one I wasn’t even sure if my cable provider offered until I searched for it).

The card featured eight bouts with four titles contested. My only gripe with the show was if Impact Wrestling was attempting to have a sense of nostalgia surrounding it, then where were Tommy Dreamer and Raven who laid out Eli Drake on the final Impact before the event? The only legends that appeared on the pay-per-view were Abyss and Konnan, aside from those featured in the vignettes produced to display the history of The Asylum. Nonetheless, this was still an entertaining event and I continue to be pleased with the vast improvement of the product’s announce team since the introduction of ECW and TNA stalwart Don Callis on color commentary.

Ultimate X Match for the X Division Championship
Rich Swann vs. Trey of the Rascalz vs. Ethan Page vs. Jake Crist of OVE
Winner: Rich Swann

This match came to fruition after Brian Cage utilized Option C and relinquished the X Division title in exchange for a shot at Johnny Impact’s Heavyweight Championship. It was apparent that selection of the participants in this bout was strategically designed to put Trey, Page, and Crist on a major platform with the veteran Swann carrying them through the match. Swann clearly shined in this contest and put his full arsenal of high flying acrobatics on display. In the end. Swann and Trey simultaneously scaled the Ultimate X scaffolding as Swann just beat him to the center of the ominous structure and retrieved the title to become the new champion.

Su Yung & Allie vs. Kiera Hogan & Jordynne Grace
Winners: Su Yung & Allie via submission

After Allie “lost her soul” to Father James Mitchell at Bound for Glory when she entered the undead realm to save Kiera Hogan, she slowly displayed a much darker character over the past couple months which culminated in this contest coming to the forefront after fruitless efforts by Hogan to save her. Yung and Allie controlled the majority of this match as they prevented Grace from making any impact in this contest and in the end Hogan fell victim to the mandible claw from Allie. After the conclusion of the match, the undead bridesmaids carried out a casket for Hogan, however, when it was opened Rosemary emerged! After she laid waste to Su Yung and the bridesmaids, she encountered Allie in the ring briefly only to have Allie flee.

Falls Count Anywhere Match
Eddie Edwards vs. Moose
Winner: Eddie Edwards via pinfall

The feud between these former friends finally came to a head this evening. After Edwards “snapped” backstage shortly after Bound for Glory, he was “committed” to Shady Acres Mental Institution in Baltimore, Maryland. Edwards finally made his escape after he was supplied with a keycard by the one and only Raven-who told him he checks himself in once a month. The bout arrived at its conclusion as Edwards proceeded to brutalize Moose with a kendo stick late in the contest. Edwards’ wife Alisha then came down to the ring to seemingly stop him from inflicting more damage to Moose’s cranium. Instead, Alisha took the kendo stick from her husband and continued the assault. Edwards put an exclamation point on his performance as he nailed the DDT to seal the victory.

Willie Mack vs. Sami Callihan
Winner: Sami Callihan via pinfall

Sami Callihan withstood a stunner, a standing moonsault, and the momentum Willie Mack carried throughout the match to finally execute a devastating piledriver for the pinfall victory, with a surprisingly minimal amount of influence from Dave Crist at ringside.

Monster’s Ball Match
Abyss vs. Eli Drake
Winner: Eli Drake

Eli Drake entered this match claiming that he would put an end to hardcore wrestling by defeating The Monster Abyss. Despite being choke slammed onto a pile of thousands of tacks which left his back a bloody and metallic mess, despite being tossed out of the ring and through a table propped up on the outside, and despite the introduction of “Janice” (Abyss’ 2x4 lined with nails), Drake got the upper hand after he tossed a handful of tacks into the face of Abyss late in the contest. Drake proceeded to victimize Abyss with a plethora of chair shots before he finally broke a boat oar over his head to earn the pinfall.

Impact Wrestling Tag Team Championship
The Lucha Bros (Pentagon Jr. & Fenix) vs. LAX (Santana & Ortiz)
Winners: LAX via pinfall

LAX confronted the Lucha Bros on a recent episode of Impact boasting how they had beaten every tag team in Impact Wrestling and challenged them to a match with their titles on the line at Homecoming. This challenge was much to the behest of their manager Konnan who decided not to accompany them to the ring for the contest. The action was fast and furious throughout. Unfortunately, it seemed to end very abruptly as Fenix was the victim of a blitzkrieg as Ortiz hit him with a top rope Code Breaker, then Santana clocked him with a super kick, and finally both double teamed a dazed Fenix with a suplex that allowed Santana to earn the pinfall victory.

Impact Knockouts Championship
Tessa Blanchard (c) vs. Taya Valkyrie
Winner: Taya Valkyrie via pinfall

The feud between Valkyrie and Blanchard became so heated leading up to Homecoming that Impact Wrestling instilled Hall of Famer Gail Kim as the special guest referee. Late in the contest, Blanchard got into a verbal scuffle with Kim as she was seemingly frustrated with her inability to earn a pinfall. The war of words quickly escalated as Blanchard decided to shove Gail Kim. Kim took exception to this and caught Blanchard off guard with her finisher, Eat Defeat. Taya capitalized and followed up with the Road to Valhalla to become the new Knockouts Champion!

Impact World Championship
Johnny Impact (c) vs. Brian Cage
Winner: Johnny Impact

Brian Cage decided to implement Option C, made famous by Austin Aries, back in November as he cashed in the X Division Title for an opportunity to compete for the World Championship. Brian Cage should receive credit for putting on a very competitive match despite apparently nursing a hamstring injury (his hamstring was virtually covered in kinesio tape) which seemed to limit his typical variety of aerial maneuvers ,a man his size should not be able to execute.

After a evenly contested match, Johnny Impact attempted to end the contest as he landed Starship Pain and a top rope Spanish Fly, both of which Cage kicked out of. Then Brian Cage hit several power bombs and the Drill Claw, neither of which could put away Impact. Moments later, Cage was propelled into the barricade at ringside where two former Survivor contestants sat and proceeded to shove Cage. After Cage laid waste to one of them, he returned to the ring as the ref remained distracted and was not there to count Cage’s attempted pinfall.

The conclusion of the match arrived as Johnny Impact stood on the ring apron with Cage inside standing on the rope in an attempt to suplex him back inside. I’ll be honest, the end of this match just looked off. Cage attempted to suplex him multiple times to no avail and his final attempt saw Impact vault over the top and land on Cage in an awkward pinfall. The ref’s count even appeared as if it didn’t make it to three before Cage kicked out, but nonetheless, Johnny Impact’s music echoed through the arena before the ref made any indication of a pinfall putting an end to the contest. Cage then swiped the title from the ref and held it up in a brief protest before he dropped it in front of Impact and walked out of the arena.

After the match, Impact’s wife Taya Valkyrie joined him in the ring as the two world champs celebrated together. The two walked to the top of the exit ramp to again pose with their titles as everyone assumed the pay-per-view was over. Just then, Killer Kross emerged from the back to victimize Johnny Impact. As he was laid out at ringside, Taya tried to avenge her husband only to be hoisted up by Kross in a power bomb starting position and he proceeded to vault her into the crowd. The show ended with Kross exiting the arena, maniacal expression and all, seemingly propelling himself into the title picture.

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