Originally published at POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: Paul Levesque retires from in-ring action
POST IT NOTES
**Rewind-A-SmackDown is live tonight at 11:05 p.m. ET and exclusive for POST Wrestling Café members. Wai Ting and I will have reviews of Friday Night SmackDown and AEW Rampage before we take your calls to discuss any subjects you’d like. The podcast version will be available for Café members right after the show.
**Mike Weber of FITE TV was on the POST Daily News show today discussing their week coming up in Dallas. There was a lot of interesting information in the discussion including pro wrestling’s replay value for their events compared to Boxing and MMA events. Weber has a long history in the industry including director of public relations for WWF in the late ‘80s and working in marketing for WCW and TNA.
**We have a packed weekend of shows with a new edition of POST Puroresu being released on Saturday morning with WH Park being joined by Karen Peterson. We will also have this month’s edition of The NWA Podcast coming out Saturday as Nate Milton, Kris Ealy & Andrew Thompson welcome Brandon Thurston from Wrestlenomics Radio. On Sunday, a new Wrestlenomics drops with Brandon and Chris Gullo.
**Karen Peterson will have reports on both nights of Stardom’s World Climax events at Sumo Hall this weekend featuring KAIRI’s return to the promotion.
**Eric Marcotte will be covering Saturday’s UFC card from Columbus, Ohio headlined by Curtis Blaydes and Chris Daukaus.
POST DAILY NEWS SHOW
-FITE TV COO Mike Weber discusses the platform’s biggest week of the year
-Paul Levesque retires from in-ring action
-Shad Gaspard to receive Warrior Award
-AEW Dynamite ratings
-Friday Night SmackDown & AEW Rampage tonight
PAUL LEVESQUE WILL NEVER WRESTLE AGAIN
**Paul Levesque spoke with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN with a clip running on First Take earlier today as he spoke about his heart issue from last year, which has led to his in-ring career coming to an end. Details on the heart issue were scarce over the past several months and largely limited to a brief statement WWE issued in September to acknowledge what happened with no further updates. With a defibrillator placed into his chest, he has ruled out wrestling again.
In an interview with @stephenasmith, @TripleH officially announces his retirement from in-ring competition. pic.twitter.com/MQcBAIb4gv
— First Take (@FirstTake) March 25, 2022
From Dr. Alex Patel regarding Levesque’s disclosure about his heart issue and ejection fraction:
An Ejection fraction is a measure of heart function. It’s graded from I (around 60 percent) down to 4 (less than 20). It can concur a prognosis of no more than a few years if it doesn’t recover at that level.
Him having a defibrillator is because the heart function is so low that he can develop arrhythmias that are lethal (MADIT II criteria).
If it doesn’t recover, he’s probably looking at a transplant. Hopefully it does.
Either way, not wrestling is the only option.
His time as an everyday wrestler ended years ago and had not been working a full-time schedule since 2010. He was still involved in key matches for WrestleMania each year until 2019, events such as ones in Saudi Arabia and special live events. His last match was against Randy Orton on the January 11, 2021, edition of Raw inside the ThunderDome, which wasn’t billed as an official match.
As a performer, he arguably had his best year in 2000 when most believed he was the best wrestler in the world and rose to the status of WWF’s top heel when business was on fire. His series of matches with Mick Foley at the Royal Rumble and No Way Out that year cemented that status. That year included big matches and programs with Foley, The Rock, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and Kurt Angle. In early 2001, he beat Steve Austin in a two-of-three falls match at No Way Out, which was a questionable decision given Austin was going for the title in Texas the next month against The Rock. The thinking was that with Austin turning heel, he could afford the loss and would set up a big post-Mania program as Hunter moves to the top babyface role as The Rock was leaving to film The Scorpion King. Hunter didn’t turn heel, so instead, you had The Two Man Power Trip story and didn’t have strong babyface opposition. Then, Hunter tore his quad during one of the best matches in the history of Raw where Hunter & Austin lost the tag titles to Benoit & Jericho in San Jose. Hunter missed the entirety of the invasion storyline, returning the following January at Madison Square Garden with one of the all-time great receptions in the history of the show.
Over the next several years, there was no doubt that Hunter’s influence increased dramatically and not always to the betterment of Raw, where he was stationed predominantly during the brand split until moving to SmackDown in 2008. There were many babyfaces on the way up that were curtailed and didn’t reach their potential with the dominant heel on top and established outsiders like Scott Steiner and Bill Goldberg that had disappointing runs. While this period is romanticized because of how Evolution is remembered, Raw was hit and miss and there were prolonged stretches where it demanded new blood on top.
He suffered another quad tear in January 2007 and would miss that year’s WrestleMania, which led to Shawn Michaels getting the spot at WrestleMania against John Cena that year.
Hunter’s best matches at WrestleMania came later with the two against The Undertaker in 2011 and 2012 being the standouts and a fantastic opener against Daniel Bryan in 2014. The following years saw him in key matches on the big show with the likes of Sting, Roman Reigns (going on last after an incredibly long event at AT&T Stadium), Seth Rollins, Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey in a mixed tag involving Stephanie, and Batista at MetLife Stadium in 2019.
His shift from wrestler to executive accelerated in 2013 with NXT becoming his priority and he spearheaded initiatives such as the WWE Performance Center (which was incredibly important for the company to continue taping television during the beginning of the pandemic), expanding the company’s recruitment measures and opening his own viewpoint regarding what talents can become stars. NXT morphed into a brand competing for the top independent talent in the world and took the group from Full Sail University to selling out the Barclays Center for the first time in 2015.
NXT had a lot of advantages being attached to WWE with an ability to spend and invest in talents that would hopefully pay dividends down the road. The NXT black & gold era will always be synonymous with Levesque but that era came to end last September when it was rebranded NXT 2.0 after failing to thwart the rise of AEW while competing head-to-head on cable every Wednesday night from October 2019 until April of last year.
The future of Paul Levesque on the executive level is the next question and how much his heart issue affects his day-to-day abilities and how much a father of three wants to dedicate to work when you survive something that scary.
**Friday Night SmackDown takes place from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York tonight with two episodes before WrestleMania. On the SmackDown side, the card appears to be largely set with the remaining question marks being Ricochet, Sheamus, Ridge Holland, Butch, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods (who returned at the live events two weeks ago but has not been on television since his injury). They have announced the following matches for the show tonight:
*Jimmy Uso vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
*Sasha Banks & Rhea Ripley vs. Queen Zelina & Shayna Baszler
**As of Thursday evening, WrestleTix reported that there were over 7,300 tickets out for tonight’s show at the Barclays Center with the arena set up for almost 8,000. WWE is coming back to the arena after running it on back-to-back nights for the Survivor Series (10,500 paid) and Raw (4,000 paid) in November and just ran a major house show in the market at Madison Square Garden.
**Below are the matches that were taped for tonight’s edition of AEW Rampage airing at 10 p.m. ET on TNT as the show returns to its regular time this week:
*FTW Championship: Ricky Starks (champion) vs. Swerve Strickland
*Nyla Rose vs. Madi Wrenkowski
*Alan “5” Angels & Preston “10” Vance vs. reDRagon
*Lance Archer vs. Dustin Rhodes
*QT Marshall presents Hook with a certificate of achievement
**The New Japan Cup wraps up this weekend with two shows at Osaka-jo Hall. Saturday’s card will stream at 3 a.m. ET featuring the semi-finals of the tournament and the finals taking place on Sunday. The tournament is down to Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito and Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Shingo Takagi and should ensure three incredibly great matches to close the tournament. The winner is expected to challenge Okada for the title at Sumo Hall on April 9th unless they go with Okada winning, but that seems like a longshot and doesn’t serve any purpose. Naito just challenged for the IWGP title in February and I was surprised he beat Jeff Cobb to make it this far. ZSJ and Takagi would likely be the favorites to win the whole thing and neither option would be a bad one. Of late, the crowd numbers have been picking up and we’ll see if that momentum continues running a larger venue like Osaka-jo Hall on consecutive nights.
**STARDOM has two major events this weekend with back-to-back nights at Sumo Hall featuring KAIRI (formerly Kairi Hojo, Kairi Sane) returning to the company after departing for WWE in 2017.
The first night streams early Saturday morning at 4 a.m. and is available as a pay-per-view through the Pia site and has the following card:
*World of Stardom Championship: Syuri (champion) vs. Giulia
*Wonder of Stardom Championship: Saya Kamitani (champion) vs. Utami Hayashishita
*Mayu Iwatani & KAIRI vs. Tam Nakano & Unagi Sayaka
*Goddesses of Stardom Championships: Koguma & Hazuki (champions) vs. Momo Watanabe & Starlight Kid
*Maika & Thekla vs. Risa Sera & Suzu Suzuki
*Gauntlet Match: Natsupoi, Mai Sakurai & Himeka vs. Mina Shirakawa, Waka Tsukiyama & Momo Kohgo vs. Saki Kashima, Fukigen Death & Ruaka vs. AZM, Lady C & TBA
*Saya Iida vs. MIRAI
*Future of Stardom Championship: Hanan (champion) vs. Rina
**The second night at Sumo Hall streams late Saturday/early Sunday at 1 a.m. ET with the winner of Syuri vs. Giulia defending the World of Stardom title against Mayu Iwatani, the winner of Saya Kamitani vs. Utami Hayashishita defending the Wonder of Stardom title against Tam Nakano, and KAIRI vs. Starlight Kid among the top matches on the show.
**On the WWE’s WrestleMania match listings, they have moved the match between Edge and AJ Styles to the first night of WrestleMania. That’s the match that has the chance to be the best of either night.
**The WWE Raw crew has shows in Canada this weekend in Kitchener and Toronto, Ontario. Trish Stratus, who is one of the judges on Canada’s Got Talent, will be the host for both shows. They are advertising Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch, and Finn Balor among the talent for the Canadian events. The SmackDown crew has a show on Saturday in State College, Pennsylvania and Charlottesville, Virginia on Sunday. Roman Reigns is on both shows along with Sasha Banks, Drew McIntyre, and Kofi Kingston.
**IMPACT Wrestling has added a mixed tag match to its Multiverse of Matches card next Friday at WrestleCon. Mickie James will team with her husband Nick Aldis to take on Chelsea Green & her husband Matt Cardona. This came out of Thursday’s angle that aired on IMPACT where Green turned on James and led to Cardona attacking James.
**The WRLD on Lucha card has added a six-man scramble match with Octagon Jr. vs. Drago Kid vs. Shane Mercer vs. Aeroboy vs. Golden Dragon vs. Chris Carter for next Friday as part of The Collective.
**Brandon Thurston posted the quarter-hour breakdown from AEW Dynamite this week. As usual, the first segment was the highest with an average of 1,221,000 viewers and 615,000 in 18-49. There were drops over the next two quarters but stayed relatively consistent from 8:30-9:30 p.m. ET, the 18-49 audience fell below 500,000 viewers for the final half-hour of the show including the main event.
Quarter-hours for AEW Dynamite on TBS, Wednesday night.
📊 Posted yesterday for subscribers in greater detail: https://t.co/MdqOQeja7t pic.twitter.com/eyuVAPZEJg
— Brandon Thurston (@BrandonThurston) March 25, 2022
**C*4 Wrestling in Ottawa, Ontario returns tonight with a card at St. Anthony’s Hall where proof of vaccination and masks are mandatory. The show features Biff Busick vs. Kevin Blackwood, Daniel Makabe vs. Marcus Mathers, Josh Alexander vs. Myung-Jae Lee, Dominic Garrini & Kevin Ku vs. TDT, Willow Nightingale vs. Alexia Nicole, and a scramble match with Tarik vs. Jody Threat vs. Gabriel Fuerza vs. Kobe Durst vs. Cecil Nyx vs. Macrae Martin among the matches listed. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. with the promotion noting there are about 50 general admission tickets remaining.
**NXT’s Level Up airs at 10 p.m. ET tonight on the WWE Network featuring Jacket Time (Ikemen Jiro & KUSHIDA) vs. Edris Enofe & Malik Blade, Ivy Nile vs. Kiana James (Kayla Inlay), and Joe Gacy vs. Quincy Elliott.
**In addition to the theatres across the United States, WrestleMania 38 will be available in select Cineplex theatres across Canada with a full list on their site.
**Pro Wrestling NOAH has added Thursday’s card to Wrestle Universe, which is headlined by Masakatsu Funaki defending the GHC National Championship against Hideki Suzuki in the main event.
**Through online records, MMA Fighting has noted that Jorge Masvidal has entered a plea of not guilty following his arrest on Wednesday and facing two felony charges. Masvidal is accused of aggravated battery and criminal mischief for allegedly striking Colby Covington outside the Papa Steak restaurant in Miami on Monday night. Masvidal is seeking a jury trial and is scheduled to return to court on Thursday, April 21st. Masvidal is currently out on bond, which had been set at $15,000.
**The UFC Fight Night card takes place from the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio with their second Fight Night in a row outside of the Apex. Below is the card with the results from Friday’s weigh-ins:
MAIN CARD (6 p.m. ET on ESPN & ESPN+)
*Curtis Blaydes (259) vs. Chris Daukaus (243)
*Joanne Wood (125) vs. Alexa Grasso (125)
*Bryan Barberena (170.5) vs. Matt Brown (170.5)
*Kai-Kara France (125.5) vs. Askar Askarov (126)
*Ilir Latifi (239.5) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (246)
*Marc Diakiese (155) vs. Viacheslav Borshchev (155.5)
PRELIMINARY CARD (3 p.m. ET on ESPN & ESPN+)
*Max Griffin (171) vs. Neil Magny (170)
*Karol Rosa (135) vs. Sara McMann (135)
*Danaa Batgerel (136) vs. Chris Gutierrez (135)
*Aliaskhab Khizriev (185) vs. Denis Tiuliulin (185.5)
*Jennifer Maia (126) vs. Manon Fiorot (125.5)
*David Dvorak (125.5) vs. Matheus Nicolau (126)
*Bruno Souza (144) vs. Luis Saldana (145)
**Ariel Helwani had a terrific commentary on his show this week discussing the disclosed pay of Paddy Pimblett for last weekend’s fight against Kazula Vargas at the O2 Arena in London. Pimblett was on Barstool Sports and shared that he was paid $24,000 along with his $50,000 performance of the night bonus. Most UFC fighters have a show/win bonus instead of a flat purse. In Pimblett’s case, had he lost the fight he would have been paid $12,000. Pimblett was arguably the biggest star to the fans in the arena on a show that generated a gate of $4.5 million. Pimblett stated after the fight that he was unwilling to fight an opponent ranked in the top fifteen until the UFC increases his pay significantly.
**MMA Fighting has put out the final video in a series documenting video journalist E. Casey Leydon’s lead-up to his first amateur fight last weekend in California.
ON THIS DATE
The WWF launched the first version of the brand split in 2002 with the inaugural draft. This came from the original idea of splitting the rosters for Raw and SmackDown with WCW taking over Nitro and WWF having SmackDown the year prior, but those plans imploded. There were many reasons to try this concept from separate house show crews, limiting the exposure level of its top stars, creating more top spots with a distinct roster, and long-term to have additional pay-per-views which began in June 2003. In theory, this had a lot of potential and there were benefits but they hardly maximized the opportunity to create a competitive environment for the viewers with talent appearing on both shows, Vince McMahon beating Ric Flair to take control within three months, Steve Austin leaving in June, and The Rock being much more limited in terms of his availability.
The final match between Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe in 2019 on an edition of Raw:
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