POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: WWE mask policy, G-1 update, EVOLVE

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/07/03/pollocks-news-update-wwe-mask-policy-g-1-update-evolve/


**Rewind-A-SmackDown is LIVE tonight at 10:15 pm Eastern with Wai Ting and I running through Friday Night SmackDown, a big discussion of the day’s news, and taking your phone calls throughout the show. The show is live for all members of the POST Wrestling Café.

**On Thursday, we had a great interview with Dr. Alex Patel discussing the latest news & information on COVID-19, what has been learned over the past few months, how promotions are handling their events throughout the pandemic to varying results, and taking lots of listener-submitted questions.

**On Saturday, WH Park and I will have this month’s edition of POST Puroresu with topics including the New Japan Cup and the promotion’s return to live events, next weekend’s shows in Osaka, the latest All Japan card with Suwama vs. Shotaro Ashino, a tremendous All Japan Dojo documentary, the latest in DDT/NOAH/Stardom & other promotions, and more.

**WH also has the next edition of The Long & Winding Royal Road coming out Sunday with guest Scrump of the PWT Cast. The two will look at the November 1997 Real-World Tag League match with Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs. Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki.


Tonight: Rewind-A-SmackDown LIVE with John Pollock & Wai Ting (LIVE at 10:15 pm ET for all Patrons)
Saturday: POST Puroresu with John Pollock & WH Park
Sunday: The Long & Winding Royal Road with WH Park & guest Scrump (Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs. Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki, November 1997)


**Earlier today, we reported on WWE’s taping schedule through SummerSlam weekend, which is still set for the original date on Sunday, August 23rd. Most of the taping dates will be brand-specific, although there are some exceptions such as the pay-per-views that feature Raw and SmackDown talent, as well as one taping date on Monday, August 17th where they will tape the “go-home” editions of Raw and SmackDown leading into SummerSlam weekend.

**WWE is taping two episodes of Raw today at the Performance Center to air this Monday and the following week on July 13th.

**Mike Johnson at PWinsider.com reports that WWE has introduced a strict policy regarding masks being worn during events. Those no wearing a mask will be fined $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a second violation. This is not applied to talent performing on camera during the shows. The policy was confirmed to POST Wrestling after Johnson’s report came out.

**Friday Night SmackDown airs tonight at 8 pm Eastern on Fox following a set of tapings held Thursday at the WWE Performance Center. The following is advertised for tonight’s episode:
*AJ Styles vs. Drew Gulak for the Intercontinental title (originally scheduled for last week and moved back)
*Michael Cole’s sit-down interview with Matt Riddle
*Sheamus’ “toast” to Jeff Hardy

**New Japan president Harold Meij spoke to Justin Barrasso of SI.com regarding the company’s return to running live events. In the interview, Meij spoke on the measures in place to reduce the risk for its performers and fans, including frequent COVID-19 testing they will administer:

This includes, amongst others, the regular COVID testing of all our talent and staff, disinfection protocols for all arena areas, and importantly the ability to trace customers in case of an outbreak. We have decided to implement not only all government, local government, and venue specific prevention measures, but have also established our own procedures, including requiring all talent and staff to undergo regular COVID testing and customer traceability procedures. However, even with these precautions, we decided to restart our live action events slowly. At first live actions were held with no audiences, and we will start to welcome fans with one-third or less of venue capacity.

Meij also spoke about the status of the G-1 Climax, the promotion’s largest tour of the year. The plan was always to run the G-1 in the fall due to the now-postponed Olympics in Tokyo. Meij told SI that the G-1 is still on the schedule as of now:

As a result of the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics, we had already decided to move our annual G1 Climax tournament, which traditionally takes place during the summer months, to the autumn. It is still on the calendar, although again, venues and crowd capacity will be dependent on both our own and the local governments’ guidelines. As for our previously scheduled tours like Best of the Super Juniors, both fans and wrestlers alike were disappointed at their cancellation. All of those voices will be taken into account in the second half of the year as we look to present something to fans that matches, or even surpasses, our initial plans.

**Mike Johnson at PWInsider.com broke the story that EVOLVE has been sold to WWE and becoming the first major independent group that will not come back from the pandemic. EVOLVE had always been a hand-to-mouth operation that launched in 2010 with Gabe Sapolsky’s vision of a sports-based group with a heavy emphasis on win/loss records.

The group went through various iterations and saw a who’s who of the independent wave came through its doors. In the end, it was the industry that “evolved”, specifically WWE that widened its stance of who could be marketable stars and once they entered that game with the rise of NXT, groups such as EVOLVE were going to struggle.

When FloSlam launched in 2016, it was thought to be a panacea for a group like EVOLVE where they numbers floated around seemed too good to be true, which they were and ended up nearly ruining the company. Its lifeline was a working agreement with WWE as the two operated at arm’s length and eventually solidified the relationship with the belief that at any point, WWE could initiate “the snap” and EVOLVE would cease to exist with WWE purchasing it. For Gabe Sapolsky, this may be his swan song with independent wrestling and has been an NXT creative consultant for a long time already.

As Johnson noted in his reporting, WrestleMania Weekend being dropped was a killer for WWN, who still owe refunds to fans for shows they could not produce. This is the reality for the independent scene in terms of the fallout of the pandemic, which will be a story to watch in 2021. Even when the world starts functioning again, will there be promoters that throw their keys on the table and walk away from the industry?

While many don’t have the same overhead costs that are a drain on other businesses during this time, it’s an unknown landscape regarding the confidence a fanbase will have attending local events and what measures may be in place with social distancing and restrictions on venue capacity that could make shows impossible to profit from. Next year’s WrestleMania will be a test, and today, we can’t even forecast what WrestleMania will entail and how the real-world will dictate plans for large scale events. But, putting forth the notion that WrestleMania runs at SoFi Stadium, how many independent groups are going to sink those costs with the fear of 2020 and the money lost over a canceled weekend?

What does WWE get with this purchase? The quick answer is the EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA libraries that feature lots of talent under WWE contract and is easy content to add to the WWE Network, although I see it as content that satisfies an existing subscriber rather than content that will create many new ones.

Down the line, there is an argument that NXT proper isn’t positioned to be a brand showcasing young and green talent on national television and there could be a need for an additional outlet.

For instance, take Jordan Omogbehin, a wrestler that has no business being on national television at this stage but needs ring time and working in front of a crowd (post-pandemic) and that’s the value of a system like EVOLVE where they are not exposed on a national level and is the broadcasting equivalent of going to a small town as a radio DJ rather than a major market when you’re not ready. Whether this is running EVOLVE style shows on the Florida loop with a WWE budget and putting shows on the network at a higher tier, there is a lot of value.

With NXT being a two-hour program on national television, its objectives have changed with the head-to-head competition. There needs to be an avenue in between “Performance Center trainee” and national television performer.

**The sale puts veteran announcer Lenny Leonard at a crossroads regarding his future in the industry. In a Twitter post, he acknowledged that he may have called his last match citing a regular job that pays six-figures and this may be his stop to get off the train at. Leonard is a fantastic voice and I’ve always felt was one big break away from becoming one of the top announcers in the industry. Over the past year, he had begun commentary work for Dragon Gate in Japan and has been calling wrestling since 2003.

**The sale does not mean the end of WWN, which will continue under Sal Hamaoui, which will promote its Full Impact Pro, SHINE, and ACW brands and continue to run the Club WWN streaming service.

**New Japan launches its Lion’s Break Collision show tonight streaming at 10 pm Eastern on New Japan World. The matches were previously taped at the L.A. Dojo and will feature the following:
*Clark Connors vs. Alex Coughlin
*Karl Fredericks & TJP vs. Rocky Romero & Jeff Cobb

**The New Japan Cup final is set as Kazuchika Okada will meet EVIL on Saturday, July 11th and the winner challenges Tetsuya Naito the next day for the IWGP heavyweight & IWGP Intercontinental titles at Dominion. Both shows take place at Osaka-jo Hall that will be set up for approximately 4,000 people to attend.

Friday’s show saw EVIL defeat partner SANADA with numerous fouls committed by EVIL that could tease a break-up later. Okada defeated Hiromu Takahashi, who was the junior heavyweight to have the most success making it to the final four. The story heading into Friday’s show is that the final four were made up of three LIJ members along with Okada. For next Saturday’s final, Okada and EVIL had a hell of a match in Osaka in the G-1 Climax in 2017 and then a follow-up title match in October 2017 at King of Pro Wrestling that was disappointing given the high standard of the G-1 match where EVIL pinned Okada in the tournament.

**Hirai Kawato returned to New Japan on Friday’s New Japan Cup card. He was revealed as “Master Wato” with blue hair and a blue outfit and was attacked by Douki and left in the ring. Kawato, 23, was a rising Young Lion and sent on an excursion to CMLL at the beginning of 2018. As Kawato-San, he won the vacant CMLL lightweight title in June 2019 defeating Audaz and vacated the title last November due to injury. He lost his hair to Dulce Gardenia this past January.

**After many allegations against editor Brandon Stroud, Uproxx announced on Thursday that he is no longer employed by the company. Their wrestling vertical “With Spandex” has been shut down with future pro wrestling content to be housed on Uproxx Sports. Below are the two statements they issued, including the update on Thursday noting Stroud’s departure:

Brandon Stroud is no longer employed by Uproxx, and so we will be shuttering With Spandex. Future pro wrestling coverage will appear on Uproxx Sports. We thank all of the With Spandex readers for being such a passionate and loyal audience through the years.


Recently, allegations of inappropriate behavior by one of our employees came to our attention. We are deeply disturbed by these allegations. We condemn discrimination and harassment of any kind. There’s no place for it in our business. We took immediate action, including placing the employee on leave, suspending the publication of With Spandex, and launching an internal investigation into the employee’s behavior. Pending the outcome of the investigation, we will take appropriate action.

**SLAM Wrestling has an article stemming from an idea pitched by Portia Perez. The retired wrestler posted an offer for promoters & talent that feel any of their past matches were negatively affected by sexualized and misogynistic commentary. Perez offered to redo the commentary providing the talent receives a free copy of those matches. After posting the offer, over 30 commentators, including Lenny Leonard and Ian Riccaboni have offered their services free-of-charge. The article features reflections from Leonard on his own commentary and what can be learned moving forward.

**Here are the matches scheduled for MLW’s Anthology episode covering the Von Erichs on Saturday night on their YouTube channel and beIN Sports at 10 pm Eastern:
*The Von Erichs, Tom Lawlor & Low Ki vs. CONTRA Unit in a War Chamber Match
*The Dynasty vs. The Von Erichs for the MLW tag titles

**The WWE stock closed at $45.51 on Friday.

**Joey Janela turns 31 years old today.


**It was reported on Friday that Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov has passed away after health complications including COVID-19. It was reported by RT Sport that the father of Khabib Nurmagomedov, died of “irreversible brain trauma caused by a stroke” as he had been hospitalized following his health problems that began in mid-May. This included heart surgery for a pre-existing condition made worse by the virus. Over a week ago, Khabib had provided an update stating the coronavirus was no longer an issue, but the effects of the virus had affected Abdulmanap’s kidneys and heart.

**MMA Fighting is reporting that UFC bantamweight Anderson dos Santos and his coach have tested positive for the coronavirus and is off of the July 15th card on Yas Island. The fighter was stationed in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is one of four anchor cities all fighters must report to prior to going to Abu Dhabi. MMA Fighting reported he received news of his positive test on Thursday along with his coach Marcos “Babuino”. Dos Santos was scheduled to fight Jack Shore on July 15th. Later, Guilherme Cruz of MMA Fighting added that light heavyweight Vinicius Moreira is also off the July 15th card due to testing positive for the virus after being quarantined in Sao Paulo at the hotel. Moreira had been set to fight Modestas Bukauskas.

**This is the last weekend a UFC card for the foreseeable future as they have cards scheduled for every Saturday through August 29th beginning with next weekend’s UFC 251 pay-per-view. For the month of July, they will hold four events in Abu Dhabi on Yas Island from July 11th to July 25th. Then, in August they return to the UFC Apex with Saturday nights show the entire month including the UFC 252 card on August 15th. They will also launch a new season of Dana White’s Contender Series beginning Tuesday, August 4th, and run each Tuesday that month.

**The Quad-City Times is reporting that former UFC champion Pat Miletich was arrested this past Monday for driving under the influence, according to police reports the outlet obtained. They reported Miletich was booked at Rock Island County Jail at 2 am, although the report doesn’t state if he was above or below the legal limit of .08. In Illinois, you can be charged for any level of alcohol in your system that impairs your ability to drive a vehicle. In March 2019, Miletich pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated after he was arrested in Bettendorf, Iowa the previous September. He had to undergo one year of unsupervised probation, in-home detention, and undergo a 12-hour course in Iowa. Miletich is scheduled for a kickboxing fight later this month on July 18th against Michael Nunn.

**Brendan Schaub has announced that he has contracted the coronavirus. Schaub and co-host Bryan Callen recently did comedy shows in Texas with Callen awaiting test results to see if he has the virus, or not.

**Invicta FC held their first empty arena show on Thursday night from Kansas City, Kansas, and was their first event since early March. Below are the results from the show that streamed on Fight Pass:
*Genia Goodin def. Shelby Koren by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Trisha Cicero def. Laura Gallardo by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
*Chelsea Chandler def. Olivia Parker by rear-naked choke at 1:05 of Round 1
*Alesha Zappitella def. Lindsey VanZandt by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
*Emily Ducote def. Juliana Lima by unanimous decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

**Invicta FC returns to the same city on Thursday, July 30th with a card headlined Janaisa Morandin taking on Montserrat Ruiz in a strawweight fight. Veteran Kaitlin Young is also on that card facing Latoya Walker in a featherweight fight.

**Combate reports that a featherweight fight between Ryan Hall and Ricardo Lamas will take place on the UFC Fight Night card set for Saturday, August 29th at the Apex in Las Vegas. Since winning the Ultimate Fighter in December 2015, Hall has defeated Gray Maynard, BJ Penn, and Darren Elkins in the promotion. Lamas has lost three of his last four fights and is coming off a knockout loss to Calvin Kattar last June at UFC 238. Hall and Lamas were originally set to fight in May on a card that was canceled due to the pandemic.



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I just watched this, a quick in and out show and they developed a story between Connors and Cobb. New Japan USA has done a lot of things you can question but for now the biggest one is having this air Friday at 10. There’s a big hole on Thursday and seeing as it’s OnDemand you could just release it anytime you want

Also wanted to point this out something I emailed the Observer
First photo was the WWE Instagram account last night promoting a 1 on 1 match between Asuka and “The insufferable” Bayley on Raw Monday. They put Sasha and Kari as being there as managers. Tonight they removed Kari, seeing as the show has already been taped I think either

  1. She’s back and they spoiled it
  2. They don’t know the difference between Kari and Io which would be awful
  3. An honest mistake by the Social Media manager

About the Anderson dos Santos positive test…shouldn’t Dana White & UFC maybe consider removing Sao Paulo as an anchor city? Given that all hell is broken loose with COVID in Brazil, this really, really doesn’t seem like a smart idea to begin with.

They did spoil it