Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2023/04/14/pollocks-update-audience-awaits-another-summer-of-punk/
POST IT NOTES
**Rewind-A-SmackDown is live at 10 p.m. ET tonight for all POST Wrestling Café members. Due to the unknown start time for Rampage, we are just reviewing SmackDown and will also chat about the top news stories including CM Punk, and take your calls & feedback.
**On Thursday, Brandon Thurston and I spoke with LightShed analyst Brandon Ross on the WWE-UFC merger, the impact of Nick Khan on WWE, the company’s future streaming strategy and how NBC U views the WWE Network, the impact the NBA rights hold in the space, and lots of insight regarding the media landscape.
**This weekend, David Meyers & Bruce Lord will have an edition of POSTmarks with guest Brandon from New Jersey and that will be posted on the main POST Wrestling feed. On Sunday, Wrestlenomics is back covering the past week’s news and developments. On Monday, John Siino & I will have an IMPACT Rebellion POST Show for POST Wrestling Café members.
**Expect a lot of coverage next week for Stardom’s All-Star Grand Queendom event, which takes place at Yokohama Arena on 4/23. The card is headlined by Giulia vs. Tam Nakano for the World of Stardom title with Mercedes Mone defending the IWGP Women’s Championship against Mayu Iwatani.
**Earlier this week, I was on the Fight Game Podcast with Garrett Gonzales discussing my career, working at POST Wresting, the media landscape, social media, and Bo Jackson.
THE PENDING RETURN OF CM PUNK
The saga of CM Punk appears to have moved to the stage of ‘when not if’ he returns. Fightful Select reported on Thursday that Punk is expected back with AEW with a potential return date of 6/21 for the recently announced Dynamite episode at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago (the go-home show before Forbidden Door). In addition, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has suggested that the rumored Saturday night program (first reported by Andrew Zarian) could play a role in the Punk return strategy. With divisions among the opinions of Punk, the Saturday show could provide the opportunity for a hard or soft brand split, which allows the promotion to limit the locker room tensions – a band-aid solution, which ultimately, will need to be rectified.
The direct parties involved – Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks – are also in the midst of contract years and the handling of Punk’s return has to be a factor when Tony Khan is weighing the potential of those three exploring their options and the potential blow of losing three of the company’s franchise stars. In a bygone era, you take real-life conflict, expose enough of it to the public to garner that ‘realness’, and then cash in at the box office. It’s a different time and place from Randy Savage running down Jerry Lawler in Kentucky, then going to Memphis and working a program where both can draw money together. The entity that cashes in on Punk’s return, a possible program with The Elite, and profits off of the drama is AEW with the performers under guaranteed deals. You can also flip that equation, where Punk tearing his triceps and missing months of action in the territorial days would have forced him back to the ring too soon because he wouldn’t have been paid, and the same goes for Kenny Omega for the time he missed due to injury.
AEW has been battling the momentum shift among fans for the past year with WWE, which started with the departure of Cody Rhodes and was accentuated with Paul Levesque taking over creative and The Bloodline story catching fire with Sami Zayn and Cody Rhodes challenging Roman Reigns. There is a wait-and-see approach among the fanbase regarding how much of Vince McMahon’s involvement will permeate through the product, which only benefits AEW if WWE turns off any portion of its fanbase.
AEW is going guns blazing into the summer with the pending return of CM Punk, an instant sell-out in Toronto, its most ambitious event ever announced for Wembley Stadium, a retirement for Sting on the horizon, and the appearance of headlining its next pay-per-view with its ‘four pillars’ in a major statement of its internal star creation since the inception of the company.
While no deal or increase in rights fees is a slam dunk, the number of hours WBD is adding to its slate from the AEW end can only ensure its deep commitment to the brand. Last week alone, TNT and TBS aired five hours of original programming including a strong performance for the Friday night block of Rampage and Battle of the Belts VI, which exceeded expectations. All Access doesn’t appear to be the breakout hit that is going to grow the audience with a drop-off for the third episode after lukewarm numbers for the first two episodes. This week’s number for All Access was much closer to the performance of Power Slap, although doesn’t come with the baggage and bad press of that series, given the natural lead-in, should be doing significantly better than Power Slap.
The CM Punk dilemma always required a solution and an answer from Tony Khan. The torn triceps allowed for some much-needed time away from the spotlight and allowed tempers to cool, although it’s questionable how cooled off the tensions really are. It is the next task for Khan the manager and coach to handle a delicate situation knowing that he’s putting a lot of stock in a 44-year-old CM Punk, who has been greatly hampered by injuries over the past year and risks upsetting a portion of the locker room including the three stars with an initial in the company’s brand.
Regardless of the outcome, it appears that we are in store for another installment of the ‘Summer of Punk’.
**AAA presents its first of three TripleMania cards this Sunday night in Monterrey. The event has focused on those not performing on the show more than those who are actually wrestling. The major figure attached was social media star Adrian Marcelo, who had been set for a match with Chessman that blew up on multiple fronts. The first issue was a geographical one with Marcelo meaning the most in Monterrey, which also has a rigorous commission going back to 2019. Marcelo opted out of the three-hour physical test after an hour and left without a license and therefore, could not be advertised for Sunday’s match with Chessman. Marcelo was the hook for the show and specifically in Monterrey, as Marcelo doesn’t hold the same status in other cities. Marcelo has also been accused of sexual assault by a woman over an alleged incident last year, which is now being investigated by authorities in Nuevo Leon and makes the licensing issue a moot point if the major celebrity on the show is the subject of a serious allegation and would make AAA and/or the commission resistant to use him. Dave Meltzer has reported that AAA is not going to use Marcelo due to the investigation. Chessman is now taking on a mystery opponent this Sunday. It would seem unlikely that AAA would use Marcelo on the show, but it can’t be entirely ruled out. Luchablog suggested someone at the level of Vampiro as the surprise opponent, which will probably get a good reaction from the crowd but will be limited in terms of the type of match to expect.
Konnan also did an interview with Haus of Wrestling noting that the first choice for the Mega Championship challenger was Kenny Omega, who could not do the show. Konnan said there were other people they tried to book and ended up with Swerve Strickland coming from AEW along with Rich Swann from IMPACT (who will be working the AAA card instead of Rebellion this Sunday night) and Komander challenging Hijo del Vikingo for the title in a four-way match. It will be the third high-profile match involving Vikingo and Komander over the past two weeks following the Mark Hitchcock Memorial Supershow and ROH Supercard of Honor.
**For the second episode in a row, IMPACT Wrestling had one of its champions relinquishing a title. In an empty arena setting with the lights turned down, Mickie James closed the episode by stating she is not cleared to compete at Rebellion and vacated the Knockouts Championship and ending ‘The Last Rodeo’, which has been the strongest IMPACT storyline over the past few months. It was a departure from the usual type of story where the babyface teases being out, and then delivers the swerve and is going to wrestle. Instead, James left the title with her cowboy hat in the ring and you had the visual of the vacated title with a silhouette of James walking away to end the show. Deonna Purrazzo and Jordynne Grace will have a match this Sunday for the vacant title with the likely scenario of James returning after the rib injury heals, to challenge for the title again. While IMPACT has been hit by injuries to its top two babyface stars Mickie James and Josh Alexander, the company does have momentum with recent sell-outs in Windsor over two nights, Multiverse United in Los Angeles, and a sell-out of the Rebel Complex in Toronto for Rebellion.
**The WWE stock continues to climb following the merger with Friday’s close at $104.69 as it continues to hit all-time highs. The company’s current market cap currently sits at $7.79 billion.
**Friday Night SmackDown is at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska tonight. WrestleTix reports over 7,300 tickets distributed with the following announced for the show:
*Shinsuke Nakamura returns
*Santos Escobar vs. Damian Priest
*Xavier Woods vs. LA Knight
*Championship celebration with Raquel Rodriguez & Liv Morgan
**AEW Rampage was taped on Wednesday night in Milwaukee and will air after the NBA playoff game between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. The game begins at 7 p.m. ET with TNT currently listing Rampage for 9:30 p.m. but the start time will be dictated by the NBA game and could start later. The following will air on Rampage:
*Jack Perry vs. Shawn Spears
*Taya Valkyrie vs. Emi Sakura
*Jay Lethal, Jeff Jarrett, Satnam Singh & Mark Briscoe vs. Serpentico, Angelico, Luther & Jake Manning
*IWGP Tag Team Championships: Aussie Open © vs. Chuck Taylor & Trent Beretta
*The Hardys will speak
*FTR makes an announcement
**Stardom concludes the annual Cinderella tournament on Saturday at Yoyogi National Stadium with the semi-finals and final of the largest version of the tournament. The final four will feature Mai Sakurai against Waka Tsukiyama and MIRAI taking on Ami Sohrei with the final taking place in the main event of the card. Karen Peterson will have a review of the card this weekend on the site. It is Stardom’s last event until next weekend’s big pay-per-view card at Yokohama Arena.
**NJPW is running its Tamashii events in Australia this weekend. The first show was earlier today followed by Saturday in Sydney at Liberty Hall and Sunday at The Croxton in Melbourne. The card in Sydney card is headlined by Shingo Takagi against Jack Bonza, and Sunday sees Takagi against Robbie Eagles. NJPW has sent Takagi, Eagles, and Hirooki Goto on the weekend tour.
**Pat McAfee released a behind-the-scenes video of his return at WrestleMania 39, which was kept quiet throughout the lead-up to his appearance with The Miz.
**Gregory Iron is working on a motivational autobiography alongside John Cosper. Iron has been wrestling for over sixteen years and has done so while dealing with cerebral palsy. Iron stated he had taken time off from professional wrestling to complete the book, which he hopes to have out this summer and is back to taking bookings. Cosper has previously released books on Chris Candido, Tracy Smothers, Mad Man Pondo, Dr. D David Schultz, and the history of professional wrestling in Louisville.
**GCW ‘I Can’t Feel My Face’ is Saturday night in Sauget, Illinois with Masha Slamovich vs. Cole Radrick for the GCW title, The East-West Express & Myron Reed vs. Komander, Arez & Gringo Loco, Los Macizos vs. The Rejects, Shigehiro Irie vs. Bryan Keith, Blake Christian vs. Dan the Dad, Second Gear Crew vs. Thrussy, Shane Mercer vs. Calvin Tankman, and Tony Deppen vs. Shazza McKenzie. The card will be streaming at 9 p.m. ET on Fite+ and they return on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET with a show in Indianapolis, which includes Effy & Allie Katch against Doug Gilbert & Tommy Rich.
**Jon Anik was a guest with Luke Thomas & Brian Campbell of CBS Sports and spoke about the recent threat issued by Colby Covington. After Covington believed that Anik was favoring Belal Muhammad for a title fight against Leon Edwards over Covington, the welterweight issued a statement threatening Anik and making a remark about knowing where he lives and Anik’s children growing up without a father. Anik explained on the show that he generally took the message as being ‘in-character’ but admitted his daughter will eventually find that threat online and have to explain it and questioned bringing one’s children into it. Even worse, is that whether you take Covington seriously or not, he has enough fans that reached out to Anik with their own threats and it’s such a terrible look when Anik is among the most respected figures and Covington has nothing to gain going against a broadcaster. Anik told Thomas & Campbell that no one from the UFC reached out to Anik but that he and Covington did communicate privately since the threat was issued.
**PFL has its third card of the 2023 season tonight in Las Vegas and streaming on ESPN+. The fights begin at 7 p.m. ET with the major fight pitting Shane Burgos (15-3) in his PFL debut against 2022 tournament winner Olivier Aubin-Mercier (16-5) in a lightweight contest.
**The UFC Fight Night card on Saturday takes place at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri with a big featherweight fight headlining the show. Former 145-pound champion Max Holloway is hoping to bounce back after his third loss to Alexander Volkanovski against the red-hot Arnold Allen, who has won his last twelve fights going back to 2014. Allen is hoping to leap into the championship picture and build off his wins against Dan Hooker and Calvin Kattar last year. Holloway seems to be in a tough spot as it’s hard to envision him getting another crack at the title as long as Volkanovski is champion but should be favored against many of the rising contenders in the division. It is a massive test for Allen and would position him strongly for a title fight if he gets the win.
MAIN CARD (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN & ESPN+)
*Max Holloway (23-7) vs. Arnold Allen (19-1)
*Edson Barboza (22-11) vs. Billy Quarantillo (17-4)
*Dustin Jacoby (18-6-1) vs. Azamat Muzakanov (12-0)
*Ion Cutelaba (16-9-1) vs. Tanner Boser (20-9-1)
*Chris Gutierrez (19-3-2) vs. Pedro Munhoz (19-7)
*Rafa Garcia (15-3) vs. Clay Guida (38-22)
PRELIMINARY CARD (4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+)
*TJ Brown (17-9) vs. Bill Algeo (16-7)
*Brandon Royval (14-6) vs. Matheus Nicolau (19-2-1)
*Ed Herman (25-15) vs. Zak Cummings (24-7)
*Gillian Robertson (11-7) vs. Piera Rodriguez (9-0)
*Daniel Zellhuber (12-1) vs. Lando Vannata (12-6-2)
*Bruna Brasil (8-2-1) vs. Denise Gomes (6-2)
*Gaston Bolanos (6-3) vs. Aaron Phillips (12-4)
*Lucie Pudilova (9-5) vs. Joselyne Edwards (12-4)
**MMA Junkie reported that Renato Moicano is off the UFC Fight Night card on 4/29 against Arman Tsarukyan. The lightweight fight was scheduled to headline the event from the UFC Apex and it is unknown if the UFC will find a new opponent for Tsarukyan.
POLLOCK & THURSTON: Brandon Ross of LightShed
John Pollock and Brandon Thurston welcome Brandon Ross of LightShed Partners with his reaction to the WWE-UFC merger.
John Pollock & Wai Ting review AEW Dynamite with Orange Cassidy defending the AEW Int’l Championship, Chris Jericho faces Keith Lee & more.
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman review WWE NXT featuring Dragon Lee vs JD McDonagh vs Duke Hudson vs Grayson Waller to determine the Number 1 Contender for the NXT Championship.
ASK-A-WAI Mailbag Show
John Pollock and Wai Ting answer their patrons’ questions about anything and everything in the April 2023 edition of Ask-A-Wai.
John Pollock and Wai Ting review WWE Raw with Cody Rhodes reacting to the attack by Brock Lesnar and all the top news stories.
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