POLLOCK'S UPDATE: WWE Talent Cuts, SmackDown to USA

Originally published at POLLOCK'S UPDATE: WWE Talent Cuts, SmackDown to USA

This Weekend at POSTWrestlingCafe.com

Tonight: Rewind-A-SmackDown with John Pollock & Wai Ting (Link for Café members)
Saturday: Collision Course with Kate from Montreal & John Siino
Sunday: NJPW Destruction in Kobe review with Bruce Lord & Karen Peterson

Karen Peterson reviews the inaugural SUKEBAN event that went down on Thursday night in New York City and streamed on New York City. In addition to the matches, they revealed that the commissioner of the group will be Bull Nakano.

Brandon Thurston and I did a breaking news show on Thursday reacting to the news that SmackDown will move back to the USA Network in 2024.

A new POSTmarks show will be released on Saturday with Bruce Lord & David Meyers speaking with listener Cory Rabiea.


**WWE had their latest round of talent cuts, although it’s been years since the last set. The result was many performers that had been either put on ice or were developmental talents that had yet to make it as NXT regulars. The largest names were Mustafa Ali and Dolph Ziggler with Ali being especially surprising given his upcoming match at No Mercy and cutting a promo on Tuesday’s program that he would be showing up at Raw. It shows you how the depth of the decision-making and the lack of communication from Tuesday night to Thursday morning and ending Ali in the mid-stream of his story. Ziggler had been the longest-tenured of the cuts going back to 2004 and for years, was considered to have main event potential and flirted with that role at various points. It became clear that Ziggler was not going to be elevated to the next level and after cashing in his MITB briefcase in memorable fashion in April 2013, he sustained a concussion and when he returned, was never booked at the previous level. There were points where he was heated up including the onset of the brand split in 2016 and putting his career on the line in his Sacramento against The Miz and the two had a tremendous match. Last year, he was sent to NXT to work with Bron Breakker and had a brief run with the title and was his last significant role, and inactive since May. He is 43 years old and should have plenty of interest as his strongest supporters had championed him to leave years ago to see what his potential was under a different company that was behind him. Ali checks a lot of the same boxes as a creative individual and a strong in-ring performer. The promos he did online often blew away most of the similar spots from television and showed you the drive he had to produce those independent of WWE. He had been with the company since the Cruiserweight Classic and was one of the few participants to survive 205 Live but there was an obvious ceiling on the main roster that he fought to break through, ultimately requesting his release last year before he was brought back and ended up spinning his wheels.

The full list joining Ali and Ziggler includes Elias, Dana Brooke, Shelton Benjamin, Emma, Riddick Moss, Aliyah, Top Dolla, Rick Boogs, Dabba-Kato, Shanky, Mansoor, Mace, Quincy Elliott, Yulisa Leon, Bryson Montana, Ikemen Jiro, Brooklyn Barlow, Kevin Ventura-Cortes,  Daniel McArthur, and Alexis Gray.

The landing spots are hard to ascertain with a large list of available free agents once their no-competes expire but only so many positions in the industry. AEW has a loaded roster but has shown an openness to sign talents that stand out, or even go for ones that seem less obvious choices for their system. Ali would seem like a favorite to land there for many reasons while Ziggler is an interesting one given his age but probably has the most curiosity regarding his post-WWE plans. Riddick Moss has unrealized potential and we got to see that during his series of matches with Drew McIntyre that he’s a great talent but was hurt by the awful Madcap gimmick and was going nowhere. Emma would be a great addition to either the AEW or returning to the IMPACT divisions. Elias and Rick Boogs are strong personalities and could fit with an IMPACT. The large question looming is how many of these performers see a future outside of WWE and can be content with the potential of making less money and having to hustle their own schedules, merchandise, travel, etc. Someone like Ziggler can probably attract pretty decent earnings on the independent level but for every Matt Cardona, there are dozens that cannot make the transition or price themselves out of the industry. For the athletes that made it through the WWE tryouts and have only worked in the Performance Center, it’s a giant culture shock to go from that environment to the Indies and not carry the names of a main roster talent that has been cut. Every person is different but the opportunities are out there for the hungriest and the ones with a resolve to find a spot for themselves.

**The WWE SmackDown move to the USA Network did not sit well with Wall Street as the TKO stock didn’t bounce back on Friday and closed at $83.79 on Friday after hovering above $100 prior to Thursday’s announcement. The rumored increase from an average annual value of $205 million that Fox was paying up to $287 million from NBC Universal was not enough to cover the spread. The deal for Raw is still being negotiated and has a chance to make up for some of the shortfall but will depend on the players and whether the SmackDown rights are a signal of WWE being hurt by the chaos within the cable industry and how valued the programming is compared to a year ago. With AEW’s rights up at the end of 2024, there is the potential for a lot of major movements and changes in the wrestling economy when it comes to the rights fees secured by both companies. AEW’s barometer for a successful renewal is a lot lower than WWE’s and when you compare the audience AEW delivers with its current rights, it’s a steal and even a sizable increase could make AEW an attractive alternative for a network that is willing to buy in on pro wrestling and doesn’t view WWE as the only brand to generate viewers. Fox has been in the UFC/WWE business since 2012 and while $287 million per year may have been too steep a cost, they could very well be enticed by a cheaper agreement with AEW and designate that programming for FS 1. There are dozens and dozens of “what ifs?” and until the Raw rights are finalized it’s going to be a lot of guesswork and theoretical questions about its value, moving nights of the week, the potential of WWE directly opposing AEW, and whether or not SmackDown is locked into Fridays? This was one piece of a larger puzzle but the completed picture by next year will set the stage for the next era of professional wrestling between the two top companies.

**POST Wrestling reached out to WWE regarding the Elimination Chamber event set for Perth, Australia next February. The show is advertised for Saturday, February 24 but no start time is listed. We inquired about whether it would remain in the usual Saturday at 8 p.m. ET slot for the U.S. audience and were given the following response:

Elimination Chamber: Perth will take place on Saturday, February 24, at Optus Stadium in Perth. Details on broadcast timings will be announced in due course.

The UFC recently held its UFC 293 card in Sydney, Australia and they keep their shows in the normal U.S. start time for optimal viewership on ESPN+ given the pay-per-view component. That meant the UFC 293 fights began at 8:30 a.m. local time (Perth is 12 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone and would mean an 8 a.m. local start time if WWE keeps the show in the normal time slot). WWE has a lot more flexibility because it’s not trying to sell pay-per-views like UFC is and could get away with airing Elimination Chamber at a time that better suits the live audience in Perth rather than the U.S. viewing audience.

**Bart Sawyer (Steven Wayne Stewart) died last week at the age of 57 with reports of his passing just coming out over the past several days. His career began in Kansas City in 1988 and he became a fixture in the dying days of the Portland territory and would wrestle there throughout his career, USWA, and did a lot of enhancement work in the mid-’90s for WCW. Many have noted that he’s the answer to the trivia question of Dwayne Johnson’s first championship he held the USWA tag titles with Sawyer in June 1996. The pair held the titles twice that summer and lost them to Brickhouse Brown & Reggie B. Fine in July and Johnson wrapped up the next month and debuted on television for the WWF at the Survivor Series in November. Earlier that year, Johnson had his first-ever match at a WWF Superstars tapings in Corpus Christi against the Brooklyn Brawler (this was recreated on Young Rock) and Sawyer was in the very next match beating Brawler, as well and is the only WWF match Sawyer is believed to have had, so he was undefeated in his WWF run. In WCW, he lost to the likes of Diamond Dallas Page, Arn Anderson, Steve Regal & Bobby Eaton, Shinjiro Otani, Ultimo Dragon, and Billy Kidman and last wrestled there in April 1998. Years later, he wrestled a pair of TNA Xplosion matches in 2004 in tag bouts. His career came to an end two years later after he suffered a stroke just before his 39th birthday.

**Canadian viewership figures for this week saw last week’s SmackDown with The Rock average 190,900 and 99,900 in the 25-54 demo, Raw averaged 282,500 and 134,600 in the demo, and NXT averaged 49,800 viewers and 18,700 in the demo on Sportsnet 360. AEW Grand Slam did 77,100 and 38,300 in the demo on TSN 2. The Toronto Blue Jays are heating up with their battle for a playoff spot with their game against the New York Yankees topping 1.2 million viewers on Wednesday night.

**The second edition of IMPACT 1000 averaged 106,000 viewers and 0.01 in the 18-49 demographic on AXS TV this week. (Sports TV Ratings)

**The biggest Rampage of the year is expected to be tonight’s broadcast with a two-hour Grand Slam edition of the show from the Arthur Ashe Stadium taping two nights ago. Two matches were taped prior to Dynamite to spread things out as there were many complaints last year about how late the taping went during a weeknight with the show ending around 12:40 a.m. ET. The show did a 0.09 in the demo last week, which is a very low figure and coincided with a large audience for SmackDown fueled by The Rock’s first appearance on the show in four years. The theory was always that a big SmackDown audience would help Rampage because so many more wrestling fans are watching television and therefore, more likely to continue watching wrestling once SmackDown ends. It was IMPACT Wrestling’s theory to run on Friday nights years ago with the same assumption of attracting the SmackDown audience. The opposite has played out where it seems more often, a large SmackDown audience hurts Rampage and either the additional viewership isn’t interested in alternative wrestling or the audience has had enough after two hours of wrestling – which is the trend we see every Monday night with an audience that gets enough after two hours and always falls in the third hour with rare exception. I don’t expect SmackDown to replicate last week’s audience but there could be some carryover from one week to the next. Below is the lineup for Rampage airing from 10 p.m. until Midnight ET on TNT:
*ROH Six-Man Tag Titles: Brian Cage & Gates of Agony © vs. Young Bucks & Hangman Page
*Luchasaurus & Christian Cage vs. Sting & Darby Allin
*AEW Trios Championships: The Acclaimed vs. Evil Uno, John Silver & Alex Reynolds
*#1 Contenders Match: The Hardys vs. The Kingdom vs. The Righteous vs. Best Friends (winners challenge for the ROH tag titles at WrestleDream on Oct. 1)
*Kris Statlander, Hook & Orange Cassidy vs. Matt Menard, Angelo Parker & Anna Jay
*Julia Hart vs. Skye Blue
*Mike Santana vs. Boulder  
*Sammy Guevara & Don Callis to appear

**Friday Night SmackDown is at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona tonight with almost 12,000 tickets distributed as of two days ago and another strong advance for the show. They advertised a follow-up to last Friday’s closing scene with AJ Styles coming to John Cena’s aid against Solo Sikoa and Jimmy Uso. The following has been announced:
*Women’s Championship: IYO SKY © vs. Asuka
*Rey Mysterio & Santos Escobar vs. Street Profits

**AEW Collision is at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Saturday with WrestleTix reporting a bit of movement in tickets with just over 2,800 tickets out for the show but still not a great number. The head-to-head college football schedule includes Arkansas vs. LSU on ESPN, Washington State vs. Oregon State on Fox, Georgia vs. UAB on ESPN 2, Baylor vs. Texas on ABC, Notre Dame vs. Ohio State on NBC, and Penn State vs. Iowa on CBS. The last two weeks has generated a 0.15 rating in the 18-49 demo for Collision and appears to be the marker to strive for on non-WWE nights. Next week, is an interesting one regarding how much a big NXT PLE can affect Collision and has a stronger card with the addition of Becky Lynch attached. Here are the announced matches for Collision:
*Texas Death Match: Bryan Danielson vs. Ricky Starks
*AEW Tag Titles: FTR © vs. JD Drake & Anthony Henry
*TNT Championship: Luchasaurus © vs. Christian Cage vs. Darby Allin
*Jay White vs. Andrade El Idolo
*Rob Van Dam in action

**NJPW’s Destruction in Kobe event streams on Sunday morning at 3 a.m. ET from Kobe World Hall and the first major New Japan card since the G1 Climax. The main event comes off the final night of the G1 where Yota Tsuji pinned Will Ospreay in a multi-man tag in a surprising result. Tetsuya Naito and Jeff Cobb is a rematch from the G1 where Cobb beat Naito.
*IWGP U.K. Championship: Will Ospreay © vs. Yota Tsuji
*Tetsuya Naito vs. Jeff Cobb
*Shingo Takagi vs. Great O-Khan
*IWGP Tag Team Titles: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste
*KOPW Championship: Taichi (holder) vs. SHO
*Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. & Bad Dude Tito
*Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI vs. Lio Rush & YOH
*David Finlay, Chase Owens, Alex Coughlin, Gabe Kidd & Gedo vs. Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Hikuleo, El Phantasmo & Jado
*SANADA, DOUKI & Taka Michinoku vs. EVIl, Yujiro & Dick Togo
*Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney vs. Tiger Mask & Kevin Knight

**Becky Lynch announced her upcoming WWE schedule including tonight’s SmackDown taping in Glendale, Arizona (which could be a dark match appearance). Aside from her Extreme Rules match with Tiffany Stratton next weekend in Bakersfield, she is also scheduled for the October 3 episode of NXT in Florida.

**The Miz reflected on his favorite match with Dolph Ziggler from No Mercy in October 2016:

I consider one of the best matches of my career the Career vs Title match at No Mercy against @heelziggler. Everything leading up to that match was great. Dolph always brought the best out of me every time we worked together. I don’t know if I’ve faced any one person more than him in my career. I’ll miss those times but excited to see what comes next for him.

**GCW Long. Live airs today from Oberhausen, Germany at 6 p.m. ET on FITE+ with Blake Christian vs. Peter Tihanyi for the GCW title, Effy & Allie Katch vs. Mance Warner & 1 Called Manders, Gringo Loco vs. Leon Slater, Dark Sheik vs. B3CCA, Rina Yamashita vs. Jimmy Lloyd, Arez vs. Shigehiro Irie, Jordan Oliver vs. The Rotation, and Nick Gage vs. Joey Janela. They run the same venue in Oberhausen on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET with Blake Christian vs. Axel Tischer for the GCW title and Rina Yamashita vs. Lou Nixon for the Ultraviolent title.

**Timebomb Pro Wrestling has a card on Thursday, October 12 in Fargo, North Dakota, and will feature an appearance by Ultimo Dragon. The card will take place at the Sanctuary Events Center and is an 18+ event with Violence is Forever also advertised.

**SANADA has been announced for DEFY Wrestling’s Genesis card on Friday, October 27 at Washington Hall in Seattle.

**ESPN has a huge feature on the history of Saudi Arabia’s involvement with sports over the past thirty years with a lot of coverage of WWE’s involvement with the country. WWE held several tours in the country in the mid-80s and returned in 2014 and would return over the next two years before the announcement of the ten-year deal with the government that began in 2018.

**Brian Solomon, the author of “Blood & Fire” covering Ed “The Sheik” Farhat is currently working on a new book on the life and career of Robert Marella a.k.a. Gorilla Monsoon. Solomon has announced that Bret Hart will write the foreword to the book and credits Monsoon with giving him the “Excellence of Execution” nickname.

**Inside the Ropes and Haus of Wrestling are holding “An Afternoon with Kevin Nash & Sean Waltman” on Saturday, November 25 at Joe’s Live in Chicago, which will be hosted by Nick Hausman. The event takes place on the afternoon of Survivor Series in the city and tickets go on sale this Monday.

**There is an audio documentary series called The Last Seat in the House and their latest release covers the feud between Aja Kong and Manami Toyota including interviews with Fumi Saito and Roy Lucier.


**The UFC Fight Night card this weekend is back at the Apex in Las Vegas and will be streaming on ESPN+ due to the broadcaster’s college football commitments. All the fighters made weight on Friday with the following fights set:

MAIN CARD (7 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

*Rafael Fiziev vs. Mateusz Gamrot
*Bryce Mitchell vs. Dan Ige
*Marina Rodriguez vs. Michelle Waterson-Gomez
*A.J. Fletcher vs. Bryan Battle
*Charles Jourdain vs. Ricardo Ramos

*Dan Argueta vs. Miles Johns
*Tim Means vs. Andre Fialho
*Cody Brundage vs. Jacob Malkoun
*Mohammed Usman vs. Jake Collier
*Hannah Goldy vs. Mizuki Inoue
*Tamires Vidal vs. Montserrat Rendon

**Bellator 299 is Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET from the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland with the main card airing on Showtime. The prelims kick off at 11 a.m. ET on Bellator’s YouTube channel with fifteen prelim bouts scheduled. All main card fighters made weight with the following fights set:
*Bellator Middleweight Championship: Johnny Eblen © vs. Fabian Edwards
*Aaron Pico vs. Pedro Carvalho
*Sinead Kavanagh vs. Sara Collins
*Mads Burnell vs. Daniel Weichel
*Levan Chokheli vs. Sabah Homasi

The key prelim fights include a lightweight fight between Peter Queally and Daniele Miceli and a lightweight contest between Mansour Barnaoui and Jay-Jay Wilson.

**Jason “Mayhem” Miller posted a lengthy statement regarding his ongoing issues and attempted to address them and improve himself. Miller has been the subject of issues with the law over the past several years and was arrested for the latest time in August for a misdemeanor charge after allegedly putting a man in a chokehold. Miller also had stints in prison and was last released this past May. The following is a portion of what he posted:

I thought I could smoothly transition from prison to the regular world, but things have been more difficult than I imagined, especially interpersonal relationships and the burden of being free.

Maybe some of you can understand and empathize, but I don’t expect you to, or even care what happens to an old prizefighter. I choose this path far before I realized what could happen after the glory faded away, and I ask myself sometimes if I knew the reality, would I have picked any differently, and consistently I come to the conclusion, that, no, the younger me at the wheel, I could’ve never picked a different path.

By all accounts I am a great coach, but all my personal problems have piled up, and I’ve fallen short of my own standards, therefore I am taking some time to work on myself. Until recently I viewed asking for help as something for the weak, but a very special person has shown me that the actual opposite is true; asking for help shows strength. Strength of character and strength of mind.

My family has bore the brunt of my frustration and self destructive behavior, so to them I offer a sincere apology and if I have directly affected you in a negative manner, I am sorry.

More than likely, you’ve seen the sunny side of Instagram and figured, “Mayhem is a bit whacky, but doing great.”

I haven’t.

I’ve been doing horrible and I realize that now and I’m doing everything I can to change it. Thank you for your support, but I’m not reading comments. I’m going to work on me now for the good of my family.

Miller is 42 years old and last fought in 2016 and previously fought in the UFC, Strikeforce, Dream, served as a coach on the Ultimate Fighter with Michael Bisping in 2011, and was the host of MTV’s Bully Beatdown.

REWIND-A-WAI #139: The Last of McGuinness (2013 Documentary)
John Pollock & Wai Ting review The Last of McGuinness (2013), an intensely personal look at Nigel McGuinness’ struggles to come to terms with the events that have led to the end of his pro wrestling career.
BREAKING: WWE SmackDown to USA Network
John Pollock and Brandon Thurston have a breaking news show reacting to the announcement of WWE SmackDown leaving Fox and returning to USA Network.
John Pollock & Wai Ting review AEW Grand Slam from Arthur Ashe Stadium with MJF vs. Samoa Joe for the AEW title, Eddie Kingston vs. Claudio Castagnoli, and Jon Moxley vs. Rey Fenix.
John Pollock and Brandon Thurston discuss ticket sales for AEW Grand Slam, the fallout from the TKO merger, and all the latest news with Bill from WrestleTix.
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman are back to review WWE NXT from September 19th, 2023 headlined by Becky Lynch & Lyra Valkyria vs. Tiffany Stratton & Kiana James.
John Pollock and Wai Ting review WWE Raw with Jey Uso vs. Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes vs. Dominik Mysterio in Salt Lake City.

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They don’t have to stay in the wrestling world. Maybe they have ideas, projects or other ventures. I have been very surprised to learn what some wrestlers were doing outside of wrestling.

I just realized that Mustafa Ali can keep his name as he has used it pre-WWE (if that means anything?)