Danielson's Final Countdown?
July 3, 2018
By: Lou Pickney
With the power supply apparently dead on my Acer desktop computer, my work has been considerably hindered this week. But I've purchased a wireless keyboard that syncs up with my Google Pixel phone, so for the moment I will have to do this the hard way.
As of this writing, the latest New Japan Pro Wrestling/RevPro UK shows are not available on New Japan World. But I'm told they will be posted there soon, so perhaps I will have a chance to watch them at my hotel in San Francisco ahead of the 7/7 Fighting Spirit Unleashed show taking place at the World Famous Cow Palace.
In particular, I want to see the Zack Sabre Jr. victory over Kazuchika Okada. Sabre works as a heel in New Japan, but being in his home country might have created a decidedly different vibe. But regardless of that, I'm told it was a fantastic match, not surprisingly so considering the participants.
It will be interesting to see how many tickets end up being purchased for the San Fran show. There was an initial rush of buyers when tickets first went on sale, some locals and some people like me who are willing to fly across the country at considerable expense to see New Japan in person. But, since then, sales have stalled.
When Kenny Omega's first IWGP Heavyweight Championship defense was announced as being against Cody Rhodes in the main event for Fighting Spirit Unleashed, it didn't do much to change the ticket-buying lull. With Omega primarily promoting his late June Daytona Beach show and Rhodes focused on the already sold-out ALL IN show in Chicago, there hasn't been much done by either wrestler (as far as I have seen) to promote the Cow Palace show.
Perhaps that will change in the days leading up to the event. But, as Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter noted recently, thanks to higher ticket prices NJPW will generate more revenue from the Cow Palace show than ALL IN will despite the latter selling out the Sears Centre Arena to the tune of 10,000+ tickets.
My hope is that NJPW will have exterior merchandise sales locations set up outside of the Cow Palace. New Japan left money on the table last year in Long Beach, with only one interior booth set up and a line than snaked all the way back to the men's room in the back of the facility.
It would be fun to attend ALL IN, but it appears unlikely that will happen for me. The show is sold out, so I would need to buy a ticket off the secondary market. But that is hardly a deal-breaker.
More importantly, I would also need to fly in on the day of the show, as I have a high school football broadcasting gig the night before in Nashville. That would mean missing out on a considerable amount taking place that weekend. And while I love Chicago, at some point you reach a limit on what is feasible. So I will be watching that show from home.
If you haven't been watching MLW Fusion, the one-hour weekly program on beIN Sports produced by Court Bauer's revived Major League Wrestling promotion, you are missing out on a show that is likely to earn a spot on my Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards ballot. And even if you don't have beIN Sports on your cable or satellite package, you can watch the shows for free (as of now) via MLW's YouTube page.
They also have the MLW World Heavyweight Title tournament final with Shane Strickland vs. Matt Riddle posted, which I have embedded below.
Riddle might be WWE-bound, as he has disappeared from the MLW roster page. The blackballing of Riddle by WWE and New Japan because of positive piss tests for cannabis from his UFC days is beyond ridiculous on several levels, but there is nothing like perceived competition to prompt WWE to change its standards.
Notice how many of the wrestlers from EVOLVE 55 (the show from the tweet embedded below) ended up in NXT, especially after EVOLVE/WWN landed what looked at the time like a lucrative distribution deal with the ill-fated FloSlam streaming service in late 2016. And that was with WWE actually owning a piece of FloSports.
Major League Wrestling has done more to get over its talent in 10 weeks of Fusion than WWE has with its main roster in the past year. Though it should be noted that WWE intentionally undermines almost all of its wrestlers to keep anything or anyone from getting over too much, lest a wrestler actually gain some negotiating leverage or be able to provide value to would-be competitors.
The real wild card (not Jeff Hawkins) in this whole thing is Bryan Danielson, better known to some as Daniel Bryan in WWE. It had sounded like a foregone conclusion that Danielson would re-sign with WWE after the company finally cleared him to return to in-ring competition. I had my doubts, but people who know things had strongly hinted that Danielson would re-up with WWE.
But unless things have changed drastically since last word, Danielson remains a pending unrestricted free agent slated to hit the open market by early September 2018. WWE can offer Danielson more money than anyone else between the dirty Saudi propaganda cash and the forthcoming huge TV bucks from FOX and NBC Universal. But it might not matter.
If there is anyone in WWE who wouldn't necessarily be swayed by money, from all indications it's Danielson. And as early September creeps closer and closer, it will be interesting to see how WWE handles Danielson if he declines to sign a new contract.
But perhaps the door might be open for Danielson to work out a Chris Jericho/Rey Mysterio Jr. style short-term non-exclusive deal, performing as a true independent contractor who picks his spots and isn't prevented from working for anyone else.
If that is all Danielson is willing to accept, it will be interesting to see if WWE goes for it. That would prevent Danielson from signing an Omega or Michael Elgin style contract with New Japan while freelancing across North America and Europe. But does WWE want to set that precedent?
See any mistakes, omissions, or needed corrections? Please let me know: @LouPickney