I sent in my Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame ballot this morning. Here’s what I ended up picking:

Wrestlers (10 total)
Wilbur Snyder
Pedro Morales
Brock Lesnar
Jun Akiyama
Masahiko Kimura
Mike & Ben Sharpe
Akira Taue
Yuji Nagata
Big Daddy
Carlos Colon

Non-Wrestlers (5 total)
Jim Crockett Jr.
Jim Crockett Sr.
Jerry Jarrett
Gorilla Monsoon
Jesse Ventura

I picked Snyder, Morales, Kimura, the Sharpes, Colon, and Daddy based on historical importance. Akiyama, Taue, and Nagata I picked based on having great matches consistently in main events for years. Lesnar I picked based on drawing power, and I included his run in UFC in my thought process.

I thought the non-wrestlers category was stacked. The Crocketts and Jarrett are historically significant. So is Monsoon, to a degree. And Ventura, actually, too.

UFC is running two shows this weekend, on Saturday, October 4th. The first show takes place in Stockholm at the Ericcson Glove Arena. It is headlined by Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson against Rick Story at welterweight. The second show from the Scotiabank Centre (formerly called the Metro Centre) in Halifax is also headlined by a welterweight bout between Rory MacDonald and Tarec Saffiedine. Also on the undercard, Raphael Assuncao fights Bryan Caraway. The Halifax show airs on FS1, whereas the Swedish show is on Fight Pass.

Looking at the Stockholm show, it is a weak main event for UFC’s third outing in that city. The first time the promotion ran the Globe Arena was on April 14, 2012, for UFC on Fuel TV 2, headlined by Alexander Gustaffson beating Thiago Silva with a co-main event of Brian Stann knocking out Alessio Sakara. That show drew 15,428 paying $2,230,000.

UFC’s second trip to Stockholm was on April 6, 2013, for a show that was supposed to be once again headlined by Alexander Gustafsson. Gustafsson was scheduled to fight Gergard Mousasi, but was forced out of the fight four days before the show. He was replaced by training partner Illir Latifi, who lost a decision to Mousasi. That show drew 14,506 paying $2,710,530 and most of those tickets were probably sold with people believing that Gustafsson was fighting.

Well, this Saturday UFC is back in Stockholm and they no longer have Gustafsson in the main event. Instead, they are using ranked Gunnar Nelson, who is actually from Iceland, against Rick Story in a fight of little consequence. UFC drew well for its first two trips to Stockholm. Should they draw well again, it will be based on the drawing power of the UFC brand rather than one specific fight.

It is an interesting test, because UFC introduced themselves to Sweden with two cards featuring a popular Swedish fighter that drew well. Now, they are coming back with a weaker card, which will reveal how many of the people who came out to see Gustafsson fight are willing to come out again based on the strength of the UFC name alone. This show will assist in gauging the popularity of the UFC brand in Sweden, and provide an example of how well the overall international expansion of the UFC is proceeding.

The show airs on Fight Pass on Saturday. Prelims start at 12pm ET and the main show starts at 3pm ET.

Now, looking at the show in Halifax, it is UFC’s first visit to the city and they are coming in with a stronger main event and a better undercard than the Stockholm show. Rory MacDonald and Tarec Saffiedine are both serious contenders at welterweight. MacDonald is also Canadian and is moderately popular here (although let’s not go crazy overstating his popularity). Whoever wins here will be awfully close to a title shot, particularly MacDonald. The same can be said at Bantamweight for the Assuncao-Caraway fight, although Dominick Cruz now stands in front of whoever wins that fight for the next shot at Dillashaw after Cruz’s performance at UFC 178.

Scotiabank Centre seats around 11,000 for sports and 13,000 for concerts. I lived in Halifax for two years. Scotiabank Centre is an old arena that sits in the middle of downtown and, from the outside, it looks little bit like a warehouse or an old government building. It’s an eye sore, but it’s the main arena in the city.

Halifax doesn’t get a lot of pro sports. The Halifax Rainmen, a minor pro basketball team, play there and so do the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL (junior hockey, kind of equivalent in popularity in Canada to NCAA football in the US, roughly). And sometimes the NHL runs a preseason game in Halifax.

Because Halifax doesn’t get a lot of pro sports and this is UFC’s first time in the city, I would expect a sellout and a high gate. If UFC does well without a major draw in Stockholm and they also bring the Haligonians out for the promotion’s first show in Halifax, then the promotion might end up with a successful weekend at the gate.

The Halifax show (Fight Night 54) is also airing on FS1. FS1 is actually airing both the preshow and the main show. The average viewership for UFC Fight Nights on FS1 has been in excess of 800,000 viewers per show. Fight Night 54 should fall within the same range, too, depending on the night’s competition.

New Japan ran the Convex Okayama pm 9/23, drawing a sold out 3,600 fans for the second of back-to-back large shows. The first show, on 9/21 in Kobe, aired on pay per view. This show was broadcast on Samurai TV.

It was headlined by Kazuchika Okada successfully defending his Tokyo IWGP title shot against Karl Anderson in a twenty-minute match where Okada beat Anderson after a Rainmaker. AJ Styles, the current IWGP champ, didn’t defend on this show, but instead tagged with Doc Gallows against Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito with Naito going over Gallows with the Stardust Press in 13:29.

After the show, Naito challenged Okada for the Tokyo Dome title shot. That bout will take place on the 10/13 King of Pro Wrestling pay per view from Sumo Hall. The headline for that show is Styles defending his IWGP title against Tanahashi in a potential Match of the Year candidate.

Also on 10/13, Yujiro Takahashi will defend the NEVER title against Tomohiro Ishii in a feud that was cultivated over the last two major shows this past weekend. Ryusuki Taguchi defends the IWGP Jr title against El Desperado and The Time Splitters defend the Jr Tag titles in a three-way against the Young Bucks and Romero & Koslov.

I don’t know that much about New Japan’s business, but it seems to me that most of their annual revenue probably comes from their biggest shows each year, particularly the annual 1/4 Dome show. Pay per view doesn’t seem like major business anymore in Japan. I’m sure New Japan generates some sort of television rights fees, but probably not that much. My guess is that selling expensive tickets to stadium shows, plus packing people into stadiums in order to sell tons of merchandise all at once.

If I’m correct, then the build towards the 1/4 Dome show is tremendously important for business because that is where a huge chunk of the company’s revenue will come from. I would think the IWGP title match at the Dome show will end up being Tanahashi defending against Okada, but I could totally be wrong about that. The 10/13 pay per view will flesh out more of what New Japan is planning for 1/4. Whatever the plan might be, New Japan is hot right now, so the next few months should be enjoyable.

1. Captain New Japan, Ryusuke Taguchi & Bushi beat Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask & Maximo at 5:05 when Bushi used the MX on Maximo.

Really short match. Each guy got a chance to get in the ring and do some stuff, but it was rushed and wasn’t of much consequence. Maximo does a super gay comedy gimmick that’s a total embarassment where the other wrestlers are afraid to be touched by him, like an early Goldust. Taguchi, fresh off his Jr title win, had a fast sequence with Tiger Mask that didn’t last long. Bushi did a tope onto Liger. Liger doesn’t bump well anymore. At this stage of his career he’s not much more than a name and a costume. Maximo actually kissed Bushi on the lips. And it wasn’t a delicate kiss. It was a big sloppy one. And it got a nearfall. Bushi came back with the MX off the top rope on Maximo for the win. All six wrestlers raised one another’s arms after the bout. *

2. Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson beat Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov at 9:57 when Nick pinned Romero after the More Bang For Your Buck.

Good, fast paced match and some fun comedy spots. The Young Bucks need to wear different tights or one of them needs a different hair cut because I have a hard time telling them apart. Romero and Koslov did a fun comedy spot where Koslov held one of the Jacksons in place for a double-team move and Romero kept running the ropes and totally forgot what he was doing, just running the ropes back and forth. Koslov stopped him and they argued for a moment then hugged. Romero tried for a dive off the apron, but ate a superkick. Young Bucks also have some cool double-team moves. They need to stop with the crotch chops. It was lame when Sean Waltman did it and it is lame now. Matt made fun of Koslov’s Russian dancing kick spot. Matt did a spot where did a bunch of back flips and then just raked Koslov’s back. Romero did a great spot where he was irish whipped into the ropes, and instead of bouncing off the ropes he caught himself horizontally between the top and middle rope and laughed. He followed it up with a tope on one of the Young Bucks, who then did a springboard onto him on the outside. Koslov did a springboard plancha onto all of them. Romero and Koslov did a springboard doomsday device onto one of the Jacksons, and the other Jackson made the save at two. Lots of fast action here and double-team moves. Young Bucks pinned Koslov after the More Bang For Your Buck. ***1/4

3. Kazushi Sakuraba, Toru Yano & Gedo beat Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka & Taka Michinoku at 5:51 when Yano used the Uragasumi on Taka.

Saku and Suzuki started, doing a few seconds of shoot-style before they started slapping one another and it degraded into a brawl. Gedo was tagged in, but Suzuki kicked Saku off the apron and beat him up in the crowd. It was the exact same spot they did the ngiht before on the pay per view. Iizuka was in the ring and choked Gedo for awhile. Taka came in with a lot of kick-punch. Gedo came back with a jawbreaker and a big right hand and made the hot tag to Yano. Yano removed the turnbuckle padding and whipped Taka into the exposed corner. He did the spot where he grabbed Iizuka by the beard and the referee broke it. Suzuki put Yano in an armbar hanging over the top rope, but Sakuraba broke it by putting Suzuki in an armbar at ringside. Yano crotched Taka and then knocked him into Iizuka, and rolled Iizuka up for the pin. Almost the exact same as the previous night’s match, except a few extra spots with Gedo and Taka thrown in. Not much here. Saku and Suzuki continued to fight afterwards with Suzuki injuring Saku’s left knee. *

4. Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata beat Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma at 7:31 when Shibata used a PK on Honma.

Gonna be lots of forearms in this one. Shibata and Honma started, trading stiff forearms. Makabe and Goto then came in and of course traded stiff forearms. Goto with a belly-to-back suplex for two after a spinning wheel kick in the corner. They traded blocked lariats until Goto bumped for Makabe’s lariat off the ropes. Makabe with a bridging suplex for two. Makabe with a lariat for two when the pinfall was broken up by Shibata. Goto with a dvd into a shoulderbreaker. Honma and Shibata tagged in. Honma with a brainbuster for two. Honma missed the diving headbutt off the top. Shibata with a dropkick to Honma down in the corner and a suplex for two. Shibata with a sleeperhold, but Honma reaches the top rope. Lariat by Honma for two. Tombstone piledriver by Honma for two. The crowd didn’t seem as crazy for Honma’s nearfall attempts tonight, but it still seemed like it got over. Honma went back to the top, but Shibata carried him off with a dvd into a samoan drop and then got the penalty kick for three. Goto offered to shake Makabe’s hand after and Makabe accepted. **1/2

5. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title: Kushida & Alex Shelley (c) beat El Desperado & Taichi at 15:01 when Kushida pinned Taichi after the I-94.

Heels attacked the faces during the latter’s entrance. They beat up on Kushida’s bad left leg for awhile before Kushida made the hot tag to Shelley. Shelley, thought, got dumped to the outside and the heels beat him up against the guard rail. Taishi hid hammer in the back of his pants that he used on Shelley when Desperado had the ref distracted. Taichi and Desperado choked Shelley in the corner with their boots and refused to break, so the ref kicked Taichi’s leg out in a funny spot. Shelley backdropped Desperado out and hit an enzuigiri on Taichi to try for the comeback, but the heels kept attacking. Kushida was laying at ringside hurt during this entire part, but started to climb back to the apron. Taichi covered Shelley with one finger for a one count. Fujiwara armbar by Taichi while Desperado beat down Kushida in the corner. Shelley reached the bottom rope. Desperado put Shelley on the top rope, but Shelley headbutt him off and dove across the ring to make the hot tag, but Kushida fell off the apron right when Shelley got to him, apparently due to Kushida’s bad knee. He eventually made the hot tag to Kushida. Desperado tried a plancha on Kushida on the outside, but Kushida moved and Desperado hit Taka. Shelley did a plancha onto Desperado. Kushida did a plancha off the top rope onto all of them on the outside. Shelley held Desperado on his shoulders and Kushida came off with a missile dropkick. Heels came back and Taichi got a powerbomb on Kushida for two. Taichi got a steel pipe, but Shelley stopped him from using it with an enzuigiri. Shelley did a tope on Desperado. Kushida had Taichi in a kimura and Taichi was tapping, but the ref didn’t see it because he was being distracted by Taka. Taichi rolled Kushida up for two. Shelley did a backdrop driver on Taichi. The hit the I-94 for the win. Match was weak at the start, but got a lot better once the faces made their comeback and were able to do all of their cool spots. ***3/4

6. Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii beat Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga at 11:44 when Nakamura used the Boma Ye on Tonga.

Ishii started with Fale and kept trying to knock him down with forearms. Fale knocked him down with a shoulderblock. Nakamura and Ishii tried to double-suplex Fale, but Tonga came in the ring and instead the heels double-suplexed the faces. Ishii got beat up for awhile by the heels. Ishii came back and hit Fale with a vertical suplex then made the hot tag to Nakamura. Fale came back with an avalanche and big splash, and then a samoan drop for two. Tonga in and he beat up on Nakamura for awhile before putting him in a boston crab. He hit Nakamura with a belly-to-back suplex for two and then a really sloppy samoan drop for two. Finish came when Nakamura used the Boma Ye on Tonga after Fale and Ishii brawled out of the ring. **1/2

7. NWA World Tag Team Title: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima (c) beat Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi at 15:08 when Kojima used a lariat on Nagata.

Kojima started with Nagata and they mostly traded forearms before tagging in Tenzan and Nakanishi. They cuffed the hell out of each other. Kojima came back in and TenKoji double-teamed Nakanishi. Nakanishi came back with a double spear. Nagata came back in and in turn they double-teamed Kojima for awhile. Nakanishi held Kojima upside down and Nagata taunted Tenzan to come into the ring before kicking Tenzan off the apron. Kojima came back with a DDT on Nagata and made the hot tag to Tenzan. Nagata slowed him down with a belly-to-belly suplex and tagged in Nakanishi, who came off the top with a missile dropkick for a one count. Nakanishi hit a lariat for two. Nakanishi put Tenzan in the torture rack, but Kojima broke it up. Tenzan came back with a spinning wheel kick and tagged in Kojima. Nakanish hit him with a lariat and tagged in Nagata. Kojima came back and hit a Randy Savage elbow on Nagata for two and then two Diamond Cutters. He went for a lariat, but Nagata put him in an Americana and did the thing where he rolls his eyes into the back of his skull. All four guys brawled, with double-team moves on both side. Nagata hit an exploder on Tenzan and then a belly-to-back suplex on Kojima for two. Nagata hit another suplex, but Kojima hit him with a lariat out of the blue for three. Not a bad match and got heated near the finish, but these guys were mostly going through the motions. **3/4

8. NEVER Openweight Title: Yujiro Takahashi (c) beat Yoshi-Hashi at 13:29 with the Miami Shine.

They fought a bit outside to start. Hashi did a rana, but they went back outside and Takahashi suplexed Hashi on the entrance way. Hashi just beat the count back to the ring, and Takahashi beat him up and slapped him around for awhile. Hashi came back with a neckbreaker. Hashi hung Takahashi upside down over the ropes and dropkicked him and then came off the top rope with a flying neckbreaker for two. Takahashi hit him with a stun gun to break up the momentum. Takahashi then threw him off the top rope with a belly-to-back suplex for two. Takahashi with a fisherman’s buster for two, and then an Angle Slam for two. Hashi backdropped his way out of a piledriver, and then hit a lariat and a vertical suplex neckbreaker for two. Hashi with a powerbomb into a bridge for two and then a lariat for two. He missed with a swanton off the top. Takahashi fought his way back and low blowed Hashi. He then hit the Tokyo Pimps for a two count. Takahashi then tries the Miami Shine and gets the three count. Okay match that got pretty good with Yoshi-Hashi’s nearfall spots towards the end. Tomohiro Ishii was in the ring after checking on Hashi, and Takahashi taunted him with the NEVER title belt, which the crowd got pretty into. ***

9. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tetsuya Naito beat AJ Styles & Doc Gallows at 13:15 when Naito used a Stardust press on Gallows.

Styles and Naito started. Styles had his shoulder padded the same as the night before. They traded arm drags. Styles demanded Naito tag Tanahashi, and then when Tanahashi came in, Styles tagged out to Gallows. Naito and Gallows were in next and Gallows beat down on Naito for awhile before tagging AJ in. They double-teamed Naito before Styles tagged Gallows back in. Styles and Gallows went back and forth beating up on Naito before he made the hot tag to Tanahashi. Tanahashi attacked Gallows, and then Styles. Gallows tossed Tanahashi over the top rope, but he skinned the cat and came back in. Gallows hit him with a spinebuster, though, and tagged Styles in while Tanahashi was down. Styles went for the Styles Clash, but Tanahashi backdropped him. They traded forearms. Styles went for a rana, but Tanahashi caught him and tried for a Styles Clash of his own, but Gallows came in the ring and booted him the face to stop it. AJ came back with the flip kick. Gallows held Tanahashi in a vertical suplex and AJ springboarded off the top rope with a crossbody block for two. AJ then got dumped and Tanahashi hit Gallows with a jawbreaker and tagged Naito, who came off the top rope with a missile dropkick into Gallows. Gallows was shoved into AJ on the apron, knocking him to the outside. Naito and Tanahashi double-teamed Gallows. Tanahashi hit AJ with a plancha. Naito hit Gallows with the Stardust Press for three. Tanahashi and Styles did a staredown afterwards. ***1/4

10. Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Title #1 Contender Match: Kazuchika Okada beat Karl Anderson at 19:55 with the Rainmaker.

Okada spent awhile working Anderson’s left arm. Okada hit Karl with a dropkick and the latter rolled out of the ring. Anderson rolled in and broke the count, and then rolled out right away, and then did it again a second time. Okada then went out after him and tossed him back in. Anderson posted Okada on the apron. Takahashi attacked Okada at ringside while Karl distracted the ref. Okada came back by faceplanting Karl. Okada sat him on the top rope and then dropkicked him to the outside. Takahashi attacked Okada at ringside again. Okada came back and fought them both off, dumping them over the guard rail and into the crowd before leaping over the guard rail with a crossbody block into both of them. Back in the ring, Okada slammed Anderson and went to the top. Takahashi stopped him from doing anything and Anderson pulled Okada down and hit him with a big boot. Okada hit him with a shoulderbreaker and a death valley driver. Okada hit a DDT when Karl tried a comeback. Okada went for the finish with the Rainmaker, but Karl blocked it. Okada played like his right shoulder was injured. Anderson took him to the top rope and tossed him off with a TKO. There was a ref bump and Anderson uses the opportunity to hit Okada’s shoulder with a chair. Anderson gets a sitout piledriver on the chair. Okada comes back with a tombstone. He missed with a dropkick, but blocked a diamond cutter attempt by Anderson. They did a series of reversals that ended with Okada hitting the dropkick and then kicking Takahashi off the apron. Okada with a bridging german suplex for two, and then the Rainmaker lariat for three. ****

UFC 178 was an entertaining show. All five fights on the pay per view delivered in some individual way. New stars were created and old stars have successfully returned, and considering UFC’s problems creating enticing main events right now, the promotion needs all the starpower it can get.

And that was the problem with the show: lack of star power on top. After Demetrious Johnson successfully defended the Flyweight title by submitting Chris Carisao with a kimura in 2:29 of the second round, people in the MGM Grand were immediately making their way for the exit. Few stayed to watch the post-match, to see if DJ called someone out (he didn’t), or to see what he had to say about the fight.

In advertising, it was really promoted as a triple main event, with Johnson-Cariaso clearly being the weakest of those three fights. The first of the other two main events featured Donald Cerrone defeating Eddie Alvarez via unanimous decision on straight 29-28 cards. Alvarez was making his long-awaited UFC debut and was hyped as the last best fighter not currently in the UFC, although everytime they said that on the broadcast, my mind went “Ben Askren”. Cerrone was riding a four-fight winning streak going into the bout.

Cerrone now looks in line for a title shot for Anthony Pettis’s Lightweight title. Pettis is currently booked to defend the title this year against Gilbert Melendez, so Cerrone will have to wait for a title shot until 2015. Khabib Nurmagomedov is also ranked ahead of Cerrone and is 22-0 with wins over top fighters in the division and figures to be in line for a title match, although Nurmagomedov is currently on the shelf with a knee injury. Perhaps Cerrone vs Nurmagomedov is the match to make to face the winner of the Melendez-Pettis title match. Cerrone vs Nurmagomedov nearly happened on this card. If I were UFC, I would book the winner of Melendez-Pettis against Cerrone without Cerrone fighting anyone in-between to take advantange of Cerrone’s current success with the idea of turning Cerrone into a drawing card on pay per view. But that depends on how long it takes to book Cerrone into a fight against the winner of Pettis-Melendez.

The other main event saw Conor McGregor TKO Dustin Poirier in 1:46. McGregor was easily the biggest star on the show, coming off on the live show as a superstar on a higher level than anyone else fighting on the pay per view. Jose Aldo is defending the Featherweight title against Chad Mendes on pay per view next month. McGregor would figure to be next in line for a title shot after that fight. Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar are booked to fight in November, though, and the winner of that fight will probably be in line for a title match, too. McGregor is easily the most marketable challenger for the title and based on that he should probably get the next shot.

If UFC 178 does well on pay per view, I think it will largely be due to McGregor’s promo abilities. I don’t think anyone cared about the Demetrious Johnson title defense against the unknown Cariaso, who was only ranked eighth in the division and barely had any business getting a title shot. The last time DJ headlined a pay per view, against equally unknown Ali Bagautinov, it only drew around 115,000 buys. There was a lot of interest in the Cerrone-Alvarez fight, and combining these three fights together made the card stronger up-and-down, but I think it was McGregor selling his fight against Poirier in the last week of media that will give it a fighting chance on pay per view.

The show drew 10,554 people to MGM Grand for a gate of $2.2 million. That’s an average of $208.65 per ticket. UFC didn’t announce the amount of comp tickets given out, but tickets were still available through TicketMaster the day before the show. For UFC pay per views in 2014, UFC 178 finished fourth among live gates, behind UFC 175 in Vegas, UFC 171 in Dallas, and UFC 172 in Baltimore.

Fight Pass

Manvel Gamburyan submitted Cody Gibson with a guillotine choke at 4:51 of the second round. Gamburyan was behind in the fight when he scored a takedown and locked in the guillotine choke. Gibson tapped with nine seconds left in the round. Gibson won the first round and if he had survived the second, he would have just needed to win the third round to win the fight.

After the match, Gamburyan did a funny promo where he said he wanted to fight Bryan Caraway. He called Ronda Rousey, who was sitting ringside all night, into the cage and she was laughing about it.

Kevin Lee beat Jon Tuck via unanimous decision on straight scores of 30-26. The 10-8 round for Lee came in the second round as Tuck was deducted a point for a low blow.

FS1 Preshow

Brian Ebersole beat John Howard via split-decision on cards of 29-28, 29-28, and 28-29. I had Howard winning 29-28, with Ebersole winning the first round and Howard winning the last two. All three judges had Ebersole winning the first and all three had Howard winning the second. Two of three judges had Ebersole winning the third, which won him the fight. It was a terrible fight, the worst of the night. It was as boring as possible, with neither guy doing anything to deserve the win. Realistically it was the type of bout where both guys look like losers rather than at least one of them looking like a winner. Ebersole had his chest hair cut once again like an arrow pointing up, which looks ridiculous. In the first round, Ebersole was able to take Howard’s back, although Howard reversed late. There looked like what might have been an illegal upkick by Ebersole near the end, and both guys were complaining to the ref, but nothing came of it. The crowd was already booing early in the first round. In round two, they traded low kicks. Howard got some punches in and took Ebersole down and eventually got his back. Ebersole reversed in the final minute, but Howard reversed it again. In round three, Ebersole landed some more strikes and tried for a takedown, but didn’t get it. Howard landed some and Ebersole was bleeding from the nose. Howard landed low kicks and body punches while int he clinch. He hit Ebersole with a knee. It was a close third round, with Howard landing 29 of 39 significant strikes and Ebersole landing 28 of 58. They both bowed in the center of the cage in respect to one another. Realistically this fight could have been judged either way since there was no real winner. If the UFC wasn’t in such need of talent because the promotion is running so many events, neither of these guys would likely be on the roster.

Stephen Thompson beat Patrick Cote via unanimous decision on scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 30-27. I had it 30-27 for Thompson. This was a disappointing fight as I think people expected Cote to come and slug more than he did, and instead he stood back and was worked over by Thompson. He might have had a hard time with Thompson’s irregular stance, which Thompson has adapted from point karate. It was a slow fight and Cote, who is normally a crowd favourite, came across as dull. Goldberg and Rogan pushed on commentary that Thompson was the only guy that does karate in UFC like this with the exception of Lyoto Machida. In the first round, Cote was able to land low kicks and knees. Thompson came back with side kicks from his unusual stance, plus some jabs. Cote tried for takedowns, but couldn’t get them. I had the first round for Thompson, but two of three judges scored it for Cote. Scores in the media were also split between who won the first round. In the first, Cote landed 26 significant strikes and Thompson landed 13, so it retrospect it was probably Cote’s round. In round two, Thompson tagged Cote with jabs and low kicks. They traded punches, but Thompson was able to land far more, although Cote came on a bit stronger near the end of the round. In round three, Thompson came out with a high kick. Cote tried to take him down, but couldn’t. Thompson’s nose was bloodied and they exchanged body kicks. Thompson dropped Cote with a right hand, but rather than going for the finish let him back up, which was probably the last thing the crowd wanted to see as they were booing how slow this fight was. The last minute picked up with Cote trying some roundhouse kicks, looking for the knockout, but not finding it.

Jorge Masvidal beat James Krause via unanimous decision on scores of 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28. I scored the fight 30-27. Masvidal came across as highly skilled, beating a good fighter in what was somewhat of a slow fight until closer to the finish. In round one, they traded punches. Krause tried for a takedown, but Masvidal blocked it. Masvidal started landing more punches than Krause as the round wore on. Still, one judge found it enough to give the first round to Krause. In round two, Krause was able to take Masvidal down, but the latter got top position. Masvidal landed more punches, before getting a spinning kick and a takedown. Krause was able to reverse and get Masvidal’s back, but Masvidal got back to his fight and landed some more before the round ended. The crowd was super bored here, chanting for Conor McGregor. Krause was able to land jabs, but couldn’t do much else. In round three, Masvidal got a takedown and was able to hurt Krause with punches, bloodying Krause’s nose. Krause later had a hard time taking Masvidal down and had to eat more punches standing. The finish was more exciting than the earlier parts of the fight, but it was clear by that point who was going to win, anyway.

Dominick Cruz stopped Takeya Mizugaki at 1:01. Cruz looked totally fired up before the fight and came out fast. Mizagaki landed a right hand early on, but Cruz took him down and then pounded the hell out of him on the ground for the flash finish.

Cruz gave an articulate interview after the fight, saying he didn’t remember much about the match. He said he wanted to beat up on Team Alpha Fail, a reference to Bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw and top contender Urijah Faber. He talked about how much it meant to him to come in and win after so much time away and going through so much to get back to fighting.

Pay Per View

Cat Zingano stopped Amanda Nunes at 1:21 of the third round. Nunes won the first round and Zingano won the second before finishing Nunes in the third. In the first round, Zingano had a difficult time defending against Nunes’ takedowns and was being pounded hard on the ground. Nunes came close at times to winning the fight via stoppage, which would have been an upset. At one point, though, Zingano did throw Nunes with a move that looked a lot like a Tiger Driver, which is a throw that Zingano has used in previous fights. In round two, Nunes came out and looked spent, having exerted all of her energy in the first round. Zingano got a takedown early and controlled most of the fight from the top position, even going for an ankle lock at one point. She also landed quite a few dangerous elbows in the round. In round three, Nunes tried for a takedown, but didn’t succeed. Zingano landed knees and hard elbows, bloodying Nunes before the fight was stopped.

In the post-fight interview, Cat said she wanted her match with Rousey. They showed Rousey sitting at ringside smiling. Dana has already stated that Zingano is next for Ronda Rousey, and with Gina Carano not coming into the UFC anytime soon, Zingano-Rousey could happen as early as the beginning of the new year. It’s an interesting fight, but not as marketable as Rousey-Carano or Rousey-Cyborg, plus I don’t think Zingano is quite at Rousey’s skill level anyway.

Yoel Romero stopped Tim Kennedy at 0:58 of the third round. This fight was controversial because Romero looked finished at the end of the second round, but took nearly an extra thirty seconds to come out for the third round. He then finished Kennedy with vicious punches. Romero won round one and Kennedy won round two. In the first round, Romero showed great kickboxing by landing a number of hard kicks to Kennedy’s legs and body. Kennedy’s nose ended up busted and was bleeding bad by the end of the round. In the second round, Kennedy came back with some nice uppercuts and a spinning back fist. Romero started bleeding after Kennedy landed uppercuts in the clinch. Kennedy had Romero backed against the fence with punches when the round ended, and might have finished him if there were just a few more seconds left. Romero was slow to come out for the third round. He was still sitting on his stool when he was suppose to be ready to fight, and then someone from the NSAC came in to wipe away excess vaseline that was put on his face. Some people have criticized John McCarthy for letting this go on, but I thought McCarthy did everything he could to get the fight going. Kennedy clearly thought it should be stopped. Romero came out with a punching combo that dropped Kennedy and then pounded Kennedy on the ground until the fight was stopped. Kennedy’s face was a mess. It was a fight that, while Kennedy, he didn’t look terrible in losing, as both fighters came out the fight as stronger names than when they went in.

The live crowd totally turned on Romero, even while in the post-fight interview Romero praised Jesus and the United States. Romero now has the second longest active winning streak in the UFC at five. Weidman is first at weight.

Conor McGregor stopped Dustin Poirier at 1:46. McGregor came off like the biggest rising star in the UFC here, with the crowd divided between Irish people who came to the show to cheer him and Americans who chanted “USA” during the bout. McGregor was throwing a lot of spinning high kicks, but Poirier was landing a few good lefts. McGregor dropped him with a punch, though, and then finished him with punches on the ground. Poirier thought the stoppage was premature, but he looked out. The crowd went pretty crazy for the finish.

McGregor did a promo putting over Ireland and said that he wanted a title shot against Jose Aldo. He said Dana should replace Chad “Mini” Mendes with him in the title fight next month. He said he doesn’t just knock guys out at featherweight, but he calls when it will happen. He said this was a new era of fighting and that the Muay Thai stance was stale. He also said that in Ireland, when one of us goes to war, we all go to war.

Donald Cerrone beat Eddie Alvarez via unanimous decision on straight scores of 29-28. I also had it 29-28, which was the obvious score. Alvarez won the first round and Cerrone won the last two. In commentary, Rogan and Goldberg pushed that Alvarez was the best fighter outside the UFC, and that even though he had some great wars in other promotions, he had never fought anyone the calibre of Cerrone. The implication is that the top guys in Bellator (or elsewhere) will consistantly have a tough time hanging with the top guys in UFC. It is a subtle way of burying UFC’s competition, even if it is generally true. In round one, Alvarez scored by landing punching combinations. Cerrone was letting Alvarez tie him up in the clinch, and at one point Alvarez landed a series of right uppercuts. In round two, Cerrone came back with hard low kicks and body kicks that damaged Alvarez’s mobility. Alvarez ended up with a big welt on his left leg that was more visible live than on television that made movement difficult for him for the rest of the fight. In round three, Cerrone followed up with more low kicks, body kicks, and knees to the head in the clinch. In the final minute of the fight, Alvarez collapsed under the pain of the leg kicks and instead of trying to finish him, Cerrone simply fell down on top of him and pounded him slowly until the fight ended.

In the post-fight interview, Cerrone said that he regretted starting slow, and that he was too tired to bother finishing Alvarez in the bout’s final minute, which is why he just kinda feel on top of Alvarez.

Demetrious Johnson submitted Chris Cariaso with a kimura at 2:29 of the second round to retain the Flyweight title. Johnson won the first round before submitting Cariaso with a kimura in the second round. Cariaso was completely outclassed by Johnson and was dominated by the much better fighter, which was what everyone expected going in. The live crowd was starting to leave already during this fight, making it out of the most anti-climactic UFC pay per view main events in recent history. In the first round, Johnson was able to use his speed to dodge Cariaso’s strikes before taking him down. Johnson was able to pass briefly to side mount, but Cariaso immediately got him back into half-guard. Cariaso was able to stand back up, but ate a couple of knees to the body along the way. Johnson had Cariaso pressed against the fence. Cariaso went for a takedown, but couldn’t get it, but was able to get away from the fence momentarily before Johnson put him back up against it. Cariaso landed a leg kick near the end of the round, but Johnson rocked him with a huge right hand to close the round. In round two, Johnson got a takedown and ended up in Cariaso’s guard, beore stepping over and getting side mount. Johnson pinned Cariaso down and pounded his face, and was able to quickly transition back and forth between side control and Cariaso’s half-guard. Johnson got a kimura and tapped Cariaso.

In the post-fight interview, Johnson thanked the Irish fans for coming out. Johnson thought he was too patient for his own good. Rogan asked him who he wanted to face next and Johnson gave the standard answer that it is not up to him.

UFC 178 took place Saturday night from the MGM Grand. It was a fantastic show, with either great, or at least interesting, fights top-to-bottom on the pay per view broadcast and some great moments on the pre-show. As a pay per view, it was technically headlined by Demetrious Johnson’s Flyweight title defense against number eight-ranked Chris Cariaso. But this main event was widely considered weaker than at least two of the undercard fights on the pay per view, as well as the return of Dominick Cruz after 1,092 days on the bench. The Cruz destruction of poor Takeya Mizugaki headlined the preshow on Fox Sports 1.

In advertising, the Johnson title defense was largely pushed as part of a triple main event that also included Eddie Alvarez’s debut with the promotion, facing Donald Cerrone, and Conor McGregor fighting Dustin Poirier. It was a strange card, because it featured one of the strongest lineups for a UFC pay per view this year, but one of the weakest main events. Even Cruz’s return on the preshow looked to be of more interest to more people than the Johnson title match, based on internet buzz from before the show.

Traditional logic argues that on a UFC pay per view it is the main event that draws the buy rate. This was the second pay per view Johnson has headlined. The first was UFC 174 back in June, when he successfully defended the Flyweight title against Ali Bagautinov, a fighter who, like Cariaso, is largely unknown to the casual fan base. That show drew an estimated 115,000 buys on pay per view, one of the worst buy rates in company history since UFC debuted the first season of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV way back in 2005.

Without the strong undercard, UFC 178 would figure to do the same amount of buys as UFC 174 with Johnson in the main event once again defending his title against an unknown fighter. But the most interesting aspect of UFC 178 from a business standpoint will be if a loaded undercard with a weak main event will be able to draw comparable money to a show with a weak undercard, but a good main event.

It is interesting because if a loaded undercard with a weak main event can draw money, then that changes the landscape for building UFC pay per views. UFC is going through a transitional phase right now in regards to star power on top, with many of the older pay per view draws on the downside of their career, and the newer, potential pay per view draws not quite there yet. Also, simultaneously, UFC is embarking on a massive international expansion that spreads the talent roster out more thinly than ever before. That means UFC cannot possibly put together as many loaded shows as they once did. Whether the rapid international expansion pays off remains to be seen, of course, but its success will depend upon how much extra business they garner in international markets relative to how badly their core business in North America is hurt by the expansion, if it is hurt at all.

Because of the thin roster of bona-fide stars and the rapid international expansion, UFC will frequently have a difficult time in the near-future putting together A-level main events for every single pay per view. That means UFC may need to rely on pay per views in the near future that do not future individual main events, but rather two or three fights that garner varying degrees of interest among different segments of the fan base.

Marketing a pay per view based around multiple good fights rather than one awesome fight is a difficult strategy, and something that mostly flies in the face of history. I think pay per view events require a strong marketing focal point, like one specific story about one specific fight to draw in the casual fans. I think pay per views that are built around three or more “main events” create a muddled message that is less accessible to casual fans, and the casual fan base is, of course, where the pay per view money is.

Yet, UFC 178 may prove my theory wrong. If UFC can successfully market a pay per view featuring a handful of interesting mid-level fights without an exciting main event, that gives the promotion more leeway in its matchmaking strategy in the near-future as they continue to build new stars at home as well as expand internationally. If UFC 178 fails as a draw, then the message would seem to be that history is correct in that UFC pay per views need a single, strong main event in order to draw money. And even if UFC 178 is successful based on the promotion of multiple fights rather than one strong main event, with the UFC talent roster spread so thin it might be difficult to somewhat regularly have this many interesting, mid-level fights on one UFC pay per view.

The problem for UFC 178 specifically, too, is that, of the three fights pushed in advertising, none of the six fighters involved have successfully headlined a pay per view. Johnson headlined a pay per view this year that drew poorly. Cariaso has never even been close to a pay per view main event, and likely never will again. Cerrone has never headlined on pay per view, although he is charismatic and could possible headline in the future. Alvarez has never headlined on pay per view and has spent the best years of his career in Bellator, although he has the potential to move up the rankings in UFC over the next couple of years. Conor McGregor has never headlined on pay pay view, but, like Cerrone, has the potential to do so in the near-future. And, finally, Poirier has never headlined on pay per view.

The show might have been built around a triple main event, but these three fights featured guys who had never previously headlined such a major show. Rather, they are guys who have had great fights in the undercard of pay per views or in headline positions on smaller television specials. It’s not a bad thing that this group of fighters is getting an opportunity to draw money. It is just that putting them all together on one show like this probably won’t mean much for the show’s buy rate, even though it was an awesome show.

I would consider the show a success on pay per view if it approaches 250,000 buys. My prediction ahead of time was 150,000 buys, but that is a low-side prediction and I could easily be proven wrong. Anything above 250,000 buys would have to be considered a major success.

It was really more of a star building show, the kind of show you would want as a Fox network special to get as many eye balls on it as possible. No one cared about Johnson’s fight, but Johnson did come across as dominant and has largely cleaned out the Flyweight division. McGregor might become UFC’s first real international star of their global expansion and there figures to be a lot of money to be made off him in the US and Ireland. Cerrone is super charismatic, a skilled fighter, and has exciting fights and will be in a position to headline again in the future, much like McGregor. Alvarez and Poirier will have a chance to build themselves back up in the near future, particularly Alvarez.

So, even if UFC 178 is unsuccesful on pay per view, it was an event that went a long way towards setting the table for future stars and possible fights over the coming year. If UFC 178 produces a good buy rate, then it means the match making formula for building a marketable UFC pay per view has possibly changed, which could also have ramifications for the promotion’s future.

Bellator 126 took place 9/26 at the Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix. The show was headlined by Brandon Halsey choking out Alexander Shlemenko in a flash finish in only 35 seconds to win the promotion’s Middleweight title. It was the fourth episode of Bellator for the show’s eleventh season, which will conclude on November 15th for Bellator 131.

Halsey looked incredible, cinching the choke shortly after the bout started. Halsey also looked jacked for a middleweight, with a muscular frame that makes him looks like he walks around at well above 200 pounds. Shlemenko has been one of the stalwarts for Bellator, with nearly sixty pro fights in total under his belt. After this loss and his loss at light-heavyweight to Tito Ortiz earlier this year, Shlemenko looks past his prime, although that isn’t to say that Halsey finishing him so quickly was an easy task.

Halsey has star potential. He’s muscular, charismatic, fights in a deep division, has youth on his side (he’s 28, not young, not old either), and seems like a great fighter. He is now 8-0, although Shlemenko was Halsey’s fiercest competition yet. Halsey hasn’t had a chance to match up against any of the top fighters at his weight, mainly because those guys are all in the UFC. But Bellator might be able to make a new star out of Halsey, which they will need going into the new year with the promotion’s biggest name, Eddie Alvarez, no longer with Bellator and debuting for the UFC this weekend.

The logical next fight for Halsey would probably be Melvin Manhoef, who knocked out tournament champion Doug Marshall in a fast, exciting fight last week. Manheof is primarily a kickboxer, and packs extreme knockout power, including an 18-second KO of Mark Hunt in Japan a few years ago. If Halsey fights and defeats Manheof, it would be an exciting match, but not a real test of where Halsey stands as an elite fighter since Manheof isn’t at that level.

Bellator’s plan is to allegedly move from holding seasons throughout the year that contain weekly events to monthly shows at the beginning of 2015, with special quarterly events also airing on Spike. Bellator CEO Scott Coker, who was named to the position by the promotion’s parent company Viacom this past June after CEO and founder Bjorn Rebney was dismissed, also plans on moving away from the tournament format that Rebney was married to. Bellator 126 featured what was apparently the last of the tournament fights, with leglock aficionado Marcin Held defeating Patricky “Pitbull” Friere in a dull fight via unanimous decision to give Held the $100,000 tournament victory at lightweight.

Held would figure to be in line for a title shot against the winner of Michael Chandler vs Will Brooks. Brooks is the interim champion, but those two are fighting for the title vacated by Alvarez when he left the promotion. Held has a rep for some cool leglock submissions, which he tried for a little bit against Pitbull, but wasn’t really able to show them off. I think Chandler is the more exciting fighter and the most marketable of these guys, so I don’t think there is all that much star potential in Held, unless he can dish out some neat Volk Han-esque submission attempts in a big fight.

Also on the television broadcast, former NCAA Divsion I champ Bubba Jenkins beat Thiago Meller via unanimous decision at featherweight and Mike Richman knocked out Ed West in 2:44. The Jenkins fight was dull as dirt, as he was able to hold Meller down and bloody the latter’s face for most of the fight, with the exception of nearly getting trapped by Meller’s guillotine choke near the end of the first round. Jenkins is a great wrestler and showed good striking, but his submissions defense was weak. Richman looked great knocking out the brash West. Richman was making his debut at bantamweight.

Next week’s show is a bit of a weaker card, with no championship match or tournament final. Daniel Strauss headlines against Justin Wilcox at featherweight. Strauss is the division’s former champ and Wilcox was a finalist in the season nine featherweight tournament, so the winner would figure to get a title shot. Also on the card former WEC champ and UFC vet Karo Parisyan fights journeyman Fernando Gonzalez, the latter of whom just accepted the fight this past week after Marius Zaromskis pulled out with injury. Parisyan would obviously be a heavy favourite.

Even though next week’s show is weak, I don’t suspect Bellator’s ratings will suffer too much. The promotion seems to garner steady ratings no matter who they have on the card, with the exception of using major names from the past, such as Quinton Jackson, in order to pop ratings. I think this is a combination of the show having a steady, loyal (yet small) fanbase, the lack of name recognition among most of their fighters, and the appeal of just watching some fights on Friday nights.

Bellator has averaged a live audience of 726,667 per show so far this season. Bellator’s eleventh season bowed on 9/5, going head-to-head with a live UFC Fight Night on Fox Sports, as well as Smackdown on SyFy. That night, Bellator 123 drew 667,000 viewers, peaking at 979,000. The UFC show that Bellator went against drew 911,000, and Smackdown drew 2.7 million. Bellator and UFC went head-to-head that night from 10 to 10:45 et, with Bellator drawing 781,000 and UFC drawing 834,000. The Live+3 rating for Bellator 123 was 777,000 and the Live+3 peak was 1.193 million. Combined viewership for when Bellator went up against UFC was 1,509,000. It seemed the lesson here was that the two shows have their own audiences.

Bellator 124 on 9/12 drew 771,000 and peaked at 1,271,000. Live+3 average was 836,000 viewers and the peak was 1,429,000.

Bellator 125 on 9/19 drew 742,000 and peaked at 937,000. Live+3 drew 796,000 and peaked at 1,250,000.

Including next week’s broadcast, the promotion has five shows planned for the remainder of the eleventh season before going on hiatus until the new year. The final show of the season is on 11/15, with Tito Ortiz fighting Stephan Bonnar in a fight of stars from the past that is meant to bring viewers in to watch the Chandler-Brooks title fight with the hope of making a new star out of whoever wins the latter bout.

New Japan’s last ppv on UStream took place on Sept 21 at World Memorial Hall in Kobe. The show was a real success. They supposedly packed the arena to its 8,000 seat capacity to watch series of *** and **** matches up and down the entire card.

The main event was Bad Luck Fale defending the IWGP IC title against Shinsuke Nakamura. They went 19:13 and had a great match significantly above Fale’s skill level for this sort of thing. Nakamura beat Fale to regain the IC title using the Boma Ye. But the real main event, I think, was the Hiroshi Tanahashi grudge match against Katsuyori Shibata. Those two went 17:57 in a Match of the Year candidate with Tanahashi going over after the High Fly Flow. The two shook hands after the bout.

Also on the card, Togi Makabe and Hirooki Goto had a crazy brawl that might have been the best match on the card if Tanahashi wasn’t wrestling. Makabe beat Goto at 14:38 after throwing him off the top rope with a german suplex and then coming off with a flying kneedrop. The match was stiff as hell, the kind of fight where you watch these guys and know they are going to both be crippled by the time they are fifty.

Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows also successfully defended the IWGP Tag titles against Yoshi-Hashi and Kazuchika Okada when Gallows pinned Hashi at 11:42 after the Magic Killer. This was a good match and the crowd was way into Hashi’s near falls close to the end of the bout, but it was a little repetitive with some spots in the match also being done elsewhere on the card.

Ryusuke Taguchi also beat Kushida at 14:55 with the ankle lock to win the IWGP Jr title. Another four-star match. Both guys were laid out after match by Taka Michinoku, Taichi, and El Desperado, who destroyewd Alex Shelley, Bushi, and Maximo earlier in the night. This seems to setup feuds over the Jr and Jr Tag titles.

The following night they sold out the Okayama Convex with 3,600 people for a show that wasn’t broadcast as an ippv, but aired on Samurai TV in Japan. That night, Okada successfully defended the Tokyo Dome IWGP title shot against Karl Anderson; Yujiro Takahashi successfully defended the NEVER title against Yoshi-Hashi for Takahashi’s first defense; TenKoji retained the NWA Tag titles over Nakanishi and Nagata; and, Alex Shelley and Kushida retaind the Jr Tag titles over El Desperado and Taichi. Naito challenged Okada for his IWGP Tokyo Dome title shot and Tanahashi challenged Styles for the title itself, the latter of which will probably be on the Kings of Pro Wrestling show next month. Tomohiro Ishii also challenged Takahashi for the NEVER title and Bushi challenged NWA Jr champion Chase Owens for that title. Owens mainly wrestles for indie promotions in Tennessee and North Carolina. I don’t think he has wrestled in New Japan yet.

Anyway, I’m going to try and have a review of the second show up on the blog within the next few days.

1. Tomohiro Ishii, Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov beat Yujiro Takahashi, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson at 7:51 when Romero pinned Nick after the Contract Killer.

Matt and Nick Jackson look like the Hardys, but they do all of Scott Hall’s taunts from 1997, so much that they should probably be sending Razor royalty cheques. This was a short match, but each guy got a chance to come in and show off what makes him cool. Finish came when Matt did a moonsault off the apron onto Koslov on the outside, before coming off the top with a 450 splash onto Romero, but Romero raised his knees to block it. Koslov then put Nick on his shoulder to setup the Contract Killer. The match had a lot of action, but it was short for what it was, obviously to give the big matches later on the card more time. **3/4

2. Alex Shelley, Maximo & Bushi beat Taka Michinoku, El Desperado & Taichi at 2:43 when Taichi was DQ’d.

This wasn’t so much a match, but an angle for the heels to get heat on Shelley to setup a feud over the Jr Tag titles. The heels attacked the faces at ringside during the entrance, and it was mostly a beatdown from there. Bushi and Maximo did do a double top onto Taka and Taichi, though. They beat Shelley up after the match. *

3. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tomoaki Honma beat Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask & Captain New Japan at 5:22 when Honma used the Kokeshi on Captain.

Another super short match, especially considering that there were eight guys in this bout and they are all names. Considering how super rushed this was and that the previous tag match with Alex Shelley was more of an angle than a match, this was probably the worst match on the show. Nagata does some of the best facial expressions in wrestling, so much that when his body is totally shot, as long as his face works he’ll still be able to have entertaining matches. Late in the match Tiger Mask did a tope onto Liger. Captain then went to the top rope, but missed a splash on Honma. Honma hit Captain with a shoulderblock for two, but followed it up with the Kokeshi diving headbutt for three. The whole story here was that Honma might get the win, and the crowd was totally into it and Honma actually come off like a star, which is pretty astounding when you consider the starpower of the guys in this one. Crowd went nuts for the finish when Honma actually did win. **

4. Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano beat Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka at 11:34 when Yano used the Akakiri on Iizuka.

This match was so weird. It was a combination of shoot-style and ECW trash match. Seeing Sakuraba and Suzuki brawl in the seats is like watching Ken Shamrock and Anderson Silva do an ECW style wrestling match in WWE. Anyone who has only seen Sakuraba in New Japan would never understand what a phenomenon he was in Pride. Iizuka does a Missing Link-esque gimmick. He entered the ring from the upper decks of the seating area. The feud between Sakuraba and Suzuki is super hot, especially since Suzuki is so good at playing heel. Yano and Iizuka did a lot of comedy spots. Suzuki kept running across the ring and kicking Sakuraba off the apron. Iizuka put a metal claw on, and went to hit Yano with it while the ref was distracted with Saku and Suzuki, but Yano low blowed him and rolled him up for the pin. Saku put Suzuki in a heel hook at ringside afterwards. He hurt Suzuki’s leg, and one of the young boys helped Suzuki to the back, and once Suzuki got there he attacked the kid with the guard rail and a chair. **1/4

5. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Ryusuke Taguchi beat Kushida (c) at 14:55 with an ankle hold.

This was a really good match. Both guys would trade submission holds, with Taguchi’s left knee being hurt and Kushida’s left arm being hurt. They would each work on the other’s injured limb. Taguchi kept going for the ankle lock throughout the match, but Kushida would escape. Finally, Taguchi got the ankle lock in the center of the ring and then sat down on it and Kushida tapped, giving Taguchi the title. Taka Michinoku, El Desperado and Taichi came out the ring and laid both guys out afterwards. Alex Shelley tried to make the save, but got laid out, too. Desperado posed with the IWGP Jr title before laying it on Taguchi. The last time Taguchi held the IWGP Jr title was in 2007. ****

6. Tetsuya Naito & Kota Ibushi beat AJ Styles & Tama Tonga at 12:57 when Ibushi used a Phoenix splash on Tonga.

Another pretty good match. Styles’ right shoulder was all padded up. He limited the amount of flying and bumps he did, but still across as a star heel IWGP champ in the match. Naito and Ibushi showed some great agility. Naito did a plancha onto Styles and Tonga early on. Later, Naito and AJ were in and Naito did a missle dropkick from the top, and then a nifty slingshot dropkick from the apron to AJ, who was sitting in the corner, for a two count. Late in the match Styles hit Naito with a flying forearm off the top, but then Ibushi hit Styles with a missile dropkick from the top. Ibushi got a lariat on Tonga for two. Tonga came off the top with a flying crossbody on Ibushi that was missed by the camera, and it got two. Ibushi then got the phoenix splash on Tonga for three. ***1/4

7. IWGP Tag Team Title: Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows (c) beat Kazuchika Okada & Yoshi-Hashi at 11:42 when Gallows pinned Hashi after the Magic Killer.

This was a good match, but there were repetitive spots from other matches on this card. They brawled in the crowd a bit, which didn’t work as well since Saku and Suzuki did that spot earlier on with way more heat. They also did a spot where Hashi raced back to the ring to beat the twenty-count, which was something done in a couple of other matches on this card. Otherwise it was a good match. Gallows is fairly limited, but Anderson is good at playing heel and Okada and Hashi are obviously talented. There was a ton of near falls at the end, with Hashi coming a split-second away from scoring the win on multiple times with the heels pulling out every dirty trick to prevent the pinfall. The finish came when Hashi hit Gallows with a Swanton bomb for two when Yujiro Takahashi came to the ring and pulled him out and then hit him with a fisherman brainbuster. Anderson then hit Okada with a diamond cutter. They double-teamed Hashi for the three count. Not sure what happened to the referee during all of this. Crowd was super into all of the nearfall spot with Hashi near the end, though, and he was way over. This was Anderson and Gallow’s sixth succesful title defense. ***

8. Togi Makabe beat Hirooki Goto at 14:38 with a flying kneedrop.

These guys worked incredibly stuff throughout the match, hitting each other with painful lariats, forearms, and kicks. They are both going to wind up as cripples. They did a spot early on where Goto hit Makabe with a spinning wheel kick and seemed to bust his mouth open hardway, with the ref checking on Makabe to make sure he was okay. Makabe also has great intense facial expressions, and both guys fought with tremendous intensity. If watching two thick Japanese guys beat the living shit out of each other is your thing, then you would love this match. Crazy finish had Makabe throw Goto off the top rope with a german superplex and then come off the top with the King Kong flying kneedrop for the three count. ****

9. Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Katsuyori Shibata at 17:57 with the High Fly Flow.

This was a Match of the Year candidate and a rematch from the G1 Climax where Shibata beat Tanahashi. They start by beating the crap out of one another with stiff forearms. Shibata dropkicked Tanahashi while the latter was on the second rope, dumping him to the outside. They traded forearms again at ringside, and both raced into the ring at the count of nineteen to beat the double count-out. Shibata put Tanahashi in a figure four leglock. Shibata smashed Tanahashi with a number of stiff high kicks to the chest, but Tanahashi came back with a flying forearm. Tanahashi did a somersault splash off the top for a two count. Shibata came back with a big boot, and there was a great visual of Shibata smashing Tanahashi with forearms in the corner. Shibata dropkicked Tanahashi while the latter was down in the corner. Shibata kicked Tanahashi off the top rope and to the outside. Tanahashi came back in the ring and twisted Shibata’s leg around the bottom rope. Shibata hit him with a german suplex, but Tanahashi came back with one of his own. Shibata ended the sequence with a soccer kick, which hurt his own leg. Shibata went for a death valley driver, but Tanahashi turned it into a neckbreaker. Tanahashi came off the top with a flying splash, but Shibata blocked it with his knees. Tanahashi reversed a rollup into own of his own for a two count. Tanahashi then hit a dragon suplex. Tanahashi locked on a modified texas cloverleaf, but Shibata reached the bottom rope. Shibata hit Tanahashi with a stiff spinning back fist. Tanahashi hit Shibata with a dropkick while the latter was sitting in the corner, and then went to the top rope and hit a flying crossbody. Tanahashi went back to the top rope and hit the frog splash for the win. They did a staredown after the match and then shook hands. ****1/2

10. IWGP Intercontinental Title: Shinsuke Nakamura beat Bad Luck Fale (c) at 19:13.

Nakamura became the tenth IWGP IC champion and it was three months to the day when he originally lost the title to Fale. They locked up and Fale placed Nakamura on the top rope and backed off, letting him get down in order to taunt him. The story was the much smaller Nakamura had a difficult time dealing with the size and strength of the much larger Fale. Nakamura missed a charge into the corner and Fale kicked him under the bottom rope to the outside. Fale reverse an irish whip and sent Nakamura into the guard rail. Fale rammed Nakamura’s back into the ring post and then shoved him into the guard rail a couple of times. Nakamura just beat the count at nineteen, and Fale pinned him for a one count. Fale put him in an abdominal stretch and then stood on him. Fale got a two count. Fale missed a splash. Nakamura came back with a dropkick and an enzuigiri. He laid Fale in the corner across the top rope and booted him for a two count. Fale avalanched him in the corner and then hit a samoan drop for two. Nakamura came back with a spinning wheel kick and then slammed Fale’s back onto his knees. Nakamura attempted a german suplex, but couldn’t lift Fale. Fale hit a vertical suplex. Fale put Nakamura in the backbreaker submission and the slammed him. Fale went for the Razor’s Edge, but Nakamura slid out of it. Fale put him in a boston crab, but Nakamura reached the ropes. Nakamura got a sleeper and then dropkicked Fale in the back of the head. Nakamura finally hit the suplex, but Fale speared him. Nakamura went for an armbar, but Fale stomped out of it. Nakamura hit two flying kicks off the second rope for a two count. Nakamura barely got a front suplex. Fale hit a sidewalk slam. Fale went to the top rope, but missed a big splash. They traded stiff forearms. Fale hit Nakamura with a torture rack into a backbreaker and then a bad looking chokeslam for two. Fale went for the Razor’s Edge again and Nakamura slipped out of it once more and hit a knee to Fale’s head for two. The near falls at this point were pretty convincing. Nakamura hit Fale with his flying wheel kick for the three count to win the title. Fale did his job well and Nakamura made this a match that was way above Fale’s skill level. Nakamura got a trophy and did a promo after the match. ****