Bellator 220's Phil Davis tells us that he was interested in pro wrestling coming out of college, but was never recruited by WWE. Look him up and you'll find that surprising. He's said that he would consider a pro wrestling run in the future.
Daniel Bryan/Ben Henderson
Former UFC Champ Ben Henderson spoke with us recently and discussed Daniel Bryan training at his gym. He says he thinks Bryan was either a blue belt or purple belt by the time he left and really put over his work ethic as being a key to his success in life. Henderson believes that Bryan could succeed if he made the transition to MMA for that reason. He said that if Bryan were to face CM Punk opponent Mike Jackson in an MMA fight, Jackson would probably win, but if it were straight jiu jitsu rules in a gi, Bryan would likely have the edge.
Henderson also noted there were a couple of other pro wrestlers who would pop into the gym, including Becky Lynch when she dated Luke Sanders.
Speaking of Daniel Bryan, he was not backstage at this week's Smackdown Live, despite being advertised for a dark match main event. Beyond that, there hasn't exactly been a lot of chatter about him emerging from backstage. He hasn't appeared on TV since WrestleMania 35, and one person said they assumed he was just taking time off, and of course there are always the murmurs of a potential concussion. That's more of a rumor than a confirmation, though.
CM Punk's appearance under a mask turned a lot of heads last week, and by now, it's not exactly a secret that this has happened multiple times. As Fightful reported last week, Punk actually served as a manager for Kikutaro of all people during a Freelance Wrestling show in December of 2015. Unlike this past week's show, there was never a reveal the night of the appearance talked about. Instead, the plan was to reveal Punk as the masked figure during Wrestling Road Diaries 3. Unfortunately before that could happen, Punk and Cabana had a major falling out and there were edits that had to be made, cutting Punk out completely. We reached out to those involved with the production, but they opted not to comment. We're told that this has happened other times as well.
I interviewed Magnum TA a while back to promote the upcoming Crockett Cup tournament from the NWA. He admitted to me that he was skeptical of the business model when Billy Corgan and Dave Lagana took over, but that he's been pleasantly surprised with how the two have taken both modern elements of wrestling distribution and applied it to the history of the National Wrestling Alliance. I brought up a lot of the relaunches and reiterations of the NWA, and he said that he'd often get calls to represent them, but sees this as a different effort.
I spoke to Bully Ray about wrestling in his first singles match at Madison Square Garden, which was planned, but didn't actually end up happening. He confirmed that the bout with Juice Robinson was to be his first singles match there, but that wrestling there again didn't become a bucket list item until recently. He'd never brought the Bully Ray character to MSG, and considering that he created and refined it, that was something that was important to him. He clarified that he wasn't guaranteed a spot on the card (even though he's gained a lot of influence), so he did what he had to do as a character, wrestler and storyteller to make it happen. He's hoping that NJPW and ROH return to the venue, but isn't sure that will happen as of yet.
New AEW star Bea Priestley was interviewed, specifically about her appearances for Stardom and in America, which was her first time wrestling in the states. She's been training in Japan full-time for Stardom and only makes short trips over to the UK, and stated that she prefers training in Japan. She noted that she'll be making an announcement on how her time will be divided in the future very soon.
Jeff Cobb told me that he, as many others did over the last couple of years, got into Ring of Honor via Christopher Daniels. ROH was willing to offer him a one-year contract where Impact was sticking to their guns on a two-year deal with him, which helped contribute to him going with the former. He cited that as an important aspect. Daniels actually had tried to bring Cobb into TNA several years ago and was always willing to give him advice along the way. Cobb noted that while ROH running MSG didn't lead to his decision, the partnership with NJPW did. He cited his terrible Lucha Underground deal as being a major motivating factor for him only wanting a one-year contract.
Raw and Smackdown Notes
- Rod Zapata had travel issues last weekend, and ended up missing a live event. Chad Patton subsequently refereed the entire show by himself.
- I found it a little surprising some of the reactions I got when I asked about how some on the roster felt about Superstar Shakeup changes. Most said they just flat out didn't care and were just focused on what they were doing. There wasn't a whole lot of confidence put into the creative process from those I spoke to, which was disheartening. The optimism that I shared wasn't shared by at least the few I reached out to about it.
MMA Fighter Pro Wrestling Poll
Fightful polled several MMA fighters about their influences from pro wrestling growing up. They read as you would imagine, with most of them being Attitude Era names like Steve Austin, Triple H, Sting, Undertaker, Goldberg, and D-Generation X, and the like. The outlier was Jake Hager/Jack Swagger, who had mentioned Danny Hodge and Dr. Death Steve Williams. By far the most common name cited was that of The Rock.