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ith not too long left before one of the most unpredictable Royal Rumbles in years, this issue features a Rumble Special with our predictions, biggest surprises, a look at the Undertaker’s chances and more.

We’ve two big interviews in this issue as Lee Hazell got the chance to speak with WWE’s Neville just before his surprise return, and Craig Hermit had a great chat with Su Yung. We also have a round up of this month’s other big event: NJPW huge Wrestle Kingdom 11 and New Years Dash. Finally we saw the first ever WWE UK champion crowned and we’ve got photos from the amazing event that took place in Blackpool. David Garlick @davidgarlick




EDITORIAL David Garlick Editor / Design

Craig Hermit VultureHound Wrestling Editor

Lee Hazel Copy Editor

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Amazing build, riveting story telling, and jawdropping, fist-pumping, eye-popping sequences. The last 10 minutes were so intense! Those knees! Those Tombstones! Those Fucking Rainmakers! How are they still breathing? Wow!



Another WK11 cracker. A planned and methodical build executed with hard, stiff offence in true NJPW style. Had the crowd in a frenzy! Amazing stuff.



The women’s 30-minute Iron-Maiden match was easily the best that the two have had on the main roaster. Charlotte the predator vs. Sasha the prey. Surprise pins and last second tap-outs - pure wrestling drama at its best.




OF THE MONTH KENNY OMEGA nly a few days into the year and Kenny Omega has had the best match of his career. His Wrestle Kingdom main event match with Kazuchika Okada received an unbelievable 6 out of 5 stars from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, and many are calling it one of the best matches in history. Although Kazuchika Okada should also be in the running for best wrestler, Omega’s performance in this match stood out with his mix of athleticism, attitude, insanely physical spots and raw emotion.



One of the best Jnr IWGP title matches. The two tried to kill each other. Takahashi controlled the match with brutal, wince-inducing moves letting Kushida show his fighting spirit. Tight, enthralling and great Takahashi is going to be a huge star.


Visit for regular wrestling updates from SteelChair Magazine


This is why SD is the superior brand. Ziggler in the title picture and the elevation of young, hungry talent. Corbin did not look out of place going against these to classic veterans. An unexpected, strong, and exciting match to see off 2016 in style.








NEVILLE eville made a shock return to Monday Night Raw after he crashed Cruiserweight Champion, Rich Swann’s Roadblock celebrations and beat him and his friend T.J. Perkins into the ground. It was an immense statement of purpose as he returns to take on the entire cruiserweight division on 205 Live. He talks to SteelChair at The O2 during the announcement of the UK Championship Tournament to talk about his ambitions, his time in Japan, how the UK scene has changed since he’s been in America, and how the UK Championship tournament will revitalise the British scene.


Has the British independent scene evolved much since you left Britain? Well, it’s strange. It’s completely different – day and night – to when I first began. Then, it was smaller scale and way less exposure. There were way less opportunities available for UK guys. I wish something like this was available five years ago when I was trying to make my way into the WWE. There was simply nothing like this. I feel like for me to arrive in WWE was a very unlikely success story and I was very fortunate in the sense

that I got a lot of opportunities that were ‘right-place-right-time’. Now, that’s not the case. Now, if you have that talent, you get that opportunity, and I think that speaks volumes of the UK scene. The fact that you’ve got promotions like Progress and Rev Pro booming and selling out arenas month-in, month-out, I think that the business over here is really on an upswing. It’s really good to see. As a Brit - as someone who has always been involved with the scene - I’ve always been aware of the talent over here, but I’ve never felt like we’ve had the opportunities and now we do. That makes it a completely different landscape to what I was used to.

Do you have anyone you want us to watch out for during the UK tournament? I do. I know a lot of the guys, but a lot of the guys I don’t know. The guys who have come up during the time I’ve been gone from the UK are unknown to me. Guys I do know are Trent Seven and Wolfgang. Outstanding competitors. I expect they’ll fare very well. I’m excited to see it. I hope to make it myself. I hope to be there in Blackpool to take it in. It’s an exciting time, not only for the UK scene, but for the business as a whole. The opportunities

these guys are getting is crazy. On the network, live, in front of 1.5 million subscribers globally. There’s nothing like this.

There’s a lot of young British wrestlers trying to take a similar path to you. What would be the best piece of advice you could give? My best advice, I guess, would to just be different. Stand out. You take one look at the cruiserweight division and the guy that’s really standing out is Jack Gallagher and that’s simply because he’s so different to the rest of the competitors. I believe that, especially the landscape being how it is, there’s so much talent out there, so many good performers, you really need to do your best to stand out.

Obviously, there’s been quite an influx over the years of British and Irish talent. Has there been a sense of comradery, perhaps some banter between the British and Irish competitors? Has that helped you settle in as you went up to the main roster? JANUARY 2017 STEELCHAIR 07

NEVILLE Neville takes on Tommy End. Watch on WWE Network.

Absolutely. You always gravitate towards your fellow countrymen. It’s a little slice of home, y’know? Moving to America and starting a new life can be very daunting, especially if you’re by yourself. Us Brits and Irish lads have very similar interests and we like to have some banter. I wouldn’t like to say we alienate ourselves, but we very much stick to our own and have a little bit of banter.

You’ve never been the stereotypical Brit in WWE. No, absolutely not.

Have you consciously tried to avoid that stereotype? I have. I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself by being that one stereotype. I’ve tried my best to be a hybrid performer. I’m a fan of all styles. I grew up watching Lucha Libre, Japanese style, American style, and when I was training, working in the Dojo in Japan, I made a point of trying to learn, to my best ability, every style I could. Whilst I am British and whilst I am proud of my identity, I’m not going to


The UK is great in the sense that not only is it a place where UK fans come to see WWE, but it’s a hub for all of Europe. A lot of people from Mainland Europe travel to the UK to watch WWE events, so, while maybe we will have one of the Big Four pay per views – I’m not saying that for sure, but maybe we will – but if we did, it wouldn’t just be huge for the UK but it would also be huge for all of Europe. We would get a lot people travelling from all over the world, I’ve no doubt we’d do some very good business.

parade around as a stereotype. I feel like I’ve made an effort to be an all-encompassing, multi-stylistic wrestler and not to be a stereotype.

Do you feel like the UK Title could come up to SmackDown or Raw?

Do you think with WWE strengthening its UK connection that we could potentially see a PPV here again, similar to when we got SummerSlam in ’92?

I don’t see why not. Again I’ll reference you back to NXT. No one expected NXT to be what it is today. But now, we’ve seen the NXT championship defended on PPVs, on Raw on SmackDown; so, pleased to say as I am, it’s certainly a possibility. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it.

It would mean the world to me. Obviously, that is a question that is above my paygrade. As biased as I am, as much as I would love to see it, I can’t say for certain if it’s going to be a reality. I really hope that it would be and I feel that it would be such a good project to be involved in. I feel like if we did a PPV over here, I feel like the atmosphere and the electricity would be unmatched. It’s overdue.

I genuinely believe that if one of, say, the big four (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series) came over to the UK it would sell out.

Everywhere else in the world, apart from the WWE, you wrestled under the name of Pac. What was it like creating the new character of Neville? It was difficult. It took a lot of thought. The character of Neville is very much similar to the character that Pac was – I’m very much a straight laced competitor – but whilst I was in the performance centre, I had a lot of assistance and a lot of help from the creative team, and it all came together. The hardest part of the process was picking a name. For a long time I couldn’t settle on a name. We flirted with a few different options. I had to come

“THE GUY THAT’S REALLY STANDING OUT IS JACK GALLAGHER AND THAT’S BECAUSE HE’S SO DIFFERENT” to an agreement with developmental but it was an interesting process. I don’t think it was as hard for me as it is for some other people because, like I say, Pac and Neville are very similar. The emphasis is very much on the in-ring.

We haven’t seen you on TV much recently, have you got anything planned coming up? I’m just coming off the back of a broken ankle. Unfortunately, I’ve got another knock to my other ankle, which has kept me a little bit quieter in recent weeks. It’s safe to say that I’m not content in my current situation or my current position. I strive for more. In 2017, I’ve no doubts that I will achieve more. This business is as much a waiting game and anything else in that you have to have patience and you have to keep faith. I do keep faith. I have faith that the opportunities that I have deserved will manifest themselves and when they do, I will be more than ready.

Dusty was the man.

You were in NXT when it exploded. What was the biggest difference to the time you started and your final day when you got called up? I guess it was just the notoriety of NXT. It grew and became its own brand. The initial intention was as a developmental territory designed to create new talent, but what happened was, it got a life of its own and became its own brand. It tours in the same way as Raw or SmackDown now. NXT is no different to them. So the main difference is that now it is respected as a brand rather than as just a developmental territory. When I first began I was reporting down to FCW in Tampa, which was a small warehouse building. We didn’t have a TV crew. It was very primitive compared to what it has become. It’s quite surreal. I speak for myself, but I know I also speak for those involved, we were there from the very early stages of NXT and we’re very proud to see what it became and what it continues to become. It’s crazy to see and I hope it continues to snowball and continues to grow. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t. NXT is one of the most popular brands. I’m very proud of that.

Do you have any fond memories of Dusty giving you advice in NXT? Dusty instilled self-belief in me. That’s all he did and that means the world. He didn’t talk specifics, none of that ‘do-this-do-that’. He made me believe in myself. He made me believe in myself as a speaker. That confidence is more important than any technique you can be taught.

Apart from the Cruiserweight title, are there any other belts you’ve got your eye on? Whenever I’m asked this question I always say the Intercontinental title. It’s always been a favourite championship of mine. It’s always been a division that I’ve admired. Of course, the Intercontinental title is on SmackDown now, so that doesn’t seem like a possible reality. I mean, would I like to receive a trade to compete for the Intercontinental title? Absolutely. I don’t necessarily want to leave Raw, but I’m ambitious, and if an opportunity came along to so something like that, I’m not going to turn it down. It would be my favourite championship to win.

So you rank Raw and SmackDown on their titles? In a way, but it also comes down to the tradition of the Intercontinental Championship. It’s a bucket list dream of mine.

What’s the backstage feeling on the 2016 Brand Split? There’s certainly a competitive element to it. It was a very interesting change that, once again, changed the landscape of what we do and how we do it. I feel like the two shows have a very different feeling. SmackDown feels very different to Raw, just like NXT feels very different to both Raw and SmackDown. I think that it’s cool that we get the opportunity to put out all of these different products. I think it’s only a good thing. Down the line it can lead to all sorts of



“WWE IS ALWAYS THE HOLY GRAIL OF OPPORTUNITY” possibilities like inter-brand stuff. It opens up the window to all sorts of fun. We’ll see how it pans out. But it feels like it’s a cool time in the industry.

How did the call to WWE come about? I was flirting with joining WWE for a while. I was based out in Japan. I was working full-time there for a company called Dragon Gate and I’d spoken to a few individuals and had a few engagements but it never really panned out. I had a very good thing going on in Japan so WWE never came to fruition. Then, I want to say back in early 2012, they started to contact me a little bit more. I started assessing my options and realised that this was a reality that I could explore. I came down for a meeting in The O2 and met Mr. Regal. I also had a meeting with Dean Malenko. It was at that point, when I spoke to those gentlemen, that I knew I wanted to come to WWE.

You mentioned that you had a good deal in Japan but was WWE always your goal? Did your deal in Japan change your ambitions? A little from column A and a little from column B. Obviously, WWE is


always the holy grail of opportunity. It’s always the light at the end of the tunnel; what all of us strive for, but I’ve always been a huge fan of the Japanese style. I was very happy and I had a great relationship with the Dragon Gate promotion. I had a very close relationship with them all, it was almost like a family when I was part of the team, so it was a very difficult process to leave that. It was never an easy decision to make, but, like I said, I’m ambitious. WWE is the biggest global brand of what we do. The opportunity to wrestle in front of millions on live television every week, as well as live events to tens of thousands of people every week. I don’t think anyone in our profession can deny how awesome that is.

You mentioned that you’re not entirely content with your role and time on television. Does that ever make you miss Japan? Of course. I always miss it. Always. I’m very glad to have taken the route that I took. I’m glad that I started in Britain. I’m glad that I went to Japan. I’m glad that I lived in the Dojos in Japan. I’m very much a product of that environment. The person who I am today is very much a product of that. I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any different so I’m

very glad to have taken that route.

So even if you had something like this tournament back in the day, you still would have wanted to head out to Japan? Five years ago, when I was trying to break through into WWE, this wasn’t even the wildest dream. It’s hard to say one way or the other because the landscape is so very different now to how it was when I was breaking through.

You are one of the most athletic wrestlers in WWE. What’s your training regime like? How do you get to the point where you can wrestle as athletically as that? A lot of people believe I have a background in gymnastics, which is actually not true. All of my acrobatics were learnt in the wrestling ring. Some of them in backyard wrestling, but the majority I learnt in the independent promotions, many in a promotion in the North East called IWF. I was just a young kid. I started training there when I was sixteen, fuelled by passion, fuelled by a love for the business. I wanted nothing more than to be a wrestler. I loved highflying and I wanted to emulate my heroes, the likes of Tiger Mask, Jushin Thunder Liger, all those guys. As soon as I started training, that was my goal, to be a high flyer. I’d sneak up the top rope, behind my coaches back, and practice the acrobatics. I want to say that it came to me fairly naturally, and that was pretty much how I learned to do what I do.


FROM PAC TO NEVILLE hen a skinny kid called Pac dazzled backyard wrestling fans in the early 2000s, performing the move that would become his famed Red Arrow off a pummelhorse that substituted for a turnbuckle, landing on regular gym mats that doubled as the ring, it was difficult to envision him as a ruthless, snarling, diabolical heel in WWE. Even as his unlikely journey took him to Dragon Gate in Japan and NXT in North America, he was typecast by even his most ardent supporters as a perennial babyface. Stylistically, it seemed an easy call to make – even by the amplified standards of modern day high flying, Neville stuck out like a sore thumb, it wasn’t going to be easy to convince fans to ever boo him. And yet as we analyse the plight of the WWE’s relaunched Cruiserweight Division, it seems that this decision, which would have been decried at the drawing board stage by most, might be the desperately needed blasting cap that ignites 205 Live going forward.


The great irony of it all is that Neville’s promo, ripping into the American audience for prejudging him, saying he looks and sounds funny and was only ever good for a few flips, really has no basis in truth beyond Vince McMahon’s vision. But despite that fact, there is a shred of truth that people had started to look at Neville with the mentality that, for better or worse, we knew what he was and wasn’t capable of, and we all saw the midcard ceiling. But over the course of the last several weeks, Neville has been the hidden gem, the surprise nobody saw coming. In an

age where top babyfaces are booed, heels are cheered, and only the special attractions make a difference, somebody has freshened up their act so completely and convincingly that it creatively stimulates the viewing audience exactly as it’s designed to. The fear is that WWE’s lack of conviction behind anything with the sticker “Cruiserweight” on it hasn’t been truly disproven yet. While the mean face, gruff and effectively delivered promos and switch in

NEVILLE HAS BEEN THE HIDDEN GEM, THE SURPRISE NOBODY SAW COMING ring style for Neville has made the division more interesting than it has been thus far, only a fool would make lofty claims such as “the sky is the limit” in the modern landscape. Even in the beginning, mishandled as it was, you could tell that WWE had an investment in the so-called “Women’s Revolution”. The Cruiserweights have been used in the position that Divas matches of the past were, occupying the dead spot on Pay-Per-Views and competing in front of a symphony of silence in front of tired crowd on Tuesday.

There are more guys on the way that could be difference makers, with Akira Tozawa, Gran Metalik and Austin Aries set to inject life to 205 live, but the surprise cornerstone of a Heel Neville, fighting off fantastic talents from the world over, is in many ways as unexpected as his initial participation was considered a nobrainer. The one thing 205 Live has been lacking from the beginning is the anchor performer that you tune in to see. People forget that WCW’s Cruiserweight Division, lauded as it eventually became, was stillborn, with Dean Malenko fending off a surge of uncharismatic, uninteresting opponents, until Rey Mysterio came along. TJ Perkins wasn’t the answer, Brian Kendrick wasn’t the answer, and Rich Swann won’t be the answer unless he develops further as a personality. If Neville can continue to be the anchor performer, one that can get over and stay over on 205 Live and Monday Night Raw, then finally the division has a chance. And for the first time in almost two years, people are awoken to the extraordinary talents of the kid on the pummelhorse. Except this time it’s not the talents we all saw that Vince McMahon saw no stock in, it’s the ones we never knew he had – ones that separate the athletic midcard performers from the potential superstars. The true test for Neville has finally arrived, and while the more cynical fan will live with low expectations, the optimist still waits for the one special wrestler or feud that puts the Cruiserweight Division on the map in WWE, and may have found their man.




WWE UNITED KINGDOM CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT WORDS: CRAIG HERMIT ixteen competitors with an amazing opportunity to showcase their skills internationally on all of WWE’s global platforms, I believe this is going to supercharge the United Kingdom and Irish wrestling scene but more importantly this is going to bridge the gap between independent wrestling and WWE, something that has never been done before”.


Those were the words from the former WWE Universal Champion, Finn Bálor as he stood before the multiple members of the UK press team from various wrestling outlets eager to witness who would be included in the first ever WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament. While there were some surprise faces, there is no denying that every single one of the wrestlers chosen in the Tournament had the ability to awe and excite fans who witnessed the event from all over the world on the WWE Network.


Now fast forward to the weekend of January 14th and 15th. After two days in Blackpool, the sixteen competitors gave their all,


Tyler Bates crowned first ever WWE UK Champion



showcased exactly why wrestling within the United Kingdom and Ireland should be seen before a worldwide audience and in the end, there was one man left standing, the 19 year old Tyler Bate. Over the two nights he triumphed over Irish stars Tucker and Jordan


Devlin in the First Round and Quarter-Finals before defeating the Insane Championship Wrestling Champion Wolfgang in a fantastic Semi Final. In the scintillating final he defeated the Progress World Champion, the villainous Pete Dunne, to receive a standing ovation from the fans in the sold out Winter

Gardens in Blackpool. The result itself was a surprise to some as many had pegged Pete Dunne to win after he assaulted the fan favourite, Bate, briefly after his win over Wolfgang as well as coming off a successful year in 2016. However, Tyler Bate, a man trained


by the incredible Dave Mastiff and charismatic Trent Seven, displayed the endurance needed to become the first ever WWE United Kingdom Championship. Fans who may have seen him perform in Progress, Over the Top Wrestling, Attack, & Fight Pro

Wrestling wouldn’t be surprised as they have witnessed his phenomenonal strength and ability on display in the ring. But now he has seized the Championship, the question is what’s next? It’s clear that when WWE unveils the weekly show similar to 205Live

that Tyler Bate will have a long line of challengers ready to pounce and odds are Pete Dunne is probably forefront of that list. One thing is clear though, wrestling from the United Kingdom and Ireland has got the world talking again and it looks to continue throughout 2017.








he is one of the most recognisable characters on the Independent Wrestling scene. Some of her matches have been described as being as destructive as they are fantastic, and since her debut in 2007, she has become one of the most feared wrestlers to compete against. In 2016 she became the WSU Spirit, the QOC, the PW2.0 Women’s Champion and Girl Fight Champion. To some, she is “The Undead Bride” to others, she is Su Yung. Vulture Hound’s Craig Hermit caught up with Su Yung to discuss her career and more.


It’s been documented in the past that the first show you attended was WrestleMania 19, was that the moment you fell in love with wrestling? No, not really, the moment I fell in love with wrestling was when I was a little girl and my Dad put it on the TV. I had no idea what it was. Ever since I was a little girl my dad would just watch it. I just loved it, wrestling is really big in my heart, > it’s actually a sentimental thing for me.

So, what or when was the moment you thought that is


SU YUNG something I want to do, you know the lightbulb moment where you went this is something I can do? I didn’t know you could have it as a job when I was watching it, but I could see myself doing it and one day in middle school I realised I didn’t wanna do anything else other than be a wrestler, my dad always laughed it off as a funny thing. Eventually, we were doing this thing in school about what you wanna be when you leave school and I put myself out there said wrestler.

Your started you’re training in Magnificent Women’s Wrestling and how did that gauge you for your time in NXT then known as FCW? I got my start at Memphis Wrestling not MLW. Bill Dundee and Kevin White trained me they helped my learning. Magnificent Women’s Wrestling gave me a start, it helped my learning and my beginning in wrestling, from the baby steps of learning to walking on my own two feet. I mean, if you want to see how someone started and what they are like now, you can see my old stuff and I was not good in the beginning and but I never stopped trying. I believe that you never give up on your dreams because the person you’re stopping is yourself. In FCW, it was taken to another platform I’ve never done before.I felt I wasn’t ready. When I was there, they were interested in learning on your feet, there were top athletes there and so many people that had seen so many different things in wrestling, things that people couldn’t understand or fantom, cause in order to


understand some of those things you’d have to experience what they did and its kinda what I’m doing now. I’m learning from the hard work and right now I’m just enjoying all the really cool people I get to meet.

When I see you wrestling now in your matches as “The Undead Bride” I admittedly had thoughts that this woman could kill me in multiple different ways. It’s a stark contrast to who I’m talking to know, it leaves me with the question how did you come up with the undead bride persona? Well, there is a man, a mastermind man behind the whole persona. There are some people in this world who are different, with me I’m a different kind of person that has a different mindset than others. This man well, he saw the opportunity that could be made with my mind and my heart and my wrestling skills. He threw a challenge in my face, and the challenge is, hey are you comfortable to be something

like this, and we know I’m comfortable to do that. So I believe if you see opportunities you believe in, in your heart, and your head, you take it. So I took that opportunity and I ran with it. It wasn’t like someone saying your now this or that, it was more organic, with my state of mind and my heart and here is a lot of back and forth influences behind the label of “The Undead Bride”. You have to go back to the beginning of the transition of what happened to her and what’s about to happen to her, but I can’t tell you more than that. I wouldn’t want to ruin it. (Laughs)

Thing is, when I see your matches, you have this look that seems like you could strike anyone at anytime.

with a match I’ve never had or I want to experience, against any opponent, I’m gonna go, ‘I want this match.’ I’m definitely going to go for it. There’s nothing really in my mind that says to me I can’t do this match because I feel like I’m a professional wrestler and I’m worthy of being one. I’m able to do everything and anything possible because there’s no limits that I can’t do. I think this past year I chose my heart more than I thought I would.

gets to see everything that is happening in the independents. It’s a smaller block compared to how big WWE is. I think it’s phenomenal the way that they are pushing women as being just as talented as the men can be. We’ve seen it in Basketball, Football, Running and Tennis, women can do it like a man only sometimes better, sometimes worse. So when I’m seeing this in wrestling I’m like, ‘Whoa, we are changing wrestling to another platform for women.’ I think it’s beautiful. I hope we get

"I'm able to do everything and anything possible because there's no limit". (Laughs) That could be a possibility, I mean even when I’m at home and I’m looking at myself back, I’m saying that’s not me.

One thing that personifies Su Yung is your matches, whether it be in Shine or any other promotions, they know when they see you in a match that it’s going to be a destructive yet a rewarding match to watch, is that something you strive for every match you have? Character wise? I take on any challenge. Wrestling wise? I feel the same way with any challenge. Any time anyone presents me

I think it’s a really cool that I got I really a good reaction from everybody because of that. I mean it’s everybody else’s fault really. (Laughs)

During 2015, WWE had a Women’s Revolution. What is your opinion on WWE's Women’s Division heading into 2017? My opinion about the Women’s Revolution is that I think it’s amazing. I think it opened up a platform for people to see women’s wrestling on another level, even though it’s been going on in the independent scene like that, but you gotta realise not everybody

the opportunities to see dream matches like Charlotte versus Mercedes Martinez. I’d love to see what would happen in that match. Someone so strong for Charlotte to go against would be something to see. That’s the type of thing I’d want to see.

With the lines between men and women's wrestling becoming more blurred, will we see more inter-gender matches in 2017 like the one we saw with yourself in FEST Wrestling, facing Mr. 450 and Oraculo and Serpentico, a match you won?


SU YUNG That’s really a hard one to say, because in this world there is a lot of sensitivity we should be aware of. It’s really hard to say and not say something without offending somebody. It happens. I do believe in the future it will happen more with how wrestling is going. I don’t think there is a line anymore between women’s and men’s wrestling. It’s definitely shades of grey, so that helps women wrestlers show that they can sometimes do it better than men. It helps to show girls growing up that they can do what they wanna do, look at Jessica Havok, Asuka, Heidi, Kimber Lee all of them. They go into a match with such heart and treat everybody the same way and I love it. (laughs)

A controversial moment to some, was back at Shine 39, your match with Saraya Knight. During the bout, some people felt that the moment she appeared to hang you, what would you say to people who think that was going too far? Was it just adding a new dimension to your rivalry? This is the thing that blows my mind, everything that happens in wrestling does it really surprise anyone anymore? In wrestling, anything can happen, it’s like life, people watch wrestling, they appreciate it, and watch it no matter what. Whether its good or bad it’s their opinion. I would never try to change someones opinion, I’ll sit back and listen, to what people say, to what people think and do. If it’s bad or good I respect it, if you don’t like something it’s okay, if you see me wrestle and you have an opinion, I want you


to voice it out, I want you to tell me how you feel, because if you don’t feel anything at what I’ve said or done I want to know why you don’t feel anything. Whether you’re watching this saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’ or, ‘This is awesome,’ I want to make people feel something. When I hear fans when I’m wrestling, that is awesome to me and when I’m wrestling someone as amazing and an absolute treasure in wrestling like Saraya Knight, I would never ever take anything back. I’d do it all over again. Anytime I’m in the ring with her, it’s magic. It’s something I’ll always cherish, because those are most special times in my life.

I think any fan who has witnessed any of your matches with each other know that both of you take it to another level. You're both in your own world and everyone is along for the ride. Speaking of how incredible Saraya Knight is, is there anyone else who you would say has helped you in your career so far? Oh there are so many people, (laughs) there is so many people and all of them popped into my head at once. I definitely want to say Lexie Fyfe, she lead me on a good path, she’s helped me in my career, she has one of the best hearts in wrestling just like Saraya does. Mercedes Martinez is a big influence to me. (pauses) I want to say Malia Hosaka has always been there for me, has always looked out for me, basically calls me her “Mini Me” because when we first started

out I looked so alike then I was like “Oh my God, this is awesome”. We met up after a weekend and we have been friends ever since. I love the WWNY family, they’ve always been good to me. Sal and Gabe have always given me great advice in wrestling, I love everybody. The whole brand who has been out to see me. Having So-Cal Val and Andrea on WWN working with them was really cool. You pick up a lot of things that they have done and helped them in their careers, and what works for you from that, like, I should try that. Working in Evolve when watching Rich Swann, Ricochet and Uhaa, when you’re working closely, learning from behind the scenes and watching it, it’s really on another level. I have had great peers who have helped me as well, Jessica Havoc, Heidi, Veda Scott, Kimber Lee, Taeler Hendrix the list can go on. Because of these women, I have become a more rounded wrestler. You know, working together has just been amazing.

An incredible range of talent there, it's great to have a good wrestling family and to hear how they help, you mentioned Kimber Lee and Heidi. WWE signed Kimber Lee and Heidi Lovelace, your thoughts on them joining WWE? (Cheers) I was so happy for them, they definitely deserve it. Those two girls bust their butts so much. They work so hard for everything they have and they have that heart behind them and because of that heart it makes it more amazing, it means more of the independents

are represented via heart, and if there’s heart there, that’s were I’m gonna go. I’m always going to be a fan of them. When I see someone break through, it’s inspiring and it’s positive the world morale of wrestling.

There has been a staggering amount of congratulation messages to Kimber Lee and Heidi Lovelace and rightly so. They have been incredible in multiple promotions throughout their careers. If the opportunity came to be part of or join the rumoured WWE Women’s tournament this year that is similar to this year’s Cruiserweight Classic what would you say to them? Any tournament or anyplace if it’s here in America or the UK, anywhere in the world, that wants me, I’d want to wrestle in. (Laughs) I have my passport! I don’t know what is going to happen in the future, I don’t know what plans are gonna be there or if there’s any plans at all. Right now, I’ve just been rolling the dice and seeing what happens with every opportunity I’ve been asked, and I take all my challenges head on. This year, I have a hit list and my goal this year is to cross those names off the list. Right now, it’s not the namesake of the company, I just want to wrestle, I want to wrestle everywhere, whether it be in a major company or a smaller company or a really awesome company or a company in the middle of nowhere, I would want to wrestle for all of them.

In wrestling you just want to Shia LaBeouf it, “Do It!”

love and take the confidence from that, it’s once in a lifetime. It’s really nice.

(Laughs) Yeah! Gotta DO IT! I’m just gonna wrestle and party.

I was going over some of the reports of the Championships you’ve won in the last few months alone, and was I thinking, "Wow, you’re going to defending a lot next year."

In the later half of 2016, you captured the WSU, Queens of Combat, PW2.0 and the Girl Fight Championship, what does it mean to you to capture these titles? To be honest, with everything that’s gone off last year, being told that I would never be anything in wrestling, I was always told that women’s matches were glorified entertainment matches or that I’ll never really get to wrestle because women wrestlers don’t wrestle. I never thought I’d ever win a title, I never thought I’d evolve myself more, I just feel so blessed for these opportunities and for all the fans. I love the fans, they are the best people/things in the world! All the companies that believe in me and all my friends that believe in me, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I’m at. It’s cool to feel the

I have no idea how this is happening right now, I just feel blessed and really grateful for these opportunities I’ve been given. If this is how life is going then I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is exciting. It’s like Christmas every day. Photography - Riverhorse Wrestling Photography - Alan Rolette.





SMACKDOWN or the past 12 months,

unknown indie star, by the name of

his alcoholic inclination to transform

I’ve gone from being

James Ellsworth, was completely

into Luke Gallows. Not only did Styles

unemployed, staying up

crushed by Braun Strowman on Raw

beat John Cena clean at SummerSlam,

to watch wrestling, to

and then, much to everyone’s jubilant

he then went on to become WWE

being employed and still

surprise, subsequently re-appeared

World Champion at Backlash in less

staying up to watch wrestling, thanks to

on SmackDown as AJ Styles surprise

than 9 months after he made his

the good people behind the scenes at

partner in a tag match. At first, it was

debut. Granted, he already had a huge

Steelchair and VultureHound magazine.

quite funny, and I admit to laughing at

following going into the WWE, but for

That makes it sound like they employed

the “chinless one’s” early performances

a man who headed up the golden age

me. They didn’t. I have another job, but

as some much needed comic relief

of TNA, this was almost an impossible

I review SmackDown every week just out

to Styles’ aggressive attitude. Yet, as

dream come true.

of the love of my heart for you marks

the weeks went on, the jokes became

reading this.

repetitive and, much like your parent’s

At this moment, Styles has once again

marriage, things had gotten stale.

locked horns with Cena and we could

In that time, we’ve seen SmackDown go

Currently, Ellsworth is managing

in fact see the holy grail of them all

from strength to strength and have now

Carmella (he really is!) and looks as

at the end of this feud: A broken John

reached the point in time where it is

though he may be out of any in-ring

Cena (not broken in a Hardy sense of

being regarded by many fans as WWE’s

action for a while. That being said, we

the word), having lost another chance

best product. Other than all the Roman

should probably expect to see him in

to tie Ric Flair’s record of 16 time a

Reigns’ mugs I use to collect your

this year’s Royal Rumble match going

champion, completely losing his cool.

smark tears. 2016 witnessed the Miz

out as he started: being completely

Aside from his huge stock sales, he

rise up once again as the biggest heel

flattened by Braun Strowman, in turn

faces near extinction in the WWE.

on the roster. During this time he has

giving Strowman revenge for Ellsworth

He faces the reality that he is now a

sparked a feud with General Manager,

eliminating the hairy giant during the

hypocrite. He’s become all that he said

Daniel Bryan. The pair haven’t even

Survivor Series elimination match. Yes,

about the Rock being; a part timer. Mr.

wrestled each other in this feud and it’s

that also happened.

Hustle, Loyalty and Respect resorts


still become one of the biggest weekly

to heel tactics to rise to the top once

draws for the show. With such storylines

Having mentioned AJ Styles once

again… Just let that settle in your mind

in SmackDown’s blue pipeline, is it out

already it’s only right that we focus on

for 12 months while it never happens.

of the question that Bryan could return

the biggest SmackDown, and indeed

in 2017 for one final match with the

WWE, story of 2016. The Phenomenal

The last six months in particular

Miz on the grandest stage of them all?

One shocked the wrestling world

since the brand split have been great

Of course it isn’t. He’s been cleared by

by leaving New Japan and made an

for SmackDown. With the continued

all medics other than the WWE’s and a

astonishing WWE debut at last year’s

success of it’s creative storytelling from

lack of action will inevitably lead to him

Royal Rumble. Since his debut, the

the people behind the scenes and the

walking out once his contract expires.

man with the “Soccer Mom” haircut

hard work of the multitalented roster...

The best way for WWE to keep him on

went on to lose to Chris Jericho at

and Mojo Rawley, I thoroughly expect

their side would be to let him compete

WrestleMania but considering Jericho is

the Blue Brand to be the outright most

in what would surely be the culmination

the GOAT, that can be excused. Styles

successful wrestling show at the end of

of the most entertaining storyline

wasn’t down for long and shot straight


SmackDown had began in 2016.

back up to the top by achieving the

2016 was also the year that an

greatest feat since Festus overcame


read weekly reviews at




The battle between raw and smackdown, and bradley and elliot continues

ean in closer, inquisitive

The (ostensibly) top champion, Kevin

record reign as WWE Tag Team

one, for I am going

Owens, has repeatedly fallen out, and

Champions was slightly more interesting

to reveal to you the

made up, with his comrade, Chris

to those we’ve been “treated to”

best kept secret in

Jericho (the new U.S Champion), while

recently. It reintroduced some of the

professional wrestling

consistently losing to Roman Reigns

group’s heelish tactics (though mainly

(sports entertainment to some). No,

at every given opportunity (except that

those of Xavier Woods) as a means to

it is not that ‘the apron is the hardest

one time that Jericho won the belt).

portray Woods’ desperation to not let

part of the ring’, though a very well kept

The main event scene has become a

go of the titles, thus leading the group

secret that is. No, this is something far

stale rotation of the aforementioned 3

to a long stay in the history books.

more sinister – something that will rock

men and Seth Rollins, with the latter

Unfortunately, as soon as The New Day

you to your very core. Come closer...

and Reigns being incessantly exploited

became the longest-reigning tag team

ready your ears... Monday Night Raw is

for cheap “Shield-Reunion” pops. I

champions of all time, they also became

not worth your time and honestly you

imagine pushing Reigns, the then-US

the former champions, thanks to the

should probably just watch Smackdown

champion, into the main event scene

unexpected chemistry and fan support

or Ring of Honor or something.

was an attempt at elevating that title,

of Sheamus and Cesaro. Sheasaro,

though, on a show that already has a

however, now have to deal with the same

Somewhere along the line, WWE’s

brand new, top-tier title still settling in,

problem that plagued The New Day in

flagship show lost the way. Many of its

the whole experiment seems to have

the final stretch of their reign, which

detractors blame the 3rd hour, but I’m

simply devalued both belts, essentially

was the very noticeable absence of real

unconvinced. Luckily for you, dearest

invalidating the entirety of the men’s

competition in the division.

friend, I am obliged to watch Raw and

singles division.


recap it for your weary soul. Sit back on

So, as all good essayists do at the end

what I assume is a porcelain throne and

While we’re on the subject of devalued

of their masterpieces, their crowning

discover what disappointment you’ve

belts, Charlotte (who is now being

jewels, their raison d’etre’s, I must now

been missing over the past month or so.

announced as ‘Charlotte Flair’) is

remind you of the first point I made

currently in the midst of her 4th

in this article: Raw is not worth your

You may recall that a 50-something

reign as Raw Women’s Champion. You

time. Perhaps you should invest your

year-old, whose name sounds quite

know, that belt that hasn’t even been

time better and not watch “the flagship

familiar to you, though you aren’t sure

around a year yet? Charlotte and Banks

show” simply out of habit. Perhaps

why, defeated the personification of

have traded that hot potato back and

you think Lucha Underground is a bit

dominance in Brock Lesnar at this

forth, while the wrestling has been

weird and New Japan is a bit Japanese

year’s Survivor Series. Since then,

top notch – very possibly the most

and welcome the warming comfort

Goldberg has turned up once or twice

consistent division on Raw in terms of

and the comforting warmth of Monday

and announced his intention to spear

wrestling quality – the booking has been

Night Raw – the show you spent your

his way back to the top. Brock Lesnar’s

boring and mostly predictable. One

formative years watching. Who am I to

advocate, Paul Heyman, didn’t shave for

surprise, however, is Bayley’s unbridled

tell you what to do? Why, I’m the best

a few days and cut a promo that felt like

acceptance by the fans – she seemed

writer this magazine has to offer, of

he’d been up all night drinking Dragon

to just walk onto the main roster as


Soup, and not writing a concise promo.

popular as she has ever been.

Lesnar and Goldberg will both be in the

Oh, also the Cruiserweight

Royal Rumble and that’s literally the

Over the past few weeks, the story of

entire story.

The New Day closing in on Demolition’s

Championship still exists.





year of wrestling in history.

restle Kingdom 11 is finally here and with it comes a fresh wave of potential Match-ofthe-Year candidates right off the bat in the first week of January. New Japan always starts off the year with a bang and this year was no exception, garnering four matches that could easily be included on any ‘Best-of’ list come December. A fun show to watch from top to bottom, Wrestle Kingdom usually sets the tone for the rest of the year, and if this show was any indication, we may be in for the best

Wrestle Kingdom show. This year is the



NJPW RUMBLE The pre-show began with the NJPW Rumble, a relatively new addition to the third Rumble and is a New Japan style Royal Rumble with pinfalls, submissions and disqualifications all counting until only one man remains. The rumble started with the returning Michael Elgin facing Billy Gunn, which is a statement I doubt any of us believed we’d make in 2017. The main story of the Rumble was the return of nWo Japan, represented here by Scott Norton, Hiro Saito and Tenzan, who also took crowd favorite Cheeseburger into the fold. There was a lot of fun to be had here – let us never stop being amused by the friendship of Jushin Liger and Cheeseburger. In the

end, Michael Elgin was victorious with the Elgin Bomb on Cheeseburger.

TIGER MASK W V TIGER THE DARK Wrestle Kingdom officially kicked off with Tiger Mask W vs Tiger the Dark. This match was a tie in with an anime about Tiger Mask that New Japan is promoting. For those unaware, two wrestling favourites portray the respective Tiger Masks for this bout, Kota Ibushi playing the role of Tiger Mask W and ACH as Tiger the Dark. This was a short match that helped to get the crowd ready for the evening, utilising the usual movesets of both men. Tiger Mask W picked up the victory here with a Last Ride Tiger Driver.

read more on njpw at ROPPONGI VICE V

year. However the two never touched

the conclusion of this match resulted

in this bout, as CHAOS started off the

in Adam Cole becoming the first three-


match against the Bullet Club. Ospreay

time Ring of Honor World Champion

Bucking the trend of past Wrestle

was the stand out here but Yujiro got

and solidifying himself in the history

Kingdom shows, this year’s IWGP Jr

the pin over Jado, sending CHAOS

books, while giving Kyle O’Reilly the title

Heavyweight Tag Team title match

packing and Los Ingobernables de Japon

of shortest Ring of Honor Champion

consisted of only two teams. The Bucks

to the ring. LOS made quick work of

ever with no successful defenses. This

entered the ring adorned with every

Bullet Club with Sanada locking in Cold

match was solid, but considering the

title they current hold; the IWGP Jr Tag

Skull on Yujiro to advance and face the

pair’s lengthy history, they’ve had more

titles, Ring of Honor tag titles, PWG tag

champions. This matchup was the best

interesting matches in the past.

team titles and their own “Superkick

part of the gauntlet with equal time

Championship belts.” Shoutouts were

given to both sides in order to get in all

an early theme to this match as the

of their spots and move the match along.

Bucks made sure to say hello to The

Kojima was eventually pinned to crown

Hardys as they made their entrance, and

Los Ingobernables as the new NEVER

Trent did the same for Dustin (Chuck

Openweight 6-Man Championship

Taylor). The match was comprised of


many ridiculous spots, but worked well for a nice sprint and the teams have great chemistry. Trent took a nasty dive onto the floor at one point, which led to Romero vs the Bucks in a 2 on 1 situation up until the conclusion of the match. Roppongi Vice ended up being victorious as the Bucks went to deliver More Bang for Your Buck only to be held back by Trent, and allowing Rocky to come in with a quick rollup. If anything, this match displayed how criminally underrated Rocky Romero is as an allaround performer. He’s great in the ring and has the charisma of ten men, and with this win, is now the winningest JR Tag Team Champion in the history of New Japan.


CODY V JUICE ROBINSON There was a lot of buzz going into this match as it was Cody’s NJPW debut on their biggest stage. Cody approached this match seemingly fully in the role of Bullet Club member, from the leather jacket and sunglasses all the way down to the cocky, sneering demeanor. The real story of this match however is Juice Robinson and his growth in New Japan since his debut. While Cody was fine here, typical to most of his matches post WWE career, and had an okay debut, Juice Robinson shined. He had the support of the crowd, his wrestling has come far since he first started in Young Lions matches and his selling has greatly improved as well. The real takeaway here should be less concentrated on Cody’s debut and more toward the improvements Juice Robinson has made in order to make himself a real threat on the New Japan roster.


The surprise going into this gauntlet

Rumours surrounded the men

match was the order of team entrances,

participating in this match, as

as many expected Will Ospreay and

predictions speculated the loser may

Ricochet to have a moment after their

be WWE bound, but no one knows the

sting of singles matches over the past

truth just yet. What we do know is that

CHAOS (TOMOHIRO ISHII AND TORU YANO) V GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY (TAMA TONGA AND TANGA ROA) (C) AND G.B.H. (TOGI MAKABE AND TOMOAKI HONMA) The IWGP Tag Team Championship has bounced back and forth many times over the past year, and does so again with Chaos picking up the win over the previous champions. Toru Yano was a standout as always if only for his sneaky tactics that allowed for the pinfall victory. This was a typical contest between the teams, amusing at points with some nice back and forth between G.O.D and G.B.H, Honma playing the role of underdog and Tama Loa playing the role of “dude who can’t stop swearing.” Nothing too memorable here, but a fine match.

HIROMU TAKAHASHI DEFEATED KUSHIDA (C) This is when the show really starts to ramp up. These last four matches of Wrestle Kingdom is some of the overall best wrestling you can find, starting with Kushida vs Hiromu Takahashi. From the beginning, it was obvious this match was going slightly off the rails as some spots failed to connect fully, resulting in what looked like near injuries. Both men


NJPW is deserving of the top spot would change their tune seeing the incredible performance he puts on throughout this match. Starting with his Terminator entrance all the way to his insane bumps, Kenny Omega put everything he had into this match, and we see a more serious and focused Omega here. Though his Elite partners, The Young Bucks, remained ringside for the entirety of the match, no interference took place, which likely would have taken away from the flow of this amazing contest. Okada put on one of his best ever pressed on and the matched picked up

can continue to one up their previous

performances as well, standing evenly

pace, Kushida fighting every step of the


with Omega throughout the match. This was incredibly physical and both

way with Hiromu finding just enough to slip out of Kushida’s hoverboard lock. Kushida brought out some of his best work from previous matches, looking seemingly frustrated at his inability to put Hiromu away for good. Hiromu was finally able to hit the Time Bomb on Kushida to become the new IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion. These two are not only two of the most charismatic men in New Japan, they have excellent chemistry together. A rematch will no doubt be a must see. This match was far and beyond the match of the night up


men looked to be near injury at many

Hiroshi Tanahashi has has a multitude

imagined. Omega kicked out of several

of brilliant matches over his career,

Rainmakers but finally succumbed

but this is easily my favourite match of

to Okada’s offence after a spinning

his. Although the match was brilliant

piledriver, allowing Okada to retain the

as a stand-alone, knowing the history

belt. Interestingly, Omega never once hit

between these two men adds so much

his finisher, the One Winged Angel, which

depth to this match. The limb work in

may be an indication of a future rematch

this match is wonderful and is a direct

between the two. Nevertheless this is a

call back to their previous contests, most

match that needs to be seen.

until this point.

notably their 2013 G1 Final match. It’s


that make everything work perfectly. The

(C) Perhaps the big sleeper match on the card, Shibata vs Goto delivered in a way I was not expecting. The two always have great matches against one another, but this was by far their best. This match had everything one could love about

a brilliant combination of little things timing on this matched worked wonders in building up the tension as there were several finisher reversals and split second kickouts. For the first time over the course of the evening, the champion the Destino on Tanahashi.

more near falls that anyone could have

NEW YEAR DASH RESULTS As tradition with Wrestle Kingdom weekend, the night after the big show is

violent, and between two men who did not want to give an inch to the other.

There’s really nothing to be said about

Taunts for the other to hit them harder

this match that hasn’t already been

strengthened an already intense match,

stated. By now it’s hit the internet that

and the final stretch of this match was

Dave Meltzer gave this match six stars,

beautifully done. Goto redeemed himself

which is mindblowing. Whether you agree

here after a year of ups and downs,

or disagree with Dave’s rating, this was

and this match is a great example as

a match that needs to be seen by all.

to how two men with so much history

Anyone who questions whether Omega


half of this match is unbelievable with

was able to retain his title as Naito hit


their previous contentions. It was stiff,

points throughout the match. The last

New Year Dash, a shorter program where many new storylines are developed, as well as providing some closure to events the night before. The show consists of larger tag matches to give the performers a little break after the more brutal Wrestle Kingdom matches, and is a great mix of fun & comedy and future story potential.


Another fun match that involved lots of

destroying everyone in CHAOS before

physical comedy from Cheeseburger,

Minoru Suzuki arrived, laying Okada out

as well as Kenny Omega attempting to

with a Gotch piledriver and setting up

recruit Norton into the Bullet Club. Odd

our next main event scene. Brilliantly

that there was no story here for Omega,

executed invasion on behalf of Suzuki-

as he just participated in what many

Gun and the crowd were beside

are considering the best match of the

themselves with the surprise.

Fun, basic opening match that showed

modern era just 24 hours prior.

off some skills of Henare, one of the Young Lions. Standout here was David Finlay and Ricochet, who work very well together and hopefully take a run at the Jr Tag Titles as a duo.

YUJIRO TAKAHASHI AND HANGMAN PAGE V YOSHITATSU AND BILLY GUNN Nothing to really note here. Billy Gun continues to be weird in New Japan and Tatsu garners no reaction from the crowd aside from silence the majority of the time. Adam Page was the standout here and could easily develop if he was in better matches with better opponents.

MICHAEL ELGIN & KUSHIDA V TETSUYA NAITO & HIROMU TAKAHASHI Good match here with Kushida and Hiromu displaying their electric chemistry together. Naito has the fans eating out of his hand here, and his ascent back into the higher card has been great to watch. Naito hit Elgin with a low blow but, before he could get the pin, Dragon Lee appeared out of nowhere and took out Hiromu. Elgin ended the match with a Burning Hammer to Naito, and Kushida and Dragon Lee had a momentary staredown over the Jr Heavyweight title.

NEVER OPENWEIGHT SIX-MAN TITLE MATCH: HIROSHI TANAHASHI, MANABU NAKANISHI AND RYUSUKE TAGUCHI V CHAMPIONS SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI In a surprising and odd choice, Los Ingobernables lost this match, having only won the titles the night before. Having every member of Los leave Wrestle Kingdom with a title was impressive for the faction, with this loss it seems pointless. However this is the 6 Man title which has changed hands

comedy spots, ranging from Romero


stopping Trent from taking a dive (after

Good tag match with everyone involved

direction. Suzuki-Gun has returned to

he crashed the night before) and the

getting some work in, including a

take out anyone in their path and we

Bucks giving Cole a kiss. Yoshi-Hashi

very bandaged and bruised Okada.

can only assume Suzuki/Okada will

pinned the Ring of Honor Champion with

Will Ospreay and Shibata had a few

main even one of the upcoming shows.

a roll up, in theory putting him in line for

nice moments together, Will stating

Will Ospreay, Shibata, Goto and Juice

a title shot, and was attacked and beaten

that he wants a surprising twist, Juice

Robinson are all poised for some new

down by his opponents post match.

Robinson got the pin over Goto and

matchups, as well as the returning

picked up his NEVER Openweight title,

Michael Elgin. Bullet Club remains in

seemingly wanting a match. After Juice’s

flux however, and with Kenny Omega’s

performance at Wrestle Kingdom, it’s

new announcement that he is going to be

nice to see him moving up the card to be

taking some time away from Japan and

taken as a threat.

wrestling, their future is entirely unclear.

CHAOS (ROPPONGI VICE & YOSHIHASHI) V BULLET CLUB Very fun match that had some nice


roughly 10 times since its inception, so there could be something new in the works for them. With the aftermath of Wrestle Kingdom now at the forefront, New Japan looks to be heading into an exciting new

All we know is that New Japan has However the most interesting part of

succeeded in capturing the attention of

the match took place directly after as

the wrestling world yet again, and there

Suzuki-Gun returned to New Japan,

are new storms brewing on the horizon.




ROYAL RUMBLE SPECIAL REMEMBER YOU’RE A RUMBLE: THE STEELCHAIR WRITERS’ ROYAL RUMBLE 2017 PREDICTIONS ith little more than a fortnight to go until the day of the 30th annual WWE Royal Rumble, here are the predictions, hopes, wishes and - some might say hallucinations that have sprung from the best and brightest of the SteelChair writers when they were tracked down and made to give them up to the business end of a smartphone set to record. What follows is pretty much like the Rumble match itself - diverse, chaotic, sometimes downright daft, but as with the real thing, it has the potential to make you sit on the edge of your seat and pick your jaw up off of the floor as you witness something truly unexpected and spectacular.



So here it is, the collective wisdom of SteelChair magazine, for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

CRAIG HERMIT: The Rumble always loves to throw together alliances and team members reunited, so what would be better than a Club Reunion featuring a returning Finn Bàlor? Imagine those three battling The Wyatt Family at some point. Also, if Triple H would cause Rollins to lose his chance at the WrestleMania main event, that would kick-start their feud. From a pure sadistic point of view, I’d love to see James Ellsworth at the mercy of the combined team of The Undertaker and Triple H.

Keep up to date with us at twitter .com/steelchairmag ERIN DICK:


As for the little predictions, you can bet there will be riots if Tye Dillenger doesn’t make his main roster debut at No. 10 in the Rumble match, although it would be nice to see him get the gold in NXT first. There will be surprise returns; Vladimir Kozlov, and The Great Khali and potentially Scott Steiner come to mind. What I’d like to happen? The Shield reunite and stare down the Club (Styles, Gallows and Anderson), potentially leading into a dream match at Mania. What will probably happen? Joe and/or Nakamura will make appearances, Lesnar and Goldberg eliminate each other and have another match at WrestleMania, and a returning Finn Balor takes out the show, reclaiming the title he never lost.

This is the first Rumble in a few years where the outcome doesn’t feel pre-determined. It’s loaded with star power and, thus, injected some unpredictability back into proceedings. Goldberg, Lesnar and ‘Taker must be considered favourites, while guys like Strowman, Rollins and potentially Samoa Joe and Balor could be dark horses. If I had to put money on it, I’d go with Undertaker.

STEVEN PITT: In terms of shaping a WrestleMania stacked with ‘money matches’, a part-timer such as Undertaker, Lesnar or Goldberg seems likely to win (though I predict the latter two to toss each other out to set up the Mania rematch). However, with a rumored Braun Strowman/Roman Reigns title match pencilled in, don’t be surprised if the ‘Monster Among Men’ goes on to win.

BRENDAN MCELENY: I honestly feel The Undertaker will win right now. Before Cena returned I called for him to win it but it looks certain that Undertaker will fight Cena at Mania. With him retiring soon, this should be a fitting way to bow out and a match with Cena makes the most sense. While I think an Undertaker/AJ Styles match would be better, I feel from a story point of view they could create magic with a Cena/Taker feud.

ALAN KAY: The royal rumble is usually my favourite show of the year, because usually anything can happen; but this year feels different. After three years of horrible endings, I just can’t get excited for it. In some cases there has been a chance of 6 weeks worth of build up but only now are we learning that a full time member of the roster is actually entering. WWE have concentrated so much energy on Goldberg, Lesnar and Taker that aren’t even gonna be around for the build up to ‘Mania that I hope Finn Balor comes in at 30 and [naughty word]’s them all up!

LIAM O’ROURKE I believe they’ll use this year as an experiment, and my pick is for Samoa Joe to come in and win the Rumble in his debut. Joe won’t headline Mania with Brock and Goldberg colliding, but this will put him up in the top mix immediately with an instant credibility that will get the wrestling world abuzz.

DAVID GARLICK: Who are you and what are you doing in my office?! Get the hell out - Predictions? CM Punk or Hogan to win!

JOHN DUFFY: I predict a strong an exciting card. AJ Styles vs Cena will be another cracker and hopefully so will Charlotte v Bayley. But it’s always all about the 30 man! Goldberg and Lesnar don’t even make it to the ring - they both destroy each other in a brutal, albeit brief, brawl to add further intrigue to their ‘Mania face-off. Bray Wyatt eliminates Orton “they say never trust a snake Randy but you shouldn’t have ever trusted a GAWD!” to set up a ‘Mania match. The clock ticks down and the lights go out every cheers because they think it’s the Taker but then - “Brother Nero I Knew You’d Come!” Surprise entrant Broken Matt Hardy!!!! If that happened I’d die of a Mark-Out. By the time Taker has walked to the ring R-Truth has entered and been eliminated. Stroman eliminates the deadman setting up their WM match. Oh and Kevin Nash comes out drinking a fine red wine...and pulls his quad.




LOOK BACK: ROYAL RUMBLE 1998 he New Year has rung in. We’ve said goodbye 2016 and said hello to 2017. That can only mean one thing. The Royal Rumble is coming. As such, I’ve been mandated by my editor to dedicate this month’s Look Back to WWE’s most hallowed gimmick match and while I could go for the first, or the best, my choice is The 1998 Royal Rumble PPV, because it’s the first WWE PPV event I ever saw. What makes this event matter so much (and how I can justify writing about it as more than just a personal indulgence) is that this event is the prelude to ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin’s very first World Title reign, is an emblematic example of The Rock’s rise to mainstream superstardom and was the place where Shawn Michaels would receive a back injury that would change him as both a competitor and a person. Let’s get straight to it shall we? The rumble itself starts off with tagteam partners Cactus Jack and Terry Funk. They have a fun time stalling the action with chairs and chainsaws before guys like The Rock start showing up and then we really have a rumble on our hands. Cactus is taken out early, but he has a trick up his sleeve; he has two more personas that can compete and both of them will. It’s a hugely entertaining performance, although I’d love to have seen Mankind get more time. Rocky Maivia is the next significant entrant and competes for just over fifty minutes. He has a couple



of feuds going on. The first of which is with his Intercontinental Championship rival Ken Shamrock. They had a match earlier in the PPV which was an excellent bout that played to both character’s strengths superbly. A naturally talented heel, he kicks Ken Shamrock in the gonads before sending him out of the ring, screwing him out of an opportunity for the second time in one night. The other is with the Nation of Domination, the imploding faction whose members all think they are going to be the ones to win the match even if it means taking each other out. Rocky arrogantly betrays his leader, Faarooq, dooming them both in the crucial moments of the contest. But the man of the hour is ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Set up as the winner for weeks, all of the Rumble’s build up surrounds him. Unfortunately, this does rob the Rumble of its drama. There was no question of anyone else winning it. Also, they talk a lot about Stone Cold being a marked man but there’s no context as to why. You have to have seen the previous weeks’ shows to get in the know. Still, he looks every bit the renegade badass that made him a household name. Tough, ruthless, and kicking ass like he found 29 other men in bed with his wife at the same time. His road to WrestleMania is a redemption story for Austin too. He won the Rumble in ’97, but champion Shawn Michaels got injured relinquishing the championship and Austin’s title hunt story was side-lined as WWE rushed

to paper over the cracks HBK created. It is widely believed that Michaels faked the injury to avoid having to lose it to the up-and-coming competitor. Ironic then that Michaels would then have to drop the title to Austin while fighting through an undeniably real injury caused in the main event of this very PPV, a casket match with The Undertaker. Michaels was backdropped onto the very real coffin, herniating two discs and crushing one completely. The match itself is just short of a classic with both Michaels and ‘Taker putting on top notch performances. It ends with a real Attitude Era moment when half a dozen guys come out the back to stop Taker beating Michaels, and then Taker’s brother Kane comes out to destroy everyone. He puts his brother in the casket, takes an axe to it and sets it on fire. Taker isn’t inside however, and ominously swears vengeance on his sibling. It’s a genuinely terrifying sequence of events that had 12-yearold me hiding under the covers wanting it to all be over. It was great moment of Attitude Era theatre that enhanced the action without cheapening it. But this would be the night where Stone Cold would begin his journey to the first of his six world championships and headlining almost every event he could until his retirement in 2003, making this event a landmark in wrestling history, not just because it was my first WWE PPV, but because it helped define one of wrestling’s most iconic legacies.




that promotional phrase hasn’t been burned into your memory thanks to Michael Cole and his band of merry

men on the commentary team then you’re one of the lucky few. With the 30th anniversary of the PPV looming over our heads, there’s time yet to reminisce about your favourite incidents from the past, and even some notably infamous moments. Remember the man who was booked win the title at WrestleMania but was blocked thanks to a plucky fan-favourite underdog? We all remember what happened with The Animal, Batista. This is not to say anything bad towards the man. He’s one of the biggest names modern WWE has delivered, and he evolved in leaps and bounds from his early start with Triple H, Ric Flair and Randy Orton in the Evolution stable. His talents even established him outside of the WWE, with roles in major films like ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ where he played Drax, a muscular brute who eventually learns to tone it down and take a joke once in a while, making him a highlight of the film and truly standing out whenever he was on screen. The film managed to reach number one in the box office upon release earning around ninety-four million dollars, proving that Marvel could take risks with its properties. This also highlighted the potential that Dave Bautista had on screen. He even secured




Batista didn't exactly feel happy with how he was being treated by fans 32 STEELCHAIR JANUARY 2017

a role in the James Bond film

fans no choice but to turn their backs

‘Spectre’, showing that he’s not just

on Batista.

a guy that can power bomb you into

The booking was quite simple for

oblivion – though he does somewhat

Batista’s return. His comeback was

return to type with his more recent

built around advertising his appearance

role in Kickboxer: Vengeance!

in 2014’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’,

So it’s actually surprising that fans

having him win the Royal Rumble

would actively take to condemning

match and challenge then-champion

his in-ring performance and

Randy Orton to a title match at

characteristic dominating of his


opponents in the latter half of his

You had these two guys who started

last WWE run. You could say that

out in the same stable now wanting to

one person foiled WWE’s plans, but

pick a fight for the championship, and

not intentionally. The charm of the

the fact that they were both household

goat man himself Daniel Bryan gave

names should have been easy booking,

Daniel Bryan gave fans no choice but to turn their backs on Batista

insulted. Batista acknowledged this during an interview with Chris Van Vliet promoting the film ‘Spectre’, he said; “They know what you’re trying to do, you’re being shoved down their throats. They’re not idiots and they don’t like it and they don’t want it. So it just makes them rebel more and then it just became a state of confusion where they didn’t know what to do with me, so they just sent me out every week regurgitating the same crap.” Anyone who’s been following Roman Reign’s career will know this too well. But a backlash this huge was surely a wake-up call for higher ups and would eventually end where all roads lead to: WrestleMania. Bryan would eventually prevail, beating Triple H, Randy

no fuss. Then entered Daniel Bryan. He didn’t look like the typical ‘Superstar’, possibly because he seemed more hair than man. But that is precisely what made him stand out to the audience and become the perfect underdog. He basically stole the show and the fans pushed for him to succeed. This is great, except if you’re the WWE and you put all of your eggs into a Batistashaped basket. It’s a fine basket, but people are going to boo the hell out of it if it’s not Daniel Bryan. The first mistake WWE made was to ignore the calls for Daniel Bryan to

succeed. This isn’t to say that the

Orton and Batista all in one night at

WWE should listen to the fans all

WrestleMania 30.

the time, but when the outcry is

It’s safe to say that Dave Bautista’s

this huge then maybe it would be in

return to the WWE could have gone

the company’s best interest to hear

better. The same is not to be said

them out.

about his film career, though. The

That didn’t happen sadly the night

prospect of him returning to play Drax

of the Royal Rumble in 2014, and

in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Volume

as Daniel Bryan fell to the outside,

2’ and in an ‘Avengers’ film down the

no amount of muting could cover

line is definitely something I’m looking

up the dissatisfaction the crowd felt

forward to.

that night. Batista won the Rumble

He has even been cast in ‘Blade Runner

and even though he celebrated, it

2049’ which shows that while the low

was an empty victory as the crowd

point of his career may have been

ensured their opinions were heard.

particularly hard to stomach, he got

Let’s say Batista didn’t exactly

through it and now it seems like people

feel happy with how he was being

can’t get enough of Blue-tista on the

treated by the fans. Allegedly during

big screen.

his victory, he gave the finger to

He appears happier working on these

fans (and not in a family friendly Steve

projects and I’m glad that he also

Austin way, more like in a “I’ll snap

had a comeback to WWE of his own.

you in half” kind of way) and allegedly

It might not be as spectacular in the

mocked Bryan’s “Yes” hand motion

eyes of hardcore fans as the career

but with his middle fingers. Needless

of Daniel Bryan, but it’s definitely a

to say, you can understand why he

reason to remember the Rumble.

became annoyed, but the people booking the match really should have seen this coming. There were obvious issues behind the scenes. Fans were so aware of what the WWE were trying to do that they would


not stand for having their intelligence




JOHN CENA V AJ STYLES ROYAL RUMBLE n June 2016, world’s collided. Amongst the rallying noise and rapturous applause, a magic moment was etched into the professional wrestling history books. Seven months later, and AJ Styles and John Cena head to the Royal Rumble in pursuit of the WWE Championship. Their first match at Money in the Bank 2016 was so-so, Cena underselling and the Club interfering to give AJ the win. Never had a weaker five-knuckle shuffle gone to air on WWE television. It was their second match at SummerSlam 2016 that stole the show – two modern icons rose to the occasion, in what would be hailed as a potential match of the year candidate. Following on from SummerSlam, how can they lift the bar? Despite Cena’s absence, he’s more than made up for lost time in sterling promo work. And AJ? A certified God amongst men going into 2017, continuing to defend the WWE World Championship in the new year, a sight the wrestling world never thought imaginable. Will Cena become a 16-time World Champion? Probably. Can they recreate the magic a third time? Most certainly.





THE BIGGEST AND BADDEST ROYAL RUMBLE SURPRISES ach year the Royal Rumble throws up some surprises for us, some small, some big and then there are the huge ones. Here I will list the top 10 biggest and baddest surprises in the history of the Royal Rumble event.


10. Batista In 2014, Batista won the Royal Rumble to fan revolt. Daniel Bryan didn’t get his spot, his Rumble win and the fans where not pleased. However, an underlying story in the Rumble match was Roman Reigns and his record breaking streak. Reigns defeated Kane’s record of 11 eliminations in one match with 12, including superstars such as Kevin Nash, Sheamus and Cesaro. He even eliminated his (former) Shield brethren Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. He was eventually eliminated by Batista who won the match.

09. kofi kingston In recent history the Rumble match has brought us so many highlights, but for most it is Kofi Kingston’s action outside of the ring which entertained more than anything else. It is common place now for Kingston to overcome huge odds to prevent himself from being eliminated from the match, whether hopping on JBL’s chair, running and leaping or his infamous walking handstand, Kingston really brings the fun to the Rumble Match every year and makes his entry in this year’s Rumble more intriguing and exciting than ever.

08. diesel 36 STEELCHAIR JANUARY 2017

08. diesel In 2011, the Royal Rumble was different. For the first time ever we saw a 40-man Rumble match, the highest amount of competitors it had ever been. With this came a flurry of superstars from both brands including some legends. Diesel and Booker T most notably returned for one more slice of the action in the 2011 match and with so many spots available in this years Rumble still up for grabs, who knows which legends we could see this year.

07. mr. perfect You could say that the 2002 Royal Rumble was ‘Perfect’. When the Phillps Arena in Atlanta heard Mr Perfect’s music hit at number 25 it erupted. Towel in hand, Hennig came down the ramp and joined Stone Cold and Triple H in the ring to keep his place until the final 3 only to be eliminated by the winner Triple H himself. Perfect put on a display worthy of his name, this was his last Rumble appearance before his untimely death and it was one to remember.

06. rey mysterio The biggest small guy in the business went into the Royal Rumble match at number 2, the very beginning, yet went the length to defeat 29 other superstars to win the Rumble? You heard me right. In 2006 Rey Mysterio won the Royal Rumble by eliminating a plethora of talent such as Triple H, Rob Van Dam and Randy Orton. This was unthinkable, a guy the size of Mysterio’s going the distance, let alone winning a WrestleMania title match was madness, however he proved everyone wrong and


still to this day, holds the place of possibly the most incredible Rumble win ever.

05. kharma The Royal Rumble is for men only, right? ..Wrong. Only 3 females have entered the match, Chyna, Beth Phoenix and the owner of number 5 on our list – Kharma. One of the surprise entrants in the 2012 Royal Rumble was none other than Michael Cole, however to his surprise, the next entrant was Kharma. All she needed to do was to stare down Cole before he climbed the rope and eliminated himself. She went on to eliminate Hunico in what was a memorable appearance before being eliminated herself.

04. cactus jack, mankind + dude love The 1998 Royal Rumble was won by Stone Cold Steve Austin. This was a terrific Rumble match, however it was not remembered for this reason. Mick Foley entered the rumble at Number 1 as Cactus Jack, however was later eliminated. To everyone’s surprise, at Number 16 entered Mankind, another Foley alter-ego but once again he was eliminated. Then unbelievably, a third time, Foley entered the match as Dude Love at number 28. He was eliminated by the eventual winner Stone Cold. However he put on a blinding and energetic show for the 20 minutes that he was involved in the match.

03. vince mcmahon If I told you that the owner of the company who hosts the Royal

Rumble event, won the Royal Rumble, it would be hard to believe, however in 1999 Vince McMahon entered himself into the Rumble with the objective of stopping Stone Cold Steve Austin getting to WrestleMania. However, McMahon went on to win the Rumble match by eliminating Stone Cold himself, with the help of the Rock which started one of the biggest feuds in wrestling history and cemented McMahon’s win as one of the best and most controversial ever.

02. edge In 2007 Edge was injured, just as he was getting one of the biggest pushes of his career. No one expected him to return as soon as he did and when the countdown clock hit 0 and Alter Bridge belted out of the PA system the place exploded. Edge had returned and he was ready for his WrestleMania match. He arrived by spearing Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho and John Cena as well as Batista when he arrived, he then threw Cena over the top rope to win 2010’s Royal Rumble. This would surely be the biggest rumble surprise ever?

01. john cena Not to be outdone by Edge, John Cena the face of the WWE, returned at number 30 in the 2008 Royal Rumble, completely unexpected. As the most iconic arena in the industry Madison Square Garden erupted. Cena was back. He eliminated Triple H to win the match in what was the most exhillarating end to a Rumble match ever. This was the first of Cena’s two Royal Rumble wins and in the style he won in 2008, who could rule out one more.

‘TAKER’S YEAR? elieve it or not Taker has never won the Rumble! Could this be his year? His involvement not only adds bags of potential but excitement, legitimacy and opportunity to become a history-making career-defining landmark event! If this is his last appearance (which I think it is) it would be both fitting and smart for him to be victorious. As he stated on RAW he chooses whatever brand he wants and if he wins the Rumble both title matches at WM would be very intriguing. Taker Vs Reigns (he beat Owens) would be very interesting as it would give Reigns a massive rub and much needed credibility and Taker Vs Cena (he beats Styles) seems to be the dream match that everyone wants but would either match end in Taker’s last title reign? The WWE regrets the ending the WM streak (as his victory over Shane O’ Mac last year proves) and this one could be the Phenom’s last WrestleMania appearance then one last title run would only be fitting as would one last great storyline, which either potential opponent would provide!





GO-HOME SHOW uring the time I was away from watching wrestling – a horrible 5 years spent on the island of Lian Yu, the story of which will be told one day in flashback-filled TV show, I’m sure – the one thing I tried to watch every year was the Royal Rumble. While others regard WrestleMania as the pinnacle of the WWE’s year, for me it was always what led to the big show that was far more important. The Royal Rumble was when things kicked off – in a sport with no seasons it was the nearest thing to the first day of the year.


As more and more PPVs – sorry, “live network events” – have been added to the WWE calendar, the Royal Rumble has felt less special, and often only just another chapter in the ongoing storylines that so often miss the target. Worse, winning the Rumble itself has become a stepping stone rather than an achievement, and because of that it’s often terribly predictable. How many of you sat, anger building, as the 2015 Rumble wound to its inevitable


conclusion, one where Roman Reigns would win the thing and disappoint all but small children and horny housewives? Last year seemed much the same, but then up popped the owner’s son-in-law to lift our spirits, and remind all us over again why the Royal Rumble is special. Those moments – those unexpected eliminations, the cameos from exotic foreigners and former roster members, the spectacle of two teammates having to fight, or two enemies having to team up to eliminate that one really fat guy – are what make the Royal Rumble the must-see show of the year. And this year, after we got down with a 2016 which stunned the wrestling world with unpredictability and into a 2017 that looks like being every bit as crazy, could be the wildest yet. Who knows who might appear? They might even have perfected bringing someone back from the dead... Or, just as likely, it will be predictable again. It’s the not knowing that makes it special – an hour of pure, unbridled joy, an hour of counting

down with the timer (not in time, of course), and an hour as often filled with “really?” as often as “YES!”. This year’s shocks might include the main roster debut of Samoa Joe, won’t include the WWE debut of Kenny Omega, should include Tye Dillenger at number ten, and will include that old guy you probably thought was dead – you know, Mantaur or someone. Everything else is filler, which is why the Rumble itself goes on last. Sure, there are two world title matches (and, yes, I know it’s the Universal title but kindly wind it in), and a host of other stuff, but who really cares about all that? If I had my way – and I’m working on it, slowly but steadily, with an army of dwarves and robots – it would just be the Rumble, for 3 hours, like the one on that New Year’s Eve show from Japan a few years back that had 108 people in it. But, for now, we’ll just have to be content with what we’ve got – all the regulars and The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Goldberg killing all the regulars. It’s going to be rumbletastic.

STEELCHAIR Wrestling Magazine #12  

ROYAL RUMBLE SPECIAL This issue features interviews with Neville and Su Young with features, reviews and our wrestlers and events of the mo...

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