Around the Ring: AEW makes bold statement
By Mike Pankow
January 11, 2019
The revolution began last summer at “All In” in suburban Chicago and another shot was fired Tuesday afternoon in Jacksonville, Fla.
During a rally outside the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium, Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks announced the birth of All Elite Wrestling and also presented some big surprises.
WWE and WCW legend Chris Jericho, who always is evolving his character and his career, dropped the bombshell when he came to the podium and declared his intent to sign with AEW. Jericho said he wants to “change the universe.”
AEW is owned by the Khan Family, who also controls the Jaguars and Fulham in the English Premier League. Tony Khan, a University of Illinois graduate, will be the point man for the company.
Among the other huge news items coming out of Jacksonville were the arrival of PAC (former NXT Champion and WWE Cruiserweight Champion Neville) and the announcement that “Double or Nothing” will be taking place on May 25 during Memorial Day weekend at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Conrad Thompson, who helped emcee streaming coverage of the rally, declared that STARRCAST 2 would coincide with “Double Or Nothing.”
The much-rumored signing of Britt Baker was made official just days after Baker competed in the Chicago area at Warrior Wrestling 3. So Cal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky), Hangman Page, MJF, Joey Janela and Penelope Ford also will be a part of AEW.
There was no word on Kenny Omega, who said he is finished with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Most observers believe he will end up with AEW, but there also have been reports that WWE has offered Omega a lucrative contract.
There also was no announcement about a television deal, which would legitimize AEW as competition for WWE for viewers, though there have been reports of serious negotiations with networks.
NXT UK in the spotlight: The best new weekly wrestling show can be found on WWE Network, and it is NXT UK. New episodes drop every Wednesday and over the first several months the show has continued the tradition of NXT in terms of quality wrestling and engaging storylines.
Saturday night, the brand will have its own TakeOver show for the first time (Saturday afternoon for those in the U.S.).
The main event features “The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne defending the WWE UK Championship against Joe Coffey, the leader of Gallus. The first-ever NXT UK Tag Team champions will be crowned as Mustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) face the Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake). Also, NXT UK Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley defends against fan favorite Toni Storm.
Many of the wrestlers in NXT UK made in a stop in the Chicago area over the summer during PROGRESS Wrestling’s Coast-to-Coast U.S. tour, including Dunne, Bate, Seven, Mark Andrews, Flash Morgan Webster, Eddie Dennis, Gibson, Drake, Storm and Jinny.
Final bow: Former WWE and IMPACT Wrestling superstar Lisa Marie Varon said 2019 will be her final year in wrestling. Varon made the announcement on her social media. The former Chicago resident, known in WWE as Victoria, once owned The Squared Circle restaurant on the city’s North side.
A veteran of nearly two decades in the ring, Varon is a two-time WWE Women’s Champion and a five-time IMPACT Wrestling Knockouts Champions (as Tara).
In addition to wrestling at selected shows, she also makes frequent appearances at pop culture and wrestling conventions. Promoters interested in contacting Varon, can email her at BookLisaNow@gmail.com.
Ringside chatter: The movie “Fighting with My Family,” which chronicles the life and career of WWE Superstar Paige will be released in theaters on Feb. 14. Deadline.com reported the movie, which features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and is written and director by “The Office” creator Stephen Merchant, will make its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, Jan. 28. … Black Label Pro owner Michael Blanton announced Bruce Prichard and Conrad Thompson, the hosts of the hit podcast “Something To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard,” will be part of a doubleheader with BLP on Saturday, March 9 in Crown Point, Ind. The night begins with BLP 11: Whoomp There It Is, where the promotion will crown its first tag team champions. … Chicago-area native PL Myers, a longtime local wrestling manager, returned to the business with Jim Blaze’s POWW Entertainment on Jan. 5 at its show in Fox Lake, Ill.