The Mid-WWE-ek: Bully Ray, Elgin, Trios, Lucha, BOLA

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Complain all you want about the lack of awesome in WWE right now, but if you aren’t seeking out alternatives to the “E” you’re missing out on a whole bunch of amazing promotions and major happenings in the world of pro wrestling. That’s why every once in a great while, I’m going to drop the “Mid-WWE-ek” on you, examining all the cool stuff happening outside of WWE.

The El Rey Network Tapes Lucha Underground This Past Weekend:
The El Rey Network, a barely year-old enterprise headed up by director Robert Rodriguez and producer Mark Burnett (Survivor), have decided to get into the wrestling business with a new series called Lucha Underground. The show, which is being co-produced by Mexican lucha giants AAA, taped this weekend in California and I’m kinda excited about what’s happening. First, anytime we can get John Morrison back into the ring, it’s definitely a good thing. He’ll be wrestling under the new moniker Johnny Mundo since WWE owns the rights to the John Morrison name. He along with indie superstar and Dragon Gate (Japan) top gaijin Richocet (wrestling under a mask as Prince Puma) look to be the top babyfaces and I couldn’t dig that enough. These two guys are exciting and can tear the house down at any point and from early reports it looks like they did on the first taping. The show doesn’t seem to have a top heel yet (well, they do but we’re not going to spoil it since he emerges in later episodes), opting initially for a faction called The Crenshaw Crew consisting of (probably to be re-named): Ricky Reyes, Lil’ Cholo and Ezekiel Jackson. Love Big Zeke as I think he has tremendous untapped potential, but I’ve never been a huge Reyes fan and know little about Cholo. So, I’m going to have to see these guys in action before giving full judgment.

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I’m digging their roster right now – Chavo Guerrero, Hernandez, Famous B, B Boy, Matt Cross (formerly MDogg20), Blue Demon Jr., Judas Mesias. It’s loaded with talent we’re familiar with but not sick of seeing over and over again. I think the promotion hurt itself a bit with very restrictive contracts, which caused The Young Bucks, Joey Ryan, Candace LaRae and Matt Sydal to balk at joining, but if they can build on the current roster and fuse lucha and sports entertainment correctly (and one has to think with Chavo and Konnan running the show, they will) this could be a really fun series. Pop-Break will be doing some work with Lucha Underground in the near future, so stay tuned for that.

Bully Ray Done With TNA…For Now?

I want TNA to succeed so bad. I have since the day they debuted on PPV all those years ago. However, they continue to frustrate me with moves like this. I understand times are probably tough, especially with the SpikeTV deal still up in the air, but how can you let one of the most popular performers, who has a tremendous mind for the business, walk away? Watch any of TNA’s shows from New York City and you’ll see a marked difference in everything from in-ring performance to production to tone and tempo. Why? Well, one of the men producing the show was Bully Ray. The guy gets it. He knows what the people want. He’s also one of your most versatile performers — he can work with anyone, he can be an effective heel and face, and most importantly if you’ve got an angle to sell, he will kill it on the mic for you. Basically, the guy’s the total package. Sure, he’s not Lou Thesz in the ring, but he doesn’t need to be. He’s got all the skills needed to draw money, entertain and bring people back for more. When TNA let guys like Daniels and Kazarian walk, it was lousy, but neither of them was given main event runs in recent years. Bully Ray was and is the top guy in TNA. Why they couldn’t come to an agreement is beyond me and I really hope the two can work things out because Bully Ray can really elevate TNA not just from an in-ring perspective but from a behind-the-scenes perspective.

If I’m WWE, I’m definitely on the horn with the former Bubba Ray Dudley and bringing him as someone who can not only make my younger stars look great, but also have main event runs with the likes of John Cena and Daniel Bryan when he returns. Imagine a Bully feud with Dean Ambrose? Just take my money now. Then, imagine what he can do with the performers in NXT? He can really do something special with the great talent there – both through working in the ring with them and teaching the art of wrestling.

The Curious Case of Michael Elgin

In a shocking turn over the weekend, Ring of Honor champ “Unbreakable” Michael Elgin dropped the title to Jay Briscoe at the company’s All-Star Extravaganza show in Canada. It’s not shocking that Briscoe won the title or be the man to carry the belt because he’s an absolute bad ass in the ring that has maintained an amazing report with the fans all these years (he is an ROH Original). Yet, it’s the fact Elgin lost that shocked people. Ever since he lost in the tournament finals for the ROH Title about a year ago to Adam Cole, the company has been doing a blatant build to Elgin capturing the belt. I mean his run to the title was one of the most blatantly obvious things I’ve seen in wrestling in quite some time. Again, not undeserved because Elgin is the man, but don’t make it so obvious ROH. Anyways, his run seemed to be destined for a long one, but after Visa issues and statements he made about possibly one day trying out for a baseball team (which seems to have been taken out of context according to Elgin), he drops the belt. ROH denies this was a political move, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. I think the creative team at Ring of Honor has really got to book themselves out of a hole because they have now avoid the backlash from fans while also trying to take someone who has the potential to be a major star (Briscoe) and actually develop him as a champion, as opposed to his last title run. Elgin vented his frustrations about the situation on Facebook and despite his guaranteed ROH contact, one has to wonder if the “Unbreakable” one could decide to walk away. To order ROH DVDs, click here.

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Chikara King of Trios: OH YEAH

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the Northeast as Chikara’s King of Trios (6-man tag) Tournament returns after a year’s absence. The follow are the teams entered into this year’s tournament which will run September 19, 20 & 21 in Easton, Pennsylvania.

3peck0 (Archibald Peck, Scott Parker and Shane Matthews)
BDK (Ares, Doctor Cube and Nøkken)
The Bloc Party (Mr. Azerbaijan, Prakash Sabar and Proletariat Boar of Moldova)
The Colony (Fire Ant, Silver Ant and Worker Ant)
The Colony: Xtreme Force (Arctic Rescue Ant, Missile Assault Ant and Orbit Adventure Ant)
The Devastation Corporation (Blaster McMassive, Flex Rumblecrunch and Max Smashmaster)
The Flood (Eddie Kingston, Jimmy Jacobs and Volgar)
Gekido (17, Jigsaw and The Shard)
The Golden Trio (Dasher Hatfield, Icarus and Mark Angelosetti)
KE4TPG (Jolly Roger, Lance Steel and Princess Kimberlee)
Kizarny & his Odditorium (Qefka the Quiet, Sinn Bodhi and Sir Oliver Grimsly)
LAX (Chavo Guerrero, Jr., Hernandez and Homicide)
The Spectral Envoy (Frightmare, Hallowicked and UltraMantis Black)
The Spirit Squad (Johnny, Kenny and Mikey)
Team Extravaganza (Jervis Cottonbelly, Marion Fontaine and ThunderKitty)
Team UK (Damian Dunne, Mark Andrews and Pete Dunne)

My guess on who’s going to win? I can’t place my finger on the exact team, but after face trios The Colony and The Spectral Envoy took it in 2011 and 2012 respectively, I think a heel trios group takes, especially if they’re going to keep advancing the whole Flood vs. Chikara storyline. In the finals it’ll be a heel trio of either Gekido or The Flood taking on a face trio of either The Golden Trio or The Colony, with the heels coming out on top. If Chikara does it right, they’ll have the Golden Trio captained by Chikara champ Icarus in the main. It’ll help elevate the popular Mr. Touchdown and Dasher Hatfield further and it could always lead to an Icarus heel turn too. We’ll see. It’s exciting any way you slice it. For tickets to any night of King of Trios, click here.

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The 2014 Battle of Los Angeles (BOLA) Means We’ve Got a New Star

Speaking of tournaments, the California-based Pro Wrestling Guerrilla held their annual Battle of Los Angeles Tournament over Labor Day Weekend. The tournament has grown in such stature that you could say it’s one of the top tournaments in the world. It’s a gathering of elite talent that come together to really put on an endless string of 5-star matches and the winner — well that is usually a referendum on who the next big talent is in pro wrestling. So, it makes perfect sense that Richochet took the tournament this year.

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For reference here are the previous BOLA Winners:
2005: Chris Bosh
2006: Davey Richards
2007: Cima
2008: Low Ki
2009: Kenny Omega
2010: Joey Ryan
2011: El Generico
2012: Adam Cole
2013: Kyle O’Reilly
2014: Ricochet

Impressive to say the least…and if you don’t know some of these names, get on the YouTube and correct that. Last year’s winner Kyle O’Reilly has already captured the PWG Title and remains ROH Tag Champ with Bobby Fish, so this guy is definitely a legit talent, but to me, he has yet to fully break out and when he does, watch out.

Richochet, to me was the right guy for the win here and people will find out why when Lucha Underground hits the air. The man is poetry in motion. He’s so nimble and crisp – able to work a high-paced lucha style, but also is more than adequate as a striker. He is building up his power game, adding a lot of dead-lift suplexes into his repertoire and his double rotation moonsault, still a thing of beauty. He’s got a unique look and if someone got behind him, he could draw big money. The guy, barring injury, is destined for big things.

I highly recommend you pick up the entire weekend of BOLA 2014 which also featured: AJ Styles, ACH, Chris Hero, Johnny Gargano, Chuck Taylor, The Young Bucks and newer PWG guys like Zach Sabre Jr., Biff Buscik and Drew Gulak. Click here to purchase.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites