Video: AJ Styles Makes WWE Debut at Royal Rumble

After weeks of speculation, AJ Styles made his WWE debut, entering the Royal Rumble match at number three. Michael Cole did a great job of detailing why Styles was important and the Orlando crowd popped for the former TNA and NJPW standout.

Notably, he is AJ Styles. WWE did not force a name change, which wouldn’t have made sense anyway given AJ’s long career and name recognition in the industry. The company also already has Styles t-shirts for sale on WWE Shop.

We’ll see what’s next for Styles, who lasted quite a while in the Rumble match. He was eliminated after a furious brawl with Kevin Owens and a program between the two men would be very welcome.

Ratings Increase for Third Episode of Impact on PopTV

TNA saw a ratings increase for its third episode of Impact Wrestling since the show moved to PopTV. This week’s show drew 321,000 viewers at 9pm ET and an additional 122,000 for the midnight replay, according to Dave Meltzer. Those numbers are up from the previous week’s 288,000 and 77,000, respectively.

The increase can be attributed to both Matt Hardy saying he would either win the title or quit TNA, as well as an 11% increase in providers carrying PopTV week-over-week. Meltzer points out that the real growth was in the midnight re-air, since the increase in viewership from the prior week was more than the increase in providers.

While these numbers are not gargantuan by any stretch, growth is always encouraging. It will be a while before TNA reaches the near million viewers the company was bringing in during a chunk of its time on Spike – if it ever happens – but positive momentum is all Dixie Carter and friends can ask for at this point.

Fatal 4-Way Tag Team Match Added to Royal Rumble Kickoff with Winners Entering Rumble

WWE just announced that a Fatal 4-Way tag team match will take place on the Royal Rumble kickoff show, with the winning tag team earning entry into the Rumble match. The 4-Way features The Ascension vs. The Dudleys vs. Mark Henry & Jack Swagger vs. Darren Young & Damien Sandow. Apparently Darren Young and Titus O’Neil very quietly broke up, but I missed that one.

The odd thing here is this match implies that six of these men will not enter the Rumble. WWE’s roster is already razor thin thanks to a multitude of injuries, so we’re either getting some NXT call-ups, a Bullet Club appearance, a bunch of nostalgia returns, or a combination of the those.

With the announcement of this match, here is your updated Rumble card:

Royal Rumble WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match

Intercontinental Championship Last Man Standing Match
Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose

United States Championship Match
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio

Tag Team Championship Match
The Usos vs. The New Day

Divas Championship Match
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte

Kickoff Show Fatal 4-Way, Winning Team Gets Entry into Rumble
The Ascension vs. The Dudleys vs. Mark Henry & Jack Swagger vs. Darren Young & Damien Sandow

Mike Tyson is EA Sports UFC 2 Pre-Order Bonus

EA Sports today revealed that Mike Tyson will be the pre-order bonus playable character in the upcoming EA Sports UFC 2 videogame. While Tyson makes pretty much no sense in an MMA game, remember that the previous version of the game featured Bruce Lee as a playable fighter. Lee – an icon in the world of martial arts – made some sense and I guess at least Tyson has participated in combat sports but if you were upset about Arnold Schwarzenegger being in WWE 2K16, you’re probably pretty upset about this one.

Pre-ordering the Deluxe Edition will get you two versions of Tyson; the younger “Iron Mike” and the older, tattooed-faced “Legacy Mike.” Along with the two Tysons, all pre-orders get Bas Rutten and Kazushi Sakuraba as playable characters.

The game hits retail shelves March 15th in North America and is available for Xbox One and PS4.

CM Punk’s UFC Deal is for Eight Fights

CM Punk revealed that his UFC contract is not a “one shot deal” but instead is for a total of eight fights. He told SunSport, “I can’t honestly answer how many (fights) I’m gonna have – we’ll wait and see how the first one goes. But there’s gonna be eight, at least.”

UFC President Dana White has teased that Punk’s debut fight will be at UFC 199 against Mickey Gall, who won his professional debut by submission. At just 23-years-old, he’s a much more “conventional” MMA rookie than CM Punk, but pairing the two together makes sense. If Gall wins his UFC debut against Mike Jackson at UFC 196, it’ll be a lock that he’ll get Punk in the former WWE Champion’s MMA debut.

Punk also told SunSport that he would rather be on the UFC 200 card but added, “But I’m not doing this whole thing for money, so it almost kinda doesn’t matter to me. But since it’s only a month later it’s like ‘oh yeah, why don’t we push it?’.”

Matt Hardy Turns Heel, Wins TNA Title

During last night’s TNA World Championship Last Man Standing match, Tyrus turned on Ethan Carter III and aligned with Matt Hardy, who turned heel and won the TNA World Championship. Following the title win, Hardy embraced his heel persona to the fullest, going off on an excellent Twitter rant calling fans “insolent underlings” and demanding they address him as “YOUR GRACE” or “MY LORD,” and claiming he offered Tyrus twice what EC3 was paying him.

While it’s often been easy to criticize TNA, I very much like how this storyline has played out, especially with Reby Sky becoming more and more enraged as the weeks have gone on and coming off like the puppet controlling Matt. It will also be nice to see EC3, who has become one of the best parts of TNA each week, as a babyface.

Jim Ross Returns to Play-By-Play as Voice of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV

The rumors are true: Jim Ross will return to pro wrestling broadcasting beginning March 4th at 9pm ET, when he replaces Mauro Ranallo as the play-by-play voice of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV, according to FOX Sports.

Ross will work alongside Josh Barnett and will voice-over his play-by-play from AXS studios in Los Angeles. JR is familiar with the New Japan product from his play-by-play work on Wrestle Kingdom 9 in January 2015, which he called with Matt Striker.

Here is Your Updated Royal Rumble Card

With less than a week to go, WWE finally got around to adding some matches to the Royal Rumble card during last night’s episode of Raw. We already knew that Roman Reigns would defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the 30-man Rumble match and we now also know that he will be entrant number one in the contest. Every championship will now be defended on the show, which airs live on the WWE Network (and pay-per-view, if you’re a big dumb idiot who can’t do math) at 8pm ET.

Here is the complete Royal Rumble card, as of Tuesday, the 19th.

Royal Rumble WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match

Intercontinental Championship Last Man Standing Match
Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose

United States Championship Match
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio

Tag Team Championship Match
The Usos vs. The New Day

Divas Championship Match
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte

[Image via]

WWE Hires Mauro Ranallo to be Voice of Smackdown

Mauro Ranallo
According to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, WWE will announce on Monday that it has hired Mauro Ranallo to be the play-by-play voice of Smackdown once the show moves to USA Network in January.

Ranallo currently is the lead broadcaster for Showtime’s boxing coverage as well as handling play-by-play for the US broadcasts of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. He has also called Pride, Elite XC and Strikeforce MMA action.

Ranallo told SI in an interview that Michael Cole reached out to him by email only a month ago to gauge his interest in an announcing role with WWE. Ranallo will maintain his role as Showtime’s boxing voice as well as doing some work with GLORY kickboxing, and will also be available for Raw and pay-per-views for WWE.

This is a pretty significant grab for WWE and a good sign that the company is at least looking to shake some things up when Smackdown moves to the USA Network.

(Image via

WWE Confirms Seth Rollins Is Out 6-9 Months with Injury, New Champion Will Be Crowned at Survivor Series

Video emerged last night of Seth Rollins injuring his knee during a match with Kane in Dublin, Ireland. After some speculation, Jonathan Coachman of ESPN broke the news and WWE confirmed that Rollins tore his right ACL, MCL and medial meniscus. The company has also announced that a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion will be determined via a tournament at Survivor Series.

Obviously this is a huge blow to the WWE, losing its champion ahead of one of its four marquee pay-per-view events and during a time when the roster is light on main event-caliber stars. It was recently confirmed that Randy Orton would be out for a long period of time with another shoulder injury and John Cena is currently taking time off to film a reality show. Roman Reigns was the clear eventual champion and I would be shocked if he doesn’t walk out of Survivor Series with the belt, but if there is a silver lining to Rollins’ injury, it’s that we could see some new stars created and/or elevated through this tournament.