G5: Conor McGregor, NJPW, Chyna, more

UFC fighter Conor McGregor caused a stir on social media this week when he announced a potential retirement from MMA, and followed several key WWE figures on Twitter shortly after. Is McGregor the right fit for pro-wrestling?

How is New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) holding up after losing the likes of AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows to WWE in 2016?

In addition to these questions, we’re discussing our memories of the late Chyna, our favourite audiences around the globe, and our thoughts on the announced talent for WWE’s return to New Zealand in August. Join us for this week’s Gimme Five.

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1. UFC fighter Conor McGregor caused a stir on social media this week when he announced a potential retirement from MMA, and followed several key WWE figures on Twitter shortly after. Is McGregor the right fit for pro-wrestling?

Blake:
It’s always been a mixed-bag response when an MMA fighter transitions into professional wrestling. Personally, I don’t think it usually works. I know that people are going to see Ken Shamrock managed to transition successfully from MMA into professional wrestling, but he wasn’t that good; go back and watch any of his matches and you’ll see that he was adequate at best. The reason he had championship success was because of his name and his MMA ability, not his pro-wrestling ability. So is McGregor the right fit? I don’t think so, but I hope he proves me wrong if he chooses the WWE path.

Grady:
With WWE nowadays, you can just have the charisma and learn the skills later. McGregor has charisma in spades and has enough fighting skills to be able to make the transition in “fake fighting” as many would like to call it. I’ll admit when I saw this stir, I was quite excited to see if he would show up in WWE.

Peter:
If McGregor put his mind to it he could definitely become a great asset to world of wrestling, he understands how to sell a fight and just oozes charisma. However I don’t think he is a fan and there is no way that any promotion would be able to pay him more than what he’s earning in UFC. I doubt we’ll see him in the squared circle any time soon.

Richard:
Right fit? Absolutely. He has a great personality and can talk the talk and has shown ability to walk the walk. I think he would be a great manager at least.

David:
McGregor’s been using pro-wrestling tactics to promote his fights from the moment he walked into the UFC. He’s like a modern-day Ric Flair – only MMA fans seem to adore him when he plays the heel. He’s 100 per cent the right fit for pro-wrestling, and I’m sure—like MMA’s other megastar, Ronda Rousey—he’ll wind up with at least one WrestleMania appearance in time.

 

2. NJPW held two events this weekend leading up to Wrestling Dontaku in May. How is NJPW holding up after losing the likes of AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows to WWE in 2016?

Blake:
New Japan is only ever really on my peripherals, but they seem to be doing fine. Maybe they lost a bit of steam in the past while, but it’s not like they’re without star power because four guys left. Not only do they still have Okada, Omega, Fale, etc., but they also have a slew of Ring of Honor guys, a number of legends like Tiger Mask, Jushin Liger, Gedo and Jado, and they’re trying to create as many new stars they can with the likes of Tetsuya Naito and the Guerrillas of Destiny recently winning championships for the first time. Are they hurting? Probably. Is it a major? Not really.

Grady:
I don’t watch NJPW as much as I should, but it seems as though they have enough roster-depth to survive losing a couple of their large drawcards.

Peter:
With the rise of Naito and Los Ingobernables de Japon I think NJPW is going to do just fine. Naito has sparked change in the audience’s attitude. His apathy is something that I think a lot of the audience relates to. They’ve got a lot of great talent and even more coming in like Will Ospreay, they will definitely be able to survive these losses.

Richard:
I think with the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega still in Japan they still have some foreign star power not to mention the fantastic roster of Japanese stars they have. I think they will be fine.

David:
I don’t want to say losing Nakamura and Styles has been good for New Japan—because no one could argue that—but it has led to the company finally pulling the trigger on Tetsuya Naito, which is definitely a step in the right direction. His win over Okada at Invasion Attack was surprising and refreshing, and I’m excited to see what happens with the Los Ingobernables de Japon leader on top in NJPW.

 

3. Former WWE Intercontinental and Women’s Champion Chyna passed away this week, aged 45. What are your memories of Chyna’s ground-breaking career?

Blake:
I don’t really remember a heck of a lot of Chyna’s career, more so just the reaction to seeing her in the ring. She was an asskicker and a fighter: you didn’t treat her as a woman, didn’t treat her as a man, just saw her as who she was.

Grady:
I remember mostly her interactions with D-Generation X and challenging the men. She was a little before my time, but I also remember the shock of everyone when she entered the Royal Rumble.

Peter:
Chyna was a once in a lifetime talent who was a real game changer in her time. She pushed the boundaries of what a woman could do in wrestling and I’m sure inspired a lot of the female wrestlers who have come since. Her feud with Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship was great.

Richard:
Chyna was before my time of watching. However, I have seen a bit of her stuff and thought she was a great character with DX and her stuff with Eddie Guerrero was fantastic.

David:
I remembered being wowed by Chyna at WrestleMania 17, and then when I looked back through the Attitude Era on video tapes it became apparent just how big of a deal she was. The Hall of Fame issue is complicated even more by her passing, but in my opinion she certainly meets the criteria.

 

4. WWE has completed its annual tour of the United Kingdom, following WrestleMania 32 in Dallas, another pro-wrestling stronghold. Which areas around the globe are the most synonymous with pro-wrestling for you – where generates the best crowds?

Blake:
I think the London crowds are probably my favourite right now. I used to really enjoy the Chicago, Full Sail and Brooklyn crowds, but they’ve become a bit more annoying than anything else recently. As my favourite arena, right now that’s an easy pick: The Temple in Boyle Heights.

Grady:
Tough question. I’d say as countries the United States, United Kingdom and Japan are the ones that come to mind when you mention wrestling. To generate the best crowds, normally it will be a crowd that hasn’t had shows as frequently as they would like. I’d like to think when WWE shows up in New Zealand for the first time in five years we will be a hot crowd.

Peter:
As far as WWE’s normal touring cities, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto and London are some of the most rowdy and hyped crowds. Even the most average events are interesting to see with those crowds. Outside of WWE most shows in the Tokyo Dome, Korakuen Hall and Arena Mexico are loud and lots of fun.

Richard:
There are so many great areas and crowds all over the world. Chicago instantly comes to mind, along with New York which has the likes of Madison Square Garden and what was the Hammerstein Ballroom. Los Angeles and the crowds at the Staples Center are fantastic. The crowds for NXT at Full Sail University are always hot and hyped. They are just a few in the States that spring to mind. Canada has Toronto and Calgary. Anywhere in the UK is always loud. And then Japan has the Tokyo Dome.

David:
I’ve got a soft spot for venues in cities where I have also been part of the audience, like New York, New Orleans, and San Jose. Anywhere with a tradition of wrestling usually leads to an enthusiastic and vocal audience. I’m also a big fan of the Osaka audience for NJPW events.

 

5. WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte has been added to the line-up for WWE Live at Vector Arena, joining the likes of Roman Reigns, Ryback, Sheamus and Kevin Owens. What do you think of the announced talent for WWE’s return to New Zealand in August?

Blake:
Two out of five isn’t a bad start…

Grady:
Since I am bringing a young child with me I have a special stance on the announced talent, “whoever shows up, shows up”. I’d love for all my favourites to show up but I can’t guarantee the announced people won’t get changed or injured between now and then. But please Roman Reigns show up… or this six-year-old is going to be devastated.

Peter:
I’m just happy to see anyone really. It’s been so long since WWE has been here I’m sure it’s going to be great fun either way. I’m really hoping for John Cena and AJ Styles to be added to the list.

Richard:
I think the WWE roster is pretty stacked talent-wise at the moment and there is something that will appeal to anyone who goes to a show. Considering it’s been so long since they were last here I’ll be glad to see anyone.

David:
So much could change between now and then but—aside from perhaps Dean Ambrose—that’s a solid selection of the key players in WWE this past year or so. I’d be there whatever the line-up, but I’m pretty content with who we’ve got coming to our shores in August.