Backstage Reactions To Paul Heyman Being Replaced In WWE, AJ Styles Rumors

Note: The following is a compilation of reports from Fightful Select, which ran in this week's Fightful Wrestling Weekly.

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Paul Heyman's ousting one week ago was a hot topic among wrestlers across all WWE brands.

Fightful spoke to a dozen wrestlers about Paul Heyman's replacement in his spot on WWE Raw as it was revealed Bruce Prichard would be heading up that branch, too. We've heard from a variety of performers both in and out of WWE, with responses landing all over the map. General disappointment and surprise from some, to others indicating they could see the writing on the wall of late. It should be noted that nobody we've talked to said that they knew of the change before WWE announced it on Twitter.

We were told numerous stars that Paul Heyman was instrumental in promoting along the way during his Executive Director role. Drew McIntyre was the primary name, who was said to have been groomed long before his Rumble win and protected for his main roster push.

Humberto Carrillo and Angel Garza were two talent that Heyman believed in, and was integral in moving Carrillo from his feud with AJ Styles over to working with other lucha competitors. It was said that Vince McMahon didn't know much about Angel Garza upon his arrival, outside of him being Humberto Carrillo's cousin.

Heyman was said to have specifically wanted to build the Raw brand around future stars. There was a lighthearted joke backstage that Raw was built around the "catering crew" instead of the "Smackdown Six" this time, because AOP, Zelina, Andrade, Humberto Carrillo, Aleister Black, Andrade and Buddy Murphy were all relegated to Smackdown catering areas the year before and were hardly used on WWE TV. Specifically, we're told Heyman pushed to get Buddy Murphy on Raw, and was willing to pass on star power to get him. Apollo Crews was later added to that list.

On the other hand, Ricochet and Cedric Alexander were talents that Heyman wanted to continue trying with, but Vince McMahon had pulled the plug on their pushes. Street Profits and Liv Morgan were also people that he fought for.

Younger wrestlers we've spoken to were particularly disappointed, as Heyman was well known for wanting new blood on his shows.

In a follow up, none of the wrestlers or staff we've spoken to has heard blatantly why the replacement was made, but have heard that it was Vince McMahon's decision. We actually had wrestlers inquiring and speculating alike, stating that "there's always a scapegoat" when things go wrong. However, none of those we spoke to could point to a blow up, argument or any particular situation that unfolded that was the catalyst for the move. If there was one, it hasn't made the rounds backstage yet.

The talent reactions to Paul Heyman and WWE kept rolling in after that. One said that he was open to hearing ideas and pitches, and talking storylines, even during the wee hours of the night, and said that if that's how he was with everyone else, there's a good chance he was overwhelmed. Unfortunately, most of what Heyman would want to happen wouldn't be executed, though the blame wasn't pointed at him. It was still said that working with him could be tough in that regard, and that eventually that job "gets to everyone."

Another top name told us that they'd checked on Paul, but had initially received radio silence back in the hours that followed. In the early morning following the move, several wrestlers noted to us that they'd heard back. They said that backstage, Paul was always "cool as a cucumber," but that doesn't always reflect the stresses of the job he had.

A third wrestler had mentioned that Heyman was blunt, and they were personally disappointed to see Heyman out of the role as they maintained a good relationship.

You may have heard Andrew Zarian of Mat Men Radio say on his show recently that Paul Heyman and AJ Styles had creative differences that led to Styles being "traded" to the Smackdown side. Dave Meltzer noted that it was due to issues with Paul Heyman, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and their fates.

When asking around about what those differences could have been, at least two on the Raw side of things believe that it stemmed from Heyman not seeing the value in Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows that Styles saw, which could have led to Anderson and Gallows being on the chopping block and released. AJ was said to have been very upset by their firings, which isn't much of a surprise, but particularly considering his somber reaction when speaking about it a few weeks later. The word "furious" was used by multiple wrestlers. Styles only worked one Raw match after their firing.

This report first ran on our premium service, Fightful Select. Subscribe to Fightful Select to gain access to exclusive news, and dozens of podcasts monthly, as well as supporting us directly.

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