IMPACT Wrestling COVID Heat
There were several frustrated names we heard from out of the IMPACT Wrestling tapings this go around. The first wave had to do with several wrestlers mentioning that the tapings seemed more unprepared and fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants than any this year.
COVID protocols were a major concern, especially considering there was a positive test to emerge from those tapings. Several IMPACT wrestlers that we've spoken to have never been given a COVID-19 test by the company across multiple sets of tapings. Others say that many in the roster were encouraged to get tested after the outbreak of the GCW Collective, but it wasn't enforced whatsoever. Talent gets temperature checked and checks off a paper indicating that they don't have symptoms. There was significant heat on IMPACT management for the situation coming out of the tapings.
Liv Morgan Documentary
Liv Morgan's recent WWE Network documentary was praised and criticized within WWE over the past week. Morgan is well received as always, but the stop-start creative, changing of plans and broken promises were something that multiple WWE main roster stars from the top to the bottom of the card highlighted to Fightful when speaking about the feature this week. One wrestler said that they fear missing any time because they're concerned they might not get on the show, and if you allow yourself to be booked poorly one week, that's the direction your booking is usually going to go in the weeks that follow it. Another longtime wrestler said that they're shocked that WWE was willing to put something like that on display that paints them in such a negative light considering how carefully they craft things in other regards.
Lots was made about IMPACT Wrestling working with All Elite Wrestling after Kenny Omega and Don Callis announced the former would be appearing on Tuesday's IMPACT show.
Some within IMPACT Wrestling had heard of the news, but were told there wasn't much to it when they'd asked management about it at the most recent set of tapings. Several in AEW had also heard that Don Callis would be coming in to work an angle, but weren't sure the extent of it.
Almost nobody that we spoke to expects a "full crossover" to come from it, but wrestlers in IMPACT are happy about the buzz cast on their show. This was not the first pitch between the companies, which we hope to have more on in the coming weeks.
Omega was not at the most recent set of IMPACT Wrestling tapings, and most expect him to film his segment on Tuesday. IMPACT has some names flying in to do some work on that day.
We've been digging even more about Chelsea Green and her not being used prior to her ill-fated Smackdown debut, and a pitch that was going around about her. Originally, a big push was made and plans were put in order for Chelsea Green to almost emulate Mickie James' 2005-2006 "obsessed fan" storyline with Trish Stratus. The story had a pretty solid plan and we're told that several in creative were very excited about it, but it inexplicably got scrapped. The story that we've heard would have had Mickie James put in Trish Stratus' shoes from 15 years ago.
It went a lot further than a pitch. We're told that Mickie James and Chelsea Green had actually filmed content to start the angle. Everything was a go, and plans were abruptly changed only hours before it was set to air. Green didn't appear on TV for months after.
Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns
We heard a lot of positive reaction in response to the Kevin Owens/Roman Reigns angle on last week's episode of Smackdown and the one prior. Not that it would be a surprise to anyone, but the Roman Reigns performances and execution of his angles have been well received ever since he reappeared at Summerslam. After Owens was relegated to little or no use for months, several that we spoke to felt that he was able to rise to the occasion and match Reigns from a promo perspective.
Creative plans changes
Fightful has been informed that creative plans shifted for “virtually everyone at the top of the Raw roster” following Survivor Series. The original plan was for Braun Strowman to challenge Drew McIntyre as reported by Wrestling Observer. However, the injury that he sustained caused the tournament to be put together, and several programs to be adjusted from anywhere between one to three weeks.
Another top WWE star on the NXT brand tested positive for COVID-19 recently, but this one didn't necessarily have the concern attached to it that previous positive tests have had that led to an outbreak. This wrestler is said to not be around large crowds of people very often, especially within NXT. The brand has long been criticized from the outside to within their own walls for their handling of the pandemic and the subsequent return to training, odd schedule of tests and overall performer safety. We're told it's not as much of a concern on the main roster because they're tested ahead of each appearance.
In an update, this did not affect the NXT WarGames card.
In the initial moments after his surprise AEW appearance, several AEW wrestlers we've heard from say that they had no idea Sting was coming into the company, or that he'd be there before they arrived . The initial reaction we got from talent has been shock and excitement, with many not knowing the extent until right before the spot. He was not seen around the venue this afternoon by many, but others heard that Sting would be appearing.
We've since heard from another name in All Elite Wrestling that they'd heard about the signing "for a while," so it wasn't a complete surprise to everyone on the roster. In the moments that followed the surprise, the initial rush of contact made with Fightful had originally implied this was closely guarded, but doesn't seem as such.
We've had a lot of inquiries about Tessa Blanchard of late, but as of now, it appears there have been no serious inquiries yet, though there have been some feelers. Daga and Tessa Blanchard are actually in the Northeast for a signing at the moment, not in Mexico as rumored.
As if Friday wasn't indication enough, there's still heat on Jaxson Ryker within WWE. As we mentioned recently, Ryker had been home in North Carolina and hadn't been brought to Orlando to the site of WWE tapings in months. At one point, Ryker wasn't even featured on internal WWE roster sheets. It should be reiterated, there was never any internal heat on Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler, and wrestlers and staff Fightful spoke with felt bad that they were caught up in the situation. One WWE source told us Ryker "wasn't worth the risk of bad publicity of being on TV" right now, and mentioned main roster officials weren't high on him when he was called up, and he never wrestled Smackdown.
Ryker deleted his social media four weeks ago. When Fightful inquired as to why, we were simply told there were no plans for him at the time. Around the same time, Fightful reported creative was working on plans for Cutler and Blake.
There were a lot of surprised people in Orlando at the Thunderdome, as Jaxson Ryker appeared at the tapings with Elias. We're being told this was a dry run on Main Event to see if the pairing worked, in an effort to pitch the duo to Vince McMahon. Just last week, several on the Smackdown side had noted that "Ryker was not worth the risk of being on television," and when contacted about Ryker's appearance, said that WWE is likely gauging reception to the spot.
For months, Ryker was not brought to TV, and was not featured on internal roster sheets.
Vince McMahon Insistent On Doing Show, Update On Filming
WWE filmed Tribute To The Troops this Friday, in a much different manner than usual for obvious reasons. Wrestlers have a very early call time from what we understand, with talent from Raw and Smackdown informed that they would be on the show. When Fightful inquired about it, we were told Vince McMahon was insistent on doing the show, even with the altered format.
Jordan Oliver- MLW
I spoke to Jordan Oliver ahead of GCW Silme Season, and he informed me he was still under contract to MLW, and appeared at their Restart tapings. He said that he was initially nervous signing a contract at such a young age, but badly wanted to work on TV and gain that experience. He also mentioned there were many non-MLW stars that visited the tapings, including champions of other companies. He put over MLW for their COVID protcols and keeping them safe.
We spoke to Allie Kat, who is one of the most booked wrestlers on the independent scene. She told us that she hasn't had any conversations with major companies, but is keeping her ear to the ground as that seems to be her ultimate goal. Still, she was excited for the constant flow of WWE PC recruits coming into the company