I spoke with Melina at length ahead of last week's NWA Hard Times show. She said that Nick Aldis, Billy Corgan and Dave Lagana collectively recruited her to be a part of the company. The fact that she was familiar with them and NWA's method made her feel a little more comfortable joining the company. She said that she appreciates wrestling more than ever, and is fully invested in the team effort of making the National Wrestling Alliance better. The creative liberties are something that attracted her, with NWA telling her specifically that they weren't hoping or trying to creatively stifle anyone, instead opting to see what people bring to the table and trying to pull the most from that as possible.
Melina said that working in studio wrestling is a big adjustment, because it's not something she's done before. She's had trouble turning away from the hard cam when waiting for reactiong from the crowd and even said that she had to be corrected over that, and has made the necessary adjustments. She called NWA very forgiving and understanding, and it's hard for her to not cater to the crowd instead of the hard camera for reactions.
She was very happy to get the call from Mark Carrano to return for Raw Reunion, and said that she could definitely tell a difference in people who were there all the time compared to people who were back and visiting for the show. She said the visitors had a more happy, positive demeanor. We also looked back on her time in Tough Enough, which she remembered being a very hectic process, and wasn't sure that it necessarily helped her get her foot in the door, but it didn't hurt. She remembered working some extra spots for them before getting noticed, including a spot with John Cena on a Thanksgiving show.
Melina specified that she took time off of wrestling because of the relationship she was in at that time and wanted to cater to that and their dreams and aspirations. She wanted to travel the world before settling down and finishing school, and wanted to see as many fans as possible. Melina got emotional talking about this. She also talked about the difficulties of people not liking her personally because of her heel character, noting that it was something that is sometimes hard to deal with.
- Much of the roster didn't know the finishes of their Hard to Kill matches until the day of the show. When we asked why they held off getting the championship off of Taya until the following week's TV tapings, we were told there was no answer going around backstage.
- Some in Impact that we've spoken to think that Tessa Blanchard has hurt her negotiating power over the past few weeks. They did state that IMPACT would likely do whatever they could to keep her even after the controversies.
- We're told by people in the company that Tenille Dashwood is still considered to be with the company but that there are scheduling issues that have kept the two sides from working together in recent months. Dashwood hasn't wrestled at all since November.
- We've heard that IMPACT has "definitely" reached out to some names in the past for their upcoming TNA themed show, but we're not sure who outside of Mr. Anderson. It's worth noting the event is happening at WrestleCon, which has Kevin Nash, Mick Foley, Brooke Hogan, Scott Steiner, Christian Cage, Christy Hemme, Brooke Tessmacher, Tara/Victoria, DDP, Shane Douglas, Taryn Terrell, Sandman, Raven, ODB, all booked. Nick Aldis is also booked, but reps from NWA said they wouldn't do business with Impact previously. When we spoke to Ethan Page on the record, he officially challenged Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley to a Motor City Machine Guns vs. The North match for the show.
Another big change came at the turn of the year, when Jonathan Gresham took over training and booking of the women's division. We're told he's prioritizing getting them paid as much as the men. We'd reported the Women of Honor tryout at the end of March, and there are specific talent that are being flown in and sponsored, with costs covered for the tryout. Gresham is looking to reinvigorate the division after they lost Kelly Klein, Tenille Dashwood, Madison Rayne, among others last year. After concerns were raised by Kristen Ashly about marital status and children being included on a Women of Honor tryout application, steps were made to get it removed.
- MJF was seen cursing at fans who even made eye contact with him on the Jericho Cruise, which is almost hilarious (yet predictable) dedication.
- We're told that when Melanie Cruise had her hair chopped off for the Nightmare Collective angle, the hair was donated to Locks of Love.
- We're not told of any heat on Booker T for appearing on the Jericho Cruise, but there were plenty confused as to why he pulled out of Starrcast.
- I should reiterate that as of last week, Triple H and Killer Kross had not met for a face-to-face meeting.
- Rumors that the Robert Stone character was a rib or based on Tony Khan were denied to me by people within WWE this week. It was reiterated that Robbie E was portraying the character years before he got to WWE, as Robert Strauss, though there are definitely aspects of it that were not.
- Pacing has been a big sticking point for the National Wrestling Alliance so far. They've said that they want to keep a really tight pace on events, and so far it's working out swimmingly for the brand.
- Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins' Youtube videos are having a big impact on sales and foot traffic to local stores. We've heard of one store in Lexington that had people waiting outside daily in the weeks since Hawkins and Ryder visited the store, even causing them to require a new hire.
- The Royal Rumble elimination on AJ Styles by Edge was a major audible.
- Sasha Banks remains not cleared by WWE as of Sunday night, which is why she wasn't in the Royal Rumble.