When speaking to Shaheem Ali of Coast 2 Coast, he says that he thinks the expanding wrestling landscape helps the growing amount of talent that's available. He wasn't keen on speaking about other companies as he told me off the air and we joked about, but the ability to see how much great talent is out there is a great thing for all involved. He says it's always interesting to see what comes up and who stands out, but since he's with ROH it doesn't affect him that much.
Ali doesn't get sentimental about wrestling in particular venues until after the fact, but admitted that Madison Square Garden was huge for him because he grew up in the Bronx. He said that there was a lot of emotion going in to both Madison Square Garden and Center Stage.
Shaheem spoke about being emotionally spent after his mother passed away. She introduced him to wrestling, and he wanted to be a pro wrestler because she loved wrestling. He recalled meeting Kevin Kelly, and that day Ali happened to be so dejected he was just going to throw it all at the wall in a promo class because he considered giving up wrestling. When everyone went to break, everyone left and Ali stuck around to pick Kelly's brain. Kevin Kelly saw something in him and took him over to Rhett Titus to make sure Ali got to the ROH Dojo. He heavily credited Kevin Kelly for being instrumental in his career.
When it came to forming Coast 2 Coast, Ali said that they were still doing a lot of dark matches. Finally, they just decided to become a tag team because they got put together a lot on the road with Ring of Honor. They put some ideas together in case that decision was made. ROH didn't like them just going by their regular names, so they cooked up a tag team name after they did a triple Coast To Coast move to someone.. Ali says that the stacked ROH roster at the time -- with Adam Cole, Jay Lethal, Cedric Alexander -- led to them deciding to jump into the tag team ranks.
Ali says that he and LSG's future is always a hot topic among them, and said that they're on per year contracts and that's what they prefer to do. He doesn't want to lock himself in to a certain deal until things are sure. They have goals to be ROH Tag Champions, but they're not opposed to going anywhere else. Ali made it clear he'd like to stay with ROH as long as he can, but is open to wrestling anywhere and everywhere. He hopes that one day that contracts will be more open so that they can wrestle who and where they want.
Backstage reaction to AEW/NJPW
There's much discussion about a potential NJPW/AEW relationship. At least one person we spoke to in AEW doesn't think that would happen, and figured so due to the way that Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks were treated upon leaving the company. We were told that "time heals all wounds" in that sense, but they figured this one would "definitely take some time." I should note this wasn't exactly inside information, as opposed to one person on the roster's opinion.
People in Ring of Honor we've spoken to were almost completely in the dark, and hadn't heard of an update on their status with NJPW.
Chris Michaels-WWE Performance Center
I spoke to Chris Michaels, a longtime indie veteran who worked dates for WCW, WWF, TNA and more. The story speaks for itself, but he dives into his time at the Performance Center this year, which I felt would be of significance for this column. He said WWE threw multiple weeks that he could come up, after his son (and business manager) reached out to them about a possible guest coaching gig. He spoke very highly of WWE and the amenities they provided, such as the high flyers ring, tape study, and the like. He was really grounded and realistic about how tough a lot of the Performance Center recruits have it, as it's work and training around the clock.
Michaels was particularly impressed with Kona Reeves, who hasn't had much of a push lately in WWE. He was working in-house matches with Sheamus, who had been sidelined with an injury. Michaels put over his size, instincts, body language and the like.
Michaels also spoke about main eventing an Impact Wrestling Twitch show earlier this year. He said Scott D'Amore was there, but that he didn't get any real feedback from him on the situation. Johnny Impact, however, provided him with a lot of positive feedback.
Sammy Guevara interrupted Brandon Cutler's interview to troll him, as did MJF. Cutler talked about the fun experiences involved in the post AEW-shenanigans, and said he can't wear anything he actually likes to the ring, otherwise he'd end up having to throw that out in the crowd instead of the AEW Merch he wears. He fully expects pants to be thrown out to the crowd if they ever do track suits, and says he hopes he's not dumb enough to wear it to the ring.
He's really happy to be traveling the world with the Young Bucks and helping them document experiences at shows and behind the scenes. He told Fightful's Jeremy Lambert that there are lots of cool moments from the 90s when he was growing up that he wished were documented in the same way so they could see the process of what was going on there. He says there's going to be plenty of things that they can't air now, or ever.
- Deonna Purrazzo and Chelsea Green's appearances on Raw were not last minute decisions, as they were informed days ahead.
- There's talk of a WWE PPV landing in Kansas City in 2020, but the final schedule hasn't been revealed yet. The tentative time frame were given was "around the summer, if it happens."
- Much of the NXT roster has returned -- at least those who left -- from a short holiday break. Morale from those we spoke to in NXT remains all over the place, still with issues of a crowded roster and Performance Center.