We spoke to IMPACT Wrestling's Rhino recently for an interview we've been trying to make happen since the Summer. He says he doesn't regret his decision to pass up on a double of his downside guarantee by WWE. He gets his creative freedom, which seems like more of a point of attraction to wrestlers than ever before. Rhino said that it was a great feeling to be able to have control over his own abilities and what he can do. He said that his return to IMPACT was fun and felt natural, and that one of the things he was quickly reminded of was that Rob Van Dam's strikes are stiff, and they land.
We talked about his finishing moves and developing the Gore. Rhino joked that if anyone ever kicks out of it, it was a spear, not a Gore. Depending on how tired he is in a match mandates whether or not he hits a shorter version, or carries someone across the ring and through a table. He spoke highly of Edge, Roman Reigns and Goldberg's version of the move. The advent of on demand and WWE Network has more people discovering his Piledrivers through tables, and it's become a requested spot for him on the independent circuit.
After years of working together at Fightful, I finally got to interview Jason Kincaid. He spoke about his time in DDT in Japan and said that competing in Japan was always his biggest dream, so finally accomplishing that was big to him.
Kincaid always had a unique aspect to his columns and stories, in that his written word always seemed to translate better than others. We were also able to include amazing, colorful videos and thumbnails, as he produces his own promos and vignettes because he lives 15 minutes away from New River Gorge in West Virginia. That contributes to his ability to find beautiful landscapes.
He says he isn't sure if ROH and EVOLVE helped him adjust to the indies or vice versa, but he says he's happy what he's doing now, he just wants to make more money doing it. EVOLVE and ROH definitely helped increase his pay offs in that regard. He also changed up his look, as he said he was getting judged for his hair, wanted to do something different and was starting to lose a little bit of his hair. He shaved his head and tattooed it with Alex Grey art, and yes, it hurt.
PJ & Luke Hawx
We spoke to PJ & Luke Hawx well before PJ's viral dive off a mall balcony. The father son duo has a unique approach of having a young, internet sensation in PJ, and Luke, who is still around his physical prime. Luke knows his son will get a little backlash and accusations of nepotism, so he wants people to see that PJ actually exceeds what he's done. He put over PJ's attitude and says they have similarities and differences that work well together, and guiding him is a priority.
PJ has gotten into acting, following his father's lead. He has always wanted to be involved in pro wrestling, and Luke says he didn't even push him in it or towards it, but it was evident early on that's what PJ wanted to do. PJ said that once he finally got into the ring, things came very naturally to him because he grew up in the wrestling business. It made him grow up a lot faster and give him a much stronger mentality.
A note that both hammered home is that both of them have significantly different styles in the ring.
WWE Performance Center
The Undertaker has been at the WWE Performance Center in recent weeks to prepare for his upcoming WrestleMania match. In addition, Mark Henry has been around, but that's not much of a surprise considering he filmed a video to help hype up the Lee vs. Dijakovic match a couple of weeks ago.
Fightful also learned that former Spirit Squad member Kenny Dykstra guest coached at the Performance Center in recent weeks. Dykstra is still active in working outside of WWE.
Monday Night Raw Change
Fightful Select has been told that last night's episode of Raw was originally going to be much different than the way it played out -- at least for Randy Orton and Matt Hardy. The two had a match announced last week, which was changed the day of Raw. Going into Monday the plan had been a multi-segment match between the two before Vince McMahon called for a change.
Fightful Select was informed that the music group had an issue with their publisher. According to one source, CFO$ was out a significant cut of money as it relates to their deal. The same aforementioned source indicated that CFO$ tried to get WWE to buy them out of their deal, which WWE seemed on board with, but the publisher rejected.
The plan that we'd heard was that WWE hoped to bring them in house, but the talks got to a stand-still, and the deal eventually ran out. It's thought that CFO$ have a non-compete with their publisher, which is why they haven't returned.
The move was said to be a big one considering WWE's willingness to outsource the work instead of keeping it to themselves as they'd done for decades working with Jim Johnston.
This situation has caused a slowdown on WWE's lucrative WWE Music Group Youtube channel as well, with no new uploads in six months. We're told WWE had plenty of exclusive tracks from CFO$ that they've used in the months since the split happened. This has led to WWE using library tracks and an in-house editor, as they've had other departures in that department as well. WWE is still actively seeking out new employees for that division, and have worked with other groups and producers.
Fightful has reached out to WWE and CFO$, but haven't heard back from either.
IMPACT Backstage Notes
I was at IMPACT's Outbreak show Friday, and have a few backstage notes.
- Tessa Blanchard was seen helping out the girls in the dark match, and was later seen watching the match through the curtain.
- John E. Bravo helped produce the show from the Gorilla Position. D-Lo Brown, Al Snow, Jimmy Jacobs were all seen at the show as well.
- "Wildcat" Chris Harris was at the event. He's booked for the TNA retro show in April
Fightful has learned that as of now a non-Starrcast series of events being coordinated and planned for Double or Nothing Week in Las Vegas. As far as we've heard so far, the idea is to run panels, meet and greets, merchandise and the like.
The Starrcast side of things confirmed to us that they're not involved, and our inquiries to AEW went unanswered.