For those unfamiliar with the Fightful Wrestling Weekly, it's about 1,000 words of exclusives or behind the scenes info from Fightful staffers that may be unique to this column, or may be something you've missed from recent interviews. We also provide clarity and additional info to other reports.
ROH Six-Man Tag Team Champion TK O'Ryan was the subject of a new interview with us. I wouldn't be expecting him to leave Ring of Honor any time soon. He seems especially committed to the company, as they've been committed to him. He has said that he's open to working in New Japan Pro Wrestling more, and that the Honor Rising events was the first time that he's ever worked in Japan.
O'Ryan didn't take the traditional path to Ring of Honor. A lot of people go through the Top Contender Tourney, Future of Honor, or several tryouts. O'Ryan did get a tryout, but he was contacted and signed by Kevin Kelly several years ago and came into the company with an immediate push and win over Bullet Club, which was his first televised match ever. He would tell me that it was an odd way to enter the company but it felt right that ROH had so much confidence in him
O'Ryan and I also talk a little bit of baseball during the interview.
Emerging UFC name Devonte Smith was interviewed by Fightful's James Lynch recently after his streak of success. Smith has an amazing personality and charisma, as well as a knack for breaking down fights based on his UFC 234 post-fight interview. He told Lynch that he's considered a pro wrestling run after his MMA career, but the toll the in-ring work takes on a wrestler's body isn't something he's particularly keen on embracing. He said he "didn't want all of the WWE wrestlers to come after him," and has a friend who works as an independent wrestler. Smith himself said that his pro wrestling future depends on the pay, but that he was a huge fan of wrestling growing up. He cited The Rock, Sting, DX, Rey Mysterio, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Rikishi, Eddie Guerrero and others as his favorites and said that he got in trouble for doing "suck it" gestures at school.
In regards to last week's releases, there were WWE names in the following hours speculating who could be the next to go, with several surprised Mike and Maria weren't included considering Mike wanted out of the company as of two months ago. I was very surprised about the Arn Anderson news, but those close to him didn't seem surprised, telling me that he's had a frayed relationship with Vince McMahon for quite some time. I'm told Vince recognizes that he needed to make a shift.
While TJP claimed that he got permission for his tattoos six months ago, there were people of influence on 205 Live that had no idea. I'm told that isn't really the deal breaker on why he was released, but wasn't told what was.
As it pertains to Itami, both sides were said to have not gotten out of the other what they really expected when the signing happened in 2014.
I've heard that the heat Lio Rush had has died down quite a bit in recent weeks. Rush is seen as brash and confident to the point Vince McMahon has even commented about it. However, there are a couple of veteran presences who have been offering him help and trying to improve his standing on the road, and it seems to be working. As good as Lio Rush is in the ring, Producers are particularly high on his microphone skills.
Raw & Smackdown Notes
There was varying information leaked to multiple outlets throughout Monday night, and we're told to expect more of that in the future, as WWE is afraid someone is leaking scripts again. The identity of the United States Open Challenge opponent was kept very quiet throughout Tuesday. In addition, several wrestlers had to undergo drug tests ahead of Smackdown Live on Tuesday.
The Batista angle was played very close to the vest. It wasn't a secret that Batista was backstage, as Wrestling Observer reported it two hours before the show, but the nature of his angle with Ric Flair wasn't told to those who didn't need to know. Originally there were plans for the angle to last a bit longer, but time cuts were made throughout the program.
Ricochet and Aleister Black's match went over time on Tuesday as well.
Speaking of keeping secrets, Roman Reigns' status became known within a tight inner circle last week, and kept that way until Monday. An interesting thing that became known to Fightful throughout the day on Monday was that ahead of his leukemia diagnosis, Roman Reigns had informed WWE officials that he didn't want to return to Saudi Arabia for WWE Crown Jewel. He was booked to take on Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman, and removed after the diagnosis. Reigns joined Daniel Bryan and John Cena in refusing to perform on the show.
Performance Center Challenge
An interesting story has emerged from the WWE Performance Center this week. During a promo class, 32-year old Shadia Bseiso cut a promo in which she singled out some of the "shooters" in the NXT class, saying she could tap them out in a grappling match. Former UFC fighter and MMA Horsewomen member Jessamyn Duke took exception to the promo and replied with a dry "no you can't," and a challenge was made from both sides as a result in a rather friendly and healthy manner.
Fightful has learned there's been a push from several people in the class to see the shoot grappling challenge unfold at one of the WWE Performance Center's in-house events, which are held once every couple of months. The events are only for members of the roster, trainers, and the like.
Bseiso is a Brazilian-jiu jitsu blue belt who competed in the 2014 Abu Dhabi World Pro Championships where she'd earn a silver medal. Duke had nine professional MMA fights, not including two on the Ultimate Fighter reality series, another seven as an amateur and several muay thai bouts. As of 2013, she was a purple belt in jiu jitsu, and has trained alongside her fellow Horsewomen members Shayna Baszler, Ronda Rousey and Marina Shafir, in addition to training under Josh Barnett.
It's evident to almost anyone at this point that there is a major WWE roster overturn right now, and it's a hot topic backstage. WWE has been sending out feelers to people across the board, from talent, to producer work, agent work, and even for their digital and marketing ends of things. They've made several new hires that aren't official yet, including bringing back a name in marketing that left last year.
Even though you all won't know the names that are going in and out of the company on a marketing and HR end of things, these are some underrated moves that we're told were made to help lift morale and bring experience back.