I'm told that much of the WWE roster is exhausted. In addition to overseas tours, several members of the roster who didn't head overseas (the most recent time) ended up working NXT dates, headed to New York City for UpFronts and any number of other situations. It has been communicated to several wrestlers that I've spoken to that this is a really important period for WWE as a business.
I should probably leave an editor's note that I wrote that first paragraph on Sunday, a day ahead of the world finding out WWE was nearing one of their most important financial days of all-time. I asked around backstage about how the deal would affect pay, contracts, schedules and the like. Thus far nobody knows anything about that, and it's not up for discussion until WWE and Fox officially announce the move. However, two wrestlers that I spoke to said they'd personally expect either a hefty pay increase or additional days off compared to the schedule WWE runs now. Speculation was running rampant about the direction of the company, but in the conversations I had, it was at least optimistic speculation.
I interviewed podcast host and promoter of Starrcast Conrad Thompson last week to promote the on-sale date for the event's tickets. He told me he actually wanted to put together a podcast convention last year, but it didn't come together and saw All In as a good opportunity for it. He presented the idea to Cody Rhodes, who was on board and liked the idea. Booking the event came down to the wire, and he mentioned that the fact that he's been a podcast host with a few of the biggest names in wrestling has helped out with booking talent for the shows
When I spoke to Conrad about his new podcast with Eric Bischoff, Thompson said that he did discuss with Bischoff what he found works on his other shows. Prior to the "83 Weeks" podcast, Bischoff would commonly use the "I don't recall" line when facing a tough subject. I've personally found that's changed, although the authenticity of the claims made on the program sometimes clash with things that he's said in different interviews over the years.
I also passed along some documents and files pertinent to Muhammad Hassan, since I saw that Thompson and Bruce Prichard were covering him on an upcoming edition of the "Something to Wrestle With" Podcast, and there are only a handful of interviews out there.
For the Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens match that would later turn into a tag team affair involving both Seth Rollins and Jinder Mahal, former tag team specialists Tyson Kidd and Michael Hayes helped produce.
Sarah Stock was given the duties of contributing to the Ember Moon vs. Alexa Bliss, which served as a placeholder until the two could get to their Money in the Bank Ladder match. Fit Finlay produced the Fatal 4-Way qualifying match. Both of these producers usually handle women's matches, with Tyson Kidd contributing on occasion.
Dean Malenko was tasked with the short No Way Jose vs. Baron Corbin match, and D-Von Dudley -- per usual -- was given a tag team affair, this one between Breezango and the B Team. Jamie Noble was given the Dolph Ziggler vs. Chad Gable match as well as the night's main event of Braun Strowman vs. Finn Balor.. Arn Anderson the Elias vs. Bobby Roode match
There was no producer listed for the widely panned Sami Zayn segment that involved Bobby Lashley and Sami Zayn.
Raw & Smackdown scripts
I couldn't track down and production info for Smackdown Live, but it's worth noting that Raw's script had a lot of the direct reads from the announcers -- the overly scripted dialogue that so many are forced to spew. Smackdown Live didn't have that at all. Also, any time an enhancement talent is used, they're referred to as "local."
For the shows themselves, Smackdown was given the title "Miztery Men," and Raw was dubbed "Spirit of Competition.” Not that it matters, but we can confirm that Raw's script underwent four revisions before being finalized. That information wasn't available for Smackdown Live, however.
The scripts on any given week may or may not contain information about debuts, returns, producers, referees, who helped write or film a segment. They rarely contain specific reads, but even from this perspective, it definitely seems like more time and/or care is given to the Raw script than anything that Smackdown gets.
Off-air, Michael Cole joked to production and the commentary team that they should come back to Albany more often because he actually gets cheered.
We post any Raw or Smackdown scripts we gain access to on the FightfulSelect service for our members.
Thursday June 21, Thursday August 23, Thursday September 20, Wednesday October 17, and Wednesday November 28 are the dates currently penciled in for NXT to film at Full Sail University. Full Sail has served as home for WWE and NXT for several years, but have sometimes had scheduling conflicts that would end up forcing WWE to other venues.
One of those other venues is Atlanta's Center Stage, which served as the home for WCW at times. However, WWE doesn't have anything on the schedule for Center Stage in the document.
Also, WWE doesn't currently have dates set for Christmas Eve and Christmas, which fall on Monday and Tuesday respectively. WWE gained significant criticism last year when they ran a live show on Christmas night. The majority of talent, as well as media and fans alike took shots at WWE's decision to have their wrestlers and staff work Christmas night. The live event did well for them, but doesn't look to be a repeat.
There was a report in the newest Wrestling Observer Newsletter that several MLW contracted talent were contacted by WWE. I reached out to both MLW and WWE on the story, and Bauer said "I was actually present for the initial engagement of our talent in New Orleans. It surprised me to see it continue, as I along with the talent, had made the representative aware the talent was signed the first time around when engaged. May be a case of representatives playing fast and loose. However, we have now made them aware through the proper channels.”
I'm looking to find out more about this story, and will hopefully have an update by next week's column.