I usually don't like for one topic to take up the majority of the Weekly's 1,000 words, but the ramifications of Corey Graves' tweet storm could very well have long lasting ramifications, or could also be simply forgotten a few days later.
I've made this no secret -- WWE talent aren't supposed to speak to Fightful, or any other wrestling-only media without the rare and prior approval from WWE. Some notable exceptions include when a wrestler is starting a school and wants promotion, if an outlet ends up on "radio row" for WrestleMania or Summerslam, if they're based in India (not exactly a secret their desire for more press there.) I was also able to procure a series of interviews with Jason Jordan, Chad Gable and Alexa Bliss because I was virtually the only member of the media to cover the Arnold Sports Festival the two years NXT had a presence there.
In order to do that, myself or any other person who gains an interview, have to form and develop a relationship with WWE's public relations team. That can sometimes be a tumultuous, uphill battle, and other times very pleasant. Traditionally, WWE opts to give local television stations (in markets they're in or will be in), or the likes of Rolling Stone, ESPN and Sports Illustrated. From the information I've been given, WWE does this because they see those as having maximum exposure, and they know that other wrestling websites will aggregate those stories, so the full-time wrestling sites will have it covered anyway. After all, from a reader standpoint, if the wrestling site you visit doesn't have all the news you want, someone else does. Needless to say, this method works just fine for WWE, so there's not necessarily a need on their part to grant the likes of Fightful, Pro Wrestling Sheet, etc. interviews.
Late Saturday night, Corey Graves posted a series of tweets targeting his apparent former friend in CM Punk. I remembered months ago when Graves and Booker T had complained about wrestling media not contacting them for clarity (in reality almost no one bought their "feud") on their issues. Considering he had no public contact info and WWE doesn't grant those interviews, this seemed like an uphill battle. I broke a personal rule of not trying to solicit interviews publicly and told Graves that I'd love to hear his side of the story. I was more than surprised when I got a direct message from him with only minutes left in my UFC 225 post-show podcast.
Graves was kind, open and eloquent. I saw many suggesting he may have been drunk while tweeting, but if that were the case, he sure didn't message like it. I was able to quickly convert his words into an article as it was all text-based and I had nothing to transcribe. He followed up the next day and thanked me for standing by my work, and didn't seem to regret the decision to talk to us on the record.
On the record is a big deal. Most wrestling websites -- this one included -- talk to WWE Superstars on the condition of anonymity. On any given week, I personally talk to a half-dozen, but can't mention who they are. It's not outright against the rules, but it's very much frowned upon. As a personal rule, I don't ask about storyline plans, but generally try to take the temperature about situations as they're unfolding, or follow up on rumors I've heard, and how certain segments came together, went over and who produced them.
I doubt Graves will get reprimanded or punished, but I would find it hard to believe WWE execs, bosses or PR will be giving him high fives for talking to us -- something that shouldn't really matter in the grand scheme of things anyway.
That ideology is shifting a little. Triple H seems to understand and value the importance of wrestling-specific media, and conducts a conference call with us ahead of every NXT Takeover. I sent a polite reminder to WWE PR on Sunday (hours after the Graves story) to ensure a spot on the call, as in the past we've been excluded when we didn't request. I figured an invitation or lack thereof would be pretty indicative of Fightful's standing among the WWE PR department. As it turns out we were invited, but didn't get questions in, which I don't think was intentional.
If this policy becomes more relaxed, you'll have a much more educated news cycle as opposed to the interviews you see with local stations where the anchors say "WOW LOOK AT SASHA'S ARMS, WHAT'S YOUR DIET LIKE?"
The New Day weren't actually at WWE Smackdown Live this week, and their video featuring them laughing their asses off was filmed last week. They were at E3 to compete against Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks in a video game competition, which got coverage on WWE.com.
Raw + Smackdown production notes
Specific instructions for how to shoot something, the use of RF mics, particular lines (One Of These Superstars Will Seize Crucial Momentum Heading Into Their Money In The Bank Ladder Match – NEXT!") and even wrestlers having certain body parts taped up was in the Raw script. There were also voiceover notes, such as Alexa Bliss "demanding" to have an entrance. We willl have a full post on this at Fightful this week.
The title for Smackdown Live this week was "contract disputes," in reference to all of the Money in the Bank related happenings, and Raw's was titled "The Monster Plan."
Adam Pearce was given production duties for the opening match of Daniel Bryan vs. Shelton Benjamin. An interesting note on that is that Pearce competed against Bryan several times when the two were in Ring of Honor, and on the independent circuit.
Mr. "Doot Doot Doot" Michael Hayes helped put together Rusev vs. Samoa Joe, which featured The Miz as a special guest referee, and Jamie Noble was the producer listed for Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura.
In matches with as many moving parts as Smackdown's ten-woman tag team main event, WWE usually has multiple producers collaborate on it, which is why TJ Wilson (Tyson Kidd) and Sarah Stock (Sarita) were both listed.