There is a growing sense of frustration backstage in regards to the amount of time being put into the Shane McMahon push. We've not heard of Shane being criticized personally, but that the decision to heavily feature Shane McMahon in the middle of a Wild Card scenario that already limits screen time for others is "infuriating." The fact that Shane doesn't appear on live events was cited as a confusing point of why he was given screen time, as opposed to pushing talent who are on the road consistently.
WWE have encouraged their wrestlers to submit "ambitious" ideas.
On the other hand, I'm told that talent seems pretty optimistic about the 24/7 Title segments. They've been a runaway success on WWE digital platforms. WWE is said to not be as strict or hands on regarding the scripting in these, which is what a lot of the people within the company we spoke to attributed to the success of the segments.
Former WWE writer Kazeem Famuyide talked to me about WaleMania ahead of WrestleMania, and we discussed his time with WWE. He was instrumental in helping write the Elias/Kevin Owens in Seattle segment that ended up being one of the most memorable promos of 2018. He told us that something completely different was being pitched until Vince McMahon put his foot down and decided to go with what was written. Kazeem noted that Elias wasn't aware of how dedicated to basketball Seattle was, and wasn't even sure that it would get over. After it was all said and done, everyone had a good laugh about the segment.
Kaz also admitted that I had a little bit of heat with him last year, as a lot of people backstage were on edge when Fightful were posting information from WWE scripts. A lot of people were being blamed and he considered it a "kick in the dick" because often the things that would end up making scripts or rundowns weren't the final product. He recalled an incident when Dave Kapoor saw him on his phone, and mentioned that being on his phone a lot backstage could lead to people thinking that something was up with him.
Jeremy Lambert talked to Willie Mack, who has been all over the place over the last couple of years. He told Lamert he was stoked about Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Title, and confessed that he didn't think he'd be alive to see a black WWE Champion, and said it's something he'll remember for the rest of his life. He also discussed his tastes in music, among other things.
To follow up on Fightful's stories about Jonathan Gresham and Maria Manic, they've both signed deals. We reported over two months ago that Maria Manic was set to sign with the company and Joey Mercury was pushing for her.
Chris Van Vliet
Our first edition of Fightful Feast dropped on Fightful Select, and will be on Fightful this weekend. We spoke to Chris about his career in television and his aspirations in regards to WWE, and how talking to certain wrestlers may have adjusted that. He said that ideally he'd like to be in the Peter Rosenberg/Sam Roberts role of a panelist, as he thinks it would fit him best.
We also spoke about the John Cena interview that he landed, which actually happened because of Tyler Perry. Perry had an acting role lined up for Van Vliet, but when it fell through, came across his Youtube Page and set up the interview with Cena. According to Van Vliet, Cena was a pleasure to deal with, and make a "you can't see me" joke via text.
Fightful's Jeremy Lambert talked to WWE Hall of Famer Madusa recently, who was very colorful. She said that she hadn't talked to Vince McMahon in 20 years, since she left the WWF in 1995 before her Hall of Fame induction. She apologized to Vince right out of the gate for throwing the WWF Women's Title in the trash. She put herself over a little bit for being ahead of her time and saying she'd fit in better with the modern women's wrestling scene. That being said, she was extremely vocal about the level of women's wrestling that followed her being good enough. Madusa stated that Trish Stratus and the group of competitors that she had around her were good enough to carry a division, but doesn't like that so much of the history of WWE women's wrestling starts there. She said it's "bullshit" that her time is forgotten, and doesn't understand why Vince McMahon axed the entire division just because he was in cost-cutting mode. Instead, she thinks there were men on the roster who should have been let go.
Mike and Maria
After Pro Wrestling Sheet's report that Mike and Maria Kanellis signed new contracts with WWE, Fightful was able to confirm that the deals are five years in length. In poking around about this, we were told that WWE hopes to make Mike and Maria an integral part of 205 Live moving forward. There was lots of talk among fans of them "wasting away" on 205 Live, but everything we've heard is that there's been a major shift this year for them and they're happy on the brand.
Shinsuke Nakamura followed up on my story about Lyoto Machida living with him and Daniel Bryan by tweeting a picture of himself and Machida training years ago and saying he hopes they can meet again someday.
Former Japan megastar Bob Sapp has been blowing up Fightful's inbox (oddly addressing us as Vox media, to whom we are not affiliated) in an attempt to clear his name from domestic abuse allegations in 2017. Fightful updated the article accordingly, and Sapp offered an interview -- for three business class flight tickets, hotel, and food, which clearly isn't going to happen. It seems as if Sapp was also threatening some sort of legal action. "Bob Sapp's legal and PR team" also made an odd request that we edit his Wikipedia page.
It's worth noting that the accuser sent Fightful an e-mail in 2017, which we didn't read, as we do not speak Japanese. Sapp has filed a temporary restraining order against her, and sued a Japanese outlet for defamation.
Davey Boy Smith Jr.
Davey Boy Smith Jr. was said to have "basically quit" New Japan Pro Wrestling last week. He was frustrated that the company wasn't doing anything with him and felt like it was time for him to move on as a result.