Shanna and Awesome Kong
Dave Meltzer reported that both Awesome Kong and Shanna had not had their AEW deals renewed. Fightful had heard as far back as April to not expect Shanna back in the company, and there were some issues with her and some of the other wrestlers, namely extras and how they felt treated by her. Fightful has reached out to Shanna about the rumor, which we heard from talent, not AEW officially.
Awesome Kong hasn't been around much, if at all in the last 16 months. When Kong was no longer cleared to wrestle, AEW pushed along the split of the Nightmare Collective. This move was expected as she hasn't been in a coach role that was originally discussed for her as well.
Stadium Stampede took place at AEW's Double or Nothing, but were told most of it filmed Thursday, with additional footage Friday. Those we heard from said Urban Meyer was happy to do the cameo and appeared to enjoy himself on set. The editing process was put over as it was a pretty swift turnaround considering what they filmed. Those we've spoken to backstage were happy with how it came across and how the live element was integrated.
Alexander Wolfe spoke with Fightful and said that at one point during his WWE main roster run, he was tired of sitting in catering and getting out of shape, and specifically remembered a Triple H speech in NXT warning talent of that. Wolfe said that Triple H said that talent that doesn't get used often do just that, lose motivation, get out of shape, then never end up getting used when they're needed because of that cycle.
To no surprise, Alexander Wolfe told Fightful that Triple H was instrumental in getting War Games to happen in NXT, and worked with them heavily. Shawn Michaels was also credited for his coaching and knowing little mannerisms that went a long way. Triple H was also said to have helped out with the Sanity entrance as well.
I spoke with Alexander Wolfe, who said that Triple H and Shawn Michaels informed Sanity of their call-up to Smackdown when it happened. Mark Carrano told Sanity that they were figured in and the company had big plans for them, which Wolfe said were "empty promises." Wolfe said much of what initially happened with Retribution was actually pitched for and by members of Sanity for their Smackdown introduction two years prior, and plenty of what we're seeing in IMPACT with Violence by Design were ideas that Eric Young had along the way. He said talent was surprised when they lost their first match.
If you were wondering if Alexander Wolfe knew about his WWE contract expiring ahead of his Imperium split, he didn't. He told Fightful it came as a surprise, but he'd let WWE know he would prefer to return to Europe and work for the company there. He had brief discussions with Triple H months before his contract was up, but never heard back until his release.
Fightful Select reported the releases of Braun Strowman, Lana, Ruby Riott, Santana Garrett, Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy. A few select people within the company knew of the news Tuesday afternoon, and plans were made to make the calls Wednesday morning to talent. A lot of these releases were a surprise to many, and several within the company have alread inquired to Fightful about the endgame of said releases. There is a lot of speculating within about a potential sale down the line, but we've not heard that from WWE officials.
Braun Strowman's release was likely the most surprising to fans, but to talent close to the situation, it didn't seem to be. Several that we spoke to said that Strowman's contract, signed in 2019, was a monster deal, and that he very much knew his worth when negotiating with the company. His contract came down to the wire in the summer of 2019, and he was signed well into 2023, for what WWE sources claim was over $1 million per year. Strowman was said to have been very private about negotiating the deal until it was finalized.
Lana's WWE release was attributed to several factors based on those that we talked to. Higher ups didn't feel as if she and Naomi had chemistry and the team "wasn't working," but Lana was also among the talent that signed a huge new deal in 2019. At the time, WWE thought they would be able to retain Rusev, now Miro, but he wouldn't sign the contract extension they offered and left the company. At that time, WWE was offering a disproportionate amount of money to keep talent in the company, and Lana signed through 2024. More details on Lana's time with WWE emerged to Fightful in the days following, and it would be noted that if Lana didn't have anything going on, it wasn't for lack of her trying. We've heard several stories about how she (and Naomi) would follow up about their creative and constantly try to ensure they were doing something. There were significantly different plans for Lana earlier this year before Charlotte's return, but we're told that Vince McMahon personally assured her that wouldn't be the end of the Lana character and they'd have more for her.
Among the other releases that we've heard about Ruby Riott's release definitely seemed to shake the WWE roster the most, based on those we spoke to. Riott was universally popular backstage, and commended for her hard work often. Much of the same case with Buddy Murphy, who we're told was not in the "creative forecast for WWE" of late. There were pitches for Murphy to team with Wesley Blake again before his release, but they were ultimately shot down. Murphy was said to be easy to work with, and generally receptive to creative.
Aleister Black's release is a puzzling one within WWE. While Thea Trinidad, aka Zelina was back at the WWE Performance Center recently, Fightful has not heard of any specific plans for her. We've not heard that an official contract has been signed, or that she was factored in to WWE creative plans for Black. Aleister Black was brought back to TV to kick off a feud with Big E, which we're told had no long-term endgame, and many of those associated with putting together the story didn't even know that he was being released. Recently, creative was told to stop making pitches for Black, but weren't told why.
Santana Garrett's release did not come as a surprise to many within the company, as she'd been called up nearly a year before and almost never used. There were several creative plans pitched for her, and a trio with Chelsea Green and Vanessa Borne nearly happened before it was nixed. We'd heard that she hadn't been around Smackdown backstage much since she and Chelsea Green took it upon themselves to pop up backstage months ago. We've not heard of any significant, firm plans creatively that were ever set for her, though that doesn't mean there weren't any.
WWE Scouting Trip
WWE is reloading after their releases, it would seem. Fightful reported recently that we've heard of several call-ups on the horizon, and WWE officials were at the WWE Performance Center taking in PC Live matches on Thursday. PC Live are in-house events, and we were informed that Bruce Prichard, Canyon Ceman, Johnny Ace, Jamie Noble and Matt Bloom were all together taking in practice matches and the actual event on Thursday.
IMPACT Wrestling keeps adding new faces with each new taping, and that didn't stop with their most recent set. We've been told that "multiple" new faces were around at the May tapings, and were able to confirm one name specifically. Independent standout Lady Frost worked the tapings in a short match, though we're told as of now she's not signed with the company. Frost has also worked AEW, ROH, Beyond and WWE shows since 2018. In addition, there were a couple of new male wrestlers there, at least one used and one not used.