I had an in-depth interview with MLW's Alex Hammerstone, who told me that he had some other offers on the table before signing with Major League Wrestling. However, he saw this as an opportunity to become the face of the company, and to establish the National Openweight Championship as on the same plane as the company's top championship.
Hammerstone was booked against WWF veteran Savio Vega, and told me that he found out pretty much when everyone else did, but that considering MLW likes to bring in names like that it wasn't too much of a surprise to him. He spoke really highly of his relationship with MLW thus far and said that he didn't really expect anything specific when he came in, but knew if he could prove what he brought to the table he would end up getting the type of push that he's receiving.
If you saw Hammerstone before this year, you probably saw a way different looking guy than what you see now. He cut his long hair and changed his gear because he said he was getting tired of being compared to Triple H, and implied that it actually cost him getting a spot on TV in the past. The change in image helped pull him out of a rut he was in last year and helped motivate him to the spot he's in now.
The MJF contract extension with All Elite wrestling is a shoot, and both sides seem thrilled with each other. MJF is still under contract with Major League Wrestling, and will be able to finish out that deal, but both sides know when it's over, he'll be with AEW full-time.
In relation to the Impact-AXS deal being pulled, we're told AXS has exclusive distribution rights for their programming as per their agreement with DirecTV and couldn't have allowed a Twitch simulcast.
OWE had a round of visas approved last week for their upcoming shows in Toronto during Summerslam week. The company was supposed to send several more guys to the AEW Double Or Nothing weekend, but visa issues occurred, with those in the company blaming Donald Trump for contributing to fraying relationships between China and the U.S.
When this weekend's Smackville show was brought up to me a couple of weeks ago, it was difficult to believe that WWE would promote a show on the Network with such short notice, but it's in line with "The Shield's Final Chapter," as well. When we inquired about why this was happening, several backstage gave a variety of reasons.
One was the ability to counter program at the drop of a hat. With AEW coming along soon, WWE want to know that they'll be able to effectively program content, have it look and run well on short notice. That being said, we were also told that isn't necessarily a concern of theirs, as they rarely have issues. Other reasons included injuries and event cancellations that extend beyond WWE's control, and them having the ability to run a show to adjust for those.
- John Cena did his segment and left right after at WWE Raw Reunion. He didn't hang around backstage.
- No surprise since he wasn't on the show, but Brock Lesnar wasn't backstage at Raw as some suggested. There were pretty wild unfounded rumors about him brawling with Shane McMahon, but nobody we spoke to had heard such a thing.
- Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe had to stall for time during their promo to reach the commercial break, which is what contributed to the awkward pauses.
- Vince McMahon himself was urging Austin's music to hit to go off the air as their window was closing for time. Austin hasn't closed a show in quite a long time, much less one with a strict time window that WWE now faces on USA Network since the overruns are no longer allowed.
NXT Fox Sports
NXT vs. AEW -- at least that's the plan.
Rumors, speculation and suggestion have been rampant since WWE announced Smackdown Live was headed to Fox this fall, but now, WWE has confirmed to a number of employees that NXT will also be televised on Fox Sports. Fightful had been told the plan was to counter program All Elite Wrestling weekly, whatever night and time they land on, and several backstage have been informed of the plans.
WWE haven't officially announced the move, a time slot, a run time, debut or anything of the sort, and our requests for comment went unreturned. However, AEW announced today that they'll be airing on TNT Wednesday nights at 8 PM EST. NXT already airs in that time slot on the WWE Network.
One WWE wrestler told us that AEW is going to do whatever they can to suppress competition, while an AEW name said that they knew this was coming, but weren't sure when the official announcement was coming. Either way, it's not a surprise on the All Elite Wrestling end.
AEW is currently slated to run on TNT later this year in a two hour format, but as of the time we'd inquired about the story, no venue, dates, or a night that the show would air had been announced. Since, that has changed.
WWE Network overhaul
As far as the new WWE Network rollout, the company was testing an interface via research surveys over a year ago and presented a look that seemed like the Netflix app with their own style laid over it. It featured superstars at the top akin to Instagram stories that would allow you to follow their news and matches. I'm told they were "clueless" on the interface as of early this year.
WWE has been working on this since last summer at the very least, and a lot of the focus was placed on improving the search function, we're told. Their previous setup wasn't made to handle the type of library and search variability that WWE entails, according to one source. There was a heavy emphasis put on this, and will extend beyond events and wrestlers, and instead take key terms into consideration.
We're also told that due to some prior agreements, the re-launch couldn't happen any time before the end of June.