We'd mentioned IMPACT Wrestling had been extremely active in the free agent market recently, but they were active in contacting free agents well before that. They had contacted several names from the past for their TNA vs. IMPACT Wrestling storylines, including Taylor Wilde. Wilde told us that she's now unretired after being out of action for nine years. Wilde tells us that she'd kept in contact with several members of the Knockouts locker room, and the plan to bring her in was a collaborative effort. COVID-19 threw a wrench in her plans, and she can't currently get out of Canada. However, she is back in action and is open to competing in indie matches as well.
Most of IMPACT's talent roster knew that Heath Slater was coming in weeks ago, even prior to his WWE appearance. In addition, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson were well known as being brought in. However, Curt Hawkins and Bully Ray were both rumored, though the speculation backstage was that talks with Bully Ray fell through, though we can't confirm that.
Lost Cruiserweight Storyline
One of the most random stories I've come across was that of a pitched Cruiserweight Title switch from 2007. When speaking to Taylor Wilde, I asked her about a series of house shows she competed on in WWE in January of that year. She worked under a body suit and a mask as a ninja, facing men. The idea -- put forth by Dean Malenko and Jamie Noble -- was that she would eventually win the cruiserweight title from Shane Helms, who didn't like the idea. Taylor said this was the reason it was kiboshed, and that she met with Vince McMahon, and he was initially in favor of it.
We asked Shane Helms about it, who confirmed the pitch was real, and that he didn't like it. However, he said that it didn't get much past a pitch in that regard, and that originally fans weren't supposed to know if the character was a man or a woman underneath the ninja garb.
If you were hoping for a Monty Brown comeback, you probably shouldn't any time soon. He's popped up at a couple of events backstage, both for IMPACT and WWE over the last year of so, but doesn't have any interest making a return to wrestling. He did one appearance for a charity show promoted by Kevin Thorn, which Thorn told us he jumped at the opportunity to do. Brown didn't want to wrestle, and Thorn said that several promoters had contacted him trying to get Monty's number, but he wasn't going to give it out. They remain close even after Monty left WWE over 12 years ago to take care of his family.
Kairi Sane Update
Kairi Sane is looking to wrap up her time in WWE, but WWE has made a big effort to retain Kairi, and pitched several ideas to keep her on the payroll, and more specifically, away from other companies. Many of these ideas included her returning to Japan to work in a variety of capacities from an ambassador to a trainer.
I did a Q&A with the makers of RetroMania, which has been pushed back. I asked a lot of questions, which included them specifying that the ownership of Demolition is disputed, and they didn't want to risk legal recourse in including them. They also got in touch with Cody Rhodes' reps, but that was before AEW. Mike Archer had a relationship with Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins and reached out to make a deal when they were released by WWE. They were vey surprised that they were able to land the Road Warriors in the game.
They're hoping to include women in the game, but that is contingent on the level of success at launch. They told us deciding what features to do now compared to add-on has been the most difficult challenge that they've faced thus far.
They were able to get the blessing to be the "sequel to WrestleFest" per a licensing deal with the holders of the WrestleFest License.
The game does not have customization options or a career mode, but there is a story mode that has interactive cut scenes. In-game decisions shape the story.
We dropped an interview that Tracey Smothers had done a run-in on days after his cancer diagnosis. Due to our Youtube issues, it got delayed heavily, and had some people asking about it. He fondly recalled Pitbull #2 and New Jack trying to take each other out in the ring, but the next night the two were side-by-side to take up for Mikey Whipwreck getting sucker punched by a fan. Tommy Dreamer told them to get a room. This interview was supposed to happen two weeks before in Lexington, but Tracey Smothers couldn't make the show. I didn't know at that point -- or even during this actual interview -- that was the week of Smothers' diagnosis. Smothers had done his best to make all his committed dates, despite the issues.
Fightful has learned that at the last set of WWE NXT tapings, a backstage meeting was held and Indus Sher's Saurav Gurjar apologized for spoiling the results of the title-for-title match before it happened. Gurjar posted a picture of Keith Lee celebrating in the ring with both title belts with confetti falling a week before the title switch aired. We're told there's no significant heat on him, and there's no punishment expected to be handed down, though he and his partner have not been mentioned on TV since. Indus Sher is a personal favorite of Matt Bloom, who has been a big proponent for them in the past.
Tessa Blanchard and IMPACT Wrestling are on the outs, and reports have emerged suggesting that she demanded a large sum of money to return the title. Her side of things has disputed that, and mentioned that not only did Tessa not try to hold up IMPACT, but that the company only provided an address to send the belt last week. They claim the title is planned for a safe return.
Extreme Rules was high quality for WWE, but not everything went so smoothly, we're told. During the Sasha Banks and Asuka match, there were some production snafus that set Kevin Dunn off. We weren't told of specific instances, but Dunn was upset that cameras were catching Bayley in spots where they weren't supposed to. When asking around, we were told it wasn't significant, but enough to get Dunn to shout at people over it for not protecting talent.