For those unfamiliar with the Fightful Wrestling Weekly, it's about 1,000 words of exclusives or behind the scenes info from Fightful staffers that may be unique to this column, or may be something you've missed from recent interviews. We also provide clarity and additional info to other reports. You can subscribe to Fightful Select and get the Weekly two days early, and hear it broken down on our Fightful Backstage Report podcast.
We interviewed Darren Young ahead of him being given a Vanguard award for his representation in the LBGTQ community. He told me about the reaction that Vince McMahon had after he found out that Darren had come out publicly, saying Vince called and spoke to him for about twenty minutes and seemed genuine about the subject. McMahon mentioned the fact that his best friend Pat Patterson was gay and that he respected Darren's decision.
Young was hoping to implement more of his true personality in his wrestling character, and noted he didn't have to put on a fake voice anymore and that's really all that changed. McMahon didn't want to exploit Young coming out, but Darren got sad and emotional when he had been fired, but wasn't invited back to the company for WrestleMania when Finn Balor had his equality-inspired entrance. He said that he made it feel like not a part of a family that he'd always been told he would be a part of.
Darren spoke openly about his willingness to work for ROH, AEW, or NJPW. He told me that he's actually reached out to Brandi Rhodes personally, and pitched a tag team of he and Sonny Kiss, that Sonny Kiss seemed excited about. He's also sent out feelers to Ring of Honor, but hasn't heard back from them as of yet.
Young has a "Block The Hate" themed championship belt that he's appeared with over the past several months, which he told us that Headquarters clothing had produced for him as a gift because of all the work he's done with and for them along the way.
Magnum TA Making A Finisher
One of our latest editions of Making A Finisher is one of my favorites -- Magnum TA discussing the Belly-to-Belly suplex. He reiterated the point of having something he could do to anyone, not necessarily because it was easy to do, but because he had a lot of power in his hips and back and helped him launch opponents. He said that he probably did it to hundreds of people, and always went to the left, but a situation that almost went awry stood out. Barry Darsow was going to the wrong direction, making Magnum switch midair and go the other way, which ended up being Magnum's favorite version of the move. He also recalled a time when he and Tiger Mask worked together for the first time, and the finish got changed right before the match, and they had to to a catching belly-to-belly in mid-air without really discussing it ahead of time besides relaying it via the ref.
Magnum said he'd like to see the move mean more today, and even his kids have pointed out to him that Brock Lesnar does about fifteen times a match, but doesn't finish anybody with him. He thinks it's as simple as a person taking the move selling it as a finish. He's well aware that the state of wrestling has changed, but believes the right sell would help re-establish the move that he made his own for years.
- Internally, Sasha Banks is still listed as a "heel Raw Superstar" on WWE roster sheets. Not sure what that actually means, but that's how the company had her listed as of last week.
- Peyton Royce was listed on WWE's inactive list briefly last week, but she was cleared and wrestled shortly after.
- Tommaso Ciampa is currently slated for a mid-August return, at least according to WWE's internal injury report. Ruby Riott is set for a tentative return of just ahead of the 2020 Royal Rumble.
- Bobby Lashley and Ricochet were also listed on last week's inactive lists, though details of their situations were not revealed. Bobby Lashley is listed out through early November, as is Jeff Hardy.
- Tamina is listed out with a concussion and just has a "TBD" next to her name. The same goes for Ronda Rousey and Jason Jordan, though there are no plans for them.
- Corey Graves had a project that mandated that he miss Smackdown last week. There were no other issues.
I was told this week's Smackdown was one of "the messiest creative situations in recent memory" with a couple of re-writes and constant miscommunication between WWE and their social media departments. Ryan Ward, who is the lead writer was effectively "reduced to a typist." This was a major contrast from WWE Raw, which went largely unchanged from last week's original pitches, outside of the extent of the Brock Lesnar attack on Seth Rollins, and Rey Mysterio originally being set to take on Ricochet in the finals of the gauntlet match.
- Security was heavily enforcing cell phone recordings, with one incident at ringside where security threatened to take a teenage girl's cell phone to prevent her from recording. This didn't go so smoothly, and the girl continued anyway.
- There were big issues with Bridgstone Arena for WWE Smackville, as none of the will call tickets were prepared, leaving hundreds waiting around.
- The last segment before Smackville went on the air went a little light, resulting in a few minutes of no activity right before the broadcast.
- The announcer setup was very different for Smackville, with the announcer's table almost right next to the ring as opposed to further open at ringside.
The former Universal Champion Finn Balor was actually at Smackville, and many were informed for the first time upon his arrival that he'd been battling the stomach flu and had been hospitalized. The decision was made to pull Balor from the show in favor of the healthier Ali. We're told that WWE officials realized that Balor left when they decided that they were going to film a segment where Shinsuke Nakamura took him out. We're told that Balor didn't know of the plans, and there wasn't any malice on his part. Balor did not wrestle at Sunday's live event, and was not at the venue.