WWE Reactions To Going Live
WWE is making the move to return to live broadcasts of Raw and Smackdown this week at the Amway Center. The word we've heard from wrestlers thus far has been unanimously positive, as they're hoping this results in shorter filming days. Some weeks of late, filming has continued past 1 am, and wrestlers and staff have been there all day. There is some concern over the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, and how that could affect shows. Everyone that Fightful spoke to actually heard the news online, and hadn't even been given word of the move officially as of last week.
This is a far cry from the reception that Fightful heard back in April when WWE made the effort to go live again. This was well before WWE actually did testing, and were only conducting temperature checks, which had many of the roster worried. Those worried were rooted in reason, as we'd find out.
David Finlay has made his impression felt within New Japan during the USA Cup, but actually wasn't under contract for several years in New Japan. From 2015 to 2019, he worked on a handshake agreement with NJPW, and he told me that once All Elite Wrestling started up, NJPW was adamant about getting a contract. He was happy to sign one, and fortunately he did, as he got injured.
Finlay told me that he very well could have just had his father make a call to WWE when he started training to get him in there, but wanted to go a different route and earn things on his own merit. He believes his dad could still wrestle, and didn't sound opposed to possibly teaming with him in NJPW. Fit Finlay still trains weekly and thinks he could still compete 8 years after his last match.
Finlay also spoke of NJPW USA, saying that he hopes the STRONG brand is a more permanent fixture, and he's enjoying the competitiveness between NJPW USA and Japan right now.
Both Tanga Loa and Tama Tonga told me that they never heard any stories about their father beating the shit out of people growing up for a couple of reasons. One, being that there wasn't a giant internet presence when they were younger, and also because Haku never smartened them up to wrestling, and their mother even told many people their father was a truck driver. This was to keep them from asking too many questions, and to prevent people from being their friends for the wrong reasons.
Riddick Moss noted that he'd sat out of WWE action for several months as he cares for a family member that is at advanced risk of COVID-19 due to cystic fibrosis. However, Fightful learned that he was sat out by Paul Heyman as a result, as to avoid any potential heat of making the decision himself.. It's worth noting that Heyman was very high on Moss at the time and a big push was in order, at least according to info from several high level names in WWE creative
At the time, Moss was 24/7 Champion, and WWE respected his wishes and created a story to get the title belt off of him. This is why we saw the unconventional outdoor title switch back in March, just a couple of weeks after WWE would move their tapings to the Performance Center.
Tanga Loa confirmed to me that his New Japan Pro Wrestling contract is up this year, and that he had been on a one-year contract, after never having a contract there. However, he says that New Japan has been very good about communicating with him and saying they'd look at things after the pandemic, which he doesn't think is going anywhere any time soon. Regardless, he said that he performs like he doesn't have a contract because he's been let go before, signed before, and moved companies before.
He also mentioned that working with his brother was a dream come true for him, and even though they had before, it was never on that stage. He spent time in WWE and IMPACT Wrestling, but said the transition over to Japan wasn't that tough for him. The transition to not wrestling in Japan has been rougher to him because now he's missing it. NJPW Strong has been a fun experience for him, but he says it's weird hearing the commentary while he wrestles, and it's never been that quiet in Japan. He credits Japan with teaching how to use his instincts more than thinking.
Tanga Loa said that he HATES chops, and doesn't see the point of them besides making a loud noise.
Fightful followed up with several high level performers in WWE about the notion that "virtually" everyone in the company has contacted AEW. One on the Raw brand said that definitely wasn't the case with them, unless "contact" means speaking to people in AEW just as friends. Another top name in WWE said "No. There was a bunch i would imagine but aside myself I knew many who didn’t even consider it."
NXT Coaches and Producers
We've been asking a lot of the recently released and departed talent about who helped them out the most in NXT when they were there, and Norman Smiley specifically got a ton of praise. Aiden English credited him with helping him get his start in pro wrestling and pitching for him to get into NXT. Aiden had worked as a wrestler for a few months and was able to land a WWE deal without a tryout because of a good recommendation from Smiley.
Terry Taylor was a person English said that he butted heads with a lot, but he has love for. Taylor is said to be very opinionated and has an old school mindset, but he reminds people of a parent because you'll learn a lesson without realizing that you're even learning a lesson. There were things English would think are dated, and not a good idea, but then when he'd execute them he'd look back and realize that Terry Taylor was right. This is something Jon Moxley had told us about Michael Hayes as well.
English also put over Arn Anderson and Billy Gunn, notably Billy Gunn's fun approach to teaching that stood out.
- WWE audience tested by having a series of monitors set up, duplicated the test shots onto multiple seats or screens instead of having a different person in each seat.
- The ring was already set up for Smackdown as of Wednesday afternoon.
- The staff was told to keep everything top secret, at the risk of their jobs if they leak photos.
- The Britt Baker, Reba, Kip Sabian and Penelope Ford segment originally was filmed in the ring. We're told that AEW ended up re-shooting it due to time constraints.
- A back elbow spot in the Dark Order match had to be re-filmed because one of the wrestlers got caught up in the ropes.
- Ivelisse & Diamante had to re-shoot their entrance for the match, supposedly because cameras were out of place during it.
Rey Mysterio Mention
Fightful has learned that a mention of wrestling legend and current WWE Superstar Rey Mysterio was edited off the taped August 22 edition of AEW Dynamite. Eddie Kingston mentioned Mysterio during his promo with Fenix, Pentagon, Butcher & Blade, but it was removed from the show. We weren't given a reason why. Mysterio has been working in WWE without a contract of late.