WWE is finishing up at the Thunderdome in Tampa at Tropicana Field this week before switching to a new venue. Fightful spoke to several wrestlers who have competed at the Thunderdome about the ambient noise piped in to the venue. They confirmed that they can hear the noise piped in, so they aren't reacting and wrestling to pure silence.
IMPACT Wrestling's women's division seems like it's getting stronger and stronger. We'd reported recently that Taylor Wilde was on her way back to the company after being stuck outside the States, but she's far from it. We're told that WWE NXT veteran Rachael Ellering was also at the most recent set of IMPACT Tapings. She'd worked a couple of dates for AEW back in July, but wasn't signed. She wrestled for NXT heavily for a four month period in 2019 before an injury sidelined her. She also has experience with a huge portion of the roster, having worked with Tenille, Kimber Lee, Deonna Purrazzo, Kiera Hogan, Su Yung, Jessicka Havok, Neveah, and Jordynne Grace in the past.
Fightful has learned of tentative NXT Takeover plans. So far, we've heard that Takeover will be taking place in Orlando, as opposed to Tampa with other WrestleMania festivities. The plan that we've heard is to allow limited fans, in the same method as NXT TV has allowed those in the past. There will actually be two nights of Takeover filming, instead of one, mass filming as well. Those attending will be subject to COVID testing at no cost to them ahead of the show.
Fightful has learned the plans -- as of February -- for a new Hall of Fame Inductee, specifically the Warrior Award.
Fightful has confirmed that as of the time that the Hall Of Fame plans were announced that Titus O'Neil was set to be inducted as the Warrior Award recipient. The Hall of Fame and WrestleMania are based around the city of Tampa, in which Titus O'Neil has been heavily involved with charitably in throughout his life. O'Neil also played professional football for the Tampa Bay Storm in 2006, and wrestled for FCW in the area for a couple of years. He last wrestled back in November, losing to Bobby Lashley.
For those asking about Titus O'Neil's induction as opposed to Shad Gaspard. We're told there were plans for O'Neil to be inducted last year, but it wasn't announced as COVID-19 sidelined everything. Those plans were in order well before Gaspard's death, and Titus' induction was not a sleight on Gaspard. O'Neill's connection to the Tampa community played a big role in the timing of the past two years.
Fightful spoke with national champion Gable Steveson minutes after his tweet about a WWE future, and he let us know that he's spoken with several people involved in WWE. From Paul Heyman, to Triple H, to Gerald Brisco in the past, and said that right now things are a waiting game and he's largely focused on the Olympics, but he wants to wrestle in WWE. He told me that although he's not had time to keep up with much wrestling, he knows AEW is emerging, but as of right now wants to pursue a career in WWE.
WWE isn't the only possible career path, though. He said that he is actually considering giving football a shot, and pointed to Brock Lesnar taking that path, as well. When asked about the potential in competing in MMA, Steveson clarified to Fightful that he's open to competing in the Octagon as well.
News On Triple H Meeting With Talent About NXT Moving
Fightful reached out to several wrestlers and members of the staff, who vehemently denied that Triple H said anything resembling that they were "bullied" off of Wednesday nights as reported. Instead, we were told that Triple H focused heavily on the reasons for the move to Tuesday nights, telling the NXT roster that going on a night after Raw was a good thing for the brand. Triple H said that the move had been in the works for a while, which we've been told is true, as USA felt this out as far back as last year. HHH also said that there are a lot of opportunities with the replay being on Peacock, and he hopes that people focus more on the show than the viewership now that the change is happening.
Dave Meltzer corrected his original recounting on Twitter, noting that two people reached out to say the "bully" line didn't happen.
A&E WWE Shows
A&E and WWE's partnership has launched, and has biographies, as well as a memorabilia hunt show. In speaking with the former Curt Hawkins, Brian Myers, we asked him about why he and Matt Cardona weren't considered for the roles before their releases. As it turns out, he was. He did a sizzle reel for the spot, which eventually went to NXT talent AJ Francis. WWE have been high on Francis as a host for quite some time, and he had actually been in consideration for hosting Raw Underground at one point.
Fightful spoke to Brian Myers for a great interview. He said that Tommy Dreamer reached out to him to make the IMPACT Wrestling deal happen. He said that contact was made within a week of him being released by WWE.
He also spoke with Fightful about his WrestleMania moment and the process that went into that. He noted that he and Matt Cardona/Zack Ryder didn't know until a few days prior to WrestleMania that they'd even be on the show, much less winning. He said that even if he doesn't wrestle for WWE again, he has that moment to look back on.
He seemed to indicate to us that the door is potentially open for him to work as a producer for WWE down the line -- or at least it was before his release. When Myers was injured in 2018, Vince McMahon had Mark Carrano reach out to Myers to start producing for WWE while he was injured. Myers clarified that he primarily shadowed other producers, and told Vince McMahon that he wanted to wrestle again when he was healthy. Myers said that McMahon told him he'd like for them to explore the possibility of producing again once he's done with his in-ring career.
If you were shocked or unhappy about the split of The Hurt Business, you weren't alone. According to WWE sources, so were the members of the group.
Fightful was told that Vince McMahon alone made the decision to split up the Hurt Business last week on Raw, much to the chagrin of those in the group. We're told that he was set in his choice to fracture the group, even after MVP and Bobby Lashley were vocal about not being in support of the move. Sources indicated that both MVP and Lashley met with Vince McMahon about the idea, but the latter dug his heels in even more.
Based on several wrestlers that we spoke to, the decision, and McMahon's insistence to continue down that road was a blow to morale.
WWE issued a series of guidelines and banned terms to social media sponsors and the like for WrestleMania weekend last year.
There were social media guidelines that instructed associated accounts to not reply to fans in the comments, not to speculate on rumors or future storylines, and to always present WWE and talent in a positive light. The term "dirt sheets" was used, as "be sensitive of the language used and how it may be interpreted by dirt sheets," was mentioned.
It was specified that "Sports Entertainment" and "Superstars" were the preferred terms over "wrestling" and "wrestlers," which isn't much of a surprise. Exceptions were made when quoting superstars or executives.
"Do not use messaging that enables or encourages fans to speak negatively about the product," and "Always present WWE and talent in a positive light," were also instructed. Considering these were primarily distributed to promotional partners, these are common sense, but still something the company has to reiterate.
Blood, Choke, Belt, Strap, Diva, Head shot, Trauma, Kayfabe, Mofos, House show, DQ, The Anti-Diva, Spinal injuries, Victim, Violence/violent, Wrestling/wrestlers, WWF, Wifebeater, Curb Stomp, Needs a push, To be over, Babyface, Heel, To job/jobber, Card, Strangle, Kill, Murder were banned terms.
Most of these terms are fairly obvious as to why WWE wouldn't want connected accounts to reference, and some others include elements of kayfabe.
There were other simple guidelines such as reducing use of hashtags on facebook, avoiding words that trigger spam labels from algorithms, and not using talent names that the brand didn't have endorsement rights to. "Pedigree, spear, smell-la-la, people's eyebrow," were among those.