Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on World Title, Seth Rollins, CM Punk and More
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Triple H introduced a new World Heavyweight Championship Monday night on WWE Raw, revealing that a new titleholder will be crowned at the May 27 Night of Champions event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but the arrival of a new belt carries with it several questions.
Among them: Whose idea was it? And who is the company eyeing to be the first Superstar to hold the new hardware?
Thanks to new reports from industry insiders, we have the latest on both of those. We also have details regarding a reported meeting between All Elite Wrestling stars CM Punk and Chris Jericho, as well as information about Vince McMahon’s meddling in WWE’s creative process.
Whose Idea Was the New World Heavyweight Championship…
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Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated reported that the introduction of the World Heavyweight Championship was Triple H’s call, as the Chief Content Officer of WWE believes Raw needs its own title.
He also reported that it would “be a shock if Reigns does not take the WWE undisputed universal championship with him to SmackDown, which then opens the playing field on Raw for a new champion.”
This is not an entirely surprising report given that Triple H absolutely benefited from having a second championship in play during his time as an active competitor, primarily on Raw. In September of 2002, the original World Heavyweight Championship was handed to him by Eric Bischoff in a still-notorious bit of booking.
There are certainly positives to each brand having its own titles.
First, it gives talent something to strive for. With Reigns competing almost exclusively on SmackDown, it often left the Raw brand at a standstill, with only the United States Championship for an entire roster of Superstars to strive for.
While the likes of Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley challenging Austin Theory over the last year certainly helped elevate the stature and prestige of the title, it left other Superstars across the brand with little of substance to do outside of personal vendettas.
There are only so many of those that can go around, too.
Furthermore, it adds stakes to the show, and the ability to promote a world championship match at live events certainly helps drive attendance.
The negative? It waters the down the idea of an overarching champion that everyone works to defeat, especially one as dominant as The Tribal Chief.
Part of what has made his run atop WWE so effective over these last three years has been the seeming air of invulnerability, then how close he has come to losing the title before eking out a victory at the last second.
Those matches have come against stars of both brands, and the fact that he has not been on TV every week has helped elevate the significance of those title matches.
The product loses a little bit of that with the introduction of another title.
Of course, the success of the World Heavyweight Championship will not be based on how it looks or how many replicas are draped over the unwashed shoulders of fans in arenas around the country but, rather, who that first Superstar to hold it is.
Speaking of which…
…and Who Is in Line to Be the First to Hold It?
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In an exclusive interview with Give Me Sport’s Louis Dangoor, WrestleVotes revealed that Seth Rollins is the leading candidate to be the first World Heavyweight champion.
There will likely be other reports that come out between now and WWE’s Night of Champions premium live event on May 27 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, but for fans who have long touted Rollins as a guy who should be world champion, this is a positive one.
The Visionary has consistently delivered superb in-ring performances and established himself as the best wrestler on the WWE roster. Whether it was against fellow workhorses like Matt Riddle, Austin Theory and Bobby Lashley, or social media megastar Logan Paul, he has repeatedly shown up and shown out.
So much so that the idea of him rolling into San Juan, Puerto Rico, at Backlash on May 6 and delivering a most surprising show-stealer with Omos would not be particularly surprising.
Some will argue that his greatest recent rival, Cody Rhodes, should be the guy to take the title but that would be the ultimate cop-out finale to The American Nightmare’s story.
He came back specifically to win the title that eluded his father, Dusty, and the idea of his settling for a new title after his greatest career failure on the grand stage of WrestleMania would be doing a disservice to him and the story that has been in place since his return to WWE.
Rollins is the guy, an embattled workhorse who has repeatedly delivered and consistently excelled, often despite being overlooked by management and having his quality of work taken for granted by those with the pencil.
The fans are ready for it, and Rollins has earned it.
CM Punk and Chris Jericho Hold Meeting
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CM Punk is likely on his way back to AEW, with a potential feud with Chris Jericho on the horizon, but before that could happen, the former world champions had to meet and iron out the differences that have existed between them.
Sapp reported that meeting happened over the last week.
“Those familiar with the situation said that the meeting was relatively uneventful all things considered, and especially when taken into consideration the issues the two have had.”
Those issues include Jericho yelling at Punk in the aftermath of the fight between the latter and The Elite following the All Out pay-per-view last September 4 and Punk referring to Jericho as a “stooge” in a recent Instagram post.
“Sources familiar with the situation also claimed that it seemed as if the two could end up working together without issue, but also pointed towards Punk’s recent history, as well as Jericho’s long-term history of welcoming confrontation,” the report continued.
Neither performer is particularly great at staying quiet or humble, so the heat between the two could reignite with a single sideways look, but the report of the meeting going off without a hitch has to be encouraging to AEW officials, who will look to benefit from the star power and, at times, controversy that comes along with Punk.
Whether Punk vs. Jericho is a feud befitting the former’s return to the company after nine months away is the bigger question.
Punk vs. The Elite’s Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks is an infinitely more intriguing program based on the backstage drama that has been well-documented at this point, but the willingness of all involved will ultimately determine whether a match featuring that potentially combustible collection of stars will ever happen.
Latest on Vince McMahon’s Cuts from Monday’s Raw
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Candice LeRae and Piper Niven had both a match and a backstage segment, set to involve Trish Stratus, cut from Monday’s Raw, per Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select.
Their spot on the show was, instead, taken up by The Street Profits vs. Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin.
While it is never a bad thing to see the criminally underutilized Alexander and Benjamin on the flagship show, LeRae at least has an ongoing storyline with Nikki Cross and history with Niven, making that option more meaningful than a thrown-together tag match that did nothing for either team.
It is the latest example of McMahon nixing a woman-centered segment, something that Ross reported has drawn the ire of the roster:
“Several of the female wrestlers have been vocal about their division’s segments constantly being cut. There was a backstage segment featuring women and Adam Pearce that was changed.”
It is a trend that really should end and soon.
Not only is it disrespectful to a roster of women who have repeatedly proved they can perform up to the level of their male counterparts, but it threatens the company’s ability to keep and add to the women’s roster.
If they are going to be disrespected and underutilized on television, they will find somewhere else to go.
Maybe the issue is less the fact that they are women and more that those involved in the aforementioned nixed segment were two of Triple H’s rehires.
The night after WrestleMania, on the critically panned episode in which McMahon’s overwhelming presence was felt by way of several frustrating last-minute cuts, LeRae and Niven also saw their planned segment nixed.
Maybe McMahon just does not like those particular performers, another issue that Triple H is going to find difficult to overcome as long as his father-in-law has the final say on everything that takes place on Raw and SmackDown.
The larger issue is that it appears as though those largely affected are on the women’s roster. If that continues to be the case, expect the frustration to mount as McMahon’s meddling adversely affects a product he really should just leave be at this point.
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