Coming up in this episode, Have WWE scrapped their plans for NXT in the men’s Royal Rumble match? A top NXT Star is being planned for an angle with Brock Lesnar! And more allegations have come out around IMPACT World Champion Tessa Blanchard.
Hello and welcome to the WrestleTalk Super News, I’m Oli Davis. And happy Royal Rumble week wrestling fans! It’s one of the most magical times of the year for us all. Arguably wrestling’s greatest annually recurring stipulation that marks starting on the road to WrestleMania, where the years biggest feuds and matches will be set up, with limitless potential to surprise and delight us with huge returns, cameos and, ultimately – let’s set our expectation levels now – Roman Reigns winning so he can beat The Fiend at WrestleMania.
But also, something just as settled: CM Punk return confirmed.
To celebrate, WrestleTalk is bringing back Fantasy Booking Warfare on Wednesday for me vs someone else to book this year’s Royal Rumble match – so give us a subscribe and make sure notifications are enabled to ‘always on’ to know when it’s live first.
Here’s a little tease of my scenario to get you excited: Keith Lee’s going to win everything. But going by how WWE has unfolded these last few weeks, it seems the company has dropped plans for NXT to take an equal part in this year’s men’s Rumble match.
Bryan Alvarez of the Wrestling Observer reported in December that following the success of NXT in 2019’s Survivor Series – where the third brand being booked incredibly strongly is thought to have helped them beat AEW Dynamite in the following weeks’ ratings – WWE was going to split the 2020 Royal Rumble entrants in three – with “10 spots going to Raw. 10 spots to SmackDown.” And, for the first time ever, “10 spots to NXT.”
This would mark a departure from previous years, where the majority of the Rumble was taken up with Raw and SmackDown stars, with just a handful of legends and NXT cameos. 2019’s Rumble match, for example, only included three black and gold wrestlers with pre-call-up Aleister Black, then-North American champion Johnny Gargano, and then-NXT UK Champion Pete Dunne.
If Alvarez’s intel is correct, it could see NXT be given an equal weighting, further establishing itself as an actual third brand alongside the main roster’s red and blue shows. Part of Triple H’s evil scheme to absorb Raw and SmackDown into the Triple H-verse and take over all of WW-
Dave Meltzer reaffirmed the NXT Rumble plan on the weekend’s Wrestling Observer Radio, corroborating “that was absolutely the plan” a couple of weeks ago, and definitely still is for the women’s Rumble match – as the main roster doesn’t have enough starpower to provide 30 entrants otherwise, which Shayna Baszler is apparently one of the favourites to win.
But unlike Survivor Series, which had three weeks of NXT wrestlers invading main roster shows to promote the event, there have so far been no WWE announcements or promos including NXT stars in the Rumble match. Which, as Meltzer points out, is baffling considering their success from last November and December’s NXT ratings, which finally started beating AEW Dynamite.
Fightful’s very reliable Sean Ross Sapp has corroborated WWE dropping the NXT Rumble plans, adding: “It does not at this moment, at this very moment right now, look like NXT is in it.”
There are currently 21 main roster stars announced or confirmed for the men’s Rumble match, and that doesn’t include any nostalgia cameos, or larger speculated returns like Goldberg, John Cena and Edge. While there is still Monday, Wednesday and Friday to announce NXT participants, it seems the third brand won’t get anywhere near the originally planned 10 entrants. So what changed? And is it symptomatic of a larger problem, of Vince McMahon losing patience with ‘developmental’?
“Kratos’ Forgotten Son” Chris Petrou
Vince McMahon has not historically cared about NXT. Multiple backstage officials have said Vince doesn’t watch the show, and he’s often disregarded years of great character work when calling up talent to the main roster.
But this all changed when AEW Dynamite launched on TNT back on the 2nd October. McMahon apparently saw NXT’s value in a tactical move to go head-to-head against Dynamite – not to actually beat AEW with NXT, but to siphon away viewers from Dynamite, undermining their numbers over time so when AEW’s TV deal with TNT came up for renewal, they’d be in a much weaker position to negotiate. Why can’t Vince do long term strategy like that for main roster crearive?!
That’s why even though AEW won the first seven weeks of head-to-head ratings, the NXT move was still a success. Who knows how much higher Dynamite’s figures would’ve been without competition? But as Hulk Hogan would say, it seems WWE worked themselves into a shoot, brother.
They got greedy, and made the following month’s Survivor Series a three way between Raw, SmackDown and the new third brand NXT. The strategy worked, with the 20th November go-home episode scoring NXT’s first victory over AEW, and then winning again the following week with a massive 150,000 viewers – leading to NXT either winning or drawing for the rest of 2019. But that went against the strategy Triple H had outlined in interviews: NXT was now sprinting in a marathon.
Despite the excellent NXT ratings at the end of 2019, it has massively struggled after its New Years Day ‘Awards Episode’. AEW has maintained a 900k+ audience for the three episodes in 2020 so far, while NXT has fallen to just over 700,000.
And then last Wednesday dealt the biggest blow yet to Vince’s NXT strategy – TNT announced they had extended their TV deal with AEW until 2023, and that would include adding another weekly programme. The new contract is reportedly worth $45 million a year, which is a huge increase from their initial deal, and will mean the promotion is profitable in its first year.
NXT weekly TV has been consistently brilliant, and this isn’t to take anything away from the wrestling and CREARIVE on that show. But its strategic move to stop AEW getting a better TV deal has been a failure, and a huge defeat for McMahon.
With NXT potentially no longer being as useful to prevent a better AEW TV deal in McMahon’s eyes, will he fall back on just pushing the main Raw and SmackDown rosters, with NXT becoming its own isolated promotion once again, with just a few cameo appearances in the men’s Rumble match? It seems like Triple H is already resigning himself to that fact…
Far from the previously reported plans for the men’s Rumble to be made up of 33 and a third percent chance of NXT wrestlers, Triple H has revealed at a media event how the black and gold brand’s participants are being selected, as tweeted by Sportskeeda’s Gary Cassidy:
“Triple H confirmed in a media event at the weekend that, for NXT involvement in the Royal Rumble, he compiles and forwards a list of talent by priority – pinpointing potential moments – then gets feedback on it as to which talents and moments are possible to have occur.
Triple H also seemingly confirmed that one of the names – in his words “the obvious one” – that he put forward for this year’s Royal Rumble was Matt Riddle, to have a potential moment with Brock Lesnar. No confirmation as to whether it will happen as of yet.
One other point, which may seem obvious, is that the original plan is usually to try and have a certain number of Superstars from each brand, including NXT and NXT UK, but that the latter two may be nixed in favour of a RAW angle playing out.”
Which suggests Vince is now prioritising Raw storylines and talent over NXT now AEW has secured a longer TV deal.
What do you think is going on with NXT and the Royal Rumble? Let me know in the comments below because I’ll be replying to people FROM OUTTA NOWHERE!
But move aside AEW vs WWE, what about that other big wrestling feud right now? Of Tessa Blanchard vs everybody else?
Tessa Blanchard concluded a year-long storyline last Sunday in IMPACT Wrestling, beating Sami Callihan for the IMPACT World Championship at their Hard to Kill pay-per-view, becoming the first woman ever to hold the promotion’s top title. Unfortunately, that accomplishment was overshadowed by accusations of bullying that had come out the previous night, where, amongst numerous reports of attitude problems backstage, she allegedly used a racial slur against wrestler La Rosa Negra.
After tweeting a sorry, not sorry statement on Thursday, where she denied ever saying the word, current NWA Women’s World Champion Allysin Kay replied:
“You can try to babyface the fans, but the majority of our peers know Rosa’s story is true and that’s what matters. I really hope that one day the other two witnesses of this incident come forward and further expose you as not only a racist, but a liar and an undeniable scumbag.”
And in a totally measured response, Tessa is now accused of trying to dig up dirt and spreading rumours about Kay to undermine the allegations, as Allysin herself has shared on Twitter:
I said what I had to say so I’d love to move on, but I just got several msgs about @Tess_Blanchard trying to spread lies. Unfortunately for you, I’ve built my 11-yr reputation on being respectful. Instead of owning up to your mistakes, you lie, scheme & prove you haven’t changed.
With screenshots of texts calling Tessa a “comic book villain who wants to get revenge”
Fightful have now added that members of the Women of Wrestling roster, where Tessa is one of the top stars, say her attitude issues are still there – where Blanchard allegedly made one trainer cry in front of the group, and some feel she’s stopped their pushes in the promotion.
Despite the controversy, it seems IMPACT are pressing ahead with their plans for Tessa as their top champion. If you don’t want the weekend’s IMPACT TV tapings to be ruined for you, go watch another WrestleTalk video now because we’re entering the spoiler room brawl in 3.. 2.. CM Punk returned to win the X Division championship! Just kidding, 1…
The awesome Jordynne Grace beat the longest reigning Knockouts Champion in IMPACT history Taya Valkyrie, after she held it for 377 days. And now it seems this will free up Valkyrie to reprise her feud with Blanchard, who she beat to start that reign in August 2018, as Taya confronted Tessa at the Mexico City tapings, claiming to be the IMPACT World Championship’s No. 1 contender.
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