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HHH Encourages Injured WWE Star To Return Early; Tells Them They Have A Rep For Being "Soft," What Part Of CM Punk's Promo Wasn't Scripted, New World Heavyweight Champion, Ryback Still Labeled Unsafe?, '13 WWE HoF Inductee Announced, 2 WWE Departures, 3 T

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Welcome to the Premium Newsletter. This is where you will find all of the big news and Ask WNW segments from the week neatly archived for your viewing pleasure.

This week's edition covers news from Saturday, January 5, 2013 to Friday, January 11, 2013 as well as all five Ask WNW segments from the week. Use this newsletter as your own personal tool to catch up on any of the news that you may have missed during the week. Below is a table of contents:

Note From Richard: For those that have asked, the Newsletter is organized with the news posted on Saturday at the top with the most recent stories at the bottom. We have it organized this way so you can read the news in the order in which it happened. Thanks for your support!

Table Of Contents
- WWE News
- TNA News
- Ask WNW

WWE News

- Kevin Nash wrote the following on Twitter early Saturday morning:

- WWE developmental talent Leo Kruger (NXT profile) worked Friday night's Raw live event in Pensacola, Florida. Kruger is a former FCW Champion (Seth Rollins won the belt from him last year) and has been on the road with the main roster before. Kruger was booked on WWE live events in December 2011 where he underwent evaluation.

- WNW reader Hitman310 sent word that CM Punk's "Best in the World" DVD is now being streamed on Netflix.

- The January 4, 2013 episode of WWE Vintage Collection featured the following matches and classic moments from past episodes of WWE Raw. Devin Cutting transcribed the following:

* Mr. Perfect vs. Ric Flair (January 25th, 1993)

* Marty Jannetty & The 1-2-3 Kid vs. The Quebecers (January 10th, 1994)

* The Kid Upsets Razor Ramon (May 17th, 1993)

* Doink Soaks Bobby Heenan (September 13th, 1993)

* Shawn Michaels vs. Sycho Sid (September 11th, 1995)

- The Smackdown crew is in Puerto Rico this weekend. Rosa Mendes is so excited she posted a photo of her Puerto Rican license to wrestle on Twitter. You can view it below:

- For those that missed Smackdown, both Randy Orton and Sheamus added themselves to the 30-man Royal Rumble match. John Cena added himself to the bout on this week's WWE Raw. - Given our last update on Scott Hall, I was relieved to see this come across Twitter on Saturday morning:

- THQ failed to obtain approval of a loan to help fund operations and lost its bid for a quick bankruptcy sale. At a hearing Friday in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath ruled in favor of creditors that the sale process didn't give potential buyers enough time.

“I have problems concluding that the pre-petition sale process was fulsome,” Walrath told lawyers at the hearing, noting THQ “did not even put out to the public that it was for sale” until potential buyers signed non-disclosure agreements.

According to a report by Bloomberg, about 10 potential buyers contacted THQ after finding out about the sale from its bankruptcy filing. THQ, WWE's video game partner, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 19th with a deal in place to sell most of its assets to Clearlake Capital Group LP in a deal valued at about $60 million. The company sought approval to hold an auction on January 9th with potential buyers submitting bids by January 8th, followed by a January 10th hearing to approve the sale. Creditors want the process extended by about three weeks. WWE, an unsecured THQ creditor holing a claim of approximately $45 million, released statements here and here. Click here for coverage by Bloomberg. - WNW reader Shannon Sylvia sent word that "Legendary" starring John Cena is being shown on Showtime and it's affiliate channels. -, citing an anonymous source, reports Dave Batista is in negotiations with Marvel for the role of "Drax" in "Guardians of the Galaxy." You can read their coverage at this link. - Matches that aired on this week's WWE Saturday Morning Slam on January 5, 2013 were taped on November 27, 2012. Next week's show, January 12, 2013, will feature Randy Orton vs. Damien Sandow that was taped on December 4, 2012. - The Rock will return to WWE on this week's Raw from Tampa, Florida. Below is a look at all his advertised dates for January and February:

  • WWE Raw on January 7 in Tampa, FL
  • Smackdown on January 8 in Miami, FL
  • WWE Raw on January 14 in Houston, TX
  • WWE Raw on January 21 in San Jose, CA
  • Smackdown on January 22 in Sacramento, CA
  • Royal Rumble on January 27 in Phoenix, AZ
  • WWE Raw on January 28 in Las Vegas, NV
  • WWE Raw on February 11 in Nashville, TN
  • Smackdown on February 12 in Little Rock, AR
  • Elimination Chamber on February 17 in New Orleans, LA
  • WWE Raw on February 18 in Lafayette, LA

This is just the beginning as he's expected to work most dates leading up to Wrestlemania 29 on April 7, 2013. - WWE developmental talents Kassius Ohno (f/k/a Chris Hero) and Adrian Neville (f/k/a PAC) were at Sunday's WWE Raw live event in Tallahassee, FL. - Yahoo! Sports Radio has an audio interview with Jim Ross online at this link. - Royal Rumble tickets are still available at Ticketmaster as of this writing but they won't be for long. I just did a "best available" search and was only able to get upper level seats. The pay-per-view will take place Sunday, January 27, 2013 from the US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ. - WWE has signed a promotional deal with Irish Spring soap. - Ryback posted the following on Twitter:

- Former WWF Women's Champion Madusa wrote the following on Twitter:

Next week's WWE Raw will be the 20th Anniversary of the show and will take place from the Toyota Center in Houston, TX. We'll have exclusive live play-by-play coverage here at

- We're told there is a lot of pressure on Sin Cara to come back as quickly as possible from his knee operation. Triple H has been advising him a lot lately on how to repair some of the heat he has in the locker room. Hunter has told Cara, in not so many words, that he has a reputation for being soft and that it would earn him some stripes if he was able to come back quickly. Another issue Triple H is using as motivation for a quick return is the fact Rey Mysterio is currently out, providing an opportunity for Sin Cara.

- Last week's Smackdown, the first show of 2013, did a 1.80 cable rating with an average viewing audience of 2,720,000 viewers on SyFy.

- Dolph Ziggler was added to the 30-man Royal Rumble match on this week's WWE Raw. Ziggler joins Randy Orton, Sheamus and John Cena as announced participants. There are now 26 spots remaining.

- Sean Waltman is backstage at WWE Raw as he lives in the area and is friends with Triple H among others.

- No one will be able to say The Rock just comes to the arena, works and leaves this time around as Justin Roberts posted the following on Twitter:

We say the above in jest as we never allowed accounts filled with conjecture of others to impact our quality of news.

- We noted earlier on Monday that former WWF Women's Champion Madusa implied she would appear on next week's 20th Anniversary of WWE Raw from Houston, Texas. She's clarified/backed off her claim with the following Tweet:

Whether or not she's shooting or got a call from WWE to not post spoilers on Twitter remains to be seen.

- Below is an updated list of 30-man Royal Rumble participants:

  • Heath Slater
  • Jinder Mahal
  • Drew McIntyre
  • Dolph Ziggler
  • Sheamus
  • Randy Orton
  • John Cena

- CM Punk vs. The Rock for the WWE Championship is now official for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view later this month. Punk beat Ryback on this week's WWE Raw in a TLC match to retain the title after interference from The Shield.

- Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach and current ESPN Monday Night Football color commentator Jon Gruden was in attendance at this week's WWE Raw and acknowledged on camera.

- Zack Ryder took exception to "The World Follows WWE on Twitter" graphic on this week's Raw. Ryder posted the following on his official Twitter account:

- Dr. Shelby was announced for next week's WWE Raw for a follow-up "evaluation" of both Kane and Daniel Bryan. Dr. Shelby actually trended Twitter after being announced.

- WWE Champion CM Punk returned to the ring after Monday's WWE Raw went off the air. He ended up taking a couple more Rock Bottoms and the People's Elbow. Finally Punk retreated to the outside as Rock cut a promo about specifically picking Tampa as the city where he wanted to return.

- John Cena and Bamm-Bamm begin their takeover of Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles cereal boxes on Tuesday as part of a promotional partnership between Post Foods and WWE. View photos of the boxes and the official press release at this link.

- Shawn Michaels is scheduled to appear at this Thursday's WWE NXT tapings from the campus of Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. We'll be covering it with full taping results here at

- The WWE '13 DLC Pack 3 was officially released Monday for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The date was changed so many times I was even confused but it's there now.

- This week's WWE Raw was a legitimate sellout from the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, FL.

- Here's a story on John Cena granting yet another wish in Tampa.

- WWE developmental Diva Skyler Moon (f/k/a Buggy Nova) resurfaced backstage at this week's Raw. Below is a photo of her with Ricardo Rodriguez:

- We're told the only real shoot in CM Punk's promo on this week's Raw was the mentioning of Daniel Bryan. The others were mentioned in the promo layout. With Brodus Clay and Tyson Kidd not major faces on TV it wasn't worried about. With Bryan they didn't want to show any allegiance to Punk.

- CM Punk's TLC match against Ryback on Raw went on to show just how minor his arthroscopic knee surgery was. The feeling is Punk is completely recovered from the procedure and there was no reason to believe he couldn't work at 100% this week.

- Ryback was seen nursing his ribs when he got backstage after the match and was clearly in a lot pain. The injury most likely happened on the bump through the table onto the stairs. One observer noted how it wasn't smart to setup the stairs to begin with and if Ryback's injury is only minor, he got lucky.

- Dolph Ziggler was heavily praised following his match with John Cena on this week's WWE Raw by both Cena and producers. Cena put him over in front of everyone, saying he "doesn't have a bad match." This match was noticed by everyone and got great reviews.

- The consensus was that Big E Langston was very nervous on the mic on this week's WWE Raw and it didn't go unnoticed backstage.

- There were many questions of why out of all workers was it Kofi Kingston that went under to World Heavyweight Champion Big Show in a quick job. We don't have any information as to why this was done as of this writing and can only classify it as puzzling.

- WWE's video game partner, THQ, won court approval of a revised, longer bankruptcy sale process and loan to help fund operations after reaching an agreement with creditors.

Bloomberg reports that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath approved guidelines that will govern the sale of the company’s assets at a bankruptcy auction and the company’s $37.5 million bankruptcy loan at a hearing Monday in Wilmington, Delaware.

The auction date is scheduled for January 22, 2013 with a process for sale by January 23, 2013. Clearlake Capital Group LP's opening bid has been approved by the court but the auction will allow for more bids to be placed.

THQ CEO Brian Farrell issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling provides a clear path. We will now know definitively by Jan. 23 where we stand,”

Click here for coverage by Bloomberg.

- Hulk Hogan posted the following on Twitter:

- Jim Ross wrote the following on his blog:

@CMPunk had a stellar night on Raw as the WWE Champion stood out in multiple segments of the broadcast. Punk's TLC match with @Ryback22 was excellent and so well timed to occur during half time of the #Bama vs. #NotreDame National Championship Game. I was impressed by both men's performance and willingness to be physical. Ryback is really coming along in the development of his persona and presentation.

The closing segment involving @TheRock and Punk was the unofficial kickoff to the road to WrestleMania in my estimation which will be preceded by a stop in Phoenix for the Royal Rumble and in New Orleans for the Elimination Chamber. I felt the chemistry between the two stars and their verbal interaction had an Attitude Era feel.

I find it somewhat humorous that some fans and pundits are actually keeping score as to who got the better of the other during their extended 'conversation' as I felt that the true winners of the 'debate' were the fans. How one can accurately judge such a subjective piece of business such as we heard is a head scratcher to me but I'm certainly not saying that folks don't have a right to their opinion. Bottom line, and the good news, is that people cared enough to have an opinion.

Most resonating statement in the final segment, in my view, was Punk saying that he was "Going to kick your ass" to Rock. That's what it's still all about...kicking one's ass.

Click here to read JR's thoughts from Raw in their entirety.

- Alberto Del Rio defeated The Big Show in a Last Man Standing match to win the World Heavyweight Championship during this week's Smackdown taping in Miami, Florida. The official WWE website is already promoting the victory.

- Word beginning to make rounds in several circles is that WWE has signed Rami Sebei. Sebei, who WWE targeted in November, is best known as El Generico. I do not have 100% confirmation but would assume this is a developmental deal that will see him report to NXT Wrestling in Tampa, Florida.

- Mosh and Thrasher, known collectively as The Headbangers, were backstage at Tuesday's WWE television tapings in Miami, FL. Zack Ryder posted a photo with Mosh on Instagram at this link.

- WWE United States Champion Antonio Cesaro was announced as an entrant in the 30-man Royal Rumble match at Tuesday night's Smackdown taping in Miami.

Below is an updated list of entrants:

  • Antonio Cesaro
  • Heath Slater
  • Jinder Mahal
  • Drew McIntyre
  • Dolph Ziggler
  • Sheamus
  • Randy Orton
  • John Cena

- Finally the audience has come back… excuse the usage of Rocky's catchphrase as this week's WWE Raw did an average viewing audience of 4,420,000 viewers on the USA Network. Not only is the number up significantly from weeks past but it was up against the BCS National Championship game on ESPN that did a massive viewing audience of 26,280,000 viewers.

Below is the by hour breakdown:

  • Hour one - 4,290,000 viewers
  • Hour two - 4,320,000 viewers
  • Hour three - 4,650,000 viewers

The idea of booking The Rock last and promoting his appearance throughout the evening caused viewership to grow, not the decreasing trend that has become the new norm. It also didn't hurt the football game was a complete blowout.

- There was some chatter after the TLC match on WWE Raw that Ryback set CM Punk up for some risky bumps. One spot mentioned to me was the spot where he tossed Punk onto the side of the ladder arm-first. Another of course the over-the-top table bump. My source noted the feeling was Ryback wasn't careful executing moves and didn't leave enough room for Punk to bump correctly on some occasions. Nothing was said to Ryback at Raw about the spots, probably because he was in pain (as noted Tuesday).

- One of the reasons WWE did Antonio Cesaro vs. The Great Khali again on this week's Raw is that Vince McMahon loved the way Cesaro got over in their first match on last week's WWE Main Event. We're told Vince was so high up on Cesaro's work against Khali in their first match he wanted to make sure it was shown to a larger audience on Raw.

- WWE continues to pursue top independent talent. We are able to confirm that feelers have been sent out to Truth Martini, Kevin Steen and Mike Bennett. Some Ring of Honor names feel that "dark days" may be ahead for the promotion and are considering WWE developmental contracts. One observer credits the success of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in creating opportunities that didn't used to be there.

- Variety has a new article on "WWE Active" being the main part of their new WWE App launched tow month ago. You can read it at this link.

- We can confirm that Ric Flair has been contacted to appear at next week's 20th Anniversary episode of WWE Raw to appear on-camera. This plan, like anything else, is subject to change but it is the direction they plan on going.

- WWE NXT will run a live event Wednesday night in Kissimmee, Florida. AJ Lee, Big E Langston and Dolph Ziggler are advertised WWE main roster stars scheduled to appear. Langston is the current NXT Champion.

- The official developmental territory will hold their next set of television tapings Thursday night from the campus of Full Sail University in Winter Park featuring Shawn Michaels and will then run live events in Punta Gorda on Friday and St. Augustine on Saturday.

- WWE has announced the January 18th NXT live event in Riverview, Florida has been canceled.

- WWE has announced a show from the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Maryland on March 24, 2013.

- This week's WWE Raw ended up doing a 3.14 cable rating. We have a breakdown of the viewership available at this link.

- Former WWF Women's Champion Madusa wrote the following on Twitter:

- Mike Tyson was with 50 Cent Wednesday night and had a replica of the WWE Championship belt with him. You can view a photo below:

- Joey Styles, who works as Vice President of Digital Media Content for, replied "Bingo!" to a Twitter follower that explained the reason WWE is now spoiling their own programming is because they would rather fans find out from them rather than a "wrestling news site." Below is the Tweet:

This is also why we remove all spoiler warnings when WWE posts the result.

There has been quite a stir of the last couple weeks as dot com promoted Wade Barrett winning the WWE Intercontinental Championship and Alberto Del Rio winning the World Heavyweight Championship before the matches aired on television. Del Rio's match against Big Show is set to air on Friday's episode of Smackdown.

- Brian Jack, who previously worked in WWE developmental as Buck Wild, has filed another lawsuit against the company in Florida. NXT President Steve Keirn is named in the new suit as well as other John and Jane Does to be named later. The original suit was filed in the state of Wisconsin and included Vince McMahon, Dr. James Andrews, John Laurinaitis, Ty Bailey, Kristin Actman, Santino Marella, Beth Phoenix, Shed Media USA and Kwik Trip Inc. The original suit, detailed here, was quickly dismissed.

- Next week's episode of WWE Main Event is scheduled to be headlined by WWE United States Champion Antonio Cesaro vs. Randy Orton.

- There was serious talk about changing the WWE Divas Championship on the 20th Anniversary of WWE Raw coming out of meetings this past Monday. The plan was for Kaitlyn to go over Eve Torres and for Eve to win it back, possibly as soon as Royal Rumble. These type of plans change so frequently I almost hate to mention it but thought some of you may find it of interest.

- John Morrison doesn't have any written commitments for January 27, 2013 - the night of Royal Rumble - should he come to terms with WWE on a deal to return to the company. We're told many people close to Morrison are encouraging him to return because the door may be closed in six months with so much new talent coming up through WWE's developmental system.

- Vince McMahon has once again cooled down on his initiative to re-build the WWE tag division. One observer notes how obvious it is in the booking, such as The Prime Time Players going under in a match against Brodus Clay & Zack Ryder taped for WWE Superstars. The difficulty in all this falls in the laps of the writing team as one month they are expected to create a viable tag division, the next week Vince doesn't seem to want one.

- We're told one producer was lobbying to change Brodus Clay's gimmick again this week and pitched a possible bodyguard gimmick. The gimmick makes sense because Clay was actually the real-life bodyguard of Snoop Dogg before his days as a professional wrestler (as pictured above). The hold up on any transformation in Clay's character is Vince McMahon as he loves the Funkasaurus gimmick. The bodyguard gimmick is also problematic in that Big E Langston is now playing a similar role with Dolplh Ziggler.

- I can confirm via that tickets for Royal Rumble 2013 are completely sold out. The show will take place Sunday, January 27, 2013 from the US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ.

- Speaking of the Royal Rumble, the Phoenix New Times has a blog article on the Fan Fest that precedes the pay-per-view from US Airways Center the day prior. You can read it at this link.

- Thursday's print edition of the Houston Chronicle featured a writeup on the 20th Anniversary of WWE Raw with a photo of John Cena and The Rock in their "Star" section. The 20th Anniversary of WWE Raw will take place from the Toyota Center in Houston, TX next Monday, January 14, 2013.

- Here is an article that gives the first look at "The Call," a new WWE Studios production starring Halle Berry. David Otunga has a supporting role in the film as it was formerly titled "The Hive."

- Tyson Kidd suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee that will require surgery to repair. WWE is expecting him out for approximately six months. A report from PWInsider surfaced Thursday evening, reporting a much more severe injury. I can confirm the torn meniscus, surgery and approximate six month timetable via a WWE spokesman.

- World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio is the scheduled feature guest at the next set of WWE NXT tapings from the campus of Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida on January 31, 2013.

- The following main roster stars worked Thursday's WWE NXT tapings - WWE United States Champion Antonio Cesaro, Justin Gabriel, Natlaya, Yoshi Tatsu, Percy Watson, Alicia Fox, Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre, Big E Langston, Alex Riley, Michael McGillicutty, Epico, Primo, Rosa Mendes

- Derrick Bateman (knee) and Alex Riley (knee & elbow) worked as a tag team at Thursday's WWE NXT taping as they are both returning from the aforementioned injuries.

- Shawn Michaels appeared at Thursday's WWE NXT taping as well as Kevin Nash, Sean Waltman, Billy Gunn and Damien Sandow.

- WWE has announced the following live event notes as circulated by Devin Cutting:

  • March 23 from the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA. Tickets go on sale 1/26
  • July 5 from the Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, NJ

- The New York Post is reporting that Mick Foley will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 6, 2013 from Madison Square Garden in New York City. An official announcement is expected to take place on next week's episode of WWE Raw, the 20th Anniversary special, from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. While the New York Post has been known to be wrong, especially when it comes to reporting pro wrestling news, this could have validity due to what I've been told over the past several weeks. We reported here on Premium on 12/3 that Vince McMahon issued an edict that Foley's character was to be protected and even spoke out against Triple H when a snide comment was made about him. The thinking was if he ended up being the face of the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame, he needed to be held in the same regard as other WWE Legends.

- WWE sent their media partners a list of all of their scheduled pay-per-view dates for 2013 with locations. The only show with a name "to be announced" is the June 16, 2013 show in Chicago, Illinois. Below is the list:

  • Royal Rumble on January 27, 2013 in Phoenix, AZ
  • Elimination Chamber on February 17, 2013 in New Orleans, LA
  • Wrestlemania 29 on April 7, 2013 in East Rutherford, NJ
  • Extreme Rules on May 19, 2013 in St. Louis, MO
  • TBA on June 16, 2013 in Chicago, IL
  • Money in the Bank on July 14, 2013 in Philadelphia, PA
  • SummerSlam on August 18, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA
  • Night of Champions on September 15, 2013 in Detroit, MI
  • Over the Limit on October 6, 2013 in Buffalo, NY
  • Hell in a Cell on October 27, 2013 in Miami, FL
  • Survivor Series on November 24, 2013 in Boston, MA
  • TLC on December 15, 2013 in Houston, TX

- We have photos of Triple H reuniting with his friends at this week's WWE NXT tapings here on

- Dot com has a new article online featuring quotes from Ric Flair responding to WWE Champion CM Punk's promo from this week's WWE Raw. Flair, who is rumored but not confirmed for next week's Raw, concludes the article with this quote:

“Like I said, if you like me or don’t like me, learn to love it baby, because it is the best thing going today. And that’s the quote I’ll drop on him [down the line] if I see him. WOO!!!”

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

- Dot com has confirmed Mick Foley as the first inductee of the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame class. You can read their article at this link.

The New YorkPost was first to confirm Foley's induction but Foley gave pause to the report Friday on Twitter.

Arda Ocal interviewed Foley, before the announcement was made official, and he mentioned Terry Funk and Jim Ross as people we would want to induct him.

- WWE Divas Champion Eve Torres will defend the title against Kaitlyn on next Monday's 20th Anniversary of WWE Raw.

- Trent Barreta has been released from WWE, according to his Twitter account:

Barreta debuted on WWE's ECW brand in 2009 as part of the Dudebusters tag team along with Caylen Croft. He suffered a torn bicep in 2012 and appeared regularly on NXT after the injury healed.

- Mick Foley wrote the following on Twitter:

WWE has announced a March 17th live event from the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, New York. Tickets go on sale Saturday, January 19, 2013 at noon.

TNA News

- TNA Wrestling has announced the following new live events:

  • Friday, February 22, 2013 from The Fillmore in Detroit, MI
  • Saturday, February 23, 2013 from Deltaplex Arena in Grand Rapids, MI
  • Sunday, February 24, 2013 from Stroh Center in Bowling Green, OH

Top names advertised for all three shows include current TNA Champion Jeff Hardy, Bobby Roode, James Storm, Austin Aries and Velvet Sky

Click here for more.

- Lince Dorado seemed to hint on his Twitter account that he'll be part of TNA Wrestling's taping on January 12, 2013 in Orlando, Florida.

As previously reported here on, the company will tape special programming the day before Genesis in Orlando. There will be two taping sessions with one featuring seven tag team matches and a gauntlet match. The second session will focus on X Division action and will feature an X-Scape Cage match and an Ultimate X match.

Considering that Dorado is a Lucha-Libre, logic would put him in the second session.

- Sting will return to the ring with TNA Wrestling at Sunday's Genesis pay-per-view. The company announced he'll face DOC, formerly known as Luke Gallows, of Aces & 8s in a singles match.

- Many have inquired about "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero's contract status with TNA Wrestling, we now have a confirmed answer. Dinero wrote the following on Twitter on Tuesday:

Dinero, whose real name is Elijah Burke, has been with TNA since 2009 after a stint in WWE.

- Earlier today, Richard Graywrote that “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero cut his ties with TNA Wrestling. There looks to be another star that is finished with the company and that is Sarita. Sarita no longer appears on the roster page on TNA's official website. While looking, The Pope isn't shown either. While it is a coincidence, let me remind you that TNA is known for pulling the superstar roster pages and then adding them back to the website.

- We can confirm both Sarita and Rosita are gone from TNA Wrestling. Their contracts came up and neither were re-signed.

- TNA Wrestling sent out the following:

In the Spring of 2012 IMPACT WRESTLING brought the TNA Gut Check to Spike TV! This competition sees an aspiring wrestler got a chance to tell his story, have a match and be evaluated with the ultimate goal of earning an IMPACT WRESTLING contract! Alex Silva, Taeler Hendrix, Sam Shaw, Wes Brisco and Christian York have all passed their Gut Checks to earn a spot on the roster. Now, the competition is getting even bigger!

Previously, the TNA Gut Check contestant would wrestle a member of the IMPACT WRESTLING roster in an attempt to impress the judges! Starting on Thursday’s broadcast, TWO Gut Check contestants will compete head-to-head. They will tell their story and face off against each other in the Gut Check match! The judging panel (Sr. VP of Talent Relations Bruce Prichard, Sr. Director of Talent Relations Al Snow, and former Two-Time World Champion Taz) will evaluate both wrestlers performance and give their final verdict on the January 17 IMPACT broadcast.

Tune in Thursday night to find out who these two new TNA Gut Check contestants are and follow their journey!

- Jay Bradley will be one of the participants in the revamped TNA Gut Check match on this week's episode of Impact Wrestling. He'll face another Gut Check participant as TNAannounced the change on Wednesday.

While his opponent is not yet known, the rumored name is Brian Cage, a bodybuilder and regular for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Cage made it clear on his Twitter account he was headed to Orlando for Impact and implied it was for Gut Check.

Bradley was formerly employed by WWE as he was known as Ryan Braddock. He's been a regular in Billy Corgan's Resistance Pro and worked Christian York at the Extreme Rising iPPV in November.

We'll have exclusive live play-by-play of this week's Impact Wrestling Thursday night here at

- TNA Wrestling just released information about their upcoming 2013 pay-per-view schedule and it is a huge change in direction. There have been reports for months that TNA would be cutting their PPV shows. Some speculated four and others went up to six.

We now know there will be 4 pay-per-views this year. There will also be pay-per-view specials. TNA will hold 7 of these specials throughout the year and they will be held on the first Friday of the month. The specials start in April. Below is the official statement from TNA:

TNA IMPACT WRESTLING today announced a new worldwide Pay-Per-View programming initiative for 2013. The 52 annual episodes of IMPACT WRESTLING on SpikeTV will lead to four, live epic Pay-Per-View events commencing with “Genesis” on January 13th, “Lockdown” on March 10th, “Slammiversary” on June 9 and “Bound For Glory” on October 13th.

In addition, seven Pay-Per-View specials that will be branded as “TNA Wrestling: One Night Only,” series will debut in April 2013 and continue throughout the year during the additional months. The 3-hour taped Pay-Per-View specials will premiere on the first Friday of each month. The first two “One Night Only” specials will be “Joker’s Wild Tag Team Tournament” and “X-travaganza” which will feature the X-Division.

“The Pay-Per-View industry has changed so much in the last decade,” says TNA President Dixie Carter. “The traditional pay-per-view wrestling model needed to evolve and we believe this strategy will positively impact not only the Pay-Per-View events but the weekly television programming as well.”

The company will continue to produce TNA Wrestling’s “Unfinished Business”, which are one-hour programs available on a Video on Demand (VOD) basis. The monthly titles continue to focus on the history of a rivalry or a specific past PPV event. These titles are available for two months at a time.

- I reported about TNA Wrestling's new pay-per-view plan for this year, but there is more information and that is pricing. The price breakdown is below:

  • TNA Genesis and TNA Lockdown will be $34.95.
  • TNA Slammiversary will be $39.95.
  • TNA Bound for Glory will be $44.95.

The Friday night pay-per-view specials will be $14.95.

- One of the most attractive things in TNA Wrestling's new pay-per-view model is the cost. Running 12 live pay-per-views a year live on Sunday night was expensive and they were losing money due to poor buy rates.

While the company desired to cutback the number of pay-per-views each year, they were locked into contracts with cable and satellite providers through last year. TNA President Dixie Carter said in May she didn't feel the company needed 12 pay-per-views and that 6-8 were a possibility.

The new plan is essentially four live Sunday pay-per-views under the model they currently follow, with moderate price bumps for Slammiversary and Bound for Glory. The seven "TNA Wrestling: One Night Only" specials, airing from tape on Friday nights, will be carried by providers at a much cheaper rate, hence their cheaper price tag of $14.95. Providers in the United States usually insist on holding live shows on Saturday and Sunday but Friday is not near as competitive for dates.

In total, this is a cost-cutting measure as TNA also hopes scaling back the number of live pay-per-views they do each year will spark interest (increasing buys) and they'll utilize them much like WWE does with their "big four" shows.

Following this week's episode of Impact Wrestling, below is the updated lineup for Sunday's TNA Genesis pay-per-view. Make sure you join us here at for exclusive live play-by-play coverage:

Triple Threat Elimination Match for the TNA Championship
- Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Austin Aries vs. Bobby Roode

Singles Match
- Sting vs. D.O.C.

TNA Tag Team Championship Match
- Chavo Guerrero & Hernandez (c) vs. Matt Morgan & Joey Ryan

#1 Contenders Gauntlet Match
- Gail Kim vs. ODB vs. Miss Tessmacher vs. Mickie James vs. Velvet Sky

TNA X Division Tournament Finals
- Christian York vs. Kenny King

TNA X Division Championship Match
- Rob Van Dam (c) vs. X Division Tournament winner

Singles Match
- Devon vs. Joseph Park

Singles Match
- Christopher Daniels vs. James Storm

Click here to watch the opening video of TNA Genesis.

- This week's episode of Impact Wrestling, the go-home to TNA Genesis did an average viewing audience of 1,290,000 viewers on Spike TV according to TV By The Numbers. The show ended up doing a 1.02 cable rating.


With The Rock working so many dates in the build towards Wrestlemania, do you see him wrestling any matches on Raw or Smackdown during this time frame?

Last year I was 100% against The Rock working a match prior to his match against John Cena at Wrestlemania XXVIII. I even penned a lengthy editorial here on Richard's Backstage Blog, explaining why I didn't think Rock should work Survivor Series 2011 (which he went on to work). This year, things are completely different as not only is The Rock confirmed for three pay-per-views (Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber and Wrestlemania) but he's basically full-time starting with this week's Raw (click here for his dates in January and February). Knowing this, I'm actually against him not wrestling. Doing nothing but talking for three months will get monotonous and will hurt his lifespan. He's healthy and in great shape so he must be utilized in and out of the ring. One of the biggest arguments I make about returning stars is when they come back and can't wrestle. Overexposing them turns their returns from big deals to just another guy. Given The Rock can wrestle, he must wrestle if he's going to remain relevant in 2013.

What is the latest with the 2013 Hall of Fame? Any ideas on possible inductees?

The two names I've heard as potential headliners for the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame are Bruno Sammartino and Mick Foley. With tickets going on sale on Saturday, I would expect the headliner to be announced very soon on WWE television to help move them. However, as of this writing, I can confirm neither.

What is Al Snow up too these days? My wife and I ran into him at Hooters in Fayetteville, NC?

Al Snow works as a road agent backstage for TNA Wrestling. He also assists at the company's official developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling, as a producer. Outside of wrestling, Snow is doing some acting as you can check out the trailer for one of his recent films, Overtime, at this link. You can follow him on Twitter @TheRealAlSnow.

Do you think we will ever see the Undertaker vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania?

There was talk at one point of doing Undertaker vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania 29 this year. Cena, along with CM Punk, Ryback and Brock Lesnar have all been names tied to potential matches against Undertaker at the pay-per-view this year. A new name that has emerged recently is The Rock. As much as plans are changing, the IWC is having a field day with possible opponents but we simply do not know as of this writing.

I was just wondering how WWE goes about booking a match like the Royal Rumble? With 30 workers involved, is every elimination scripted or do they just want it to get down to a final four and then really work the match? And is the entry order really random?

We get this question a lot around this time of year and it's always fun to answer. The 30-man Royal Rumble match is scripted, completely scripted, just like any other match. It would be utter chaos if WWE just sent workers from gorilla and told them to "do their thing" until they got to the final four. This year's match was actually booked last month by Pat Patterson and Triple H. Plans have been sealed and we haven't been able to confirm who they have going over. As I noted here on Premium, Hunter is trying to learn the art of booking the Rumble match since he knows Patterson isn't going to be around forever.

What is the real life relationship like between CM Punk and The Rock? I remember reading something about CM Punk not being happy about a part-timer like The Rock coming back and stealing the spotlight.

One can only speculate as to how much legitimate disdain there is between a guy like CM Punk and a guy like The Rock. I'll tell you as long as The Rock is around there is going to be a divide because of his success outside of the ring. However, this time around (and not that Punk even did this last year), no one will be able to question Rock's involvement in WWE as he's basically back full-time until Wrestlemania. He's not scheduled for live events but he's booked for most TVs as you can view his dates for the next two months at this link. Given the number of movies The Rock is releasing this year, his work ethic is unlike anything I have ever seen.

I believe the only possible scenarios for WWE Title match are: The Rock wins clean, DQ via The Shield, or CM Punk wins dirty. Is there any way to book CM Punk over The Rock clean to make a monster statement?

I've been trying to come up with a scenario where CM Punk retains clean but I don't think it's going to be possible to keep the momentum on The Rock for Wrestlemania. The Shield's involvement in the past WWE title matches are souring me on the use of the faction. Don't get me wrong, I think all three have done a great job but I'm tired of them running in to ruin title matches. I've spent enough time criticizing WWE for their lack of confidence in Ryback but they clearly wanted to keep the belt on Punk for a program with The Rock and after the exchange on this week's Raw, we all know why.

Do you see a scenario happening at the Royal Rumble that has Brock Lesnar costing The Rock the WWE Championship and setting up a match between the two at Wrestlemania?

I could see a scenario like this happening but I'm not sure WWE would want to burn through a Brock Lesnar date with an unannounced appearance, especially when WWE knows people are going to order the pay-per-view because of The Rock. You can take the following names - Undertaker, The Rock, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Triple H and CM Punk - and have a field day producing dream matches. After Royal Rumble the picture is going to be much clearer but things are rapidly changing.

How much of a "green light" did CM Punk have in his promo on this week's WWE Raw? It seems like some of the things he said would have put him in the company doghouse.

We can confirm the majority of CM Punk's promo on WWE Raw was approved beforehand, however, there was a part that was a legitimate shoot. We have those details available in a Backstage News article at this link. If you're not a Premium Member you can signup now at this link. Punk's promo was very well received and he got high marks from almost everyone.

How is it that The Big Show is supposed to look like an unstoppable force and he gets beat by Alberto Del Rio on Smackdown? Is he injured?

I was very surprised when Brooks Oglesby texted me late Tuesday night to inform me that WWE put the World Heavyweight Championship on Alberto Del Rio. It wasn't long after that my phone started blowing up with my contacts in WWE telling me the title change wasn't in the preliminary drafts of Smackdown. Given the fact the show hasn't aired and I haven't spoken with anyone this morning, I have no other information as of this writing. Some readers are speculating Del Rio is the "stopgap" for Dolph Ziggler but that's all speculation at this point.

Why is WWE spoiling title changes before they air on television?

When WWE spoiled the Intercontinental Championship change a couple weeks ago I attributed it to being a holiday and the company was trying to give viewers an incentive to watch. I noted at the time it would not be wise to change a major title on tape but here we are and they have done just that. There is no way I can explain the reasoning other than they want viewers to believe anything can happen at any given time. The fact they are already promoting Del Rio as champion tells me WWE understands with the internet it's going to leak out so they may as well and use the major change as a promotional mechanism. This kind of goes back to when Tony Schiavone spoiled that Mick Foley would be winning the WWF Championship that night on Monday Night Raw and viewers left WCW Nitro in droves to see the change. Obviously, the WCW brass were hoping for the opposite.

What is the status of The Rock's WWE contract? Is he on a verbal agreement with Vince McMahon like he was last year or is he under contract?

It's interesting we have made so much of Brock Lesnar's multimillion-dollar contact with WWE for limited dates, however, not much is written regarding The Rock's contract status. I would assume Rock is under more than a "verbal agreement" and there is something in writing to protect both parties. I would also venture to say Rock isn't working for cheap and is being paid well for his services. WWE doesn't want stuff like this leaking out for obvious reasons.

What match should go on last at Royal Rumble - CM Punk vs. The Rock for the WWE Championship or the 30-man Royal Rumble match?

If I was booking the show, I would open with the 30-man Royal Rumble match and close with the WWE title match. There aren't many bouts big enough to bump the 30-man Royal Rumble out of the main event of the pay-per-view which carries its name but did you see the promo work between CM Punk and The Rock on this week's Raw? As far as I'm concerned that segment took this match to another level and I look forward to watching it play out. For those wondering why I would open with the Rumble match, rather than somewhere in the middle of the card, there needs to be a significant amount of time between the two matches to give the crowd time to recover. Booking the bouts too close together runs the risk of wearing the crowd out and hurting the reactions. With that being said, I haven't heard WWE's plans for the show.

Why was the Royal Rumble match changed back to 30-men from the 40 it was a couple year ago?

From what I was able to ascertain, Pat Patterson, the creator of the Royal Rumble match and the guy that books it annually, was upset about taking the match from 30 to 40 men in 2011. He felt the match has been so effective and timeless, it shouldn't be altered in any way. When it was explained to him they would be able to promote it as the "biggest Royal Rumble ever," he wasn't sold. Triple H, who is taking on more and more behind-the-scenes responsibilities, was instrumental in working with Patterson to book this year's match.

Are you as tired as I am about the predictability of The Shield running in and preventing Ryback from going over? As was the case on Monday, we all knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time.

I have loudly voiced my displeasure with the booking of Ryback, even mentioning the finish of the aforementioned match in Tuesday's installment of Ask WNW. I'm out of argument on this one. For the life of me I don't understand having Ryback mow through enhancement workers for months only to never win when booked as a main eventer. Yes, he has gotten over and yes, I understand the argument of keeping the strap on Punk but the whole thing is underscored by lazy/illogical booking that shows a blatant lack of trust in Ryback. With Wrestlemania season upon us, Ryback and The Shield are about to take a serious backseat. Some have taken this argument to mean I see Ryback as "the next big thing," not quite. If you're going to push Ryback as a main eventer, push him. If you're not sure, then don't book him in a multiple title matches when he has a gimmick where he is an unstoppable monster that needs to be fed more.

How do the superstars refer to one another when the cameras aren't on? Do they call each other by their legal name, or by their character?

It really just depends on the person. For example, would you even know who I was talking about if I said the name Michael Hickenbottom? Above, I just referenced Pat Patterson (real name Pierre Clermont). I've got a funny story to disclose on this question. Four years ago I was conducting some interviews for use on the website. When booking names I would often go through a worker's agent to get in touch with them. Well, I wanted to be as professional as possible without sounding like a mark so I emailed one agent and asked to book Nick Cvjetkovich (better known as Kizarny or Sinn Bodhi). The agent said when they read the email they thought, who in the hell is Nick Cvjetkovich?

Plain and simple question: What is Crimson's status in TNA?

Crimson is still under contract with TNA Wrestling, getting seasoned in Ohio Valley Wrestling. He obviously wants to return to the main roster and Retweeted a Twitter follower Thursday night that asked when he was going to be back. You can keep up with Crimson on Twitter at this link.

In all of your time covering and watching professional wrestling, what would you say are the top 5 most shocking, jaw dropping moments?

In order to answer this question I have to pick a start date. Since I've been in the business for over 13 years but full-time since 2007, we'll start with 2007. The most shocking, depressing and outrageous story I've had to cover is the Chris Benoit family tragedy. Other shocking in-ring moments include Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels together again in a WWE ring in January 2010, The Rock's return to WWE in February 2011, Edge's abrupt retirement in April 2011 and the emergence of CM Punk as a top star. Lists like this can always be debated and since I'm doing it off the top of my head, feel free to add to or debate in the comment area below. I do feel I should mention the reason I list Punk's emergence here rather than other moments, Punk changed a lot of things in the business, especially how WWE views top independent talent which is something that will impact the business in the years to come.

Is there any truth to the rumors that WWE has been looking to re-sign former top divas Lita and Trish Stratus with the promise of lighter schedules? With Lita almost always on the road and backstage nowadays with CM Punk, has any effort been made in order to resign her to the company?

I am unable to confirm rumors that WWE is pursuing Trish Stratus or Lita to return to the company. Lita is dating CM Punk and would make sense because she is often with him. However, this wouldn't make much sense to me given how low of a priority the Diva's division is currently viewed although with Vince McMahon it's almost impossible to gauge the direction he wants to go.

If WWE puts the Rock over Punk for the title, could you see them changing the WWE Title belt design? Could you also see it as a way for Cena to turn heel and again feud with The Rock?

There are two questions I've given up on answering with the response, "I'll believe it when I see it." You have managed to put both into one question so there you go.

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