WWE Star Retires, Reset With John Cena & AJ Lee, Update On The In-Ring Futures Of Triple H, Brock Lesnar, The Rock & Roman Reigns; Sting Makes Cryptic Tweets, Why Paige Didn't Have Heat After Freezing On Raw, Update On WWE Network Subscribers, The Rock &

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Welcome to the WrestlingNewsWorld.com 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, July 5, 2014 to Friday, July 11, 2014 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

- Stephanie McMahon did a Q&A with Inc.com to discuss WWE's social media strategy. She explained it in five points, which are listed below:

Engage your fans.
Get your employees to participate.
It's all about timing.
Don't fight campaigns against you.
Your fans are the secret sauce.

In the piece, Stephanie explained how the company used the #HijackRaw hashtag prior to Raw in Chicago back in March (the first time in the city since CM Punk's departure) to their advantage.

Below is an excerpt:

"A lot of companies would've thought that this was trouble and say, 'Oh my God, what do we do?' But for WWE, it wasn't even a question because our whole strategy is to engage our audience," McMahon says. Instead of fighting with fans (which will explode in your face on social media, by the way), Stephanie says WWE decided to engage with the idea of fans hijacking "Raw." "We absolutely embraced this concept and had [wrestler] Daniel Bryan to talk about it during Raw," she says, explaining WWE writers made the protest part of the story line. "Because of that, #HijackRaw and #RawChicago were both world wide trends and trended seven times that night."

Click here to read the piece in its entirety.

- Renee Young joining the WWE Superstars commentary team isn't the only broadcast shakeup on WWE television. Brandi Rhodes, the real life wife Cody Rhodes, a/k/a Eden, is working as the ring announcer for WWE Main Event.

- The Motley Fool looks at why the WWE Network isn't working at this link.

- WWE helped Windsor's emergency food bank situation while in town earlier in the week. You can read more at this link.

- Sheamus is born to fight. Watch this week's episode of Smackdown Fallout at this link.

Ric Flair was at a Gwinnett Braves game over the weekend. You can watch his classic entrance in the video embedded below: (Thanks to my friend Jason Grant for sharing):

- Brad Maddox is still in a cave… he posted his latest kayfabe YouTube video at this link.

- Ric Flair is being advertised for WWE's upcoming tour of Australia, according to a local ticket provider. (Thanks to WNW reader Russell Alexander for sending this in.) Flair appeared at a Gwinnett Braves minor league baseball game over the weekend and is expected back on WWE television shortly. As noted, Vince McMahon was opposed to bringing Flair back but Triple H wanted him. He passed a WWE physical for clearance to join the roster on the road and is awaiting plans from creative. Flair will not be wrestling but will be used as an on-air personality.

- Santino Marella announced his in-ring retirement at Sunday's WWE live event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Marella stunned the live crowd by saying he has suffered a third neck injury and because of it, his in-ring career is over.

Below are eyewitness reports from Twitter:

Marella admitted just last week his career was winding down. He opened a wrestling school called the Battle Arts Academy in Canada last year. Santino missed most of last year due to a neck injury as he underwent a procedure called a facet rhizotomy. In the procedure, injections are given, where there’s an axillary nerve that comes off.

Santino revealed in an interview with Live Audio Wrestling in August 2013 that he had several problems with his neck including bulging discs, herniated discs, stenosis, degenerating discs, in addition to arthritis.

- For those that missed it on Sunday, Santino Marella announced his in-ring retirement at the WWE live event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada due to a neck injury. He clarified he's not going away, suggesting a non-wrestling role on television. Santino said the injury happened a couple of weeks ago and apologized for not being able to compete. You can watch Santino's announcement at this link.

- With no offseason and very little downtime, there are times when WWE must reset. A concept similar to when a playing a video game, the company simply alters course by changing title holders. Last week the company pushed the reset button heading into the summer months and it started just over a week ago. Let's recap and look at the new direction.

John Cena is WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture has been in flux since Daniel Bryan's lone defense against Kane at Extreme Rules in May. Once it was learned Bryan needed neck surgery, WWE was reluctant to have him drop the belt in an effort to keep his momentum from Wrestlemania XXX going. There was a possibility he would be able to return at Money in the Bank last month, however, his recovery didn't go as planned.

When Daniel Bryan was deemed unfit for Money in the Bank, he was officially stripped of the title and a ladder match to crown a new champion at the pay-per-view was announced. WWE tried to keep optimism alive in the weeks that preceded the announcement, even putting the legitimate plan into storyline in hopes of keeping fans engaged.

Bryan eventually delivered the sobering truth at the pay-per-view itself, clarifying he's still without a timetable and could require a second surgery because he has yet to regain the strength in his arm.

With Bryan out and without a return, Cena went on to win the title later in the night at Money in the Bank. The reign is Cena's 15th world title reign and by all accounts, he'll defend it against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam in August. However, WWE has already announced a title match with Cena defending at Battleground this month.

AJ Lee is back and once again Divas Champion. WWE's longest-reigning Divas Champion returned to the company after a near three-month hiatus and reclaimed the title by beating Paige on last week's episode of Monday Night Raw. This was hardly a surprise as AJ Lee was held in high regard her entire time off and Paige continued to lose support. WWE used AJ's time off to evaluate the Divas and it didn't go well. From what I was told, AJ Lee's stock only increased as Vince McMahon continues to view her as the face of the Divas division. Paige was heavily critiqued for her work on last week's Raw, however, she does not have backstage heat because of it. The WWE Intercontinental Championship is vacated. After suffering a shoulder injury a couple weeks ago, it was learned Wade Barrett needed surgery. As a result, he's out a "number of months" and WWE is without an Intercontinental Champion. The company will crown a new Intercontinental Champion at Battleground in a battle royal featuring Alberto Del Rio, Big E, Bo Dallas, Cesaro, Curtis Axel, Damien Sandow, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Rob Van Dam, Ryback, The Great Khali and a participant to be named. Now we circle back into Monday Night Raw as the company has a couple of weeks to build their next pay-per-view. You can read the plans for SummerSlam headed into last weekend before previewing this week's Raw. - WWE covered what they termed a "career-related announcement" by Santino Marella on dot com. While they did not report he is retiring, they wrote his in-ring career "could be coming to a close." Dot com then recapped his announcement made at Sunday's live event in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with video footage of it. You can check out their coverage at this link. We wrote about Santino announcing the end of his in-ring career here at WrestlingNewsWorld.com. We followed-up with video footage, explaining the tease of Santino working in a non-wrestling role at this link. - We heard that Triple H is "heavily leaning against" working SummerSlam. While he wants to work Roman Reigns at some point, he doesn't want to be overshadowed by John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, which is clearly the plan barring a major change of direction. As we've mentioned on a few occasions, Reigns vs. Randy Orton is the backup plan [for SummerSlalm] if Hunter decides against working. We're told that's looking more like the direction the company plans to go with Reigns at the show next month. Vince McMahon is still hoping to do The Rock vs. Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31 next year, however, he's put the word out they need to get Roman Reigns ready for a main event spot at next year's show if Rock doesn't end up coming back. - There are three notable interviews conducted by Canadian publications we have to tell you about that were done in preparation for this week's episode of Monday Night Raw in Montreal, Quebec. Names interviewed include Seth Rollins, Bret Hart and Roman Reigns. Below are highlights and links: Seth Rollins on turning heel:

“When we try to be booed or cheered, we’re trying to garner attention,” he said. “If you’re getting no reaction, you’re doing something wrong. It’s sure good go have them boo me.”

Click here to read the interview in its entirety. Bret Hart on Natalya vs. Charlotte at NXT Takeover:

"Watching Charlotte Flair, knowing the tragedies that hit Ric with his son's passing, I knew that that match at NXT wasn't gonna be your average match, it was gonna be a real important match not just to Natalya, but to Charlotte. I know Ric has been through a lot, it was gonna be one of those kind of special moments that we would be really proud. Natalya took the match really serious all week and probably for a couple of weeks. She wanted to tell a story and make a real impression on people for Charlotte and they did that. I was thrilled with the match. Just the emotion and the joy coming from Ric and his daughter, it was a special moment. It was a great moment for me, but for Ric, his daughter, Natalya. I felt like I was representing Jim The Anvil there that day. It was a little nice thing to be part of and I'm glad they called me up and I had the chance to be part of that."

Click here to read the article in its entirety. Roman Reigns on the end of The Shield:

"I could have really seen The Shield closing down every single show for the next three years. I think we had that ability and that we were that hot," Reigns told SLAM! Wrestling. "I think it's an understatement that the vast majority of the fans loved The Shield. But we didn't have too many opponents left to face. Possibly the Wyatts, but you can't really go above Evolution, especially after beating them twice. Between myself, Dean and Seth, we're doing the exact same thing The Shield was doing, but we're doing it on our own now."

Click here to read the article in its entirety. - WWE released Santino Marella's "career-related announcement" on YouTube. You can watch it at this link. I'm unsure as to why the company isn't downright confirming his in-ring retirement but perhaps we'll find out more on this week's episode of Monday Night Raw. - WWE's launched their new YouTube series called @WWEInsider with Alicia Fox on Monday. Natalya is featured in the premiere episode at this link. - Wrestling News World reader Jorge Romero Tweeted us the following 4th of July images: Vince McMahon & Linda McMahon with fan:

Randy Orton with friends and family:

- WWE announced on Monday that TV executive Laureen Ong has been elected to the company's Board of Directors. Ong most recently worked for the Travel Channel, where she was building brand strategy, developing programming and creating new business opportunities for the network. - WWE has uploaded an interview in which Jerry Lawler talks about his return to Montreal for the first time since his heart attack during Raw in 2012. Lawler says he hasn't felt bad for one minute since. Click here to watch. - Bret Hart, Chris Jericho & The Usos (along with referee Dan Engler) star in this week's episode of Raw Fallout, embedded below: Hart vs. SandhartJericho Returns a WinnerUso Confusion - After this week's episode of Monday Night Raw went off the air, The Wyatt Family attacked John Cena and Roman Reigns. The babyfaces fought them off the send the crowd home happy. - WWE will return to the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on October 17, 2014. - While he didn't appear on Raw, Santino Marella was in Montreal. He Tweeted the following:

- Former WWE talent Sylvain Grenier was at this week's Raw in Montreal.

- Below is photo of Bret Hart with Tyson Kidd and Natalya from Raw:

- The letter The Miz read on Raw by Johnny Russo was a reference to former creative team member Vince Russo. - Last week's 4th of July episode of WWE Smackdown did an average viewing audience of 1,881,000 viewers on SyFy. Obviously that's down but because of the holiday in the United States, the company won't pay much attention to it. TV by the Numbers, as always, has complete data for the top shows on cable for Friday at this link. - Business Insider has a new article titled "The Money-Losing WWE Network Is Making Another Big Push For Subscribers" online looking at WWE offering a complete no-strings-attached free preview of their Network this week. The piece makes several claims that I feel are worth clearing up. We'll tackle them one by one: From the article:

The offer, which doesn't even require people to provide a credit card number, is one of several recent indicators that the company isn't getting much closer to the 1.4 million global subscribers it needs to make the WWE Network profitable.

Reaction from WrestlingNewsWorld.com: While we can assume "Free Preview Week" is a sign fans aren't buying the WWE Network as expected, the service isn't available in international markets. The time frame for launch in Phase 1 international countries (the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Nordics) is still by the end of 2014/early 2015. From the article:

The bad news for the company started in April, when it announced the WWE Network had only 667,000 subscribers after telling investors the service could debut with as many as 2 million.

Reaction from WrestlingNewsWorld.com: While I truly believe WWE hoped to announce over 1 million subscribers the day after Wrestlemania XXX, they've repeatedly stated that as long as they reach 1 million domestic subscribers by the end of 2014, the launch of the WWE Network will be considered a success. I do not recall WWE ever throwing around the 2 million number. I'm not going to go as far as to saying the writer of the Business Insider piece made it up but I'd like to see proof. UPDATE on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 11:51 AM EDT: The writer was quickly to provide a response on social media (I love Twitter):

End update.From the article:

Last month, it fired nine wrestlers and the head writer of its most popular weekly television show, Monday Night Raw, amid rumors that it was looking to cut costs to make up for the money it's losing on the network. And it has reportedly cut budgets and delayed production on two of the WWE Network's original programs.

Reaction from WrestlingNewsWorld.com: WWE wants to show investors they are serious about "cutting costs." None of the releases were considered a surprise -- even talent that were on TV such as Jinder MahalDrew McIntyre or Aksana -- but WWE purposely made the releases public for strategic investor relations purposes. The company continues to make cuts to their budget and have enacted a hiring freeze. From the article:

As part of its push, the WWE put on an unusually eventful episode of Monday Night Raw this past week, one that featured the return of former champion Chris Jericho and two other prominent wrestlers who had not been on the show for months.

Reaction from WrestlingNewsWorld.com: This is true. Chris Jericho became a priority when CM Punk walked out [in January] and that was only believed to have increased with Daniel Bryan's injury and Batista's time off. RVD is the exact same situation. From the article:

Perhaps the biggest carrot for potential subscribers will come at August's Summerslam event, where the WWE is expected to put on a rematch between two of its most popular wrestlers — John Cena and Brock Lesnar.

Reaction from WrestlingNewsWorld.com: 100% true. WWE plans to John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam to not only entice people to signup but encourage people whose subscriptions will be expiring shortly thereafter to renew. Remember, initial subscriptions expire on Sunday, August 24, 2014, so the company wants to give current subscribers every reason to renew. They know a lackluster SummerSlam would spell disaster. Click here to read the Business Insider article in its entirety. - Sting, who hasn't used his verified Twitter account since April, posted the following cryptic Tweets on Tuesday:

On July 14, 2014, WWE will hold their live Monday Night Raw taping from The Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia. Whether or not Sting's cryptic Tweets are any way connected with WWE is unknown at this time. We can confirm WWE and Sting are working together as was evident with WWE's plans for a Sting DVD in September and a casting call last month, where the company sought after an "Orchestra" to tape a segment with Sting face paint. Richard Reacts: Let's add some notes. As mentioned above, WWE filmed a promo featuring an “Orchestra” -- in Sting facepaint -- on June 16, 2014. This was believed to be for inclusion in either DVD promotion or the DVD (set for September release) itself. We've also mentioned there's a possibility there could be a Sting/WWE 2K15 related announcement. I wouldn't expect Sting to spoil a surprise appearance at next week's Raw in Richmond, however, there's no way we can run this story without connecting the obvious.Backstage news from Monday Night Raw in Montreal... - One WWE producer was against the decision to keep Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose away from one another. Their logic was that while separating them gives the company the opportunity to push each in singles, it takes away from their momentum as allies. This same producer felt the audience would be more accepting of Reigns/Ambrose together, as opposed to apart. - Speaking of Ambrose, I also heard there was plenty of head-scratching about him going under clean to Randy Orton. - First Rob Van Dam then Chris Jericho. It's WWE's management of part-time talent to offset recent losses. If this week's job wasn't evident enough, RVD's latest part-time agreement is coming up. - There are plans at some point to do Big Show vs. Rusev. Obviously SummerSlam is a possibility but there are those that want to delay it until later in the year. - Daniel Bryan has not made a decision as to whether or not to have a second surgery. He's not any better from the on-screen update he gave last week. - We're told CM Punk'sWWE contract is up on July 15, 2014. There is nothing further to report. - Wrestling News World reader Charbel sent word that WWE Australia has announced Roman Reigns vs. Kane in a street fight with Ric Flair as the special guest referee for their upcoming tour of the country. - Add Patrick Cote from UFC and Mathieu Dandenault from the NHL as guests at this week's episode of Monday Night Raw in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. - Below are video highlights from this week's episode of WWE Main Event. If you missed the show, we have complete results available at this link: Bret Hart punches Damien Sandow and locks him in the Sharpshooter: Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio - U.S. Title Last Man Standing Match: Nikki Bella vs. "Total Divas" cast - Handicap Match: - While it remains to be seen whether or not WWE will actually unify the WWE United States and Intercontinental titles, it's not stopping Sheamus from hyping it. The following is from his Twitter account:

There have been internal talks for quite some time about unifying the mid-card belts and it will certainly be interesting if WWE puts the IC title on Sheamus at the pay-per-view later this month.

- Shawn Michaels updated his hunting blog where he wrote about Texas whitetail hunting at this link.

- Mick Foley wrote about Chris Jericho on his Facebook page. You can read his latest below:

Post by Mick Foley.

- This week's episode of WWE Monday Night Raw did an average viewing audience of 4,381,333 viewers on the USA Network. Below is how viewership broke down by hour:

Hour one - 4,183,000 viewers
Hour two - 4,514,000 viewers
Hour three - 4,447,000 viewers

Viewership increased from a week prior, where the audience had already jumped big. The company will also like the fact they did more viewers in hour 3, then they did in hour 1, suggesting growth as the show airs.

TV by the Numbers has all the Monday data for the Top 100 shows on cable at this link.

- CM Punk is scheduled to co-host the AP Music Awards red carpet pre-show event with Juliet Simms. You can view a post made on Facebook to announce the July 21, 2014 appearance embedded below:

Post by Alternative Press.

- With The Authority "on vacation," Chris Jericho joined Michael Cole for this week's kayfabe sit-down interview with Michael Cole. You can watch at this link.

- Brandi Rhodes gives fans a look at her life on the road in a new video blog available at this link.

- We reported last week about Paige being critiqued after her mistakes on Raw, which followed numerous reports of WWE officials being less than impressed with her work. We're told Vince McMahon feels she's "been a dud." One of the reasons she didn't have heat last week is Vince already decided she was "too green," so there wasn't much she could do to get heat since the WWE boss had already soured on her. When she froze on live TV, instead of Vince getting upset, we're told he "almost seemed happy" that he was being proven right by her mistakes. According to our source, Vince is happy to finally have AJ Lee back and the Paige experiment didn't work. Vince realized it for a while but wanted AJ to be the one to beat her, so Paige's title run was extended until AJ returned to the company.

- Madison Square Garden sent out an email blast on Wednesday with details on Saturday night's WWE live event there. The advertised main event is WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt in a 20-Man Lumberjack match. Ric Flair will lead 10 men, while Triple H will lead the other. More information -- including ticket information -- is available at this link. Flair's return to WWE TV is imminent.

- I covered this in our Backstage News from Raw but the more stories I see pop up, the more I shake my head. CM Punk'sWWE contract expires on July 15, 2014 and there is nothing further to report.

- To address rumors regarding Daniel Bryan, as I've stated on more than one occasion -- including the latest Premium Mailbag -- he's not in the plans for SummerSlam or in any future storyline plans. The original plan was for him to defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Bray Wyatt, which obviously will not happen. There is no update on his health other than he has still not regained the strength in his arm but he has not yet undergone any additional surgeries. The official word on his status is "out indefinitely."

- The latest episode of WWE Inbox is subtitled Casting Call and is online at this link.

- WWE Divas celebrate the World Cup in a new video at this link.

- Hulk Hogan has arrived in Japan with WWE. The verified Twitter account of Vince McMahon Tweeted out the following:

As previously reported here on WrestlingNewsWorld.com, Hogan is set to appear at WWE's Japanese shows on Friday in Tokyo and Saturday in Osaka. - WWE announced on Thursday they will report their Second Quarter earnings for 2014 on Thursday, July 31, 2014 before market open. Later in the morning, Vince McMahon and Chief Financial Officer George Barrios will host a conference call with investors at 11 AM ET. The date is significant for a number of reasons but none more important than we will get an updated number of subscribers to the WWE Network. WWE announced on April 7, 2014 the WWE Network had 667,287 subscribers and reassured the public they were well on their way to their target of 1 million domestic subscribers before the end of the year. The number will be more than 667,287 as initial subscriptions aren't set to expire until on Sunday, August 24, 2014. Remember, to subscribe to WWE Network in the initial signup period, you had to agree to 6-month commitment. We'll be on the call later this month and will provide exclusive live coverage. - It looks like there are plans for The Rock, Brock Lesnar and Batista to be involved in major roles at Wrestlemania 31 next year. Levi's Stadium, the venue of next year's show, released the following promotional poster for the show:

You can view the poster on the Levi's Stadium website at this link.

As we reported exclusively here at WrestlingNewsWorld.com, Vince McMahon currently desires to do The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar at the pay-per-view next year. However, there is already at least one other idea pitched. We have more at this link.

Wrestlemania 31 will take place on Sunday, March 29, 2015 from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Obviously, we'll have exclusive live play-by-play coverage here at WrestlingNewsWorld.com.

- WWE posted a video to Instagram in which Hulk Hogan hypes an upcoming WWE signing announcement on July 12 in Osaka, Japan.

The Superstar, who Hogan refers to as the "first Japanese Superstar ever signed by Hulk Hogan to the WWE," is expected to be KENTA. Click here for more information.

- Dot com ran an interview with Justin Gabriel on Thursday before his tag team match on this week's episode of WWE NXT aired on the WWE Network. In it, he touched on the lack of creative direction (although no one called it that) in recent years and spun it into storyline:

I've been trying out a few different things in life and in wrestling. Life has worked out great, but the wrestling, not so much. When I broke away from everyone else, I became a lone wolf. The WWE Universe was my friends/family. I kept myself busy trying to impress and entertain them. The arenas used to go ballistic when I climbed to the top rope to deliver my 450⁰ Splash. That was what fueled me. So I didn't really care about anything else, didn't care about fighting smart. All I wanted to do was hit the move, see the smiles on people’s faces and leave. And then read about how great it was on social media later. But I think that is where I went wrong. I did it for everyone else and not me. Now I think very differently. I’m doing things for me.

Click here to read the feature in its entirety.

Richard Reacts: The new found use of Justin Gabriel in NXT continues what I've been told about why WWE has delayed all plans for a prospective cruiserweight series on WWE Network. NXT is already a brand of its own and as is evident with its champion, Adrian Neville, high-paced action is a big part of it. This also continues the discussion whether or not there will be talent solely designated to NXT without the possibility of ever getting called up.

- The Atlantic has an article online examining the race problem in WWE. While it's something WWE will quickly claim doesn't exist, the author backs all of his claims with indisputable evidence suggesting the contrary.

The author begins by explaining Rusev's recent success against black wrestlers before pointing out that WWE has never had a black wrestler hold its world championship (which is not entirely true because The Rock is half black). Mark Henry is mentioned and it's highlighted he's a former ECW Champion and World Heavyweight Champion but never a WWE Champion.

July 11, 2014 10:42 AM EDT Update:The Atlantic has updated their article by 1) mentioning The Rock as WWE Champion and 2) including a statement from WWE. You can click the link below to read both. End update.

Then, a past racially-charged storyline between Triple H and Booker T is explained before what I found to be some of the most intriguing analysis of the piece.

Below is an excerpt:

WWE currently employs 12 black wrestlers. There are three character situations to be found among them:

1. The performer plays or has played a character based on a racial stereotype.

2. The performer does not have any discernible character.

3. The performer is largely absent from television and/or has never played a significant role in WWE’s fictional universe.

The past gimmicks of JTG and Ron Simmons are analyzed before shifting to Alicia Fox and then a look at the treatment of other racial minorities with the example of Los Matadores.

The author then looks at past controversy involving Michael Hayes and racism before shifting to TNA Wrestling and their world title. Lashley and Ron Killings were world champions in TNA (with Killings' reign being when the TNA world title was affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance) but never in WWE.

Click here to read the piece in its entirety.

Richard Reacts: I am a 29-year old straight white man living in the United States of America. It's not easy for me to sit and talk about discrimination on any level because I haven't experienced it. The issue of discrimination is something that many tiptoe around but this article was well put together and the author was very informed. That said, I'm not going to start throwing stones and declaring Vince McMahon a bigot, either. However, these are issues that should be brought to light and the fans can be the judge. I'd love to hear from minorities here. Do you feel WWE has a race problem? Why or why not?

- I mentioned in Friday's installment of Ask WNW that I would have more on Sting's situation with WWE. I'm told the 07.14.14 cryptic Tweets are related to WWE 2K15 and there are plans for a trailer to be released on that date. As you can probably imagine, there are plans for Sting to be available as a playable character in the game. Whether or not he'll be available as pre-order DLC remains to be seen (Ultimate Warrior was available as DLC for those that pre-ordered WWE 2K14). Some people are speculating that Sting's Tweet means he'll be at Monday Night Raw in Richmond, Virginia next week and while that's possible, the WWE 2K15 trailer is the reason for the Tweets. As of early Friday morning, Sting was not scheduled for Raw.

- The WWE Performance Center is celebrating its first birthday in Orlando, Florida. Dot com has a new article on the milestone featuring quotes from Triple H. Click here to read it.

- Speaking of dot com, free preview week of WWE Network continues as the official website looks at "10 hidden gems on WWE Network." Check that piece out at this link.

- The weekend is here, something celebrated each Friday afternoon with a new episode of The JBL & Cole Show. Watch this week's show at this link.

- John Cena thanked Chikara Crossfit for an overseas workout. Here's a pic:

- WWE has officially added Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose to this month's Battleground pay-per-view lineup. You can read the official match preview here on dot com. Below is the updated lineup: Fatal 4-Way Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship - John Cena © vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton vs. Kane Battleground Battle Royal for the Intercontinental Championship - Rob Van Dam vs. Damien Sandow vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. Fandango vs. Ryback vs. Curtis Axel vs. Big E vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro vs. Bo Dallas vs. Sheamus vs. Kofi Kingston vs. The Great Khali Two out of Three Falls Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship - The Usos © vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan WWE Divas Championship Match - AJ Lee © vs. Paige Singles Match - Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt Singles Match - Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose WWE Battleground will take place Sunday, July 20, 2014. We’ll have exclusive live play-by-play coverage here at WrestlingNewsWorld.com.

TNA News

- Petey Williams has announced his retirement from professional wrestling. The following is from Twitter:

Williams worked his final bout against Chris Sabin for Xtreme Intense Championship Wrestling in Detroit, Michigan on Saturday night. Williams worked for TNA Wrestling in the 2000s and returned last year, where he worked select shows. He's a former two-time X Division Champion.

- There were three bouts that featured talent from TNA Wrestling at Sunday's Wrestle-1 show in Tokyo, Japan. Below is a quick recap:

Tajiri & Yusuke Kodama beat Ethan Carter III & Rockstar Spud when Tajiri hit a Buzzsaw Kick on Spud. The match was timed at 10:50.

The Wolves b. Minoru Tanaka & Koji Kanemoto when Davey Richards hit the Force of Nature on Minoru. The match was timed at 15:45.

The Great Muta beat Sanada with a Moonsault Press at 9:53. After the match, Sanada said he might leave Wresle-1 for good.

Puroresu Spirit has a complete recap available at this link.

- Last week's episode of Impact Wrestling did an average viewing audience of 1,325,000 viewers on Spike TV. TV by the Numbers has complete data from the top shows on cable for last Thursday at this link. The data was delayed due to the Independence Day holiday in the United States.

- TNA Wrestling used Bobby Lashley and social media to troll John Cena. The following is from Twitter:

As you can see, the post originated from a fan and then was picked up by TNA. They posed a question in regards to the image on Facebook:

Post by Impact Wrestling.

- We noted over the weekend that Petey Williams worked his final match against Chris Sabin at an indy event in Detroit, Michigan. Video footage of his farewell speech has surfaced on YouTube as you can watch at this link.

- Kurt Angle was a guest on the podcast of Jim Ross on Wednesday and stated what we've reported on numerous occasions. Angle's contract with TNA Wrestling is up on September 21, 2014 and he's already turned down an extension. Angle knows this is his last opportunity at a contract and wants to think it through. He's not expected to re-sign with TNA. You can listen to the JR/Angle podcast at this link.

- Kurt Angle Tweeted the following on Wednesday:

The post is in response to rumors of Angle being "passed out" on an airplane. We didn't run the story nor did I feel it was appropriate. However, Angle himself has assured his fans that he's sober and happy. Good for him. Angle's TNA contract is up on September 21, 2014 and he turned down an extension. I would be surprised if he re-signed and think his eyes are set on either a WWE return or deal with Jeff Jarrett'sGlobal Force Wrestling. Dixie Carter announced on Friday that British Bootcamp is returning for a second season. According to the verified TNA Wrestling Twitter account, Jeremy Borash will reveal the three judges and more exclusive news on the return on Saturday at Noon ET. The following is from Twitter:

- This week's episode of Impact Wrestling did an average viewing audience of 1,284,000 viewers on Spike TV. As always, TV by the Numbers has data for the top 100 cable TV shows for the day at this link.

Ask WNW

What are your thoughts on the direction of Big E?

Big E is completely lost out there and I think it's no fault of his own. The creative team doesn't have anything for him and he's doing everything he can to be relevant. While carrying the stereotypical "Vince McMahon look," Big E has shown shades of being able to carry a match. Many readers even thought Big E vs. Rusev at Money in the Bank, which had the potential to spell disaster, was a decently worked match. However, until WWE gives him something else, there's not much to be optimistic about.

After watching the latest Brad Maddox video of him stuck in a cave, I feel this is possibly a discreet way of WWE repackaging him as a new character, or even making him a new member of the Wyatt Family. What are your thoughts on this?

I don't think WWE has anything to do with Brad Maddox's videos and don't think it's a stretch to say he's on the "endangered species" list. If WWE were behind the videos, one would expect to see them promoted. They haven't touched the videos and I don't see a future storyline for Maddox. WWE is making a lot of budget cutbacks and it's not the time to be under contract without a direction, however, Maddox is smart enough to do everything he can to keep fans talking about him.

Is the American contingent of WWE fans jumping the gun on calling the WWE Network a failure?

It's jumping the gun to call the WWE Network a failure, however, it's a fair point to say it's not been as successful as the company had hoped. We haven't seen official numbers since the day after Wrestlemania 30 in April, so I don't want to speculate about subscribers but I truly believe WWE hoped they could announce over 1 million subscribers the day after the pay-per-view. WWE has repeatedly said the WWE Network will be profitable and at a steady state at 1 million domestic subscribers, however, many analysts do not believe that to be the case.

Is there a plan to do Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 31?

I've heard the rumor about WWE doing Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns for the title at Wrestlemania 31, however, it's far from a sure thing. I know The Rock desires a match against Lesnar if he chooses to come back so there's that. Additionally, I believe it largely hinges on how Roman Reigns progresses over the next few months. He wasn't ready for such a high profile match this year but will he be ready next? Only time will tell but it's safe to say everyone that's anyone desires a match against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31, especially after he ended The Undertaker's streak.

From the Ask WNW vault…

December 2012: If Kaval would have been properly utilized would he have still left WWE? - Kaval left WWE because he didn’t like it – from the politics to the travel schedule. He also felt the company wasn’t behind him and ended up requesting his release. This is something that bothers me with newer talent. In this business a worker has to work through low points to get the high points. Take The Miz for example. He was one of the most hated guys in the business, constantly ribbed, even to the point of not being allowed to get dressed with the rest of the roster. He didn’t quit, continued to work hard and is now in a good position. WWE isn’t for everyone but in order to “make it” a worker has to be prepared to handle tribulations. For more on Kaval and his release, you can read his comments at this link.

I was a little surprised that Chris Jericho was given a clean win over The Mizon Raw. I would have thought Bray Wyatt would interfere before the match ended in order to keep Miz strong while building the Jericho/Wyatt rivalry. With so many top stars out, and with The Miz showing in the past he can work at the top of the card as a heel, do you think Miz should get another chance as an upper card worker?

I'll also admit I was surprised The Miz tapped out in his first match back [on this week's episode of Monday Night Raw] but WWE wants to make Chris Jericho strong for a program with Bray Wyatt. While many do not see The Miz as more than a midcarder, I believe he has main event potential if used correctly. Unfortunately, there seems to be no indication that he'll ever reach the level he was at as WWE Champion in 2011. That's not to say he's without value, however, as WWE has invested a lot in him and see him as an important part of their programming.

Is Vince McMahon giving Roman Reigns more time on the mic to see how well he comes off? And from a scale of 1 to 10 what number would you give his opening promo from Raw?

I noted on Twitter that Roman Reigns seems to get a little more each week as WWE prepares him for bigger things, so your assumption about him getting more time on the mic would appear correct. I felt Reigns had good delivery on Monday and displayed a high degree of confidence, two essentials in cutting a good promo. I would rate the promo above average but below great so my rating on scale of 1-10 would be a 7. He didn't fail by any means but he didn't take it to Bray Wyatt's level either. I'll have more on Reigns in my Backstage News from Raw.

With the potential of Brock Lesnar holding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship until Wrestlemania. Do you think Bray Wyatt (compared as "the next Undertaker") should be the one who takes the title from Brock Lesnar?

If WWE goes in the direction most expect, with Brock Lesnar beating John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam, the expectation is Lesnar will hold the belt until Wrestlemania 31 next year. However, we're assuming a lot and plans are always subject to change. If Brock Lesnar wins the title -- and WWE goes with the plan for him as Champion at Wrestlemania -- everyone who is anyone will want to face him. I posted a big update on Lesnar, Triple H, The Rock and Roman Reigns that further explains this at this link. As for the idea of Bray Wyatt going over Lesnar for the title at Wrestlemania 31, it would require a turn from one of them but certainly not beyond the realm of possibilities either.

I'm baffled at WWE's choice to make John Cena WWE World Heavyweight Champion again when they had a number of options to choose from like Cesaro that have more than earned an opportunity. So is there a reason why we have yet another John Cena reign?

I don't understand how anyone could be baffled at WWE's decision to put John Cena over as Champion at Money in the Bank last month. As we examined on Monday, WWE reset last week. When in turmoil, doesn't it make sense to "go to your face?" Think of sports. Who gets the last shot? LeBron James or someone that has the potential to one day play at that level? Who do you want taking the penalty to advance in the World Cup? Lionel Messi or someone that has the potential to one day be automatic? I could go on all day but the point is, WWE was faced with a bitter reality with Daniel Bryan and reset at a pivotal time in their history. Initial WWE Network subscriptions are coming up after SummerSlam and it's imperative they have a 5-star show. No offense to any of the other participants in the title match at Money in the Bank, now was not the time to experiment with an elevation. Was Cena going over predictable? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean it was the wrong move either.

From the Ask WNW vault…

May 2012: Quoting your story on Brooke Hogan’s new job with TNA, “Her duties will be to help up-and-coming talent develop their characters, assist with promos and even consult on entrance music.” What are Brook Hogan’s qualifications to do this job? - I still can’t believe the news that Brooke Hogan is coming to TNA as an executive. My initial thought was, are they trying to lose the locker room? A lot of people can share their opinions but I have spoken firsthand with wrestlers under contract in TNA and can confirm that many are not on the Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff bandwagon. The feeling is the company has changed to appease these individuals and it’s not what it used to be. We can sugarcoat it to death but the fact is Brooke Hogan is not qualified for this position. Brooke is being hired because she is Hulk’s daughter, much like Garett Bischoff is being pushed because he’s Eric’s son. It isn’t fair, it undermines the hard work of all those that have been with TNA since day one and is a very troubling sign in how Dixie Carter can be manipulated to think these are “good” moves.

What do you think is behind Sting's cryptic Tweets?

I expect the Tweets to be in connection with a merchandise-related announcement, be it WWE 2K15 or the upcoming Sting DVD/Blu-Ray set. Anyone anticipating a major Sting return on next week's Raw to setup a series of dream matches is holding their expectations too high. We know 100% that WWE and Sting are working together and that was confirmed with the casting call issued last month. Whether or not Sting ever works a match in WWE remains to be seen.

Now that John Cena is billed a 15-time world champion, do you see him overtaking Ric Flair within the next few years?

The number of world title reigns is not a set variable but by WWE standards, Ric Flair is recognized as a 16-time world champion and John Cena is recognized as a 15-time world champion. I absolutely believe that Cena is being setup to overtake Flair and that's more than clear with WWE's current billing of him. While Cena is heavily criticized by WWE fans today, history will be much kinder and I expect him to go down as one of the greatest of all-time.

At one time, WNW reported that Big E had a lot of backing from John Cena and Vince McMahon as a next top guy, but in recent times he seems to have been pushed far behind in the line. What is the reason for this?

When Big E was first called up, he had complete support from Vince McMahon and John Cena took him under his wing, even working out with him on the road. I haven't heard if that's still the case but Big E simply lacks creative direction. Everyone wants to know what a certain worker does to be given such a role and sometimes there isn't always an easy answer. Remember, pro wrestling is not an objective business.

If Brock Lesnar becomes WWE World Heavyweight Champion at SummerSlam, how will his part-time status be handled?

If Brock Lesnar wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam, which is still an "if," I'm told the company will work out his dates to have him appear a couple times a month on television. WWE has had a part-timer hold the belt before -- The Rock was champion for 70 days from Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania in 2013 --and while I realize SummerSlam to Wrestlemania is a longer time period, the company will work it out. I think the bigger question if these hypotheticals work out is who goes over Lesnar?

From the Ask WNW vault…

January 2013: With the majority of the WWE Universe assuming The Rock will go over CM Punk on Sunday, how would you react to a swerve? - The first swerve that comes to mind would be for The Shield to cost CM Punk the WWE Championship but that is nothing more than speculation on my part. I haven’t heard the creative plan for Sunday’s WWE Championship match but that I feel it’s necessary for The Rock to win the WWE Championship so he can defend it at Wrestlemania. Not putting the title on The Rock on Sunday would be a mistake. It’s going to be more difficult with the WWE Champion working a part-time schedule, but live events will be hurt more than TVs due to Rock’s insane schedule.

I read your article -- Is The WWE Intercontinental Championship Cursed? -- and do not follow your point. How is it cursed?

I thought about following up with Part 2 on Thursday but this seems like an appropriate platform to address this. Workers to hold the WWE Intercontinental Championship over the last three years include Ezekiel Jackson, Cody Rhodes, Big Show, Christian, The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Wade Barrett, Curtis Axel and Big E. I thought the list alone would be enough for people to see my point but I'll expound further. Workers put over for what was once WWE's top midcard belt have struggled with injury issues (Big Show, Christian, Wade Barrett), lack of creative direction (Ezekiel Jackson, Cody Rhodes, The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Curtis Axel and Big E) or both (Big Show, Christian and Wade Barrett). Out of the 9 people to hold the belt over the past three years, none of them have been propelled to proverbial main event status. In fact, it was a demotion for Big Show, Christian and The Miz. What was hoped to be the launchpad for some stars turned out to what could be (Curtis Axel and Big E) or was (Ezekiel Jackson) their peak. Is the Intercontinental Championship cursed? I don't know if that's the right word but it's certainly not the same title that launched the successful careers of Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect and The Rock.

Does CM Punk have a 90-day non-compete clause attached to his WWE contract?

The way 90-day non-compete clauses work with WWE contracts is they kick in once the agreement is terminated before its expiration. Because Punk's contract is expiring, there will be no 90-day non-compete clause. No one expects Punk to work outside of WWE and the belief is he is in fact retired. As I've now noted two times this week, the expiration date for CM Punk's WWE Performer's Contract is July 15, 2014.

I feel The Usos are underrated on the mic. Is there a chance we see more of them talking?

I believe The Usos will continue to have opportunities, both on the mic and in the ring. At one time they were struggling for creative direction and even wavering on irrelevance but with Vince McMahon swinging back and forth on tag teams being relevant, they took their opportunities and made the most of them. Now, Jimmy and Jey Uso are seen as a big part of WWE's next wave of talent. I say this all the time but it bares repeating. Opportunities are few and far in-between and once they become available, it's imperative the worker(s) makes the most of them.

With the seemingly flop of Bo Dallas and Adam Rose, is Vince McMahon beginning to question Triple H's talent judgement. Who is the next NXT call up?

Neither Bo Dallas nor Adam Rose are considering "flops" at this point. I believe Rose is losing confidence from the office more than Bo Dallas but the push of neither has been aborted as of this writing. Bo Dallas and Adam Rose continue to be booked with confidence and as I've pointed out, Adam Rose has never lost under the gimmick. As for the relationship between Vince McMahon and Triple H, we've heard things have grown more contentious recently, however, I don't think there are major issues either way. Vince has a vision and Hunter has a vision and the bad part is when they intersect into storylines but the chain of command has not and will not change. As for upcoming NXT call-ups, look for The Ascension at the top of the list.

From the Ask WNW vault…

September 2012: Is Beth Phoenix being booked as a jobber because she plans on leaving WWE? - As I discussed in Monday’s YouTube report, WWE has made sure Beth Phoenix has “hit her head” several times on the way out the door. Obviously they’ve known for awhile Beth’s contract was coming up and she wasn’t intending to re-sign so they wanted to send her out as cold as possible. It seems harsh but it’s the way the business works.

I'm wondering if you anticipate a massive changing of the guard in WWE, as in when Steve Austin took his place atop the roster and opened up for the phenomenal title changes between The Rock, Mick Foley, Triple H and himself?

I have read your thoughts on Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and Cesaro as the next top tier. I would personally love to see the three take over the upper card, changing the WWE title for a year, opening the gate for Seth Rollins and than Dean Ambrose to to follow suit as the title picture further evolves (or any order for those five names to overtake a very predictable current title scene).

We are clearly seeing the next wave of talent in WWE that is headlined by Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns and Cesaro. Included in that group is Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, The Usos, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Someone Tweeted at me earlier in the week about WWE's "sad state" because Chris Jericho and Kane are still in major storylines. That couldn't be more misleading, as long-time established veterans have always played a part in the transition. Let's not forget that we're leaving out Daniel Bryan, who would headline this list had it not been for injury issues. The future is very bright in WWE, however, it's imperative that all elevations are handled tactfully and not rushed.

I know this may seem from left field but I'm curious on your thoughts. After watching some of the extreme matches Vince McMahon has been in including against Shane and Shawn Michaels, do you think Vince is a bit underrated and one of the best hardcore performers?

I think the entire McMahon family - Vince, Linda, Shane and Stephanie - have all done things in the ring and on the mic that should be commended. From taking hard bumps to cutting stellar promos, they all have the gift. This isn't something that just happens and I'll give you a very clear example. Watch tape of Dixie Carter on television, trying to portray a heel authority character. It seems forced and phony. Watch tape of Stephanie McMahon on television, portraying a heel authority character. She's convincing and realistic. The McMahons are special and I absolutely think they deserve to be commended because of that.

I just read about Cesaro losing to RVD in Japan. Although Cesaro is displaying some post-match aggression on TV, he's been racking up the losses since the Kofi eye incident. Is his push still on track?

I'll tell everyone that will listen not to put too much into live event results. However, it's worth mentioning that Cesaro's win/loss record on television after the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Money in the Bank is 0-4. This also includes going under to Kofi Kingston clean on this week's episode of Monday Night Raw. Could he have heat? It's a possibility but I can't confirm one way or the other.

Today, I performed a Google search for any news updates on Sting joining the WWE in an active role and noticed something interesting. Previously, when the engine returned a hit for the Official WWE biography page, it was always described as "WCW Alumni". Now, it lists him as a WWE Superstar. Is this further evidence we will at least be seeing Sting on TV and at events or do you think we are still only talking about the 2K15 rollout?

Sting is still listed in the WCW Alumni section on WWE.com, a fact you can see for yourself at this link. People expecting a major Sting debut on next week's episode of Monday Night Raw are setting themselves up for major disappointment. I'll have more later but again, do not expect that Sting spoiled his WWE debut on Twitter.

From the Ask WNW vault…

June 2012: Is there still a backstage rule of “paying your dues” between all talent? - Many of the veterans will argue the business isn’t what it once was and that younger workers come in today with a sense of entitlement where they are “above” paying their dues. We can point to many different factors as to why this is but it’s still in a younger worker’s best interest to come in humble, ready to “pay their dues.” The pro wrestling business is unlike any other in that the outcomes are predetermined but how you are booked and pushed can determine whether you make very little or millions of dollars. Backstage politics can cost a very talented worker their chance at stardom so if someone is going to come in with an attitude, they better know who not to rub the wrong way.

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