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Things Get Worse For WWE Network, Major Programming Shakeup, WWE Hires Acting Coach

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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, November 1, 2014 to Friday, November 7, 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

- Triple H has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Sports Legacy Institute, the non-profit organization announced on Friday. Former WWE star, who is the co-founder and executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute, Christopher Nowinski, commented.

“We are thrilled to welcome Paul Levesque to our Board of Directors,” said Christopher Nowinski, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Sports Legacy Institute. “As an athlete himself, Paul is familiar with the risks associated with concussions. As an executive, Paul has made it a priority to protect WWE’s performers through education and awareness, as well as preventative measures and world-class medical care.”

Hunter said the appointment is an honor.

“It is an honor to join the Board of Directors at SLI to support the important work they do in the field of concussion management and prevention,” said Levesque. “This work benefits athletes of all ages and skill levels, from high school to collegiate to professional sports, as well as many others, including members of our military.”

Triple H currently oversees WWE's Talent Wellness Program and Professional Development as part of his executive role in the company.

Dot com has the complete press release at this link.

Richard Reacts: Things have certainly changed. Remember this?  It's good to see WWE taking concussion management seriously and they should be commended for that.

- There was an interesting edit to this week's episode of WWE Smackdown as the company included the video of Vince McMahon announcing that new WWE Network subscribers would get the month of November, including Survivor Series, for free. McMahon ended the video with a Daniel Bryan "Yes" chant as you can watch it at this link. The crowd joined Vince in the "yes" chant as they went to the announce table on the broadcast.

The segment that started the "yes" chant at the Smackdown taping on Tuesday featured The Big Show. It was there he announced Daniel Bryan needed another elbow surgery and they were going to make a video for him and send it to him. He's who got the live crowd chant started and the video featuring McMahon's announcement was added like it aired on the titantron in post-production.

- WWE highlighted two specific lawsuits brought against them in Form 10-Q filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. Litigation included is one suit alleging they violated securities laws and the other filed by Billy Jack Haynes that we covered at this link.

Below is their response to the lawsuits:

WWE Litigation

You can read Form 10-Q in PDF format at this link.

- John Cena and Nikki Bella were Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone from "Anchorman" for Halloween. You can watch a vine of them playing their characters embedded below:

- Speaking of Nikki Bella, she's featured in the latest episode of Smackdown Fallout. Click here to watch now. - Below is the promotional poster for WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs: Click here to load Photo/Tweet (if not loaded)

- Jim Ross made an excellent point regarding the number of WWE Network subscribers in a new blog post on his official website. In it, he likens WWE's $9.99 marketing of their Network to promoting a lunch special for $4.99 but not saying what the special menu item is.

Below is an excerpt:

Big week for WWE with their quarterly conference call discussing their financials for the quarter. Disappointing number on the total number of subscriptions but with the UK coming aboard that should help their cause.

This matter of the WWE Network can be analyzed in a variety of ways but the bottom line is that the WWE core product isn't 'hot' and when a brand isn't hot it's difficult to sell spin off products of the brand such as subscribing to their digital network.

WWE Creative must do a better job of heating up the WWE TV shows, allow new, fresh, young talents to take on bigger roles and introduced new talents with a systematic plan to bring them in with fanfare and instant credibility.

Plus selling he Network primarily because of the price of $9.99 which has essentially become a punch line in a joke and is not a selling point. It's akin to saying that we have a lunch special for $4.99 but not saying what the special menu item is. In a three hour raw, WWE should feature vignettes of network offerings to remind fans of what they are missing. If I'm not seeing, feeling, or experiencing whet it is you want me to buy I'm highly unlikely to buy it.

The three hour, WWE flagship broadcast, Monday Night RAW, always has segments that should not make air and using some of the great content from the Network in lieu of such suspect content is a win-win for everyone.

I enjoy the WWE Network and have had it since day one and I'm not paid or encouraged to say so. I'm simply speaking as a fan but I do feel that the concept is a viable one but it will be a couple of years or so it seems before the financials reflect the concept. But it will happen if it is promoted creatively and with weekly time on RAW specifically designated for Network promotion in an enhanced way and by using more time.

Things such as 'This week in WWE Network history' to the superstars themselves tweeting daily what they are watching or are going to watch on the Network are just two simple ways to drive traffic to the newest, most important aspect of the company. Things need to change because what is being utilized currently is obviously not working. The good news is that WWE can change their creative as it relates to their air marketing plan in a manner of days or weeks to improve their results of gaining new subscribers to the WWE Network.

The old, promotes philosophy of giving the audience what they want and they will buy it still is applicable today in any business.

Click here for JR's blog in its entirety.

I made essentially the same point earlier this week in Ask WNW. Below is an excerpt:

My personal opinion is the WWE Network is poorly marketed. There is too much emphasis on it being $9.99 without explaining the quality of the service. Maybe things will get better now that the service will soon be $9.99/month across the board but I don’t think price should even be a factor. I’ve pointed time and time again to Wrestlemania being the most expensive pay-per-view but the most bought. I’ve also explained how we market WNW Premium here at the website. While I believe our prices and plans are both affordable and flexible for any budget, I don’t believe that’s the reason you should sign up. I believe you should sign up because it’s a great product. You get a lot of value for your money.

I believe lost in $9.99 is the WWE Network is a valuable product — even for a causal fan. You get every pay-per-view, original WWE content, outstanding NXT live specials and other live programs along with a vast and expansive video on demand library. Further proof WWE isn’t properly relaying this message is how they bizarrely shame people that buy their pay-per-views on a traditional basis. Isn’t that proof enough that people don’t care about the price if they are interested in the product?

Click here for Thursday's installment of Ask WNW.

- Wade Barrett, Sheamus and Titus O’Neil were in attendance at Saturday’s Houston at South Florida college football game. You can view a photo below:

Click here to load Photos/Tweet (if not loaded)

- Daniel Bryan went to Friday’s Phoenix Suns game dressed as Waldo. You can view a photo from Instagram below:

- has a complete transcript of last Thursday’s WWE third quarter earnings call. You can read it at this link. We posted highlights here on

- Darren Young Tweeted well wishes on Friday to everyone at Miami Sports Medicine for helping get him ‘to 100.’ It would appear he’s completely healthy after tearing his ACL and MCL (cruciate injuries) in a singles match against Fandango at WWE live event in April. His return to WWE TV will likely hinge on a creative plan for him. Young appeared alongside Daniel Bryan, Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon at Buchser Middle School in Santa Clara, California last Tuesday for a Be-A-Star anti-bullying rally. He saw Dr. Jeffrey Dugas in Birmingham, AL, the doctor that performed his surgery, last Wednesday.

- WWE reported Monday on dot com that Bo Dallas has a left foot injury and is expected out 6-8 weeks.

Below is an excerpt from their coverage: has learned that Bo Dallas has suffered an injury to his left foot. As a result, Dallas is expected to be out of action for six to eight weeks.

Click here for coverage by

- Tickets for Wrestlemania 31 officially go on sale on Saturday, November 15, 2014 at Noon EST. Tickets range from $35 to $1000 and will be available at

WWE posted official details for tickets going on sale here on dot com.

In that post, a promotional graphic for Wrestlemania 31 featured Dean Ambrose, Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Mark Henry and Bray Wyatt. While all promotional graphics are obviously subject to change, it does provide some optimism that Bryan will be back in the ring by Wrestlemania 31 next year.

Below is the image:

Click here to load Photos/Tweets (if not loaded)

Wrestlemania 31 will take place from Levi’s Stadium on Sunday, March 29, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. - WWE announced Monday on their verified social media accounts that the launch of the WWE Network in the United Kingdom has been delayed until further notice. Below is the official statement from Twitter:

Monday, November 3, 2014 3:00 PM EDT Update: WWE removed the statement from the verified Facebook page of the WWE Network. End update.

Monday, November 3, 2014 6:50 PM EDT Update: WWE added one line to the aforementioned statement that was posted here on dot com. That line is as follows: WWE would like to thank our fans in the United Kingdom for bearing with us. End update.

WWE announced last week their Over the Top service would launch for free on Monday through the end of the month. They sent out the following email:

WWE Network in UK

The WWE Network was originally scheduled to launch in the United Kingdom on October 1, however, was delayed. Vince McMahon and George Barrios confirmed last Thursday in a conference call with investors the service would launch in the UK in November but didn’t give a specific date. We recapped that call at this link.

- Daniel Bryan talked about his health and recovery in an interview with Sports Illustrated Now on Monday. In it, he didn't give any new details on his health but he didn't confirm surgery either.

Bryan said that he feels fine and has no pain but he continues to experience weakness in his right hand. He said if he was an MMA fighter, the weakness wouldn't be that bad but would be an advantage for his opponent. He said because he's a pro wrestler, the weakness poses a risk to himself and to his opponents. Bryan said they couldn't figure out how to get the strength back.

When asked if he would be able to compete at Wrestlemania 31, he said he hoped so and would be disappointed if he couldn't. He talked about being in Santa Clara last week for an anti-bullying rally and seeing where Wrestlemania will take place next year and summed up the possibility of missing the show next year as heartbreaking.

You can listen to the snippet at this link.

WWEprovided some optimism on Monday by featuring Bryan in a promotional graphic for Wrestlemania 31 but as we cautioned when showing that graphic, it's subject to change. The fact is no one - not even Bryan - knows for sure when he'll be able to get back.

- While one of the main promotional points for this week's episode of Monday Night Raw is the possible formation of Team Cena for the main event of Survivor Series, he's not being advertised to appear officially or locally.

- Former Total DivaJoJo Offerman worked Sunday's WWE live event in Syracuse, NY as a ring announcer. We included a photo of her in our coverage at this link.

- There are questions as to whether or not Randy Orton will be featured at Survivor Series. As we reported here at, he won't be going on WWE's upcoming European tour and will be off the road to film the starring role in The Condemned 2. It's noted in that report that filming begins on November 11, 2014 in New Mexico. Further, he is not listed on the advertised talent for the pay-per-view in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. A clearer picture should be made on this week's Raw where the company will have the option to write him off if they so choose.

- Last week's episode of WWE Smackdown garnered an average viewing audience of 2,213,000 viewers on SyFy. This was down from the week prior -- which was down sharp before Hell in a Cell. However, little attention will be paid to the number because it aired on Halloween. WWE expects viewership to decline on holidays. Competition featured the return of the NBA Regular Season and Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel. TV by the Numbers has the top 100 cable shows among adults 18-49 for the whole day at this link.

- Mr. McMahon kicked off this week's Raw with an in-ring segment with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Vince announced that if Team Cena beat Team Authority at Survivor Series, The Authority will be no longer. WWE Survivor Series will take place on Sunday, November 23, 2014 from Scottrade Center in St. Louis Missouri. We’ll have exclusive live play-by-play coverage at

- After Raw went off the air, Randy Orton was carried off on a stretcher. After that, WWE proceeded with the advertised United States Championship match exclusively airing on the WWE Network. Rusev went on to beat Sheamus to win his first championship in WWE. You can read full Raw results here.

- WWE did an injury angle with Randy Orton on this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw, effectively writing him off television. As CJ Blaze noted here on, a stretcher job was done after the show that aired on the WWE Network.

Dot com followed up on the angle with a kayfabe article published at this link, claiming “locker room speculation” was that he suffered a concussion. They promised a further update on Tuesday.

In reality, Orton is not going on WWE’s European tour because he’ll be filming his starring role in The Condemned 2. We wrote about Orton’s status prior to this week’s Raw, noting WWE would have the opportunity to write him off if that’s direction they choose to go. Filming for The Condemned 2 will begin on November 11, 2014 in New Mexico. His status for Survivor Series is uncertain.

- Cesaro was injured in the opening bout of this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw against Dean Ambrose, as he suffered a cut to his head that required five staples to close. Cesaro posted a photo on Instagram of the injury which showed considerable swelling as well as the staples.

You can view it below:

- The usage of Tyson Kidd and Natalya on this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw follows along with something we heard and reported last week here on Premium. The producers of Total Divas love the segments with Kidd and Nattie and a conscious effort is being made to highlight them on WWE television. Triple H is also high up on Kidd as he looks to incorporate elements into his gimmick inspired by his friend Teddy Hart. This explains his upset win against the then United States Champion Sheamus and the fact he landed a considerable amount of offense before the dirty finish. As we noted in our Premium report, Kidd is slated for a “bit of a push” to help promote the second half of Season 3 of Total Divas. - Below are Raw Fallout videos following this week’s show: The School of Performance pays off - Raw Fallout, Nov. 3, 2014 Running for the Gold? - Raw Fallout, Nov. 3, 2014 - WWE is restarting on Ryback as the “Feed Me More” babyface. The company felt this is when he was the most successful and feel if given a chance, he could provide them with some roster depth. There were some attitude/behavioral issues that plagued Ryback in the past but last week, he was well-received. - The company intentionally “loaded up” this week’s Raw with a surprise appearance by Vince McMahon and stronger match card to offset the loss of John Cena. Cena was pulled from all promotional material for the show late last week but refunds were still offered to fans at the beginning of the taping. - For those that missed Sheamus dropping the WWE United States Championship to Rusev following this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw on the WWE Network, highlights are available at this link. Richard Reacts: My position on Rusev has changed. As I explained after Hell in a Cell in Ask WNW, while my questions surrounding the longevity of his Russian apologist gimmick remain, I believe he can get it done in the ring. Rusev is versatile and athletic, something that has given both Big Show and Mark Henry lengthy careers in WWE. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a top guy but I’m high up on him. While it was predictable that he would beat Sheamus for the US title, it is refreshing to see one of the mid-card belts being utilized for its intended purpose. This match “meant something” and that’s all we can ask for regarding secondary titles. - We received some questions about the mysterious “eye vignettes” on this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw. The vignettes were for Luke Harper and are part of singling him out to work on his own. You can watch one of them at this link. Richard Reacts: I actually thought the vignettes were rather obvious but anything that adds mystique to Luke Harper is good. I hope he gets some decent protection behind a singles push. As I’ve previously reported on here on, Vince McMahon is high up on Harper because of his size and sees him as a bigger star than Bray Wyatt. Wyatt, however, has the undisputed backing of Triple H as Hunter views him as proof the NXT system works. - WWE posted the Randy Orton stretcher job following this week’s Raw on YouTube. The segment featured Seth Rollins carrying Joey Mercury to the back. You can watch at this link. We have more on Orton being written off at this link and more about him and Rollins being “red hot” in Tuesday’s Ask WNW. - This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw garnered an average viewing audience of 4,040,333 viewers on the USA Network. Below is how the show broke down by hour: Hour one - 4,043,000 viewers Hour two - 4,203,000 viewers Hour three - 3,875,000 viewers WWE saw a big surge from hour one to hour two (+160,000) but a nasty decline from hour two to hour three (-328,000). All and all they were back over 4 million viewers, so this number will probably be seen in a positive light. Monday Night Football over on ESPN garnered an average viewing audience of 12,361,000 viewers. Raw tied Love & Hip Hop Hollywood as the highest-rated non football program with a 1.3 adults 18-49 rating on cable. This was equal with what they did last week. TV by the Numbers has more data for the top 100 cable shows in adults 18-49 for the whole day at this link. - WWE NXT Champion Adrian Neville beat Fandango in a dark match at Tuesday’s Main Event/Smackdown tapings in Albany. The Ascension was also in action. - Curtis Axel returned to TV on this week’s episode of Main Event, going over Justin Gabriel. We’ve been tracking his status recently as he worked a dark match last week and we detailed his pending return in our Backstage Raw News a few weeks ago. - Sports Illustrated featured Dolph Ziggler on their “Twitter 100 list for 2014.” Dot com has the coverage at this link. Seth Rollins is featured on the coverage of The Box magazine. My friend Luke Parks sent me a pic that has received tons of attention on Twitter. You can view it below: Click here to load Photo/Tweet (if not loaded)

- WWE has updated their kayfabe coverage on Randy Orton. Rather than recap a storyline report, here’s the update in its entirety: has learned that Orton has been diagnosed with a concussion following further tests by WWE physician Dr. Stephen Daquino. “Randy exhibited symptoms of a concussion after the Curb Stomp on the announcer’s desk,” Daquino reported to “He also had some facial contusions. Currently he is not cleared to compete and his return timetable is undetermined.”

As for Orton’s status for Survivor Series, here was the update given on this week’s episode of Main Event, transcribed by Brooks Oglesby in his report:

The “A New Day” promo for Xavier woods airs. Back at the announce table, Michael Cole & JBL introduce a Raw Rebound detailing the return of Vince McMahon. Vince’s stipulation: “If Team Authority loses, the Authority will no longer be in power” is shown, as well as the dissension between Randy Orton and Seth Rollins, ending with the two curb stomps delivered to Orton. Back at the announce table, Cole calls it a “disturbing scene.” He says he has a medical update on Orton from WWE’s doctors, who say he has “symptoms of a concussion” and “some facial contusions.” He is not cleared to compete, and his return schedule has not yet been determined, so it seems as if he will not be a part of Team Authority. It is announced that John Cena returns to Raw next week. In addition, Bray Wyatt will be in action next.

Here’s the story. Orton was written off television to film his starring role in The Condemned 2. Filming begins on November 11th in New Mexico, a fact he confirmed when explaining why he won’t be on WWE’s European tour. Orton’s status for Survivor Series is unknown but he’s not listed in official advertising information. The pay-per-view will take place from his hometown of St. Louis, which would work out well if they decided to bring him back as a babyface. We’ll have more in our Backstage News from Raw later in the day.

- WWE is slowly introducing Sami Zayn to the main roster after a successful career down in NXT. For those that missed this week’s Main Event, Zayn lost to Tyson Kidd (who is being intentionally featured) via a handful of tights.

The company aired this video package for Zayn:

Video highlights for the match are online at this link or embedded in the video below:

Richard Reacts: WWE is often criticized for hot-shotting talent directly from NXT to the main roster. Sometimes it works (Bray Wyatt) and sometimes it doesn’t (Emma). This is a different approach, giving Zayn a match on Main Event along with a video package to help familiarize the audience with his journey. I like it and believe it’s better than just throwing him to the fire out of the gate.

- John Cena missed this week’s WWE television but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t working. Cena Tweeted the following from his verified Twitter account:

Click here to load Tweet (if not loaded)

Cena will return to the ring on Wednesday at WWE’s live event from The SSE Arena, Wembley in London, England. We’ll have complete details on the European tour online shortly. Richard Reacts: We can criticize the lack of character progression for John Cena until we’re blue in the face but he’s a guy that lives out his message of Hustle, Respect and Loyalty. Cena is a workhorse that earns his paycheck.Backstage news from Monday Night Raw in Buffalo… - If a determination regarding Randy Orton’s status for Survivor Series was made on Monday night, we didn’t hear about it. Orton is expected to be off for approximately one month to film his role as a former bounty hunter in The Condemned 2. Obviously under that timetable he would be considered doubtful for Survivor Series if it weren’t for current circumstances of the company being light on top talent, in Orton’s hometown at the time when they are turning him baby(ish) and the underlying issues between him and Rollins. The company clearly plans to program Orton vs. Seth Rollins once Orton is back full-time. - We reported on October 27, 2014 here on Premium that Cesaro DID NOT have heat for his comment about John Cena vs. Randy Orton at Hell in a Cell. His booking on Raw has some people not questioning that as the feeling is the roster is short on heels and Cesaro is primed to make an impact. Cesaro was put through WWE’s concussion protocol after taking the five staples to the head but was cleared. - WWE realizes their World Heavyweight Championship is being forgotten and they are looking for ways to highlight it without Brock Lesnar appearing live. I’m told ideas pitched including airing a pre-tape of Lesnar with the title in the gym or bringing Paul Heyman in for a promo. - The feeling on Monday was that it was a "definite" that Team Cena would go over at Survivor Series. The first reason was to keep Cena strong for his “rubber match” against Brock Lesnar and the second reason having to due with changes to The Authority storyline. Obviously Vince McMahon made the call to bring his character back but with the stipulation he added to the match, most see an inevitable change to the faction’s dominance. There were also some rumblings that Stephanie McMahon could be in the process of being written off television. - We’re told Triple H sees Seth Rollins as one of the company’s top heels and has drawn a comparison to Edge. Hunter thinks he has similar delivery, in-ring look and style but an event better version. Triple H was never Edge’s biggest fan and most of that was seen as personal. However, Vince McMahon is also high up on Rollins for paying his due and his likable personality backstage. Vince does have concerns with his size but the rocket pack is on. - There are conflicting reports about the re-debut of Xavier Woods. Some felt the promo that’s now airing on TV is for him to re-debut in singles, while others are saying it’s how WWE plans to bring the faction also featuring Kofi Kingston and Big E to television. Regardless, Woods is getting an opportunity. - WWE posted a video of Vince McMahon apologizing to fans in the United Kingdom for the delay in the WWE Network launch here on dot com. I am currently unable to get the video to load but I’m told it was played on Wednesday before the company’s live event in London, England. The company put a self-imposed deadline for the WWE Network to launch in the UK in time for this November’s tour but obviously didn’t make it. As we reported on Tuesday, Sky is denying anything to do with the delays despite reports (outside of Wrestling News World) indicating the contrary. At this point the delays for the WWE Network in the U.K. are being seen internally as the latest “disastrous” step in the rocky launch of the service. The United Kingdom is very valuable to WWE and is one of their top international markets. - WWE is officially advertising The Peep Show with Christian for this week’s episode of Smackdown. The segment was taped at Tuesday night’s tapings in Albany, New York and features Dean Ambrose as his guest. The appearance is actually being done to co-promote Christian’s upcoming guest arc on SyFy’s Haven. As a result, Christian sat down with Michael Cole for this week’s kayfabe sit-down interview. You can watch it at this link. Note that nothing was stated about Christian’s in-ring future. We have complete Smackdown taping results online at this link. - WWE announced Thursday here on dot com that beginning Monday, it will be ECW Week on the WWE Network. Everything will kick off after next week's Raw with a live special called ECW Exposed hosted by Paul Heyman and Joey Styles. Styles will interview Heyman on the special, using questions asked from Twitter. You can Tweet a question using the hashtag #ECWExposed. The special will air again following the November 14th episode of Smackdown. Click here for coverage by - Chad Dukes interviewed Hulk Hogan earlier in the week and he spoke about Bray Wyatt. Below is an excerpt:

“He fits in that grey area, and I’m gonna put myself over, that I started when I turned bad guy, Hollywood Hogan and people cheered me. It just showed the fans, whether you’re good guy or bad guy, they’re gonna cheer who they love and like to watch perform and I think he kinda broke down that barrier again. At first I was like ‘Oh man what is this guy doing,’ and then I started watching him and with the mind games and the rap and basically how good he was in the ring. I remember one pay-per-view he wrestled Daniel Bryan in the opening match, was like a year or so ago, nobody could follow that match. It was the first match of the pay-per-view and they tore it down. Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt. And I said this guy’s gonna be red-hot.”

Click here to listen to the interview in its entirety. - Episode 1 of The Making of WWE 2K15 is now online at this link. - EOnlineUK had a crew at Wednesday’s WWE live event in London, England. They interviewed The Bella Twins and posted video at this link. We included some photos in our live report. - WWE has confirmed that Smackdown is moving back to Thursday nights on SyFy beginning January 15 at 8 PM ET. In a statement posted on the company's official website, Michael Engleman, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Digital and Global Brand Strategy, Syfy, explained the move. Below is an excerpt:

"Quite simply, more young men watch television on Thursday night than on Fridays,” said Michael Engleman, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Digital and Global Brand Strategy, Syfy. “Among Men 18-49, PUTS [persons using television] are 15 percent higher compared to Fridays, expanding the potential audience for SmackDown. Since the majority of broadcast programming skews female, we're also using Thursday nights to counter-program."

WWE touted the show's success on Friday nights and you can read their coverage at this link. After a couple of months of uncertainty, we confirmed a move was coming on October 10, 2014. It was then it was learned that 12 Monkeys, a new original series, will replace Smackdown on SyFy on Friday, January 16, 2015. You can read that report at this link. Richard Reacts: I know one of the first questions will be - what happens to NXT? Well, the company already premieres it Thursday afternoon at 4 PM but a move to Wednesday or Friday wouldn't surprise me. We'll update when we hear more. - Michelle Wilson, chief revenue and marketing officer, WWE, told Variety that NXT will move to Wednesday nights at 8 PM on the WWE Network in response to Smackdown’s move back to Thursday nights. You can read their coverage at this link. As we reported earlier here at, WWE has finally confirmed Smackdown’s move back to Thursday nights on SyFy beginning on January 15 at 8 PM. The move has been rumored for months and was one we confirmed last month. - This week’s episode of WWE Inbox is subtitled “Exclusive Backstage Stories” and is online at this link. - WWE posted a commercial for Smackdown’s move back to Thursday nights on their YouTube channel. You can watch it at this link. - We reported a couple of weeks ago here on Premium that Triple H spent an entire day at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. We’re told he had workers do matches and cut promos for him. Hunter spent a lot of time talking with the trainers, going over notes and talking critiques with everyone. One worker that really got Hunter’s attention was Dylan Mile. He was so impressed he ordered that Mile get extra attention and that his progress be closely tracked. To give you an idea of Mile and his abilities, he once worked a WWE tryout that included Joey Ryan and The Wolves and was the only one signed. He’s 6’3/285 lb. and has a bodybuilder look. Another issue that Triple H had to deal with was Bill DeMott. DeMott is a lightning rod for controversy and we’re told William Regal complained to Hunter about him. DeMott has been spoken to on numerous occasions about his abrasive nature and usually tones it down after a talk. However, sources indicate those talks usually just result in temporary relief. For now, DeMott is considered to be on the hot seat again. Other than that, Hunter talked with a lot of talent and trainers and held several meetings. - Finn Balor’s debut in NXT aired on this week’s episode on the WWE Network. You can watch video highlights followed by a storyline interview taped shortly thereafter at this link. Balor Tweeted the following: Click here to load Photo/Tweet (if not loaded)

William Regal commented on his debut in a video posted at this link.

Our result report from this week's WWE NXT is now online at this link. Balor is formerly known as Prince Devitt and officially signed with WWE last summer.

- ESPN’s bad boy — Bill Simmons — ran into WWE’s former bad boy — CM Punk — at Thursday night’s Los Angeles Kings game. He posted the following photo on Instagram:

- There continues to be a lot of rumors and speculation about the WWE Network in the United Kingdom. WWE has announced two launch dates for the service in the U.K. (October 1st and November 3rd) but have missed both. In fact, the company announced less than a half hour prior to launch on Monday the WWE Network “has been delayed until further notice.” The only official response from WWE other than the aforementioned statement is a video apology from Vince McMahon currently airing before live events in the United Kingdom. We recapped the apology at this link and while Vince apologized, no specifics for the delay were given. Some are reporting that Sky representatives are telling customers the WWE Network will launch as a traditional Pay-TV channel, not as an Over the Top service. We’re unable to confirm that. The WWE Network is a Pay-TV channel in Canada and Vince McMahon stated they would be open to doing that in other markets if the deal was right. Any deal for that to happen would have to be one that included the company’s core programming (such as Raw and Smackdown) along with the WWE Network. Given Sky is WWE’s TV partner in the UK, the idea that the service could exist on a traditional platform (like it does on Rogers Communications systems in Canada) is feasible. Wrestling News World reader Graham Ward messaged Sky customer support and they sent him the following message:

Hi Graham, The WWE Network UK release wasn't delayed by Sky, that I can assure you. It would best if you were to contact WWE directly regarding any questions you may have on the WWE Network as this is not our product. Chris

This lines up with an earlier report we filed here at In conclusion, Sky is telling customers two different things. They’re saying the WWE Network will launch as a traditional Pay-TV channel and they are also telling customers they have nothing to do with the delays and to ask WWE. WWE is just airing an apology from Vince McMahon but not giving specifics. - It appears that Roman Reigns is trying to improve his character while rehabilitating an incarcerated hernia by taking acting classes. Well known artistic director of The Howard Fine Acting Studio - Howard Fine - Tweeted the following: Click here to load Tweet (if not loaded)

Fine’s training studio offers classes to adults from beginning through professional. You can get more details at this link.

Reigns has been off WWE television since the Saturday before Night of Champions when he was rushed to a hospital in Nashville, TN for emergency surgery to repair an incarcerated hernia. WWE is expecting him to be ready to return before the end of the year.

- Following-up on an earlier report about Howard Fine coaching Roman Reigns, he’s actually been working close with several members of the WWE roster. He Tweeted last month he was coaching Rusev, Lana and The Miz. The following is from Twitter:

Click here to load Tweet (if not loaded)

He’s also made several trips to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida to work with upcoming talent. I can confirm Fine was at the facility on September 5, 2014.

Fine is a big name in the industry and works with A-list talent such as Will Smith. He’s also worked with past WWE talent such as Steve Austin and The Rock.

Richard Reacts: I cannot tell you how many readers ask about WWE offering acting classes to their talent. This shows you how serious the company is about getting their talent comfortable on-screen. This is very commendable.

- There are no plans for WWE Smackdown to go live following their move back to Thursday nights next year, Wrestling News World can confirm. As things currently stand, the company will continue to tape the show after Main Event on Tuesday nights for the foreseeable future.

WWE confirmed earlier this week that Smackdown will move back to Thursday nights beginning on January 15 at 8 PM ET on SyFy. You can read our report at this link. As a result, NXT will move to Wednesdays on the WWE Network.

- SLAM! Wrestling is reporting that WWE Smackdown will move to Wednesday nights in Canada. The move will take place on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 with the show airing from 8-10 PM on Sportsnet 360. Obviously this means the show will air in Canada before it airs in the United States.

Complicating matters is that Smackdown will now compete with WWE NXT in Canada as it will move to Wednesday nights following the move to Thursday nights in the United States. An obvious solution would be to air NXT at the 10 PM hour following Smackdown on the Canadian version of WWE Network, called WWE Net Pak, which Rogers calls a "sample of the best WWE Network programming."

We've already confirmed there are no plans for Smackdown to go live, which means the show will air in Canada approximately 24 hours after it's taped on Tuesday nights.

Click here for coverage by SLAM! Wrestling.

- Dot com announced details on a Wrestlemania On-Sale Party scheduled for next Friday, November 14 from 6-9 PM at Intel Plaza at Levi’s Stadium. Hulk Hogan, Jimmy Hart, Daniel Bryan, Bad News Barrett, Booker T, Charlotte, Rosa Mendes and Tyler Breeze will be on hand. The event will be hosted by Corey Graves and NXT emcee Christian Litke. Click here for details on how you can attend and get Wrestlemania 31 tickets before they go on sale worldwide.

- Dot com looked at the 15 most underrated entrance themes at this link.

- John Cena vs. Ryback is being advertised for next week’s Monday Night Raw in Liverpool.

- Part 2 of the Halloween Special of The JBL Show is online at this link.

TNA News

- Robbie E and Brooke -- The Wrestlers -- have staved off elimination through six legs of The Amazing Race. Below is the updated standings:

  1. Misti & Jim (The Dentists)
  2. Adam & Bethany (Soul Surfers)
  3. Kym & Alli (The Cyclists)
  4. Tim & Te Jay (College Sweethearts)
  5. Brook & Robbie (The Wrestlers)
  6. Amy & Maya (Sweet Scientists)
  7. Shelley & Nici (Mother/Daughter)
  8. Keith & Whitney (Team Nashville)
  9. Michael & Scott (The Firefighters)
  10. Dennis & Isabelle (The Dating Couple)
  11. Lisa & Michelle (Miami Realtors)

- TNA Wrestling has announced they will air One Night Only - Victory Road on pay-per-view on Friday, December 5, 2014. Their Unfinished Business: Beer Money pay-per-view will air on Saturday, December 6, 2014.

- Dixie Carter spoke at the Ole Miss MBA 2014 “Spark Symposium.” You can watch video at this link.

- There are currently rumors of legal issues between TNA Wrestling and Eric Bischoff. We did a little digging and discovered the issue is that TNA believes Bischoff was at one point negotiating with Spike TV about running a new promotion for them or running TNA for them if Spike bought it. As we reported earlier in the year here on Premium, Spike tried to buy 51% of TNA and Dixie Carter rejected their offer. TNA believes had they sold, Bischoff is the one Spike would have run the company for them.

Bischoff denies everything and has just been waiting for his contract to expire. One source wasn’t sure if TNA would be able to prove that Bischoff breached his contract by being in cahoots with Spike.

Like when Jeff Jarrett and TNA parted ways, TNA wants Bischoff to sign a non-compete in regards to Spike. Even though Spike has been posturing like they want to get out of the wrestling business, the biggest issue is they don’t want to be in business with Dixie Carter.

While Dixie still isn't willing to sell, with TNA finding so little success in their search for a new network, the asking price for TNA's TV rights has dropped substantially. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where some at Spike are discussing if it's worth the headache of renewing Impact at a reduced rate.

TNA’s ratings remain decent and at a drastically reduced rights fee, Spike is tempted to reconsider their anti-wrestling stance.

Even still, Bischoff is the guy that Spike prefers to deal with and there would be much more interest from Spike if Bischoff was involved. TNA doesn't trust Bischoff though and so you have a situation where TNA wants Bischoff out of the picture.

Sources at Spike claim the network decided against launching their own promotion from scratch, figuring it would be too big of a headache, but that Spike would still be interested in buying TNA, despite posturing that they have no interest in wrestling.

So it appears there’s a bit of a cat and mouse going on. Spike was hoping TNA would end up desperate enough to sell but since Dixie Carter has refused, they might consider renewing Impact if the price is so low that it would be “silly” not to keep them on.

It’s important to consider that UTA is representing TNA in the television negotiations and will get a cut of the money. TNA could end up not only with a giant reduction in what they’ve been earning from Spike in right fees but wouldn’t even get to keep all of it because UTA gets a cut. As one observer described it, a “complete disaster all around.”

People within TNA maintain “absolutely convinced” they will land a new domestic TV deal. It’s not a question of if they get one but if they’ll get one that will pay them more than the minimal amount they would get for staying with Spike TV. This of course assuming their hunch is correct that Spike would take them back at the lower price.

- Impact Wrestling has been bumped from Spike TV for Wednesday, November 26, 2014. Instead of Impact, the network will show the movie “End of Watch” in the 9 PM timeslot. Impact WILL RETURN to Spike TV for December, however, the future in 2015 and beyond remains unclear. It is of note there is only material taped through November 19, 2014, so it remains to be seen what the December episodes will look like. TNA never drew well on Thanksgiving night and it was one of the few nights off Alex Barie took here on the website. The note to make here is Impact will air on Spike in December in some form.

- This week’s episode of Impact Wrestling did an average viewing audience of 930,000 viewers on Spike TV. It did not make the top 100 cable programs among adults 25-54 for Wednesday. The number was up from last week’s average viewing audience of 911,000 viewers that Alex Barie recapped at this link.


Am I the only one that's insulted by the fact that WWE used the exact same storyline at Hell in a Cell that they did at Wrestlemania 30 in that they have a wrestler being carted off on a stretcher only to magically become healed and come off fighting? Do they really think we are that forgetful?

I will be completely honest - this is the first I’ve thought of it. WWE used a stretcher job [at Hell in a Cell] with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins getting loaded on, only for Ambrose to “refuse” treatment and attack Rollins. At Wrestlemania 30, Daniel Bryan was loaded on in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match but “refused” treatment and went on to win the title. While the concepts were similar, the reasons were a bit different.

Ambrose was to be portrayed as a maniac that doesn’t feel pain or care about his health. Daniel Bryan was to be portrayed as the ultimate underdog that was going to do whatever it took to win the title.

The fact of the matter is stretcher jobs are common in pro wrestling. If they were used every single month in the exact same manner it would be a problem but I didn’t have a problem with the spot at Hell in a Cell. My issues with that match stem from doing too much too early and then having a dirty finish, fresh off a dirty finish in the Night of Champions main event. That repeated dirty finish would be a better example of WWE banking on audience forgetfulness over the use of a stretcher job.

Do you think it’s a good idea to have Randy Orton on Team Authority at Survivor Series, only to get Seth Rollins eliminated.

I wouldn’t be surprised if WWE had Randy Orton turn on Seth Rollins and Team Authority at Survivor Series and that idea would be sufficient. While WWE is clearly tinkering with the idea of Orton going babyface to feud with Seth Rollins, it doesn’t seem like something he wants to do. He seemed to make that clear last week on Twitter. Orton will never be a “complete babyface” and will operate more as a tweener when he isn’t a complete heel. Regardless of how WWE does it, it’s clear the program is Orton vs. Rollins which is something we detailed a couple of weeks ago here on Premium.

Does WWE monitor their Superstars and Divas on Instagram like they do on Twitter?

Yes, WWE is very active in monitoring their talent on social media. There are guidelines for talent in terms of using social media but that doesn’t mean they’re always utilized. The accounts still belong to their respective owners and what they Tweet or Instagram is ultimately their decision. WWE has completely embraced social media and encourages talent to use it. While some are very active, you have people like Dean Ambrose that have Twitter but do not use it. On his account, he wrote the following for his bio: They made me get a twitter.....Fine....Enjoy. He has 3 Tweets. I love that guy.

Obviously the current TV deals are standing in the way of it, but do you think if encores of Raw and Smackdown aired a day or two after their first runs in the United States, it would increase the amount of subscribers?

I believe having Raw and Smackdown air sooner than the current 30 day window would be much better. Last week my DVR recording of Raw botched after the first hour and I missed hours two and three. If it were available on the WWE Network, it would give me another outlet to go back and watch it. I do not, however, believe it would help the company sell more subscriptions. Most people that order the WWE Network (at least the ones I’ve heard from) are under the impression that encores of Raw and Smackdown are available almost immediately. While it’s certainly an inconvenience having to wait a month for encore episodes, I do not believe it’s a deal breaker not to sign up or not to renew.

I cannot provide a definitive answer why people are not subscribing to the WWE Network as expected. I can point to a few reasons that I believe are causing slow subscription growth. First, I believe the product is poorly marketed around $9.99 without highlighting its great value. I believe Raw is too long with three hours and the average WWE fan has a 3 hour live show each week and a 2 hour secondary show, meaning 5 hours of free content without getting into Total Divas or secondary shows. And finally, the product has been in a deep creative rut due to a part-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, injuries and disinteresting or poorly thought out storylines.

From the Ask WNW vault…

November 2012: With Ryback basically losing again where does WWE go from here? - WWE is in a world of trouble with Ryback following what was essentially a loss at Survivor Series. Let me be clear. I’m excited to see Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins get called up to the main WWE roster but I hate how Ryback was booked at both Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series. The premise for Ryback’s character is that he is the “unstoppable monster” that needs to be “fed more.” As soon as he’s “fed,” he can’t handle it. Some people are taking this as me being high up on Ryback over the IWC darlings, which is unfounded. I’d be fine with guys like Punk, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, etc. running the company without guys like Ryback being in the main event picture. However, now that Ryback has been chosen for a push they have to push him. The blatant lack of confidence in putting him over compounded with the holding pattern they are in with Punk for Royal Rumble is making for intolerable booking. Either push him or don’t book him in the main event. At this point Ryback means nothing more than a mid-card talent and he’s lost a significant amount of steam.

Do you see backlash from WWE fans in the United Kingdom over the continued delays of the WWE Network?

I absolutely see backlash from WWE fans that were promised the WWE Network in the United Kingdom and letdown for a second time on Monday. I do not know what is causing the delays but WWE needs to stop making official announcements until whatever issues remain are sorted. Vince McMahon and George Barrios stated numerous times in last week's conference call the service would be available in November but didn't give a date. When WWE announced last week the service would launch for free in the United Kingdom on Monday, many got their hopes up. It's a Public Relations nightmare for WWE and yet another backwards step on the rocky road that has been the launch of the WWE Network.

Has the injury to Roman Reigns damaged his chances of main eventing Wrestlemania 31 or do you think he will be received better than ever like Dean Ambrose?

If Brock Lesnar goes over John Cena for a third time and retains the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Roman Reigns can't be booked as the challenger at Wrestlemania 31. The only person capable of such a feat would be The Rock and WWE would be forced into that match. If WWE does the right thing and gets the title off Lesnar, it's much less complicated. Getting Lesnar out of the title picture allows for him to have a part-time opponent, while giving someone like a returning Reigns a chance at the title. I expect the time off to help reenergize Reigns but the picture hasn't gotten much clearer since he left.

I was watching No Holds Barred on TV the other night while flipping through some channels. What has been your favorite crossover movie involving the wrestling business?

The wrestling business is so heavily engrained in pop culture it's difficult for me to pick something. When people ask me about wrestling-related films I always recommend Beyond the Mat and Wrestling With Shadows. As for fiction, The Wrestler is as good as it gets. WWE Studios has put out a lot of content in recent years but I'm not ashamed to say I've missed quite a few of them. However, the original See No Evil was pretty decent, and I liked The Condemned.

What were some of the first PPVs you went back and watched when you got the WWE Network, and what are some of your "editor's picks"?

The first pay-per-view I went back and watched on the WWE Network was WCW Bash at the Beach 1996. I believe that's the most important wrestling pay-per-view in the last 20 years, if not of all-time. Think, that's where the new World order officially formed and started the Monday Night War, led to the Attitude Era and resulted in what we have today. Money in the Bank 2011 is one of my favorite shows WWE has done in the past 5 years and going back through The Undertaker's streak is almost a WWE Network requirement. There's so much content I would write forever with recommendations but go watch Bash at the Beach and Money in the Bank 2011.

With the rumor going around that Vince McMahon may be interesting in selling WWE, I thought of an interesting question to ask you. Say McMahon did indeed sell WWE… to you! Who would you book as your main talent and who would you sign?

This is a difficult question where a definitive black and white answer is not possible. There is no set formula for success and if there was, Dixie Carter had all of the resources to implement it. The fact of the matter is Vince McMahon is very valuable and even though WWE is in a bit of a slump recently, that cannot be understated. Many have tried to get where Vince is and all have failed. Even people with money and resources -- including billionaire Ted Turner -- haven't been able to do it. I wouldn't want the daunting task of trying to figure out how to steer McMahon's empire and believe they would be in trouble without him behind it in some form.

Do you believe too much heel dominance has to do with viewers apathetic in regards to WWE's current product? For example, Brock Lesnar as WWE World Heavyweight Champion, The Authority unstoppable and Rusev's destruction of the company giants.

I believe a lack of interesting storylines account for most if not all of the viewer apathy currently plaguing WWE. This isn't just the fault of the writers. It's due to top guys being limited or injured, staff turnover, budget cuts and Vince McMahon's own indecisiveness. Issues like Lesnar's here today/gone tomorrow status, The Authority's never ending power and Rusev's continued protection (although my opinion on him has changed) just play into it. There could be more "feel good" moments but I don't think it's that simple when evaluating the current slump/creative rut.

What are your thoughts on the new WWE Network pricing plans? I feel like they won't work because people will just pick and choose which months they subscribe.

I disagree. I see WWE moving all WWE Network subscriptions to $9.99/month as a step in simplifying the process and making it easier to market their beloved $9.99. Up until November, the WWE Network was only $9.99 with a 6-month commitment, now you can literally get it for just $9.99/month. It's important to keep the process simple and I believe this will do that. I'm sure there are people that will cancel but I'm also sure there will be a lot of people that will continue to be billed monthly without interruption. I sure don't want my connection to the service interrupted. I don't like how so much effort has been put in marketing the price because they haven't focused on the fact it's a cutting-edge valuable product. Also, what are they going to do when they ultimately try to increase the price? That should make for some interesting TV.

Does it seem that Daniel Bryan's inclusion on Wrestlemania 31 promotional material means he'll be back?

No one knows. Not even Daniel Bryan. The fact Bryan is included in a new Wrestlemania 31 graphic released Monday to promote tickets going on sale provides optimism but nothing more. Bryan talked to Sports Illustrated about the situation and we recapped it at this link. The issue is the same as it's been for months. Bryan lacks strength in his right hand and doctors are unsure of how to get it back. Nerve issues are tricky and it's a waiting game until it either comes back on its own or a procedure/surgery is done to get it back.

If Darren Young returns soon, do you see him being anymore than a lower mid-card guy?

Darren Young dominated mainstream press when he made the courageous decision to come out before SummerSlam 2013. WWE didn't capitalize then, so it's hard for me to believe they'll capitalize now. While Young is a talented performer, there are a lot of names in front of him for one of the few upper mid card/main event spots. I don't see Young getting much more than what he's had but I hope I'm wrong. He's a fresh young talent and I do not believe he's reached anywhere near his full potential.

During the main event of Raw, I saw that Randy Orton once again had a little band on his finger, and have noticed it many times before. What is it and what is it for!?

Randy Orton wears one of his daughter’s hair ties on his right ring finger when he’s working for WWE. That is what he was wearing on Monday and what you’ve seen him wear countless other times.

With Orton turning on The Authority do you think it's setting up for him to be on Team Cena at Survivor Series?

WWE wrote Randy Orton off television on Monday with an injury angle we recapped at this link. One could make the argument he’s set up for a surprise return at Survivor Series - as a member of Team Cena — where he would generate a huge pop in his hometown of St. Louis and effectively put an end to The Authority. However, that could be a little too obvious and he is going to miss some time filming The Condemned 2, which starts next week in New Mexico. I did notice a couple things on Raw where I believe WWE deserves some credit. First, Seth Rollins is a legitimate top heel and a clean(ish) win over Orton helped that. Second, Orton has been rejuvenated in this program and while he’ll never be a complete babyface, the “lone wolf” role could be very effective. Regardless, it’s a sure thing we haven’t seen the last of Orton vs. Rollins and the program is already helping both workers.

Do you think with WWE giving Survivor Series away for free it in some way makes a joke of one of the most historic PPVs? I bought tickets for the event when they first went on sale and now I'm probably not even going. What's the point for my friends and I to spend all the money on gas/lodging to go when I could just sit at home and watch it?

I guess you can’t please everyone? I don’t think giving away Survivor Series for free is a bad thing, especially if WWE can somehow convey the message to their audience this is what non-Network subscribers are missing. A lot of people think because it’s a “free show” WWE will make it mean less or it won’t have the same quality as a paid show. I see it differently. I think this is WWE’s opportunity to load the show up in terms of match and stream quality to deliver big and entice new people to subscribe to the service. If WWE bombs, what incentive would it give someone to subscribe? So I don’t think making Survivor Series free makes it a joke, in fact I believe it makes it mean more than it has in recent years. Further, #FreeFreeFree certainly muted all the $9.99 mentions from Raw and that's important because that clearly is not growing the Network at the rate WWE had hoped.

As for you choosing not to attend over it, that’s your right. However, I don’t know if you’ve ever attended a WWE show but it’s a much different experience than watching on TV or pay-per-view. Every WWE [and TNA] show that I have ever attended, I’ve had a blast. From pay-per-views to TVs to live events, they’ve all been exhilarating and I’ve never felt ripped off. Even shows that were lackluster to watch were fun attending live. The energy at the Scottrade Center should be pretty fun and if you already have tickets, I would definitely use them.

Do the WWE superstars get to help design their merchandise?

WWE Superstars and Divas are able to submit ideas for their merchandise, just like they are able to submit ideas for their character. Whether or not WWE uses them is a different story and likely hinges on who the performer is and whether or not the higher ups agree with the vision of that particular worker. Also, WWE has been known to take ideas used by contracted talent on social media and implement them in merchandise. One may say that’s not fair but it’s win/win because talent are paid a percentage of royalties on their respective merchandise.

From the Ask WNW vault…

October 2012: What is your take on CM Punk striking the fan? - There is no excuse to ever get physical with a fan. We could try and make an argument that the fan “deserved it” but Punk assaulted the wrong fan. The one pestering him walked away unscathed while the tape shows an incident onlooker got struck and his glasses broke. However, I’m not going to put the blame completely on Punk, as event staff and security are at fault for not containing the crowd around Punk. It’s their job to keep the workers safe when they go into the crowd and they failed at that on Raw. With that being said workers have a responsibility to remain composed no matter what.

Can Randy Orton fill the void as the anti-hero in WWE? It’s a spot that’s been up for the taking since CM Punk’s departure in January.

I believe that Randy Orton has all the talent in the world and can be effective as a heel or a babyface. Or as you suggest, the anti-hero. Randy, like all top talent, has his fair share of detractors but his work lately has been nothing short of outstanding. Someone commented that his filming of The Condemned 2 came at the wrong time. I disagree. Orton approached company officials about taking some time off and the movie role will give him that. While he’ll still be working, he won’t be taking bumps in the ring or subject to WWE’s hectic travel schedule. Further, WWE is in the process of turning him and this more than provides that opportunity. Orton is set up perfectly for a surprise return at Survivor Series in his hometown of St. Louis but even if he’s not back for the pay-per-view, he has a lot of momentum to close out the year.

Orton will never be Punk, just like Punk was never going to be Orton. It’s funny they’ve vied for the “1b spot” behind John Cena, considering they do not like one another. However, the spot is Randy’s for the taking and he should be praised for his recent body of work. While some may view Orton as controversial or even arrogant, there is no denying his talent or the fact he is very valuable to WWE.

Do WWE Superstars and Divas still get paid in full when they injured?

WWE performer’s contracts are structured with downside guarantees and bonuses. Downside guarantees are amounts they will make per year no matter what as long as they are not suspended. This is how injured workers are able to earn a living, despite being classified as independent contractors. The higher up a worker is on the card, the more downside money they are paid. In addition to downside guarantees, talent are paid a flat $500 rate for appearing on or working a show. This is known as a show bonus. Other bonuses include but are not limited to merchandise bonuses and pay-per-view bonuses. Talent are not paid for promotional appearances but are obligated to make such appearances when booked as part of their contractual obligations. So in short, yes, Superstars and Divas are still paid when they are injured but the amount is less than it would be if they were being used.

How does WWE expect their audience to concentrate on a match when the announcers keep talking about non-relevant stuff? I miss Jim Ross - the man was a genius at making people care about the in-ring action, while also conveying relevant material.

I want to start by saying that in my opinion Jim Ross is the greatest pro wrestling play by play man of all-time and it’s an absolute travesty that he is no longer the voice of the WWE. I absolutely agree Jim is a genius and his work was impeccable and I miss him on WWE television. Vince McMahon made a philosophical change to the commentary in WWE when he transitioned to what it is today. The trio of Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler no longer focuses on “calling the spots” but more on the entertainment value of the product as a variety show. To put it another way, we’ve transitioned from pro wrestling to Sports Entertainment.

While I understand you miss the “old way,” it’s not going back anytime soon. Vince produces the announcers himself and this is the vision he wants conveyed on his programming. I believe Cole has improved greatly and that it’s extremely unfair to compare him to Jim Ross. Not only did Cole step into shoes that were impossible to fill, he stepped in to a philosophical change of direction. It’s not that the announcers don’t care enough to highlight the in-ring action but they’re told to focus on the other elements.

Some like it and others hate it, I personally enjoy the witty banter and believe JBL adds a great element to Cole to Lawler. It’s not JR and Lawler but it’s not supposed to be.

What do you think the chances are of WWE introducing a new (or RE-introducing an already defunct) championship belt?

I am diametrically opposed to the idea of WWE adding more titles. They have a hard enough time utilizing their secondary belts the way it is, I fail to understand how introducing more titles will make this problem better. Now I will contradict myself and explain the difference. I was opposed to the unification of the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship belts because two world titles forced WWE to have an expanded main event scene. The counter arguments were that by unifying the world titles, not only would the WWE World Heavyweight Championship mean more but the secondary belts would be more prestigious.

Not only has that not happened but WWE has strapped a part-time talent with their title and taken it off TV indefinitely. So what we’re left with is an absent world champion and meaningless undercard belts that can’t draw a dime on their own. WWE took a big step in the right direction with the United States Championship on Monday after Raw but one meaningful match doesn’t erase years of mishandling the title. Let’s also remember this meaningful match took place after a lengthy 3-hour episode of Raw, between workers that had already performed and the outcome was extremely predictable. Again, it was a step in the right direction but hardly a sign that WWE has gotten the memo that the secondary belts should be important.

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.

This week’s episode of Raw was one of the best in a while. I liked how The Authority storyline continued throughout the night and felt every segment featuring them was well done. I’m actually looking forward to Survivor Series now. What are your thoughts?

I agree this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw was stronger than the show has been in the past few months. In fact, I think a very reasonable argument can be made it was the best Raw since SummerSlam (although I realize that’s not saying a whole lot considering the current creative slump). They also did this without John Cena, which is even more impressive. The best thing to come out of this week’s show is the fact that Seth Rollins is a legitimate top heel and Randy Orton has been completely rejuvenated (even though he was written off in the process). There was a lot of good wrestling, too. Kendra and Seth graded the matches in this week’s Raw is Blogged but I’ll also comment on the good work of Dean Ambrose/Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler/Seth Rollins, Kidd/Sheamus (save the improper count) and Orton/Rollins. I’m also optimistic about the Ryback restart and thought the return of Vince McMahon made for compelling television.

With that being said, I still feel the show could have been contracted down to two hours. There’s just so much filler with three hours that it waters the show down. Add in the Sheamus vs. Rusev “bonus match” that aired on WWE Network and it’s A LOT OF WRESTLING. I believe viewership told that story as well. There was a 160,000 audience jump from hour one to hour two but fatigue set in and 328,000 tuned out for the third and final hour. I was on The Mark Moses Show on Wednesday and I was asked about Raw being too long. I explained it this way. Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. I believe it’s a case of the extra money from the USA Network testing Vince McMahon’s judgment. While they’re making more money, they’re watering down their product and burning out the audience and writers in the process.

Because Impact has been taped so far in advance, what do workers do until the next set of tapings?

TNA Wrestling’s final show of 2014 was Bound For Glory last month. They ordinarily do not tape so much material so far in advance, however, their uncertain future on domestic TV has left them with no more tapings this year and no more live events until it’s worked out. Basically, they don’t want to spend any money until they know what their future is in the United States. As for reaction from talent, I’m told many inquired about getting out of their TNA contracts because the way their agreements are structured, when they don’t work, they don’t get paid. That’s what gets lost in all of this. It’s easy to deeply criticize TNA. I mean we can question Dixie Carter or Bob Ryder or whoever else but the fact of the matter is it’s the talent and employees that get the short end of the stick. Their livelihood is at stake and I’ll argue it’s by no fault of their own. Mistakes from upper management, investors and executives that have failed to grow the company have put the livelihoods of all their talent and employees at stake. That’s the tragedy and that’s why I’m rooting for TNA Wrestling to continue operations.

When will Roman Reigns be back?

Roman Reigns is currently scheduled to return to WWE before the end of 2014. I actually laid out his advertised dates last week here in Ask WNW. WWE will hope the time off leaves him rejuvenated — not only physically - but with the fans as well.

What do you think of the recent rumor that Vince McMahon will be represented by The Rock and The Authority will be represented by Triple H at Wrestlemania 31 for a match between Rock and Triple H?

I think we need to pump the brakes on it and understand there were plans last year for a program between Vince McMahon and Triple H for “control of WWE” that never came to fruition. With Vince returning to television and announcing the stipulation to Team Cena vs. Team Authority [at Survivor Series], there are plenty of questions about whether or not the faction will exist following the pay-per-view later this month. We have the latest Survivor Series buzz at this link but the note to make is Survivor Series is up next. Let’s hold off on booking Wrestlemania 31 until the time gets closer. Right now, we can’t even confirm The Rock for the show so it’s premature to speculate right now.

From the Ask WNW vault…

Updated note from Richard: I’m running a Shane McMahon vault question today to tie-in with The Authority question, I just want to make note that Shane is now Chairman of the Board at You On Demand. Their CEO as of November 6, 2014 is Weicheng Liu.

January 2013: Do you see Shane McMahon returning to WWE? - Shane McMahon has found success outside of WWE as he is the Chief Executive Officer of You On Demand. The company is publicly traded and you can find out more information here on Google Finance. As for Shane returning to WWE, anything is possible, but I don’t really see it happening. Vince McMahon is grooming Triple H as his successor where he, along with Stephanie, will run the company. Shane admitted that his decision to leave WWE strained his relationship with his father but I admire him for having the courage to do it.

I was at Thursday’s WWE live event in Cardiff and I couldn’t get over how entertaining Damien Sandow was. Even when he was just with The Miz at ringside, everyone was focused on him. Are there any plans to push him?

This was also the case at Hell in a Cell last month as the crowd was much more focused on Damien Sandow during Sheamus vs. The Miz - a title match - than they were what was going on in the ring. I believe Sandow has done a lot with very little. It appeared that WWE had finally gotten the message when they put him over at Money in the Bank 2013 but he joined John Cena as a Money in the Bank winner to not successfully cash-in (ironically going under to Cena). I am not aware of any plans to push him any further but I believe he has more than earned it.

What do you think about The Undertaker coming back for revenge against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31 next year?

I had not even considered the thought of Undertaker rematching Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31 until my friend Mark Moses brought it up on his show when I appeared earlier in the week. Undertaker vs. Lesnar II I guess isn’t beyond the realm of possibilities and has a backstory, but there are multiple issues. First, any match involving Undertaker would completely hinge on his desire for such a match. Undertaker didn’t want to retire undefeated and there was a lot of talk had he given the streak to CM Punk at Wrestlemania 29, he wouldn’t have worked this year. Now that the streak is over, Undertaker no longer has to feel like he “has” to work the show. Second, Lesnar is a physical opponent and Undertaker was worried about their match quality before it even happened. His fears were realized following a concussion suffered early on in their match last April. However, if The Rock doesn’t end up working and they decide against doing Sting vs. Undertaker, I guess Lesnar vs. Undertaker II is there for the taking. It’s a little premature for Wrestlemania 31 booking as I want to see where WWE goes with the Lesnar vs. John Cena III (technically IV) and their World Heavyweight Championship.

You can listen to my appearance on The Mark Moses Show at this link or embedded below:

Do you think it’s easier for a worker to play a heel or a babyface? I would think cheap pops would be easier to get over.

Since I’ve never walked through the curtain, I always answer questions like this based on what experienced wrestlers have said. I have heard multiple workers say it’s easier to get over a heel than it is to get over as a babyface. In fact, the argument is it’s extremely easy to make people hate you but quite difficult to make them embrace you. Cheap heat and cheap pops (such as dissing or praising the local sports team) only go so far. Live audiences are demanding, unforgiving and expect to get their money’s worth. For these reasons and the fact I’ve never heard a worker say it’s easier to get over as a babyface, I’m going to say it’s easier to be a heel.

You’ve mentioned this week’s Raw has established Seth Rollins as a legitimate top heel, rejuvenated Randy Orton and helped reboot Ryback. What do you think of the renewed attention that Dolph Ziggler seems to be getting?

I think it’s great that Dolph Ziggler seems to be getting another shot in the main event. You’ll have to forgive me for not being filled with optimism as we’ve seen this before. Ziggler is extremely talented and has everything he needs to be successful. With WWE light on top talent he’s in a great position to prove himself to any and all naysayers. Opportunities like this do not come often so I fully expect him to take full advantage. Pushing Dolph Ziggler is a big step in the right direction for WWE and was yet another reason why this week’s Raw was a good episode. Without spoiling anything, Ziggler fans also have more than enough reason to watch this week’s Smackdown.

From the Ask WNW vault…

May 2013: Was there any reason why Brock Lesnar, Goldberg and Steve Austin left WWE after Wrestlemania XX? - All three had different circumstances. Brock Lesnar hated the WWE travel schedule and wanted to pursue a career in the NFL. He requested his release to do this. WWE granted his release on the condition he would sign a non-compete agreement that would prevent him from working for a competing organization before June 2010. Lesnar signed it and was granted his release after his match at Wrestlemania XX against Goldberg. When the NFL didn’t pan out, Lesnar went to Japan to wrestle for New Japan Pro Wrestling. This resulted in a legal battle with WWE due to the non-compete but it was later dismissed after a settlement.

Goldberg wasn’t happy in WWE either and wanted out. He fulfilled his contractual obligations and was “fed up” with backstage politics and the way the company operated. Goldberg didn’t get along with Vince McMahon and stated publicly both he and Lesnar were in a hurry to get out of dodge. Steve Austin’s contract with WWE was coming up and they were negotiating behind-the-scenes. I don’t have specifics as to what went wrong but they broke down a month after Wrestlemania XX and he let the company.

Goldberg accused WWE of not putting the focus on the Wrestlemania XX bout (with Austin as the special referee) given their impending departures. The New York City crowd was “smartened up” to the fact that Goldberg and Lesnar were leaving and crapped on the match.

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