Thomas Fenton Reports:
-With one week to go until Summerslam and NXT TakeOver, WWE has yet to finalized some of the booking decisions going into the Pay-Per-Views.
One of the biggest booking situations is on the NXT Takeover show. Due the the unfortunate injury to Aleister Black, WWE is left with a few different decisions that have been talked about going into the event. As we first reported that Black would not be able to compete a full match on the show and likely should not be in the ring at all, WWE wanted to wait until after the weekend to make the call if he was healthy enough to write him off in the begining of the match at TakeOver. Since we posted this, WWE has covered all ground in regards to this angle while shooting the "mysterious" parking lot attack. This was to give them the out if they could not even bring him out for the match and write him off in the beginning and it was done to further the storyline that he was already hurt and that is why he is being taken to the back if they went that route. Their second option is just to have a singles match between Ciampa and Gargano which would be an excellent match, however, WWE planned on running this for a lot longer and holding off another singles match until 2019. The original plan was for Ciampa to win the 3 way and retain the title and to have the 2 of them (Ciampa and Gargano) on different sides at the WarGames event to further the storyline but keep the 1 on 1 match until later. The struggle with the 1 on 1 match now is that they do not want Gargano to win the title yet as they just put it on Ciampa. When Johnny does win the title, it would be at or near the end of their feud. Now there has been slight talk of this all ending (not soon) with Johnny going all-out psycho, losing his bearings and aligning himself with Ciampa and the two come up to the main roster as a team. While that has only been discussed and not a defined plan, it would likely be best for both guys, especially Johnny due to his size on the main roster. Yes we all know it's 2018, however, Vince still has a thing for size.
The 3rd option that has been discussed which also makes a lot of sense from where they want to go with the feud and booking of it would be to keep it a 3-way, adding another person into the mix with Johnny and Ciampa despising each so much that it would cost them both the title. The man added would win continuing the Ciampa and Gargano story.
The issue here is not necessarily figuring out from a storyline stand point how they add someone, as it's WWE and they do whatever they want. It comes down to they still do not want to take the title off of Ciampa this early on in his championship run.
Thomas’ Take: The injury really shook the booking of this match and the storyline of the feud. I would go with the third option in this and have them cost each other the title only adding on to their feud. I'm not sure how you do it however, Adam Cole dropping the North American Title to Ricochet and then being inserted into the main event is something you could do. They would have to have some type of an angle before hand leading up to this in which Cole was granted a world title shot down the line. That being said, this was not done so for Cole to lose and then be put in the main event, it lacks much logic.
You could have Cole hold both titles and go that route, however, I do feel in an ideal situation, him dropping the North American title to Ricochet, whom they want to continue to push, works fine after. The other way that WWE could go about doing this is strapping a rocket to Matt Riddle's back and inserting him into the match and having him win on his first show. Do I see that happening? No, however, if you wanted to make an impact and do it in one night then that's how you can do it.
- I have been asked privately from a few people what is going on with Jason Jordan, so I will share with everyone. There were some people who reported that Jason Jordan had been cleared for a month or so, which whether he was or was not, as of Wednesday he is currently not cleared. Jason, during the recovery was having a hard time getting back to 100%, and I cannot tell you if it was reinjuried or if it was one of those issues in which the surgury was not 100% successful. Jordan was to see another specialist in regards to the situation in the past 72 hours to determine if another minor surgery was necessary or if it was just a minor set back in his recovery. Keep in mind on this that his neck was in such bad shape prior to the surgery that gripping a pen was a struggle. Keep in mind as well he opted to do the minor surgery and not a fusion or disc surgery.
In early Febuary he had the procedure done and WWE posted this in regards to it:
(“He had an injury to a disc in his neck which resulted in significant pain that was refractory to all conservative measures,” WWE Medical Director Dr. Joseph Maroon said. “It was decided to do a minimally invasive operation to decompress the nerve, to allow it to heal.”)
-Ring of Honor and NJPW sold an estimate of 6000 tickets to ROH's Honor Club members on Wednesday for their show on WrestleMania weekend at Madison Square Garden titled G1 Supercard. Officals were not shocked the 6000 tickets sold out as these are their die-hard fans who already purchased the Honor Club pass for their streaming service as well as early pre-sale perks. On Friday, the shock came when the general public tickets went on sale and at around 20 minutes, the remaining 13,000 tickets for the show were completely sold out.
While officials and many of us in the industry believed the event would sell out, I'm not sure if anyone could have predicted it would sell out that quickly. Obviously management and workers within ROH and NJPW are ecstatic with the outcome of ticket sales and the sell out. It is possible that more tickets are released closer to the event, anywhere from 700-1500 I was told based on the set and set up for the event. This being said it was not just management at those respected companies the opened a wide eye to the sell. I'm told major televison executives who are already keeping a very close eye on the ALL IN show were also paying close attention to not only them sell out, but it being a sell out in 20 minutes of a 20k seat venue. Some of the workers involved tweeted things like "The buisness is changing" others "This is only the start". As we have said multiple times over the last 3 month, the buisness come Jan 2019 is going to look a heck of alot different one way or another and come April of 2019, even more different. Obviously one person whom was not thrilled with any of this was Vince McMahon, from the second they wanted to run MSG, then from WWE attempting to block them from running MSG, to them coming back partnering with NJPW and doing it at WrestleMaia weekend, to now the sell out of the event and in the time it sold out. While WWE has not ran a ppv from MSG in quiet some time , they also have not done a sell out like this in quiet some time. As we have stated before here, Vince wants to cut this off before it gets even bigger.
As we have also stated, he has sent out a directive to sign anyone that will help the WWE or hurt ROH/NJPW, and if that person can do both it is a bonus to him. I'm sure many of you have heard names circling around recently of talent WWE is looking to sign and you have read here, as I have been chronicling differnet contracts of talent that is expiring, however, we are at the point where you can make a list much shorter of talent they don't want to sign that has appeared on NJPW World or American televison anywhere than guys they do not want to sign. One of the bigger issues is now that ROH/NJPW have sold out MSG and will continue to market larger venues for their big shows it then gives them bigger check books as well.
Now look, with WWE's new rights deal, no one can compete currently with the money WWE could pay talent, however, WWE has made zero indications they are going to change their pay structure and pay scale to sign talent. WWE could afford (and should) pay everyones travel and accommodations but they don't. They could double everyones downside guarantees and they don't. Simply put - until they do this, then yes, other companies will be able to compete for fans and talent. One of the big things that has been a talking point at some of the WWE meetings has been offering a quality of life versus offering more money.
Essentially WWE is now a company that is getting paid to produce television product. WWE does not need to do as many un-produced house shows that are not drawing 1/3rd of the arena capacity at this point. They also are much better suited, politics aside, from doing a big show in Saudi Arabia or Australia. So one of the things discussed was can they offer a better quality of life as a draw to obtain more talent. The idea that was talked about is that in the fall of 2019 having the Smackdown brand work Friday night for Smackdown, a Saturday night house show and a Sunday morning show. This will allow talent to be home by late Sunday evening and not having to fly out (unless for appearances) until Friday. On the Raw brand it would be similar however Saturday pm show, Sunday show and RAW on Monday. It eliminates the competing house show they are currently running on Mondays with Smackdown house shows. It also elminates the Friday night Raw house show. This then creates only 3 days of travel and 4 days of non-travel, and allocates a better quality of life as well as a selling point to future talent. Whether this is something that makes it out of the talking stages is yet to be seen.
Thomas’ Take: Quality of life is so much more important in the business now than ever before as the business has changed so much in the last 20 years. WWE is a publicly traded company and can not operate the way it did prior to the 2000's. Quality of life is so important to workers who travel all over globe that once they get offered the "WWE deal". Some and many recently do not find it as appealing to work twice as many dates for the pay increase. In some cases the same pay or even less if they went to NXT. Look I will use a guy like Matt Jackson for example, Matt and his brother Nick do very well for themselves without WWE behind them and they can go home for Matt's daughters birthday and skip a NJPW tour if they want now. They write their own schedules and have merchindise revenue that has never been seen in America outside of WWE top stars and NWO merchindise in WCW's prime. Offering them more money but working twice as many dates may not be very appealing, unless WWE is willing to pay guys a much higher premium moving forward. What may however be appealing is traveling only on average 12 days a month. I think it is a great strategy if WWE continues to look into and I think it's great for the workers if they ever go through with this.