WWE Rumors: Examining Top Reports Entering 2020 Backlash

COLOGNE, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 07: Jinder Mahal  during the WWE Live Show at Lanxess Arena on November 7, 2018 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Marc Pfitzenreuter/Getty Images)

Marc Pfitzenreuter/Getty Images

WWE is preparing for Sunday’s Backlash pay-per-view, and there is seemingly no shortage of major happenings going on behind the scenes leading up to the event.

The coronavirus pandemic has put WWE in a unique position, as shows have been held at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, with no fans in attendance for the past three months. Even so, WWE has continued to produce content, and it has been business as usual.

With the WWE pay-per-view calendar continuing Sunday in the form of Backlash, here is a look at some of the hottest and latest rumors emanating from WWE.

Mahal Was Set to Feud with McIntyre

Jinder Mahal was apparently in line for a significant push before he announced last week that another knee surgery has him back on the shelf.

According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc.com’s Marc Middleton), WWE had been planning for Mahal to feud with WWE champion Drew McIntyre because of their history as former tag team partners with 3MB.

Meltzer added that the feud wouldn’t have been a long-term program and that WWE wanted to do it because of the lack of top heels on Raw.

Instead, McIntyre is set to defend the WWE Championship against Bobby Lashley at Backlash on Sunday. Lashley is being built into a credible top heel due, in part, to MVP’s presence as his new manager, replacing Lana.

Per Meltzer, Mahal initially went in for a minor procedure on his knee, but the “damage ended up being more significant than expected.”

While it is unclear how long Mahal will be out, it is a major blow to the former WWE champion since he just returned from a knee injury in April after missing nearly 11 months.

Mahal had fallen from WWE champion to midcard talent prior to getting injured last year, but all signs pointed to him being presented as a main eventer once again, which is why his latest injury comes at the worst possible time.

McMahon Had Been ‘Very Upset’ with Raw

WWE announced Thursday that Paul Heyman is no longer serving as the executive director of Raw and that he will instead focus on his on-screen role as Brock Lesnar‘s advocate.

According to PWInsider’s Mike Johnson, WWE said the following about the decision in a statement: “In an effort to streamline our creative writing process for television, we have consolidated both teams from Raw and SmackDown into one group, led by Bruce Prichard. Paul Heyman will concentrate on his role as an in-ring performer.”

Johnson reported that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was “very upset” and openly “frustrated” with the way things have gone on Raw as of late.

Raw has been drawing record-low ratings during the coronavirus pandemic as Heyman attempted to focus on building new stars. SmackDown’s ratings on Fox have been down as well, but it has usually drawn in the neighborhood of 2 million viewers, which isn’t the case for Raw.

Prichard took over for Eric Bischoff as the executive director of SmackDown in October, and he is now set to serve in the role for both Raw and SmackDown. Heyman lasted about one year as Raw’s executive director, as he was given the role in June 2019.

While it is possible that Heyman’s focus on building new stars could be a good thing for WWE in the future, it was difficult for McMahon to ignore the constantly falling ratings.

The absence of fans in the crowd because of the COVID-19 pandemic likely has something to do with it as well, and WWE may not see a true ratings increase until fans are allowed to start attending shows again.

WWE Talent Concerned About Creative Changes on Raw

Some of the Superstars who have been getting pushed on Raw are reportedly concerned now that Heyman is out as executive director.

According to Meltzer (h/t WrestlingInc.com’s Raj Giri), the concern stems from the fact that some of them had never gotten a big push before and were “floundering” before Heyman took over as the head of creative on Raw.

Some of the Superstars rumored to be favorites of Heyman are McIntyre, Andrade, Angel Garza, Zelina Vega, Aleister Black, Apollo Crews, Austin Theory, The Street Profits, The Viking Raiders and Murphy. Of those Superstars, Meltzer reported that McIntyre and The Street Profits are the most likely to still succeed since McMahon has an affinity for them.

Heyman reportedly sold McMahon on the idea that it would take 18 months to build new stars, and McMahon was on board with the idea before the coronavirus pandemic. McMahon has since changed his focus, however, and Heyman was only given 12 of the 18 months he said he was required.

WWE has long had a penchant for leaning on its established stars rather than building new ones, and it is fair to wonder if that will be the case now that Heyman is no longer in power.

There is a great deal of young, underrated talent on the red brand, and many of them could potentially become stars over time if given the opportunity.

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