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WWE’s Chairman of the Board finds himself at the center of two of this week’s most prominent wrestling rumors.
After years of letting it breathe, evolve and grown on its own, might Vince McMahon have finally taken notice of NXT and be ready to implement his “creative genius” on the black and yellow brand?
And what about those layoffs and furloughs that captured headlines and shone a not-so-pleasant light on WWE just after WrestleMania 36? Were they in the works before The Showcase of the Immortals? And if so, why?
Those topics, as well as updates on Bianca Belair and Mustafa Ali, headline this collection of wrestling rumors and innuendo.
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Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats reported Vince McMahon has taken renewed interest in NXT and plans on more main-roster crossover on Wednesday nights as a result.
Recently, Charlotte Flair enjoyed a significant run with the brand as its women’s champion, and Wednesday, Sasha Banks and Bayley defended their Women’s Tag Team Championship against Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart.
Finn Balor returned exclusively to the black and yellow brand late in 2019, lending his star power as NXT attempts to combat All Elite Wrestling on Wednesday nights.
While adding established Superstars may bring more eyes to the show and its immensely talented roster, the idea of McMahon taking interest in it is reason for pause.
NXT’s appeal is that it has always been Triple H’s baby. It has been booked according to his vision and has been the one true alternative under the WWE umbrella. McMahon runs the risk of stripping that all away, especially if he tries to give the brand too much of a Raw and SmackDown feel.
Furthermore, the implementation of more main-roster stars on the show risks overshadowing the talent Triple H is looking to build up to be stars of the NXT brand and to one day be the faces of Monday and Friday nights.
Hopefully this is but short-term distraction more than something McMahon will throw all of his time and effort into because NXT is the one brand that he does not need to concern himself with at this point.
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Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio reported that Bianca Belair has been conspicuous in her absence of late because her character simply did not fit the tone of the goofy and comedic skits The Street Profits have been part of with The Viking Raiders.
With no other ongoing feud making sense for her character leading into Backlash, she was left off television.
But why does she have to be tied to The Street Profits?
Yes, she debuted alongside them on Raw the night after WrestleMania 36. And yes, Montez Ford is her real-life husband. But does that suggest that her character must be tied to the Raw tag team champions?
Can she not be strong and independent while working on her own?
With the wealth of talent located in and around Orlando, Florida, could the company not find a few options for some enhancement matches just to keep her in front of the cameras?
It feels like a major missed opportunity to build a charismatic, hugely talented young star.
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Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com reported that Mustafa Ali has quietly been traded to Raw.
Up until recently, it had been believed Ali would be revealed as the SmackDown hacker, if for no other reason than his light symbol had become synonymous with that mysterious person. The hacker has disappeared from television, though, leaving some to wonder if that particular persona had been dropped entirely.
With Ali being unceremoniously shifted to Raw, that appears to be the case.
Hopefully, he finds more success on the red brand than he did on Friday nights.
His run with SmackDown started optimistically, as he appeared in main event matches alongside the likes of AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan before an injury cost him a WWE title feud with the latter.
From that point on, he was utilized inconsistently before disappearing from television altogether at the beginning of this year.
The in-ring talent is there—he just needs to rediscover that opportunity that previously presented itself.
Considering the lack of star power on Raw, it may come sooner rather than later.
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Kevin Seifert of ESPN reported Tuesday that McMahon had planned the April 2020 layoffs and furloughs prior to WrestleMania.
“The WWE managed to resume content production amid the pandemic, airing a fanless but well-received WrestleMania 36 on April 4-5,” Seifert wrote. “McMahon was already working on plans for a series of WWE layoffs, furloughs and other cost-cutting moves designed to stabilize the company for an extended period of lower revenues.”
The loss of employment was attributed to the financial instability of the company following the latest XFL run.
If accurate, it is unfortunate that WWE performers lost their dream jobs in the name of a pro football league, even if the XFL was building momentum and had implemented some seriously innovative and effective production.
While some will inevitably find their ways back to the company, one has to wonder whether they will feel comfortable leaving their professional futures at the mercy of a capricious 74-year-old.