Since the days when the so called dirt sheets of professional wrestling were printed newsletters, mailed to hardcore fans, right up to to today when news and leaks spread like wildfire over the Internet, wresting has had backstage reports that capture the imagination of fans.
The past few weeks have been especially vibrant when it comes to big time backstage reports. That makes sense given how tumultuous the on air product from WWE has been. For totally unforeseen health reasons, the most heavily pushed full time star on the WWE roster, Roman Reigns has disappeared, while Brock Lesnar, who looked to be on the outs with WWE, stepped into his place as Universal Champion. Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, and Bobby Lashley each turned heel. Braun Strowman and Elias turned face, while WWE seems to have been testing the waters with a bit more reserve on The Miz and Kevin Owens doing the same.
The Crown Jewel event positioned WWE at the center of not only a maelstrom of media attention, but a minor mutiny from the locker room as no lesser stars than John Cena and Daniel Bryan refused to make the trip for the event.
This article takes a look at 20 particularly intriguing reports that have surfaced recently. Some of them explain recent on air developments, whereas others shed light on where WWE might be headed in the months to come, particularly as we broach a WrestleMania season that feels far less predictable than those to precede it.
20 Braun Strowman Has Heat
A number of fans and critics pegged Braun Strowman to be crowned Universal Champion in Roman Reigns’s absence. Even when Brock Lesnar beat him at Crown Jewel, there were theories that WWE was saving Strowman’s big title win for WrestleMania, or at least a PPV WWE would be more apt to celebrate the legacy of than a heavily criticized event like Crown Jewel.
The latest leaks, however, suggest that Strowman has had heat with management for coming across as unprofessional and unreliable, including showing up late for shows. Pair that with additional reports of him working hurt and we may not see the Monster Among Men capture a world title anytime soon.
19 Daniel Bryan Pitched His Heel Turn
To the surprise of many, Daniel Bryan went from one of WWE’s most beloved figures to a top heel when he low blowed AJ Styles and stole his WWE Championship on the last episode of SmackDown before Survivor Series.
Reports suggest that Bryan pitched the heel turn weeks before it went down. Additionally, it’s been reported that, while the powers that be came to agree, the turn was originally not going to happen until a bit after the title change. The story goes that WWE pulled the trigger sooner to maximize the dramatic impact and buzz around the unexpected change going into the major PPV.
18 WWE Bumped Up Dean Ambrose’s Heel Turn
When Dean Ambrose’s heel turn went down, the concept of him going bad wasn’t all that surprising. Pundits had seen it coming since before he even came back from injury, and even WWE storylines had hinted at it a good bit in the weeks before it happened.
It was more surprising, though, that it happened moments after Ambrose and Seth Rollins won the Raw tag titles, and all the more so that it happened the same night Roman Reigns announced he had to walk away from WWE to battle leukemia. Word is that these factors were exactly why WWE bumped up Ambrose’s planned turn, to maximize the swerve value and heat for the moment.
17 The Rock Rejected A Match With Brock Lesnar
Reports have run rampant that The Rock and WWE are looking to collaborate again, and the word has been to expect him back for WrestleMania 35, possibly for an inter generational, intra familial dream match with Roman Reigns.
With Reigns out, the latest reports suggest WWE has pitched to Rock a big time match with Brock Lesnar—and that Rock has said no thanks. It’s understandable why Rock would pass, given Lesnar is notoriously stiff in the ring, not to mention that the People’s Champ has no stake in helping to elevate him like he would his own flesh and blood.
16 Brock Lesnar Has Heat From The Boys
WWE has not hesitated to involve worked shoot elements into Brock Lesnar’s booking over the last year. That includes other wrestlers vocalizing their displeasure at Lesnar’s light schedule and not prioritizing WWE, despite being one of the company’s top stars.
Another point of contention that has leaked more recently has been stars taking issue with just how stiff and even reckless Lesnar can be with other talents’ bodies. His hard to watch duplexes on the Singh Brothers during an altercation with Jinder Mahal before Survivor Series apparently drew sharp criticism from the boys.
15 Vince McMahon Is High On Lio Rush’s Promos
After rumors of intense heat for Lio Rush after he made light of Emma’s release on social media, Rush went missing for a time. He came back with a vengeance, though, first heavily pushed on 205 Live, then featured on Raw as Bobby Lashley’s hype man.
Reports suggest that Vince McMahon caught sight of promos Rush cut prior to his time in WWE, and they impressed him enough to want to put Rush in a high profile talking role. Moreover, word is that McMahon is very hands on with him, including feeding key lines to him to vocalize during Lashley matches.
14 Alexa Bliss Is Up For An Authority Figure Role
Alexa Bliss has enjoyed tremendous success on the main roster ever since she was called up. She doesn’t have quite the in ring chops of a Sasha Banks or Becky Lynch, but is a highly skilled talker in her heel role, and a pretty face to boot.
Bliss has struggled with injuries of late that kept her out of the ring for Evolution and Survivor Series. Reports suggest that her recent turn as a suit wearing talent manager for the Raw women’s team at Survivor Series may have been a harbinger of things to come. Bliss may take over as Raw GM, potentially replacing Baron Corbin after he loses at TLC.
13 Jinder Mahal Is Seen As A Bust
WWE stunned its fan when Jinder Mahal got a WWE Championship push in 2017. Fast forward a year from when he dropped the title and he has been working the mid-card on Raw when he can get TV time at all.
Reports indicate that Mahal is seen as an all around bust. He has a great look and got the opportunity of a lifetime, but couldn’t help WWE’s business domestically, nor in the targeted market in India. While he isn’t necessarily on the chopping block to be released, Mahal’s handful of fans shouldn’t hold their breath on him returning to the main event picture.
12 Nia Jax Has Heat
Nia Jax is a member of the Anoi’a family and she is a unique spectacle of a talent for her size and mobility. Unfortunately, she also has a history of accidentally injuring other talents, most recently hurting Becky Lynch en route to her high profile match with Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series.
Reports suggest that both the locker room and management are placing heat on Jax for not working safe on the ring, and more than once derailing WWE’s plans because of it. By virtue of her family connections, size, and being one of the very few physically credible opponents for Ronda Rousey, Jax remains featured for now, but if she were to hurt someone else or when the Rousey program has run its course, we may well see her de-emphasized in WWE.
11 AJ Styles Has Asked For A Reduced Schedule
Word is that AJ Styles is up for a new contract. He entered the company as anything but a sure thing—a smaller guy with an indie pedigree, but has successfully gotten himself over and been on the shortlist of WWE’s most consistent main event level performers over the last two years.
Styles is certainly in an advantageous spot when negotiating his next deal, and can all but be assured a bigger money contract. The Phenomenal One is also looking for a reduced schedule on the road, to spend more time with his family and protect his aging body from wear and tear. That was part of the reason he dropped the WWE title, as he no longer felt he could fulfill the hectic schedule of a world champion.
10 Ronda Rousey Vs. Becky Lynch May Headline WrestleMania
Heading into Survivor Series, the inter brand match between Ronda Rousey and Becky Lynch gathered steam nicely. With two hot acts and an especially heated go home angle on Raw, a fair number of pundits thought they might main event the show.
As we know now, Nia Jax inadvertently hurt Lynch on Raw, scrapping the match. The latest reports suggest that WWE is keen enough on the angle that WWE might revisit the match for WrestleMania. More over, with Roman Reigns out, and neither The Rock nor Brock Lesnar sure things for the event, these women may even get the opportunity to put on the first women’s match to close the show as the main event.
9 John Cena Backed Out Of Crown Jewel Because Of His Hollywood Aspirations
Obviously, the WWE was under heavy fire for going through with the Crown Jewel event. In a surprising turn, after WWE confirmed it would go on with the show as planned, John Cena and Daniel Bryan were pulled from it at their own requests.
Neither has publicly commented on his motivations but rumor has it that Cena was keeping an eye out for his Hollywood commitments. Obviously, Cena being seen at an event in that particular venue wouldn't look good on him to Hollywood producers. The logic follows that Cena wanted no part of a show that might make it look as though he were taking an unpopular stance.
8 Management Gave Up On No Way Jose
No Way Jose was a fun act in NXT and, upon his arrival on Monday Night Raw looked something like a spiritual successor to Adam Rose with his conga line of revelers following him to the ring for his entrances.
Jose never entirely proved himself as an in ring talent in developmental and immediately came across as an uncertain fit for the main roster. He hasn’t been seen on Raw much since those initial weeks and reports suggest WWE just doesn’t see anything in him, and has already given up on trying to mold him into a success. Hence, why he's mostly seen on Main Event.
7 Brock Lesnar Vs. Seth Rollins Is Pencilled In For WrestleMania
It's been a mystery for the past year as to how much longer WWE intends to work with Brock Lesnar, considering Brock clearly wants to make a return to the UFC. All indications for now suggest Lesnar is under contract to work at least WrestleMania and with Strowman unlikely to get a title reign soon, he needs a WrestleMania opponent. Recent reports have pointed to Seth Rollins as that opponent. It certainly makes some sense, given that Rollins is arguably the best in-ring performer on RAW and one of the few that could get a great match out of Lesnar. The only question is, what does that mean for Seth's feud with Dean Ambrose?
6 WWE Is Worried About The Crowd Response To Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey has been a major success for WWE in terms of transitioning to the wrestling ring and drawing media attention. However, she is a bit of an awkward fit in terms of so clearly overmatching most women on the roster. Moreover, Survivor Series revealed the first vocal crowd manifestation of a feeling that seems to be mounting among hardcore fans—they booed the Baddest Woman on the Planet.
While a heel turn may well make sense for Rousey in the long term, there’s little indication WWE intends on turning her soon. WWE is said to be worried about that crowd reaction. Rousey defending the title hurt the next night on Raw was a step toward trying to reestablish her as a never say die face.
5 Drew McIntyre Is A Candidate To Win The Royal Rumble
Drew McIntyre was famously a favorite project for Vince McMahon during his first run with WWE. That run didn’t end up so well, but in this second go-round, WWE seems high in him again with McMahon and Triple H reportedly both very hands on in booking the Scottish Psychopath’s trajectory.
In particular with Roman Reigns out, there are reports that McIntyre is in the mix for prospective Royal Rumble winners. He could convert that win to a title match with Brock Lesnar or conceivably Braun Strowman for WrestleMania. There's also a question of when/if McIntyre will split from Dolph Ziggler, which would further cement him as a singles star.
4 Bobby Lashley Still Expects A Match With Brock Lesnar
When Bobby Lashley returned to WWE this spring, the dream match on a lot of fans’ minds was Lashley vs. Brock Lesnar. It has never happened before, and would mark a collision between two guys of similar size, strength, and athleticism, each with amateur wrestling and MMA pedigrees. Adding fuel to the fire, WWE had booked a surprise in Lesnar beating Reigns at WrestleMania to not only retain the Universal Championship, but confirm he was sticking with WWE for at least a little while.
Fast forward to now. Lesnar lost and won back his title and his future with WWE isn’t entirely clear. Meanwhile, Lashley has slipped down the card and turned heel. While many think the ship has sailed on it making sense to book this match, Lashley has spoken up in recent interviews to assert that he still wants it to happen, and thinks that it will.
3 Chris Jericho Is Welcome Back Any Time
Chris Jericho is an all time great for sure, but one might think he is on the outs with WWE after all the work he has done with New Japan over the last year. While WWE doesn’t have any true competitors in the wrestling world, New Japan is on the short list of those promotions that challenge them.
However, according to Jericho himself as he explained it on his podcast, he talked to Vince McMahon before debuting with NJPW and McMahon agreed a stint there would only enhance Y2J’s star power. Jericho was back for the Raw 25 special last January, and word is that WWE would like to get him under contract again, or at the least have him back for some major shows on the horizon.
2 WWE Is Happy With Paige As GM Of SmackDown
When WWE introduced Paige as the general manager of SmackDown this spring it seemed a little out of left field. She’s a respected WWE star and had just announced her retirement from the ring. Nonetheless, she has never worked an authority figure role before and, in her mid-20s, doesn’t exactly have the gravitas of a lot of past authority figures.
Paige has risen to the challenge, though, doing well in her role. Reports indicate that WWE is happy with her work. We can expect to see her in that spot at least through the release of the biopic about her that WWE partnered with The Rock in producing, and quite possibly longer.
1 WWE Threw Big Money Offers At The Bullet Club Elite
The hottest act in wrestling not in WWE is undoubtedly The Bullet Club, which spanned New Japan and Ring of Honor, before increasingly going into business for themselves. Leaders Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks masterminded All-In—the first non-WWE wrestling show to sell out a major arena since WCW closed. In so doing, they presented WWE with its biggest, most direct potential threat in nearly twenty years.
So, between trying to sign the top drawing stars available and head off prospective competition, it’s believable enough that the rumors are true WWE offered big money deals to talents from the Bullet Club. Word is that most, if not all of the guys involved said no—a rumor substantiated by the more recent reports of their intention to launch All Elite Wrestling as its own independent promotion.