Welcome to the Friday Headlines, straight from the news desk. I'm your humble correspondent, Keyser Soze.
TNA is in the headlines going into this weekend for many reasons, and perhaps not surprisingly, few of them are what this reporter would refer to as good. The big story concerns the impending free agent status of TNA's top star, AJ Styles. His contract is apparently ready to expire in September and the promotion has thus far apparently made little effort to remedy that situation. Styles has been with TNA since the early days and was crowned the very first X-Division Champion in 2002. For his part, Styles posted on Facebook:
"Where do fans want AJ Styles to be? TNA? WWE? ROH? Japan? Lots of options. Tough decisions."
Those are some tough questions indeed. I'm not sure a complete calendar year has gone by without a segment of the fan population openly wondering if and when AJ Styles would increase his presence significantly by making the leap to the WWE. Given his presence in ongoing storylines and the fact that he would openly comment about it on Facebook, this may be another attempt by TNA's marketing department (yes, both guys) to get some buzz going over a non-story. TNA is clearly not in a position to lose one of the best talents on their roster, not to mention someone who's been with them since the beginning and has a big fan base. When fans that watch nothing but WWE have heard about you, you're doing something right.
One would reasonably assume that AJ would be exempt from previous comments by WWE brass that they are not interested in anyone on TNA's roster. It's called politics. How many general managers in any sport tell the truth about level of interest in particular free agents? It remains to be seen exactly how this story will play out, but if there is any truth in the rumor that TNA is dragging their heels on this, they are even larger fools than they are popularly given credit for. (WrestlingInc)
There are several other personnel moves that have occurred on TNA's roster. Devon is off television once more, as he was pinned during the Aces & Eights/Main Event Mafia main event on this week's Impact. That means he must leave TNA, and as we all know, nothing means more in the world of professional wrestling than a loser-leaves-anything stipulation. Departing wrestlers make more comebacks than Anthony Weiner. I'll let Devon's tweet do the testifying:
"I would like to thank the TNA wrestlers for 8 great years. You guys are truly my family."
As for Devon's former partner, TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bully Ray, he has a new valet in Miss Tessmacher (also introduced in the same episode). Pickings were perhaps a bit slim on the Knockouts roster since word came down that So Cal Val is also history. That news came courtesy of Val herself on Twitter during the Impact episode. With Velvet Sky and Taryn Terrell not currently on television, the Knockouts consist of champion Mickie James, Gail Kim, ODB, announcer Christy Hemme, Glass Joe, Paula "Mean" Deen, and Wynonna Judd. I'm joking about at least two of those, I'll let you decide.
Fear not, brother! Hulk Hogan will be back on TNA programming next week. The storyline reason for him being missing is that he has been involved in legal meetings, which might mark the first time in recorded history that fiction imitated truth that closely. Hogan has likely been scouring promotions around the country to try to secure talent for TNA during this critical time. No word on whether Dustin Diamond or Danny Bonaduce are available. CCW 4 Life. (Torch)
Much discussion has been had concerning CM Punk's verbal obliteration of a fan during Monday's Raw. Backstage reports have stated that Punk ad-libbed the whole thing, which is hardly a surprise for a wrestler that has a well-earned reputation for pipe bombs. Despite that commentary not necessarily being apropos for your standard babyface, it's seen as no big deal because it got over with the fans. Just don't go choking people with their tie, Punk. CM has always done a good job of capturing his emotions in "big game" situations, and the segment was excellent in my view. As someone that has had the occasion to encounter a heckler while doing some stand-up, often times the best defense is a really good offense. (Rajah)
Don't take my word for it:
As noted here on TJR, John Cena's surgery was by all accounts a success and WWE.com reported comments from the ex-champ himself concerning his WrestleMania status. The "Cast Is Here" told the website:
“I plan on using the next couple months to rehab and get healthy as I can, as quickly as I can,” said Cena. “My goal is to return to WWE healthy and strong, and since my expected time away is only six months, this shouldn’t affect WrestleMania.”
Here's a picture Cena posted along with Dr. James Andrews.
With Cena unable to appear at the prime face position for the next several months, the time is right for others on WWE's deep roster to step up to the plate. While the focus will largely (and rightfully) be on Daniel Bryan's quest to overcome adversity and defeat current champ Randy Orton, this might serve as the opportunity more than a couple guys have been waiting for to take that next step. Let's get Dolph Ziggler back into some main-event-level matches already, shall we?
Along with global warming and the war on drugs (pretty sure I'm aware of RVD's stance on the latter), another source of constant discussion is Bill Goldberg potentially returning to the WWE. This is despite the fact that Goldberg has spent a good bit of his post-wrestling life completely dismissing the possibility and disparaging his former company. This situation reared its annoyingly ugly head again with rumors that Goldberg had been contacted about a one-off match with Ryback for next year's WrestleMania. Evidence as varied as DVD collections, WWE acknowledging Goldberg chants, and playing LPs backwards have been cited. Unfortunately, BG himself responded with a scathing diatribe containing several paragraphs of substantial explanation as to why this isn't happening. Oh, wait. He actually said this:
Well, that's sort of like the scathing diatribe. In this reporter's opinion, it's much ado about nothing. Goldberg was fun the first time, did a decent job in WWE, had the match everyone wanted to see against Brock Lesnar, and then rode his horse into the sunset. I wish him well, but let's move on people. If you want to see Ryback lose on a PPV that badly, just watch a PPV. (INC)
Lastly, Triple H granted an interview with Grantland prior to SummerSlam where he provided some insight as to the various roles the McMahon family has with creative. Trips made clear that his wife Stephanie is technically in charge of creative, but operates more like a liaison between them and VKM. She will watch Raw live and report her findings to the boys on scene. According to HHH, Vince has been able to get more involved with creative and of course still has the ultimate sign off on anything done. In addition, he said this:
"Talent weighs in. The agents have to go through the process. I always laugh when the fans or writers say, 'It's so simple; I don't know why they don't just do this with the story,'" Hunter said.
"Well, there are 20 factors why you can't even come close to doing that, from talent going 'I'm not doing that' to 'I hate that guy, I don't want to do that with him.'
"I hear things all the time like, 'Why don't they just do this with Taker?' Well, he physically can't. He's beat up. There are so many factors. It's really like putting together a massive puzzle with pieces that move. It's a massive undertaking."
I love that it's a massive undertaking to script Undertaker. Aside from that chuckle, I do appreciate what Triple H is saying. Recent actions (like his heel turn) have shown that he is embracing the balance of on-air persona and BMOC that his father-in-law still struggles with at times. I don't know that anyone thinks it's simple. Certainly my fellow TJR brethren don't. That said, as to the "factors" why you can't do things, isn't that what managing a business is all about? Viewers and writers will always have their own opinions as to who should be pushed or not, etc. But "always laughing" at prospective solutions just might be part of the issue.
As to the aforementioned scenario, I volunteer my assistance for free. Taker shows up in a wheelchair and performs Jedi mind tricks on his intimidated opponents. Finit. (Torch)
That clears the news desk for your Friday, ladies and gents. Thanks for taking the time to check out the dirt of the day. Get involved in the conversation in the space below (lots of awesome opinions on the boards of late) and feel free to dispatch a missive on Twitter @coffeyfan77. See you on Tuesday!