Zelina Vega gets a major endorsement from a Puerto Rican WWE legend

Though Zelina Vega didn’t leave Puerto Rico as the SmackDown Women’s Champion at the end of Backlash, she accomplished the next best thing: becoming a certified legend on her familial home island.

Taking the ring against Rhea Ripley wearing a Puerto Rican flag dropped across her wingspan, Vega received an incredible reaction from the crowd before the bout began and was celebrated like a champion even after coming up short and the end of the bout.

And the best part? Legends of Puerto Rican wrestling like Savio Vega noticed, as he told Zelina in a surprise appearance on The Bump.

“Hey, when I saw that girl coming out – I was watching the monitor – when I saw that flag open, I mean, I just got goosebumps,” Savio Vega said to Zelina. “Because I hear you talking about that moment was like, I mean, they will love you for life. You did something that we love to be honest. And WWE put the Puerto Rican flag everywhere like we do, you know? And when I saw Zelina in the middle of the ring open that flag, I just got emotions; I cried, I was like hey, beautiful! Beautiful! And hey, you didn’t win the belt but you are our champion, so don’t worry about that part.”

After thanking Savio for his compliment, the IWA Puerto Rico president went a step further, complementing the match and Vega’s efforts too.

“I was a great match. And I watched the match from top to bottom; it was a great match, I loved the match, and you are a champion,” Savio Vega added. “And just, when you walked out with that flag, you see all the Puerto Ricans, all the Puerto Ricanos happy, emotional, I mean, seeing the flag in the posts of the ring? Amazing. I love it, and you are our champion.”

Though Zelina didn’t come out on top in Puerto Rico, her effort gave fans an emotional release only topped by Bad Bunny’s match and made her a legend in the process. Not a bad consolation prize at all.

Zelina Vega is ready to follow in Liv Morgan’s footsteps at Money in the Bank.

Elsewhere in her appearance on The Bump, Vega was asked about qualifying for Money in the Bank on SmackDown, becoming the first female performer to accomplish the honor.

For Vega, the moment was special, as she has the LWO behind her, but it won’t be truly complete until she becomes the new briefcase holder as she follows in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Liv Morgan.

“I do and honestly, I wasn’t expecting it either, and I think that’s the best thing about it, is that the best things come when you’re not expecting it. And once the LWO came back together, which is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, so now that it’s actually here, and I feel like the WWE Universe is so strong behind me, and mind you, I’ve said this before, they’ve only seen one side of me for a long time, so I love that they’ve embraced me so much and that they’ve really just stood strong beside me this whole time,” Vega said.

“And now it’s just, this is the moment, this is the moment that I feel like could change my career and honestly, I remember Liv (Morgan) talking about that, saying that there was someone who texted her saying that she was an inspiration to the rest of the locker room and one of those texts came from me. Because I saw her, I mean my god, you see people like Rhea Ripley and Bianca and these powerhouses but now getting to see Liv Morgan go and accomplish the goal she set out to accomplish, I’m like ‘I can do this too.’”

After spending the better part of the 2010s working through the ranks of WWE without a massive push or many World Championship opportunities, Morgan genuinely changed the trajectory of her career at Money in the Bank 2022, as she became the SmackDown Women’s Champion later that night and even secured the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship belt alongside Raquel Rodriguez before having to vacate the belt due to injury. If Vega fan experience similar success in 2023, maybe she too will be able to call herself World Champion at the end of Money in the Bank and could finally be taken seriously as a full-flung professional wrestler, instead of a manager who occasionally gets in the ring when a story requires it.

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Legendary WWE referee still doesn’t know why he was released

In professional wrestling, like in all other sports, most fans don’t know the name of a referee unless they do something very good or something very bad – just ask former WWE stalwart Earl Hebner.

Fortunately, one of the few referees who achieved name recognition for the right reasons is none other than Mike Chioda, the (largely) by-the-books babyface who called matches for the WWF and WWE from 1989 through 2020, when he was fired like many other talents during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Discussing his firing in an exclusive interview with Wrestling News, Chioda announced that he is still confused why he was let go, suggesting that he didn’t buy the statement that his release was a matter of cutting budgets without touring income coming into the company.

“I don’t know. I don’t know to this day, Chioda said. “I was making really good money. I’ll tell you straight out I was probably making 240 a year, but I’ve been there for 35 years at the time. I was out on surgery. I was out hurt. I made the transition. I moved to Houston in ’07. I came here in 2019, waited about a year for a house to be built, and got here in October 2019. I flew to Alabama, once it went to closing on my house here in Tampa, went and got the surgery, came home, rehabbed here for six months. I was ready for WrestleMania but then the COVID hit and I didn’t get a call.

“I’m like, ‘you gotta be kidding me.’ But you know, when we look at it, like Tony Chimel and I, you know, Tony got released too. He was with the company for 38 years. You know, just no reason, no why, no nothing, You know, they said budget costs but come on. The company, I think six months later, they had their best quarter in so many years or something and did great. It wasn’t just me. People like Tony Chimel. You know, I remember talking to Corano. I said, ‘Carano, what the f**k. You gotta be f**king kidding me?’ I know he felt bad and he didn’t know what to say. He said, ‘Mike, look, it’s not just you. It’s Tony Chimel, Tom Carlucci, John D’Amico.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, so everybody over 30 f**king years plus with the company. So that’s where you’re going with this. It wasn’t really a f**king budget cut’, because he’s mentioned three other people in three other different departments.”

Was WWE really trying to cut the “old” weight as they streamlined the promotion heading into the future? Did the arrival of Nick Khan help to inspire a desire to inject some new blood into the company who wouldn’t protest when they try to take things in a new direction? Either way, based on the pop Chioda earned in his appearances for AEW since being let go, it’s clear fans still like to see him in the ring calling things right down the middle.

Mike Chioda recalls working early Wrestlemanias for WWE in New Jersey.

Elsewhere in his interview with Wrestling News, Chioda decided to recall what it was like working WrestleMania IV and WrestleMania V in his home state of New Jersey.

Despite being a referee, Chioda was given a very different task during those shows and even had some company from local workers from around the area.

“WrestleMania IV and V was so cool for me because I was in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, living outside Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Willingboro. Four and Five was in Atlantic City, so it was phenomenal. I remember so many nights I had to sit in a pay-per-view truck because they were scared about somebody damaging in the f**king pay-per-view trucks,” Chioda recalled.

“Like the satellite trucks, they were scared about somebody damaging it. I don’t know if it was like the WCW thing, but we had to take turns sitting there. I remember sitting in a satellite truck from like midnight to like seven or eight in the morning just watching the strippers come out of the clubs and people going in and out of the strip club, hookers walking by. I’m like, everybody’s having fun but me sitting in a satellite truck. I’m like, how did I get this job?”

Goodness gracious, now that is an interesting story indeed, especially the part about having to protect the Pay-Per-View truck just in case WCW decided to try to attack the satellites and disrupt the transmission. While that obviously didn’t happen, with DX actually attempting to do something similar a few years later, could you imagine what would have happened if it did?

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Bobby Fish makes a stunning reveal about The Undisputed Era’s WWE tenure

During their heyday, there wasn’t a faction in WWE, especially in NXT, that was putting on more five-star matches than The Undisputed Era, the union of Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong, and Bobby Fish, who came together in developmental in 2017 and worked together more or less continuously until the spring of 2021, when members of the team slowly started leaving the promotion.

Though the group regrettably never made it to the main roster, and ultimately fell apart in less than spectacular fashion when Cole, then Fish, then O’Reilly, and finally Strong left the promotion to make their way over to AEW, fans still wonder what could have happened had the group stuck it out and stuck together – assuming Vince McMahon kept them incorporated – and stayed in WWE long-term.

One of those fans is none other than Fish himself, who noted on the Tru Heel Heat podcast that no one, not even the members of the group, wanted to see their association come to an end.

“If I’m being honest, I don’t think anybody wanted that. I think that at some point the powers that be thought, but I don’t think they were even sure that they wanted it at that point. I think the pandemic turned everything on its head. I think there were some things that were on with Pat McAfee who was kind of the entity that was going to help us turn babyface with the War Games and all that stuff, which we did. We definitely felt like and I believe WWE felt like we had a babyface run in us and who knows how long that’s gonna go before things were, and then like who knows you can’t predict so especially in pro wrestling,” Fish said via Fightful.

“So I think that decision ended up being because they just ran out of the other options and the pandemic. And everything was, you know, no audiences and everything was changing and now they needed, you know, there’s just, it’s just life. That’s how it goes and I’m a firm believer, my faith tells me that it’s his schedule not ours and there’s a reason for this stuff and he was preparing us for something else, you know, not for the four of us to stay together. And who knows what that is and we may never know, but I have faith that it’ll make sense.”

Fortunately, when KOR is healthy enough to wrestle once more, it looks like fans will get a new Undisputed Era run, even if they don’t necessarily go by that moniker. Unfortunately for Fish, he’s the only member of the faction who isn’t signed to AEW at the moment, and the jury’s still out on whether he will ever return again, considering the comments he’s made about CM Punk in the past.

Bobby Fish finally explains where the reDRagon moniker came from.

Elsewhere in his appearance on Tru Heel Heat, Bobby Fish finally explained where the moniker reDRagon came from and why the duo strangely decided to capitalize the “DR” in the one-word name.

“The name was me. I was reading a book at the time and it was something I took from the book. It was Red Dragons with an S, but I shortened it to just reDRagon and I thought because Kyle and I both did martial arts and we’re trying to be heels, so a couple of little extra detail layers that were things that as a kid, growing up that I loved about wrestling were the details. And so I figured, ‘okay reDRagon, anything dragon is very, you know, commercialized, American martial artsy, you know.’ So anything Dragon they’re gonna think like, ‘oh these guys, you know, these two karate guys think they’re dragons’ and you know, reDRagon, I don’t know it just sounded douchey to me. I was like, it’s perfect and then as we’re trying to, I’m trying to come up with a way to like, you know, design what the logo might look like I realized like, ‘oh my God, there’s a D and an R simultaneously in the spelling next to each other.’ Davey Richards, it’s perfect, it’s perfect, it’ll be all lower case and we’re capitalizing the D and the R and we’re never gonna acknowledge it. We’re never ever going to say that that’s what it is, let people come to their own conclusion,” Fish said via Fightful.

“I mean, that’s truly what it was because the way we were coming into things was through a feud with Davey Richards, and it was Kyle’s bone to pick with Davey Richards. So it was kind of like that shot at Davey, and it put, you know, and I think it was putting some heat and some steam on the thing unspoken, but with Ring of Honor fans between me and Davey gave us a bone of contention because you know, here I kind of, you know, influenced his guy to, you know, further get away from him. So yeah, I mean it was just fun to like layer in those details just so much fun.”

Wait, so the entire reDRagon moniker is because Bobby Fish was reading a book and Kyle O’Reilly doesn’t like Davey Richards of the American Wolves? Well, that makes about as much sense as MJF saying he, like Vince McMahon, doesn’t consider Adam Cole a top guy.

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Paul Heyman reveals the unlikely origins of his partnership with Roman Reigns

When Roman Reigns returned to WWE in August of 2020, he wasn’t the same old “Big Dog” fans had come to know and despise, instead opting to become a leaner, meaner, more aggressive “Tribal Chief” with none other than Paul Heyman walking by his side. Together, the pairing formed one of the most dominant factions in all of professional wrestling, folded in The Usos and eventually Solo Sikoa into The Bloodline, and went on to field such a long championship reign that it required Paul “Triple H” Levesque to christen a new strap to keep things interesting.

But why? Why did Heyman decide to join forces with Reigns when he already had Brock Lesnar as a client? Well, as it turns out, he didn’t have Lesnar at the time, as Paul E. Dangerously explained in an interview on Rick Rubin’s Tetragrammaton podcast.

“The pandemic hits. Now Brock’s an expensive meal ticket. He was right in 2004, leave, become a much bigger star in the outside world, come back, get paid outside world celebrity, money, and schedule. So without being able to run live events, and without Saudi, and that enormous deal coming in, budgeting for Brock Lesnar in an empty arena several times a year doesn’t make business sense. So when Brock’s contract came due, and we’re in the middle of the pandemic, it doesn’t make any sense for WWE to do what they had done every year, which is, ‘Yeah, we know this was your final year, but if you’d consider, we’re gonna throw more money at you. Give us another year of this. This was a year where that wasn’t going to happen, because there was no way to get a return on the investment. So Brock went back to Saskatchewan, and in his mind, that was the end. He was done,” Paul Heyman said via Wrestling News.

“I’m still there as Executive Director. Roman Reigns has taken time off with his condition. He’s not exposing himself to this pandemic that we don’t have a grasp on how severe it can be quite just yet and at the same time, he’s had enough of the creative. These things are running concurrently. The feud rivalry story with Baron Corbin over dog food and the infamous sufferin succotash promo had weighed on him enough to where he said, ‘I’ve had enough. I’ve reached the cap. I can’t go any further. As the big dog I’ve peaked. and as an athlete, I haven’t peaked as a performer. I’ve barely scratched the surface. I have so much more to offer and since I’m taking time off, I’m not coming back as the same person.’

“This is where I make my move. This is where I do for me what Lesnar did for himself when he conquered the streak. Something has to become my defining moment and then propel forward from there. The catalyst to something completely different. Four WrestleMania main events to his credit, a run on top since 2015, and one could even say always near the top from 2012 to 2015, but something has to be generational here, something has to define him as Austin, Rock, Sammartino, Hogan, a transformative personality that can then ultimately make the case, I Roman Reigns am the greatest of all time.”

With Lesnar presumably finished in the promotion, Heyman knew eventually, he’d be called upon to manage a new performer. Fortunately, he had a plan to keep his mystique alive, as after being attached to too many “Heyman Guys” over the years, the idea of pairing up with another mid-card star in the hopes of making a new Superstar wasn’t his ideal plan during his third decade in the wrestling industry.

For Paul Heyman, working with Roman Reigns was perfect timing.

Continuing his conversation with the unofficial fourth member of the Beastie Boys, Paul Heyman explained that thanks to his expert negotiating, he was able to limit the number of performers he was allowed to work with on-camera for WWE. Fortunately, when Reigns decided to return to the ring in 2020, the timing lined up for a pairing that now looks like a stroke of genius.

“Vince removes me as executive director in June of 2020, and I thought I had a bunch of months left on my contract, and I was gonna ride it out, and we’ll see where we go from there. There were limited options in my agreement as to whom WWE could put me with. When I had the leverage, I wrote that in because we had reached a point with the cachet of being Brock Lesnar’s advocate that anybody else you put me with could either make them instantly a star, or you’re watering me down, and ultimately hurting the other person, because they don’t belong with me. They don’t measure up to where you’re used to seeing my character bring someone down to the ring, which is either the main event of WrestleMania or close to it. One of the few names on this list was Roman Reigns. Another was Brock Lesnar, obviously. Another was Ronda Rousey. Ronda Rousey was having a baby. Brock Lesnar wasn’t coming back with Saudi being down. That kinda left Roman Reigns in there,” Heyman said.

“So Vince calls me in the middle of August and he says, ‘We’re gonna take you back into television. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, oh. He’s gonna make me a commentator and Jim Ross isn’t here. What is a commentator in 2020? How can I be disruptive? How can I be evolutionary in the process? How can I redefine this role because I don’t just want to settle in and do what’s been done already. Even by me, I want to do this differently. I said, ‘Okay, well, what do you got in mind?’ He says, ‘I’m going to put you with somebody.’I’m thinking, ‘Has he read my contract?’ I said, ‘Well, you know Vince, the options are kind of limited in that.’ I’m trying to tiptoe into a delicate situation here where I’m about to butt heads with him. I’m thinking Ronda is pregnant. Brock’s not coming back with Saudi down. He’s certainly is not putting me with Roman and he goes, ‘I’m envisioning Roman Reigns with Paul Heyman.’ I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God. He’s gonna pull the trigger on this. He would never pull it with Cena. He would never have allowed Cena to come to the dark side.”

Would The Bloodline have worked if Heyman wasn’t a part of it? Would fans have completely bought into this new heel iteration of Reigns without a generational talker standing next to him, eliminating the need for any “suffering succotash son” moments, or would this angle have gotten over regardless? Fortunately, fans won’t have to imagine that universe, as this one is much better.

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MJF evokes Vince McMahon by name in brutal Adam Cole takedown

After besting three opponents in the co-main event of Double or Nothing and then lamenting the fact that he’s running out of viable challengers in AEW, MJF marched down to the ring on Dynamite to discuss his summer plans before WWE can enter into “The Bidding War of 2024,” but unfortunately wasn’t able to get too deep into his itinerary, as none other than Adam Cole made his way down to the ring to lay down the proverbial hammer.

Fortunately, MJF seemed genuinely excited to talk to “Mr. Undisputed Elite” and even marked out a bit, discussing how he followed in his path to become a future World Champion.

“I was instantly hooked. I was genuinely, instantly hooked,” MJF said. “And when I started training to become a pro wrestler, I got as much of your tape as I could possibly get my hands on, I watched you all the way to your days in CZW, where you won championship gold. I watched you go to every single top independent and become the hottest free agent in the world. And then, I watched you go down to Florida and watched you shock the system. You were Shawn Michael’s hand-picked guy; you were so good you became the greatest champion in the history of that company, and that, my friend, is undisputed.”

Aw, that’s pretty sweet, right? MJF is a long-time fan of Cole, and finally, he’s going to have a kind, respectful feud worthy of a WWE champion? Nope, MJF went for just about every low-hanging fruit he could reach and stomped them into the ground.

MJF goes full-on scorched earth in a brutal Adam Cole takedown.

After buttering up Cole to bring down his defenses, MJF went right for the juggler, boldly declaring that Vince McMahon was right and that his foe just isn’t main event material.

“I was a mark for Adam Cole, I was, I was, because you were that good, so I followed in your footsteps, I went to CZW where I won gold, I became a top name on the independents, and then I signed on here in AEW and deep down in my heart, I knew one day you’d make the jump and when you did, me and you would have the rivalry of a lifetime; two generational talents, MJF versus Adam Cole… but then this guy showed up. What happened to you, man? You used to be the Panama Playboy; now you’re the Panama Game Boy. You sit at home behind your computer playing Twitch, hiding from the sun looking like a virgin Golem, meanwhile Brit Baker keeps leaving the house with your balls firmly in her purse,” MJF said to boos from the crowd.

“And to make matters worse bud, didn’t you used to have the body and the physique of a world champion? Now, no offense, you’re so frail, you make crack wh**es jealous. You’re just not hitting the same way you used to bud and I see what these people say online, they’re saying ‘it’s not your fault,’ they’re saying this company simply not showcasing you properly and to you people, I say you don’t have a ******* clue what you’re talking about. This company has done everything in its power o take you cool, the lights, the music, the cool t-shirts, the big match opportunities, giving you and your girl your own reality show. Do you know what they do to make MJF cool? They ring the freakin’ bell.

“Sound familiar? Greatest singles dog collar match of all time, greatest dog collar match of all time, greatest four-way of all time. The world champion, the greatest professional wrestler on God’s green earth. I have beaten every single top guy these people thought were on my level. What makes you think you’re any different bud? And before you answer that, I read a nasty little rumor about you online buddy. I read a rumor that the reason you made the jump to this company is because a certain individual in Titan Towers didn’t think you had top guy potential and that individual’s name was Vince McMahon. And when I heard that, I though, ‘my god, the old man has finally lost his marbles’ how do you not see top guy in Adam Cole? But I gotta be honest bud, now that I’m standing eye to eye with you in my ring, do you know what I think? I think Vince was right!”

Welp, there you have it folks, MJF-Adam Cole is firmly the next feud for the AEW World Champion, and he even agreed to a match at some point in the future after his foe was able to say his peace, though not before calling him “Keith Lee’s manager.” While some fans are already calling the feud bunk, as they feel Cole isn’t on the same level as MJF, Tony Khan has fully pulled the trigger on the idea, and it looks like that’ll be the story for the next few weeks or maybe even months.

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Claudio Castagnoli articulates his appreciation for his involvement in The Shield

Claudio Castagnoli – then known as Cesaro – was a very friendly man during his run in WWE.

A member of not one, not two, but three factions, working alongside Sheamus in the Bar, with Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger in the Real Americans – a funny faction for a man from Switzerland – and with Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura as part of the Artist Collective, Castagnoli consistently found himself surrounded by likeminded individuals whether wrestling for RAW or SmackDown and seemed to enjoy being part of a team or even just having a manager like Paul Heyman.

However, if there’s one faction that Castagnoli never officially joined but has remained an important building block of his career to this very day, it’s The Shield, who shared the ring with “The Swiss Superman” on dozens of occasions in one form or another over their shared time in WWE. Discussing his relationship with The Shield in an interview with Justin Barrasso for Sports Illustrated, Castagnoli thanked Moxley for calling him an extra member of the faction and noted how their relationship has grown since.

“For Jon to say we were like extra members is very kind. I was riding with Jon before he got called up with The Shield but was on the road for almost a year. Then we were all riding together when they became The Shield,” Claudio Castagnoli said. “So our ways have been intertwined for a long time. I learned a lot from Jon, and we have a lot of memories from the road. We were joking yesterday before the show about the two of us walking around Tokyo looking for a wrestling store on our first WWE tour in Japan. And now we’re here doing what we do best in NJPW.”

Working alongside Moxley, Bryan Danielson, and the rest of the Blackpool Combat Club for almost a year now, having debuted at the original running of Forbidden Door as Zack Sabre Jr.’s surprise opponent, Castagnoli has become the Ring of Honor World Champion on two occasions and taken part in some of the most compelling matches of his career. Not too shabby for a 42-year-old who hadn’t held championship gold since 2020.

Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli are taking the BCC to Japan.

Despite having some travel issues that nearly cost the “Swiss Superman” his spot in the match, Claudio Castagnoli was able to join Jon Moxley and Shota “Shooter” Umino in a match NJPW Dominion, where the team went to war against Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Though the match didn’t turn out as planned, Moxley let it be known that this wasn’t a one-off, as he’s going to be returning to the country early and often now that he has residency in the country.

“A couple kids, a couple trips to rehab later, here we are. Every single time I come back to Japan, I will give you my absolute best, just like Claudio will, just like Shooter will,” Moxley said. “I am so godd**ned glad to be back in Japan. This is a place where fighting spirit is revered, this is a place where fighting spirit pays off in the ring, in that magical moment where blood and sweat and will and guts and all that s**t mixes into one. It’s the greatest f**king drug in the world. I love that s**t. F**k yeah. We’ll wrestle again. I got f**king plans. I got a f**king resident card now. I know Okada has been f**king with the visa thing and trying to get our s**t stopped up. But I got the card now. I’ll come back whenever the f**k I want. Thank you, Japan.”

Moxley then turned his attention to Okada specifically, who got the pin on Umino in their match. Though Mox and company weren’t able to get the win in Japan, the man formerly known as “The Lunatic Fringe” believes his BCC teammate, Bryan Danielson, will be able to secure the W at Forbidden Door.

“Congratulations, Okada. You beat a f**king 14-year-old. Real cool, man. You like picking on Shota, huh? You, rich kids, bullies, you guys, Ishii, Tanahashi, Okada, the cool kids. The guys they call the best in the world that can do no wrong,” Moxley said.

“Personally, me, I don’t have any time for you motherf**kers. I’m not very impressed with you at all. I am the most criminally and chronically undervalued, looked-over, just total piece of s**t. You guys are the best, apparently. That’s what a lot of people say. Well, far be it for me to disagree. Maybe my friend, my training partner, the man who has inspired a generation, Bryan F**king Danielson, the American Dragon, maybe he can teach you what I mean. But when I look at you, I have no impetus to show you one godd**ned bit of respect.”

Will the BCC dominate Forbidden Door like they dominated Double or Nothing? Only time will tell, but it’s safe to say it’s going to be a fight moreso than a friendly battle between friends.

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Santos Escobar credits this legend for helping him sign with WWE

When Santos Escobar signed with WWE in 2019, it wasn’t met with incredible fanfare from the general RAW and SmackDown-viewing masses.

Sure, Escobar, then known as El Hijo de Fantasma, was a known commodity on the indies, working great matches for Lucha Libre AAA, Lucha Underground, and Impact Wrestling, among others, but he wasn’t a known commodity in the same way as, say, Cody Rhodes, who was immediately launched into a WrestleMania match upon his return against Seth Rollins.

Fortunately, behind the scenes, Escobar had multiple big supports who believed he could be something special in an NXT and eventually a WWE ring, with one champion in particular, William Regal, helping him secure a spot on the roster, as he detailed to Ryan Satin on Out of Character.

“I guess, a person that, from the moment I met this person, he was always on my side, and he was always very supportive was (William) Regal. So when I did my tryout, he was very high on me, and he told me that he liked my style and that there was a high probability that I would be hired. It didn’t happen, but he told me let’s just stay in touch, and we can revisit this down the line,” Escobar said.

“When the time came, and I terminated my relationship with AAA and Lucha Underground, I thought to myself, there’s two places where I haven’t been full time, and one of them is WWE, and the other one is probably Japan. So right before anything, when this whole thing happened, there was this buzz on social media that I was going to become a free agent, and so I just sort of reached out, and that was it. I didn’t even reach out to Japan; that was it. On the very first contact, I was offered to come to NXT, and I took it, I always wanted that.”

Would Escobar have eventually signed with WWE had Regal not been with the company? Potentially so, Escobar is one of the best luchadors in the world today, and his well-rounded offense is seemingly designed to thrive on WWE television, where some more traditional high-flyers have struggled. Still, it’s good to know that Regal saw something special in Escobar and championed his career, as that trust has paid off in a big way.

Santos Escobar explains how the lWo returned to WWE.

Elsewhere on Out of Character, Escobar was asked about the return of the lWo and how the pairing of himself, Rey Mysterio, and company came together.

Surprisingly, Escobar has been on the idea for a long time but received some pushback on the idea from none other than the head of creative for NXT and then the whole promotion, Paul “Triple H” Levesque.

“The very first conversation I had with Triple H, and he asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ I told him, ‘Can I bring back the LWO?’ Before I said the letter ‘O,’ he said, ‘No. I want you to be you, and I want people to see you, and not think of anybody else. I want you to think of something. You want a group? We can do a group. But write something down, think about it, give it to me, and we’ll see. So that kind of shot down my initial desire, but Triple H was right. The time wasn’t right, it wouldn’t have been what it is right now. Also, it needed a very important ingredient, an O.G, an original LWO [member], and that’s Rey,” Escobar said via Fightful.

“So that’s why Legado came about, and it was beautiful. It gave me the opportunity to do everything I wanted to do. Who I am, where I come from, what I’m about, and that’s what I did every single time I was out there. Every promo, every backstage, every scene, every feud, every rivalry was letting people know that I’m all about lucha libre, that lucha libre is about tradition, heritage, culture, familia. All the values that you have, whether you’re Mexican, Latino, or not, are the values I have. We relate, and that’s how Legado got over; that’s how Santos got really over on NXT. Because everything I say, it’s real.”

Would the Santos Escobar character have worked on the main roster if he was still a member of Legado Del Fantasma instead of lWo, even with Zelina Vega as the team’s manager instead of Elektra Lopez? Potentially so, but pairing the 37-year-old luchador up with the now-WWE Hall of Famer under the lWo banner has certainly helped to supercharge Escobar’s main roster run and kept the legacy of Fantasma alive and well, which, you know, was sort of the whole point of Legado Del Fantasma in the first place.

The post Santos Escobar credits this legend for helping him sign with WWE appeared first on ClutchPoints.

LA Knight reveals why he should be the favorite to win Money in the Bank

LA Knight took the hard road to WWE stardom.

Initially signing with the promotion in 2013 after a decade on the indies working for promotions like NWA and Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, Knight was let go in 2014 and had to rebuild his value in TNA, Impact, NWA, and beyond under the Eli Drake moniker. Re-signing with WWE at the tender age of 38 and assigned to developmental to hone his craft, Knight put his Eli Drake-isms to good use on the black and gold brand, leading to some of the most memorable moments in the brand’s history and promos that will live on forever on YouTube and “Best Of” compilations.

Finally elevated to the main roster for the first time in his career, Knight had to suffer through a curious run as Max Dupri that now looks incredibly short-sighted before being allowed to work as LA Knight, even if he didn’t get a legitimate push to help him get over… until now, when, almost a year after his SmackDown debut, LA Knight is heading to Money in the Bank as an official participant in the show’s namesake Ladder match.

Discussing his long road to the top of the card in an appearance on The Bump, Knight credited himself for getting over on his own and finally getting to enjoy the benefits he’s worked for.

“Because finally, finally, the WWE is gonna give me what I want,” LA Knight said. “Why? Because I had to go out and make it happen. Look, I didn’t ask for anybody, talk about being a fan-favorite, I didn’t go out there and say, ‘Hey, please cheer for me. Hey, please like me.’ As a matter of fact, if they don’t cheer for me, if they don’t like me, doesn’t make a d**n bit of difference to me. At the end of the day, I’m gonna go to Money in the Bank, I’m gonna climb that ladder, I’m gonna pull the case down, and then any single one of those titles that I want is coming my way, whether it’s Gunther, whether it’s Austin Theory, whether it’s Seth Rollins or whether it’s Roman Reigns himself, any single one of them are in the crosshairs at this point. So what you got to think about is man, look, I didn’t get shoved down anybody’s throat. I wasn’t anybody’s guy. I came in, and I did my thing, and the whole world, whether you take me to Saudi Arabia, whether you take me to London, whether you take me to Puerto Rico, you can take me to Mobile, Alabama, and every single place is gonna make a whole lot of noise for LA Knight. You know why that is? Because they can see that I stand head and shoulders above everybody walking.”

Will LA Knight bring down the briefcase at Money in the Bank? Only time will tell, but based on his words, it’s really hard to bet against the “Megastar” in the biggest match of his career.

LA Knight describes his “life-changing” moment on SmackDown.

Turning his attention to the nuts and bolts of actually qualifying for Money in the Bank in a match against Montez Ford on SmackDown, LA Knight noted that the win was life-changing, as it allowed him to take the shot he’s been chasing for his entire career.

“Well you know, the one buzzword everybody likes to use now is life-changing,” Knight noted. “And I’ll tell you what, it is going to be life-changing because for a good long time, I couldn’t get what was coming to me, but now, I’m going to take what’s been coming to me for a good long time, it’s been a while long overdue. So yeah, did I feel the buzz going in there? Did I feel the buzz in that whole building, rumbling the whole time we were in there one way or the other? H*ll yeah I did, here’s how it’s going to go down: it’s going to change my trajectory, it’s going to send me straight into London to the O2 Arena. It’s on.”

After 20 years in the professional wrestling trenches, LA Knight finally has a chance to showcase his hard work, main event a Premium Live Event, and see if he gets to be the 26th man to hold the Money in the Bank open contract. If he fails, at least he got the opportunity, but if he succeeds, well, the rest of the WWE Universe has better watch out, as whose game is it? It’s LA Knight’s game. Yeah!

The post LA Knight reveals why he should be the favorite to win Money in the Bank appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Kurt Angle reveals his dream comeback wrestling opponent

Though Kurt Angle hasn’t wrestled a match since all the way back in 2019, when he was famously pinned by Baron Corbin at WrestleMania 35 – a fact the former King brought up during his return to NXT on Tuesday – every few months, someone either asks the “Olympic Hero” about the prospects of coming out of retirement for one final match or he floats the idea on his namesake podcast himself, usually in conjunction with conversations about the current crop of in-ring stars.

One of those stars who has been consistently linked to Angle as a potential opponent just so happens to be one of his biggest fans: Kenny Omega.

Discussing the prospects of Wrestling “The Best Bout Machine” in a WWE ring, Angle let it be known that he’s a massive fan of what Omega brings to the table and that if they were to throw down, it would need to be a technical exhibition, not one built around high-flying or hardcore spots.

“One thing we wouldn’t do, we’re not going to have a Cage Match, we’re not going to have a Hardcore Match,” Angle explained via Wrestling Inc. “What we’re going to have is a technical wrestling match. I think Kenny and I can add value to that. That’s our forte, and that’s what we bring to the table. It would be like Bret Hart vs. Kurt Angle, I really believe that. Maybe a little different because Kenny’s a bit more of a high-flyer, but for the most part, it would be almost the same.”

Fortunately for Angle, if he does decide to give fans one more match, it sounds like Omgea would not only be down to get in the ring but actually open to doing the job, as, according to “The Cleaner” himself on Twitter, he’s simply a student of “The Best.

“I don’t study myself when I want to learn, I study Kurt. He’s the best for a reason. I take the L – but it’d be a heck of match,” Omega wrote.

Will fans ever get to see Angle-Omega in a professional wrestling ring? Only time will tell, but if the “Olympic Hero” is healthy when his current WWE legends contract comes up, maybe he can squeeze in a quick AEW match before he cashes his next check from Titan Towers.

Kurt Angle names his two favorite WWE opponents.

Turning his attention to the past, instead of a future bout that may or may not ever actually hit the books, Angle discussed some of his favorite performers he actually got in the ring with during his run in WWE, which somehow only lasted from 1998-2006 if you count his time in developmental.

Angle, to his credit, had a wide and varied career, working with and against some of the biggest stars in professional wrestling regardless of the era. Still, in the most humble opinion of the “Olympic Hero” on his eponymous podcast, two feuds rise above the rest and sit as something truly special in his body of work: Brock Lesnar and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

“To be honest with you, it was my second favorite program, my first was with ‘Stone Cold.’ But I really loved the angle that I had with Brock Lesnar, the program. You know, Brock is an incredible athlete. What he has been able to do in every sport that he plays, he is literally the best at everything that he does,” Angle said via TJR.

“Brock is so talented that if he joined the NBA right now, he’d probably make it. What he’s done, he went from the WWE to the NFL, and he would have made it if he spent another year there. But then he decided to quit, and then he went to MMA and became UFC Champion.

“Then he comes back to WWE, and becomes WWE Champion. I mean that kid is so talented, it doesn’t matter what he touches, whatever he touches is going to turn to gold, that’s how talented he is.”

Working at the top of the card as one of the true focal points of his era, Angle wrestled some of the best of the best WWE had to offer during one of the greatest era of its existence and lived to tell the tale about it, even if he’s currently in the midst of completing a long list of surgeries to improve his quality of life as a result. Fortunately, Angle has a number of amazing matches and even better feuds to show for it, which will cement him as a wrestling legend forever.

The post Kurt Angle reveals his dream comeback wrestling opponent appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Natalya believes fans have severely overlooked this Ronda Rousey match

As Money in the Bank 2023 rapidly approaches, the WWE Univers has begun to evaluate which performers have a chance to hit it big and who will fall down the ladder both physically and metaphorically. In 2022, Liv Morgan was lucky enough to score the briefcase in Las Vegas and parlayed the contract inside into a win over Ronda Rousey and her first of two championship reigns over the next 12 months.

Though that match, in particular, was largely remembered for how it ended, in the opinion of Natalya, fans should revisit her efforts against “The Baddest Woman on the Planet,” as she believes the match holds up a lot better than some fans may recall.

“I talked to Ronda throughout the whole entire thing because I really wanted to kick her a**, and I did. In all seriousness, the matches that I’ve had against Ronda Rousey, they’ve been so challenging and so much fun. She’s really trusted me with our performances, and I’ve really loved having those matches against her,” Natalya said on Ring The Belle via Wrestling Headlines.

“Like the match we had at Money in the Bank last year, I don’t think it got enough love. It was because Liv cashed in right after, and Liv had that amazing moment where she became the SmackDown Women’s Champion. But I loved that match against Ronda. So I’m just sending a little shout-out and love to Ronda.”

Taking the ring after the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match – duh – just before the men took to the ring for their own MitB showcase, Rousey and Natalya worked a match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship that featured plenty of hard-hitting maneuvers, some smack talk, and more than a few submission holds that ultimately didn’t result in the finish save the final modified armbar that caused the second-generation Neidhart to tap out. Say what you will about the match, which had largely been forgotten to history as a good-not-great bout on an interesting card, but it really did feature some interesting submissions and submission counters, even if the most important spot of the contest – and its follow-up second match – was a surprised roll-up off of a rope break for the 1-2-3 by the most watched Superstar from New Jersey.

With no match on the books, at least not yet for Money in the Bank 2023, maybe Rousey and Natalya could have a rematch in London?

Ronda Rousey explains the challenges of being a mother and a Superstar.

Sitting down for an interview with People about motherhood, fighting folks professionally, and her other Fox show, Stars on Mars, Ronda Rousey was asked about filming the reality show and how it affected her personal life. In the opinion of “The  Baddest Woman on the Planet,” the hardest part of filming the show – other than, you know, being on Mars – was being away from her young daughter.

That was the most challenging thing, just being away from my baby. I had a really hard time being away from her, and she was only 1½ when I was gone. It’s the cutest age and everything like that,” Rousey said.

I was having a better and better experience, that I felt worse and worse about being away from her. And so, the mom guilt was compounding by the day, and I think that was more difficult than any part of the experience itself.”

Fortunately, it didn’t take Rousey and company nine months to make the 9 million-mile trip back to Earth from Mars, and when she got back her daughter was nothing but happy to be reunited with her WWE Women’s World Championship-holding mama.

“When she saw me, she wanted to jump into my arms and then she wanted me to put her down and just run around the house with me and then pick her up. And it was when she finally calmed down enough for me to hold her in my arms and for us to watch Frozen together, it was really our celebration,” Rousey said.

“Then that night — she sleeps in the bed with us — and with her little head in my nook, and I fell sleep holding her that night,” Rousey recalls. “It was the most amazing feeling after being away for so long.”

In professional wrestling, sometimes fans get a bit too focused on what’s going on in the ring and lose track of what the people playing the characters on screen are up to in their regular lives, especially when said performer works under their real name. As Rousey prepares to keep her current championship run alive across RAW and SmackDown, it’s cool to know that Rousey’s able to spend time with her family when she’s off.

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