WWE, AEW News Recap (5/19) - Tiffany Stratton, Drew Gulak, Bryan Danielson & more

Hey all, I'm back for today's news recap. So before I start, I wanted to clarify a few things. I'm still sort of a WWE mark so that's what I mainly write about; I don't really watch AEW to be honest but try to keep up with what's happening there. Second, I'm not here to break news but more to go over the highlights, offer context and some opinion and later on, perhaps throw out some rumors and speculation. With that said, here we go...

  • The folks at fightfulselect.com released another report yesterday about the reaction to the NXT releases that took place early in May. I think this has been beaten to death a little, but the two names that got the most focus were Gable Steveson and Drew Gulak, who technically wasn't released, is still with WWE but was informed that his contract wouldn't be renewed. Let's start with Steveson - much was expected of him, coming off a glittering amateur wrestling career and I'm sure WWE thought they could strike gold (pun intended) again as they did decades earlier with Kurt Angle. It just didn't work out though, because unlike Angle who oozed charisma and connected with the audience in a way no rookie had before him, Steveson severely lacked in that area. WWE tried him in dark matches as a babyface and he was booed and then they had him work as a heel, which helped a little but it became clear very quickly that it just wasn't going to work out. I had heard that Steveson survived far longer than expected, surely due to his pedigree, and some expected him to be released in the previous round of cuts. The timing of the release sucks for him because he can't compete at the Olympics this year and I'm guessing he is going to try his hand at football or MMA or something like that, which is going to be equally as difficult for him.
  • As for Drew Gulak, the less said the better. WWE is severing ties with him once his contract expires later this summer. I and many others initially believed the reason for his departure were the accusations levied against him by former WWE champ, Ronda Rousey but there was a lot more going on. One person I chatted with who would be familiar with the situation told me that with all the restructuring that has gone on lately within WWE, Gulak lost a bunch of his key allies/supporters and as reports later emerged, he was pretty much hated by everyone in NXT ("universally disliked" is the term shared with me). I'm sure the Rousey stuff didn't help his case either.
  • This isn't really wrestling related anymore, but the Vince McMahon - Janel Grant legal battle continues. I've tried to keep up with what's going on and to put it bluntly, Grant's side is painting McMahon as some devious sex fiend who manipulated and took advantage of her by using his power while Vince's side is trying to portray Grant as crazy, delusional and equally as eager of a participant in the relationship rather than a victim. I believe Vince's team is definitely going to attack those text messages that Grant's lawyers produced that literally only showed a one-sided convo, leaving out her responses. Vince claims he doesn't have those texts anymore but Grant surely would if she was able to produce what Vince said, right? I don't have a horse in this race, but it's a fair question.
  • On the Tiffany Stratton incident I touched on yesterday, I sifted through Dave Meltzer's Observer newsletter this weekend and he wrote that it was a "significant situation" within WWE and that if this happened to someone who wasn't a star, they would be "fired instantly." Yeah, I don't know about that. Personally, I think it was dumb of her to post that, but I don't believe she realized how badly it was going to be perceived in today's day and age. Rather than the public being up in arms over it, what does Jade Cargill think about it, that likely has a bigger impact than anything else.
  • AEW announced that for about a month over the summer, their Collision show on Saturday (as well as ROH tapings) will take place exclusively at Esports Stadium in Arlington, TX. Dynamite meanwhile will continue touring as usual. Google tells me that the stadium holds 2,500 people and it is surely a partial admission that Collision is struggling and has a lot of trouble selling out regular sized arena. Tony Khan commented that it was a great deal for AEW but I'm not sure if he meant that they were getting money from Arlington or that they were saving money themselves by running the same building for weeks at a time. Though I wonder by the fourth or fifth week, whether the audience in that area will suffer burnout and attendance will begin dwindling. To me, this is not a good sign for Collision at all.
  • A series of announcements over the past few weeks have revealed that with WWE's upcoming TV deals, all their shows are staying on the same nights - NXT on Tuesdays on the CW Network, Smackdown moves to USA but remains on Friday and Netflix gets Raw from 2025, also staying on Mondays though this one isn't completely official yet. There was some question about Smackdown possibly changing nights as Friday is traditionally not a great evening to draw viewers. Saturday is even worse while Monday and Tuesday already have WWE programming. That would leave Wednesday against Dynamite or Thursday (a night Smackdown previously aired) as possibilities but all that is moot for now. USA is shelling out big, big bucks for Smackdown - more than they are for Raw so you'd expect that they would want to maximize their investment. On that note, I'm slightly surprised we haven't heard rumors of Smackdown expanding to three hours, which I'm thinking not a lot of fans would want to get behind...but money talks.
  • In other news, Ruby Soho and Angelo Parker got married earlier this week. PWInsider.com first reported it and then John Silver of the Dark Order posted a pic on his social media congratulating the couple which confirmed it. Soho's former WWE Riot Squad partners, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan/Valhalla, attended.
  • Bryan Danielson indicated that he needs surgery very soon and not just any surgery, he noted that he has nerve pain so it sounds like some sort of spinal procedure. I'm not a doctor, but his description sounded kinda scary and given his well documented related neck issues in the past that actually had him disqualified by WWE for years, it's a head-scratcher why he's risking his health so recklessly by competing in the upcoming Anarchy at the Arena match.
  • This one is for my good friend in the comments section, Hanging out. Natalya's cat, 2pawz passed away after battling cancer. As a pet owner myself who often prioritizes my dog over my kids, I was sad to hear about that.

That's it for now, back in a day or two or three. Send me feedback, corrections, tips or fan mail at news@rajah.com. Bye.