Saturday, December 16News That Matters

This Week In WWE Biz: AJ Styles Plans, Roman Reigns Vs. Brock Lesnar Set?, Kurt Angle's Future, More



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Forbes

WWE Still Planning On Doing&nbsp;Roman Reigns Vs. Brock Lesnar At WrestleMania 34?

Despite Roman Reigns recently winning the Intercontinental Championship, long-term plans for &quot;The Big Dog&quot; remain the same.

According to Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t WrestlingInc), Reigns is still expected to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 34:

There had been some speculation on WrestleMania 34 plans possibly changing for Roman Reigns after he won the WWE Intercontinental Title from The Miz last week but Dave Meltzer noted on Wrestling Observer Radio that plans have not changed. As of a week ago, the plan for the WrestleMania 34 main event is for Reigns to challenge WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. No word yet on if Reigns will be going into WrestleMania with the Intercontinental Title but it’s believed that he will drop it before then.

WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR WWE?

For the better part of a year now, the long-running plan has been for Reigns to face and defeat Lesnar for the Universal title at WrestleMania 34, with the idea being that it will officially cement Reigns as the &quot;new face of the company.&quot;

One could argue, however, that that’s already happened. Given the recent booking of John Cena, who lost to Reigns at No Mercy and then had a completely forgettable appearance at Survivor Series, it’s clear that WWE is moving on from Cena being the face of WWE and is well on its way to establishing Reigns in that role.

Reigns is the company’s No. 2 merchandise seller&nbsp;and clearly one of its top draws, so the idea that he &quot;needs to beat Lesnar&quot; at WrestleMania 34 is a questionable one. After all, Reigns has already defeated Cena, Braun Strowman, The Undertaker and Triple H just over the last year and a half, giving him a career’s worth of landmark victories in an incredibly short span. But it wasn’t those victories that got him over with the crowd. It was the reunion of The Shield.

Reigns is more popular now than he has been at any point in recent memory mostly because of his association with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. His major singles victories and WWE’s endless desire to make him look strong did him no favors in terms of winning over the very passionate fan base that hated him the most. Are we supposed to think that a victory over Lesnar would be any different? Especially when it’s been telegraphed for so long, Reigns defeating Lesnar may not necessarily be the right way to go.

In fact, it could erase a lot of the tremendous work WWE has done in getting Reigns cheered since he reunited with The Shield.

CHECK THIS OUT

WWE May Not Have A Universal Title Match At&nbsp;The Royal Rumble

Credit: WWE.com

Credit: WWE.com

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Want evidence that WWE no longer needs Lesnar? The creative team apparently can’t find someone for him to face at the 2018 Royal Rumble.

According to the Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t Cageside Seats), it’s possible that &quot;The Beast&quot; will not have a Universal Championship match at the pay-per-view due the lack of a &quot;suitable opponent:&quot;

Lesnar may not be defending the Universal title at Royal Rumble, according to Wrestling Observer Radio, because WWE doesn’t believe they have a suitable opponent for him.

It’s also noted by the Observer (h/t Ringside News)&nbsp;that the following opponents are likely out of the running to face Lesnar: Finn Balor, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe.

WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR WWE?

With Lesnar vs. Reigns still in the cards for WrestleMania 34, WWE, quite frankly, has very few realistic options as potential Royal Rumble opponents for Lesnar.

That is what one of the things that has made Lesnar expendable and doesn’t necessarily guarantee that he’ll re-sign with WWE when his contract expires after WrestleMania 34. WWE has booked Lesnar so strongly and booked many of those aforementioned names so poorly that there is certainly something to the idea that no one is a suitable opponent for &quot;The Beast.&quot; You could argue that Balor is the most logical option right now, but Vince McMahon reportedly believes Balor is too &quot;bland&quot; and &quot;not over&quot; enough&nbsp;for that spot, which is borderline ridiculous when you consider his incredible popularity, likely strong merchandise sales&nbsp;and the overwhelmingly positive reaction he consistently generates.

But with Lesnar booked to be a level above virtually everyone else, there may be only one truly realistic opponent for him at the Royal Rumble: John Cena.

Yes, we’ve been there, done that with Cena vs. Lesnar. But even with Cena’s recent losses to stars like Reigns and Shinsuke Nakamura, he’s still Cena and is perhaps the only guy in the company viewed by the masses to be on Lesnar’s level. Especially when you consider that Cena and Lesnar are reportedly the two biggest draws in the company, it only makes sense for this match to take place one more time as the careers of these two superstars begin to wind down.

Not only would Cena vs. Lesnar give WWE a huge draw of a match for The Royal Rumble, but it would accomplish the goal of protecting WWE’s rising stars from falling victim to the push of Lesnar. That seems like the best option unless WWE decides to give a rising star like Jason Jordan a competitive match with Lesnar (so he’d look good even in defeat) or put someone like Cesaro in that spot just so Lesnar can have a quality match.

CHECK THIS OUT

AJ Styles Denies Retirement Rumors, Big Network Special Planned For Him

Credit: WWE.com

Credit: WWE.com

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Despite reports to the contrary circulating the Internet, AJ Styles is denying that he will retire after WrestleMania 34, and according to PWInsider.com (h/t WrestleZone), WWE is planning on doing a big special on Styles on the WWE Network:

WWE is already working on their next ‘WWE 365’ special for the WWE Network and this one will focus on AJ Styles.

WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR WWE?

You may be aware that WWE’s most recent&nbsp;WWE 365&nbsp;special, which focused on Kevin Owens, was a massive hit on the WWE Network, likely both because Owens has a large fan base and because it gave an&nbsp;&quot;insider&quot; look that fans are interested in seeing.

The fact that Styles will be the second superstar to be featured on the WWE Network special shows that WWE has a lot of faith in the drawing power of Styles, who will be around well past WrestleMania 34 but could be leaning toward calling it quits in the not so distant future. Although Styles is not set to retire immediately after WrestleMania 34, the&nbsp;Wrestling Observer Newsletter&nbsp;(h/t IWNerd.com) reports that Styles’ contract expires &quot;in early 2019&quot; and that Styles, who is now 40, has hinted at retiring at age 42.

Styles made his WWE debut in January 2016, so it’s reasonable to assume that he signed a three-year deal that will expire in January 2019, at which point WWE will have a big decision to make. &quot;The Phenomenal One&quot; has demonstrated in his less than two years in WWE that he is one of the company’s biggest stars, an incredible talent who may be WWE’s No. 3 merchandise seller&nbsp;and who has developed into one of its highest paid stars as well.

Because Styles is now one of WWE’s top attractions, it’s difficult to imagine the company letting him go, but given that he’ll turn 41 next year, WWE may instead decide to sign him to a friendlier, part-time schedule. That would keep Styles around on a deal similar to that of Randy Orton, who is around more often than other part-timers like Lesnar and Cena but has more time off than the typical full-timer.

Regardless, Styles should be around for at least another year, and judging by his upcoming&nbsp;WWE 365&nbsp;special, he’ll be a focal point of the company going forward. As he should be.

CHECK THIS OUT

Kurt Angle Expected To Work More Matches Going Forward

Credit: WWE.com

Credit: WWE.com

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Even though Kurt Angle says he&nbsp;tore a muscle in his leg just two days before Survivor Series, he still worked the pay-per-view, and according to Angle himself (h/t WrestleZone), he’ll be wrestling more matches in the future:

Will I be wrestling more? More on than off in the future? Probably. Right now I’m doing a little bit of both, the GM and wrestling here and there. I’m sure that I’ll be wrestling much more in the future, it just took a little bit of time.

WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR WWE?

Despite Angle’s injury, he noted that &quot;they’re [WWE] going to put me in different programs, with different athletes at different periods of time.&quot;

That seems to gel with recent reports that Angle could be set to face Triple H at the 2018 Royal Rumble, a match that was set up at Survivor Series and seems like a no-brainer given the recent interaction between Angle, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Angle isn’t the same in-ring performer that we saw during his previous WWE run or in TNA, but he certainly still has plenty of name value as evidenced by the undeniable buzz his return match at TLC created and the revelation that Jason Jordan was his son being a big viewership hit.

WWE will likely use Angle sparingly as a wrestler over the course of his current run, perhaps putting him in the ring a handful of times per year to increase interest, especially at times when other top&nbsp;Raw&nbsp;stars aren’t around for whatever reason. Although WWE has a glaring age problem&nbsp;that putting Angle in the ring more often certainly won’t improve, the company, whether right or wrong, is of the mindset that focusing on part-timers&nbsp;will result in more fans watching.

While there may be evidence to refute that, like the stagnant WWE Network subscriber count or pedestrian TV ratings, WWE will continue to use stars like Angle at shows that lack star power or at major &quot;Big Four&quot; pay-per-views.

CHECK THIS OUT

WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

Blake Oestriecher is an elementary school teacher by day and a sports writer by night. He’s a contributor to the Forbes @SportsMoneyBlog, where he primarily covers WWE. You can follow him on Twitter @BOestriecher.

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Forbes

WWE Still Planning On Doing Roman Reigns Vs. Brock Lesnar At WrestleMania 34?

Despite Roman Reigns recently winning the Intercontinental Championship, long-term plans for “The Big Dog” remain the same.

According to Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t WrestlingInc), Reigns is still expected to face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 34:

There had been some speculation on WrestleMania 34 plans possibly changing for Roman Reigns after he won the WWE Intercontinental Title from The Miz last week but Dave Meltzer noted on Wrestling Observer Radio that plans have not changed. As of a week ago, the plan for the WrestleMania 34 main event is for Reigns to challenge WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. No word yet on if Reigns will be going into WrestleMania with the Intercontinental Title but it’s believed that he will drop it before then.

WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR WWE?

For the better part of a year now, the long-running plan has been for Reigns to face and defeat Lesnar for the Universal title at WrestleMania 34, with the idea being that it will officially cement Reigns as the “new face of the company.”

One could argue, however, that that’s already happened. Given the recent booking of John Cena, who lost to Reigns at No Mercy and then had a completely forgettable appearance at Survivor Series, it’s clear that WWE is moving on from Cena being the face of WWE and is well on its way to establishing Reigns in that role.

Reigns is the company’s No. 2 merchandise seller and clearly one of its top draws, so the idea that he “needs to beat Lesnar” at WrestleMania 34 is a questionable one. After all, Reigns has already defeated Cena, Braun Strowman, The Undertaker and Triple H just over the last year and a half, giving him a career’s worth of landmark victories in an incredibly short span. But it wasn’t those victories that got him over with the crowd. It was the reunion of The Shield.

Reigns is more popular now than he has been at any point in recent memory mostly because of his association with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. His major singles victories and WWE’s endless desire to make him look strong did him no favors in terms of winning over the very passionate fan base that hated him the most. Are we supposed to think that a victory over Lesnar would be any different? Especially when it’s been telegraphed for so long, Reigns defeating Lesnar may not necessarily be the right way to go.

In fact, it could erase a lot of the tremendous work WWE has done in getting Reigns cheered since he reunited with The Shield.

CHECK THIS OUT

WWE May Not Have A Universal Title Match At The Royal Rumble

Credit: WWE.com

Credit: WWE.com

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Want evidence that WWE no longer needs Lesnar? The creative team apparently can’t find someone for him to face at the 2018 Royal Rumble.

According to the Wrestling Observer Radio (h/t Cageside Seats), it’s possible that “The Beast” will not have a Universal Championship match at the pay-per-view due the lack of a “suitable opponent:”

Lesnar may not be defending the Universal title at Royal Rumble, according to Wrestling Observer Radio, because WWE doesn’t believe they have a suitable opponent for him.

It’s also noted by the Observer (h/t Ringside News) that the following opponents are likely out of the running to face Lesnar: Finn Balor, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe.

WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR WWE?

With Lesnar vs. Reigns still in the cards for WrestleMania 34, WWE, quite frankly, has very few realistic options as potential Royal Rumble opponents for Lesnar.

That is what one of the things that has made Lesnar expendable and doesn’t necessarily guarantee that he’ll re-sign with WWE when his contract expires after WrestleMania 34. WWE has booked Lesnar so strongly and booked many of those aforementioned names so poorly that there is certainly something to the idea that no one is a suitable opponent for “The Beast.” You could argue that Balor is the most logical option right now, but Vince McMahon reportedly believes Balor is too “bland” and “not over” enough for that spot, which is borderline ridiculous when you consider his incredible popularity, likely strong merchandise sales and the overwhelmingly positive reaction he consistently generates.

But with Lesnar booked to be a level above virtually everyone else, there may be only one truly realistic opponent for him at the Royal Rumble: John Cena.

Yes, we’ve been there, done that with Cena vs. Lesnar. But even with Cena’s recent losses to stars like Reigns and Shinsuke Nakamura, he’s still Cena and is perhaps the only guy in the company viewed by the masses to be on Lesnar’s level. Especially when you consider that Cena and Lesnar are reportedly the two biggest draws in the company, it only makes sense for this match to take place one more time as the careers of these two superstars begin to wind down.

Not only would Cena vs. Lesnar give WWE a huge draw of a match for The Royal Rumble, but it would accomplish the goal of protecting WWE’s rising stars from falling victim to the push of Lesnar. That seems like the best option unless WWE decides to give a rising star like Jason Jordan a competitive match with Lesnar (so he’d look good even in defeat) or put someone like Cesaro in that spot just so Lesnar can have a quality match.

CHECK THIS OUT

AJ Styles Denies Retirement Rumors, Big Network Special Planned For Him

Credit: WWE.com

Credit: WWE.com

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Despite reports to the contrary circulating the Internet, AJ Styles is denying that he will retire after WrestleMania 34, and according to PWInsider.com (h/t WrestleZone), WWE is planning on doing a big special on Styles on the WWE Network:

WWE is already working on their next ‘WWE 365’ special for the WWE Network and this one will focus on AJ Styles.

WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR WWE?

You may be aware that WWE’s most recent WWE 365 special, which focused on Kevin Owens, was a massive hit on the WWE Network, likely both because Owens has a large fan base and because it gave an “insider” look that fans are interested in seeing.

The fact that Styles will be the second superstar to be featured on the WWE Network special shows that WWE has a lot of faith in the drawing power of Styles, who will be around well past WrestleMania 34 but could be leaning toward calling it quits in the not so distant future. Although Styles is not set to retire immediately after WrestleMania 34, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t IWNerd.com) reports that Styles’ contract expires “in early 2019” and that Styles, who is now 40, has hinted at retiring at age 42.

Styles made his WWE debut in January 2016, so it’s reasonable to assume that he signed a three-year deal that will expire in January 2019, at which point WWE will have a big decision to make. “The Phenomenal One” has demonstrated in his less than two years in WWE that he is one of the company’s biggest stars, an incredible talent who may be WWE’s No. 3 merchandise seller and who has developed into one of its highest paid stars as well.

Because Styles is now one of WWE’s top attractions, it’s difficult to imagine the company letting him go, but given that he’ll turn 41 next year, WWE may instead decide to sign him to a friendlier, part-time schedule. That would keep Styles around on a deal similar to that of Randy Orton, who is around more often than other part-timers like Lesnar and Cena but has more time off than the typical full-timer.

Regardless, Styles should be around for at least another year, and judging by his upcoming WWE 365 special, he’ll be a focal point of the company going forward. As he should be.

CHECK THIS OUT

Kurt Angle Expected To Work More Matches Going Forward

Credit: WWE.com

Credit: WWE.com

WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Even though Kurt Angle says he tore a muscle in his leg just two days before Survivor Series, he still worked the pay-per-view, and according to Angle himself (h/t WrestleZone), he’ll be wrestling more matches in the future:

Will I be wrestling more? More on than off in the future? Probably. Right now I’m doing a little bit of both, the GM and wrestling here and there. I’m sure that I’ll be wrestling much more in the future, it just took a little bit of time.

WHAT’S IT MEAN FOR WWE?

Despite Angle’s injury, he noted that “they’re [WWE] going to put me in different programs, with different athletes at different periods of time.”

That seems to gel with recent reports that Angle could be set to face Triple H at the 2018 Royal Rumble, a match that was set up at Survivor Series and seems like a no-brainer given the recent interaction between Angle, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Angle isn’t the same in-ring performer that we saw during his previous WWE run or in TNA, but he certainly still has plenty of name value as evidenced by the undeniable buzz his return match at TLC created and the revelation that Jason Jordan was his son being a big viewership hit.

WWE will likely use Angle sparingly as a wrestler over the course of his current run, perhaps putting him in the ring a handful of times per year to increase interest, especially at times when other top Raw stars aren’t around for whatever reason. Although WWE has a glaring age problem that putting Angle in the ring more often certainly won’t improve, the company, whether right or wrong, is of the mindset that focusing on part-timers will result in more fans watching.

While there may be evidence to refute that, like the stagnant WWE Network subscriber count or pedestrian TV ratings, WWE will continue to use stars like Angle at shows that lack star power or at major “Big Four” pay-per-views.

CHECK THIS OUT

WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

Blake Oestriecher is an elementary school teacher by day and a sports writer by night. He’s a contributor to the Forbes @SportsMoneyBlog, where he primarily covers WWE. You can follow him on Twitter @BOestriecher.

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