It's hard to imagine that WrestleMania XXX could feature Stacy Keibler and not CM Punk, but the latest WWE rumors suggest that this exact scenario may play out.
Keibler made her exit from the company years ago. Punk made his right after the 2014 Royal Rumble. Buzz surrounds the long-legged Diva because of word that she may return to WWE, while Punk chants, Batista's return and how some viewed Punk's departure comprise the rest of the WWE rumor mill.
Did WWE really kick out fans from the CenturyLink Center during Monday's Raw? Who does WWE blame for a lackluster reaction to Batista coming back?
Breaking down backstage reports helps answer those questions and more.
Blame for Poor Reaction to Batista's Return
Before Batista generated boos with a Royal Rumble win, he received a tepid response for his return. WWE is reportedly blaming that on Daytonians.
F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com, reports the following:
WWE officials were initially disappointed with the reaction that Batista got for his return but when the ratings came in and they were high, officials decided that it wasn't Batista's fault. They blamed it on the fans in Dayton, Ohio. The feeling now is that Dayton won't be getting a pay-per-view anytime soon.
The initial reaction to Batista's return was underwhelming, but some of the blame has to fall on the presentation of that moment. This was no surprise return, first of all. Secondly, Triple H teased Batista's entrance and Orton came out instead.
"The Viper" then talked for over five minutes before Batista finally entered. That's not exactly how you build suspense.
The fans were certainly into seeing "The Animal" again, as evidenced by them chanting his name moments later.
If WWE's reported threats about leaving Dayton out of the pay-per-view loop are true, it's certainly good news for cities like Chicago and New York, which are likely to just get an extra show. For Dayton fans, they will suffer from an overreaction by WWE officials.
Backstage Feelings Toward CM Punk
No WWE story has been bigger over the last two weeks than Punk quitting the company. It appears that he had both his supporters and detractors backstage after that exit.
PWInsider, via WrestlingInc.com, said the following about the backstage atmosphere during that show.
Morale was low backstage at last night's RAW. There was a feeling among wrestlers that Punk walking out was going to be a loss for the whole locker room since he's always speaking up for everyone.
One often hears about how outspoken Punk was about his own position so it's refreshing to hear that he also stuck up for his peers.
Punk wasn't universally loved, though. Quitting this close to WrestleMania will create critics it seems. F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com, writes that there "was a lot of negativity towards him from a lot of people in the company."
The report also says that some within the organization were "not unhappy" about Punk leaving.
It's info like this that makes one wonder how wrestlers survive in the bickering, fickle world of backstage politics. It doesn't matter how hard Punk worked or what he did for the company, he apparently isn't immune to pettiness and negativity from those behind the scenes.
CM Punk Chants vs. Raw
Punk's presence was felt in a major way on the Feb. 3 edition of Raw. Fans roared his name early on and persisted throughout the night.
When Orton delivered his opening speech, he seemed to barrel through it. According to F4WOnline, via WrestlingInc.com, WWE told him to do just that.
"Randy Orton was told to hurry through his promo and deliver it faster than usual at the beginning of last night's RAW, likely to combat the CM Punk chants or any hijacking by the crowd."
That strategy didn't prevent Punk chants from overshadowing his promo. It only called attention to them. He would have been better off using the opportunity to gain heat by saying he's glad that Punk was not around.
Rumors then circulated that WWE had kicked out fans who were chanting for Punk. Pro-Punk fan signs were reportedly confiscated, per WrestleZone.com, but fans being expelled from the arena for chanting is another matter.
Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com wrote the following:
In regard to reports that fans were ejected from Raw last night in Omaha for chanting for CM Punk, both readers who were in attendance and WWE sources have confirmed that story is 100 percent false.
It appears the story started on Twitter and was picked up as if it was legitimate, but there was no basis in that claim.
As irritated as WWE officials had to be by the Omaha fans' vocal support for a Superstar who wasn't at the show, there's little reason to believe that would result in the company kicking paying fans out. That would only create negative PR that WWE would hate to bear.
The Legs of WWE Coming Back?
A meeting between Stephanie McMahon and Keibler has the WWE world buzzing. Is the Diva on her way back?
Jason Powell of ProWrestling.net writes that "WWE is making a strong effort to bring Stacy Keibler back as an on-air performer." He added, "One source stated that the offer WWE made is lucrative enough that she has to be giving it serious consideration."
At this point in her career, Keibler is a bigger name than when she left. She's not going to elevate the Divas division in terms of wrestling, but with WrestleMania approaching, it's not surprising to hear that WWE is in search of star power.
It makes sense to place her in someone's corner, bringing in more eyes to the show and giving that chosen performer a boost as well.
Keibler is far from a lock to return, though. TMZ.com reported last October that "she believes that part of her life is over and she wants to focus on other things."
Still, it's a safer bet at this point that she'll be a part of WrestleMania than the man who challenged Undertaker at the massive event last year.