Ric Flair to AEW Rumors; CM Punk Rips WWE Product; Roman Reigns Says He's Unscripted

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 13, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Ric Flair joins a telecast during a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center on February 25, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

Bleacher Report catches you up on the latest news from the WWE Universe.

Flair Reportedly Planning to Sign with AEW

Following his release from WWE, it reportedly may be a foregone conclusion that WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair is poised to sign with All Elite Wrestling.

According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t WrestlingInc.com's Marc Middleton), Flair signing with AEW is believed to be a "lock" whenever his WWE non-compete clause expires.

Last week, The Nature Boy took to Twitter to explain that he requested his WWE release due to the fact that he and WWE didn't have the same vision for his future in wrestling:

Ric Flair® @RicFlairNatrBoy

<a href="https://t.co/hQHkVWJlks">pic.twitter.com/hQHkVWJlks</a>

The 72-year-old Flair's most recent involvement on WWE programming came earlier this year when he took part in a storyline with his daughter, Charlotte Flair, and Lacey Evans.

Flair aligned himself with Evans, and it was strongly suggested that they were romantically involved within the fabric of the storyline. The angle came to an end when Evans legitimately got pregnant with her husband.

If Flair signs with AEW, it will mark his return to TNT for the first time since 2001. TNT was the home of WCW Nitro for several years before WWE bought the company.

It would also open the door for Flair to have some interactions with longtime rival Sting, and he could perhaps even align himself with Andrade El Idolo, who is Charlotte's fiance.

AEW has not hesitated to bring in legends with WWE ties and give them on-screen roles. Among them are Sting, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Taz, Paul Wight and Mark Henry.

It is difficult to envision Flair getting in the ring for a match given his age and well-documented health issues in recent years, but AEW has allowed Sting to be a semi-regular competitor at the age of 62 despite his neck issues.

Regardless of how he is used, it is clear that Flair still has a burning passion for pro wrestling, and there is little doubt that AEW will find a spot for him if that is where he wants to go.

Punk Says He Isn't Interested in WWE Product

Leading up to his rumored AEW debut, CM Punk had some less-than-flattering things to say about the WWE product this week.

Appearing on Sunday Night's Main Event (h/t Middleton), Punk was asked about whether he watches WWE. Punk said he doesn't and explained why: "No, I had to watch it a little bit when I was an analyst for Fox. But I mean…hmm, how do I say this diplomatically? Um, no, I think they've got some people who are super awesome and great in the ring, but you know, nothing grabs me to get me to want to watch."

Punk referenced his time on FS1's WWE Backstage last year, which saw him appear periodically to give his opinions on the WWE product.

When asked to expand on his thoughts regarding WWE, Punk said:

"I'm getting a little long in the tooth now. And I would much rather uplift and show love to things I like than to tear anything down. You know, you can't say that what [WWE is] doing is wrong. They are the most profitable they've ever been since their inception, so who am I to say…you know what I mean? Like…it's ice cream, there's 31,000 flavors, everybody gets their favorite, I just don't like vanilla."

To Punk's point, WWE has been reporting record profits thanks largely to its television deals with Fox and NBC Universal. Despite that, the general opinion about WWE seems to be down right now because of recent talent releases.

It is also fair to say that Raw has been a tough watch for wrestling fans for quite some time, although SmackDown headlined by Roman Reigns has been among the best products in wrestling.

Rumors have run rampant regarding Punk ending his more than seven-year hiatus from in-ring action, and the belief is he will debut for AEW soon.

Next week, AEW Rampage is set to debut at the United Center in Punk's hometown of Chicago, and the show is being called "The First Dance." That would seem to indicate there is some chance of Punk showing up.

If not, the All Out pay-per-view on Sept. 5 in Chicago could be the target date.

Regardless of where or when Punk shows up, it will be a major coup for AEW if he signs on, and it could be the catalyst for AEW truly growing its audience and giving WWE a run for its money in terms of television viewership.

Reigns Says His Promos Aren't Scripted

Reigns has arguably been the most compelling character in wrestling over the past year, and there may be a specific reason for that.

Appearing on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast (h/t Subhojeet Mukherjee of Ringside News), The Tribal Chief said his promos haven't been scripted during his heel run:

"You know, there was a portion of my career where I'd either read a script or I would try to adjust the script as much as possible. But, you know, for a while now, especially since I've come back from my little leave during the beginning of the pandemic since SummerSlam, I'm not scripted. I say what I want to, I say what I feel. And if it comes out of my mouth, it's my verbiage. I come up with it, I deliver it and that's why it's been the way it's been because it's mine."

Many fans and former WWE wrestlers have expressed frustration with WWE's micromanagement of promos because of the belief that promos are better when there is some leeway.

Reigns has lent some credence to that theory, as he is cutting the best promos of his career and producing the most compelling segments of his career on a consistent basis as well.

With Paul Heyman and The Usos by his side, Reigns has been firing on all cylinders, and everything he does is can't-miss television for wrestling fans.

Few wrestlers in WWE are given the type of creative freedom Reigns talked about. That list likely includes John Cena, Randy Orton and Edge, but that may be it.

Reigns likely earned the right to cut his own promos based on his rapport and relationship with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, so perhaps the key to getting that privilege is to be on good terms with McMahon.

At the same time, there is no question that McMahon hand picked Reigns as a potential top star several years ago, which is a benefit most performers don't have.

It is unclear if Reigns' success will inspire WWE to loosen restrictions on other Superstars moving forward, but there is no question that Reigns has made the most of his opportunity and established himself as the face of the company.

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