Bleacher Report catches you up on the latest news from the WWE Universe.
James Talks Circumstances Surrounding Rumble Entry
WWE and Impact shocked the pro wrestling world last week when it was announced that Impact Knockouts World champion Mickie James would be a participant in the Women's Royal Rumble match later this month.
On Friday, James appeared on the Ariel Helwani Show (beginning at the 1:05 mark) to discuss how the surprising partnership came together:
James said WWE executive John Laurinaitis initially reached out to Impact executive Scott D'Amore to discuss the possibility of making it happen. James noted that she was "shocked" at first since WWE typically doesn't work with other promotions.
Mickie added that she has an "amazing amount of gratitude" for WWE choosing her for the Rumble and called it a "cool move" to acknowledge her status as Knockouts champion since it isn't something that's typically done.
Normally, it would be such a shock for someone like James to be in the Rumble, as she boasts a Hall of Fame resume as a five-time WWE women's champion and one-time Divas champion.
The surprise derives from the manner in which she and WWE parted ways last year, however, as James revealed that WWE sent her belongings back to her in a trash bag after she was released from the company.
That led to a great deal of outrage among wrestlers and fans alike, but WWE attempted to make good on the situation by firing the employee responsible and publicly apologizing to James.
Mickie said Friday that she received calls from many WWE higher-ups offering apologies following the incident, including WWE Chairman Vince McMahon.
James' inclusion in the Rumble is further proof that the two sides have moved on and made it water under the bridge, and Mickie admitted that she is glad to make her Rumble appearance a lasting impression rather than the trash bag scandal.
Woods Dealing with Leg Injury
New Day member King Xavier Woods revealed Thursday that he suffered an injury on last week's SmackDown that will keep him out of action for a while.
According to WrestlingInc.com's Marc Middleton, Woods appeared on G4's Attack of the Show and said he tore the Plantaris muscle under his calf while delivering a tornado DDT to Jey Uso.
Woods added that doctors told him he is expected to miss four to six weeks. If that is the case, Woods will be unable to compete in the Men's Royal Rumble match later this month.
King Woods and Kofi Kingston main evented last week's SmackDown in a SmackDown Tag Team Championship match against The Usos.
Jimmy and Jey Uso won the match and retained the titles, denying New Day its 12th reign as tag team champs.
Woods and Kingston have been focused on tag team wrestling lately, but Woods is also receiving the biggest individual push of his career, as he won the King of the Ring tournament back in October.
Xavier has embraced the king character and put his own entertaining spin on it, which has in turn refreshed New Day as a whole.
If Woods does indeed miss four to six weeks, however, Kingston figures to be on his own for a while on SmackDown, including during the build toward Royal Rumble.
Woods wasn't likely to win the Men's Rumble match regardless, but not having him available will take some of the star power out of the match in St. Louis.
Gargano Says Old NXT Needed a 'Kick'
Johnny Gargano was one of the leaders of the old guard in NXT, but even he believes a new direction was needed for WWE's developmental brand.
In an interview with ComicBook.com's Connor Casey, Gargano gave his take on the changes NXT has undergone since becoming NXT 2.0 a few months ago:
"It's just one of those things where I don't think there was any moment in particular that was like, 'Oh wow, things are way different now.' We knew that a rebrand was coming, but like anything in wrestling, things change all the time. Things constantly evolve. We just talked about earlier in this interview, how if you do something for so a certain way, things get boring and you kind of need to refreshen things sometimes.
"I think honestly, it definitely needed a little bit of a kick. I feel like they're incredibly happy with how things are going and you have to be happy with how some of those guys have already developed on, in front of your very own eyes."
The previous version of NXT focused largely on veteran wrestlers from the independent scene, but since going in a different direction, WWE has heavily featured younger, less-experienced wrestlers on NXT 2.0.
That has led to WWE either parting ways with some of the veterans on the NXT roster and positioning them differently.
Gargano will always be viewed as one of the top stars in NXT history, and he played an important role in the transition to NXT 2.0, as he helped put over up-and-coming stars such as Bron Breakker and Carmelo Hayes.
Johnny Wrestling was part of the WarGames match that pitted Team Black and Gold vs. Team 2.0 and saw the Breakker-led 2.0 come out on top.
The next episode of NXT was Gargano's final one before his WWE contract expired, and his heartfelt speech ended with him getting attacked from behind by Grayson Waller.
Gargano specifically praised Breakker, who is the new NXT champion after beating Tommaso Ciampa for the title last week. Breakker is one of several new Superstars who have already shown the ability to be a top star for WWE in NXT 2.0's short existence.
Gargano is currently a free agent focusing on the impending birth of his first child with NXT star Candice LeRae, and it is unclear if his wrestling future lies in WWE or elsewhere.
Regardless of where he lands, Gargano seems supportive of NXT and the new brand it is trying to build.
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