Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Johnny Gargano, Brandi Rhodes and More

Erik BeastonAugust 18, 2022

Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Johnny Gargano, Brandi Rhodes and More

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    Johnny Gargano could be on his way back to WWE under the Triple H regime/credit: WWE.com

    Could Johnny Gargano be on his way back to WWE?

    It is at least an option now that his NXT "dad," Triple H, is at the creative helm for the company.

    The former face of the black-and-yellow brand remains one of the hottest topics in the wrestling rumor mill as fans eagerly anticipate his return to television, either as part of WWE or All Elite Wrestling.

    Joining Gargano in this week's collection of rumors is the latest on an in-ring return for Brandi Rhodes, Triple H's strategy in acquiring new talent and an update on plans for the AEW-New Japan Pro-Wrestling relationship.

Johnny Gargano Interested in Returning to WWE?

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    Johnny Gargano achieved his greatest professional success in NXT, under the guidance of Triple H. It is no surprise, then, that one of the hottest free agents in professional wrestling would reconsider his willingness to return to WWE now that The King of Kings is ruling over the company's shows as Head of Creative.

    Cassidy Haynes of Bodyslam.net reported that Gargano is, in fact, more open to a return to the company now that Triple H is in charge of its creative direction.

    Gargano last appeared on NXT television in December of 2021, during which he cut an emotional, thankful promo about his time with the brand and the uncertainty of his future. According to the report, the "overarching factor for him walking away was dissatisfaction with his position/direction with no set plan for how he’d be used.”

    NXT had undergone a complete overhaul two months prior to his departure, and his role on the show diminished, with him moving from the main events to tag team status alongside Dexter Lumis.

    The report also noted that Gargano has been in contact with AEW, as one would have expected he would be.

    One of the great in-ring storytellers of his generation, Gargano was an enormous part of establishing NXT as the hottest brand in WWE. His partnership, then feud, with Ciampa was responsible for some outstanding matches and unforgettable moments, while his bouts with Andrade El Idolo and Adam Cole set the bar high in terms of in-ring excellence.

    It makes sense that WWE would be out to try to re-sign Johnny Wrestling, especially as Triple H attempts to shape the company in his image, at least creatively. While AEW would be a perfect platform for him to continue to showcase his abilities, the abundance of talent there and the lack of spots available at the top of the promotion would seemingly make WWE a more appealing option.

Brandi Rhodes Training for an In-Ring Return

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    Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com reported that Brandi Rhodes returned to the squared circle at a recent in-house NXT live event held at the WWE Performance Center. It was her first match since a January 2022 victory over KiLynn King.

    Rhodes served as the Chief Brand Officer for AEW from its advent to her departure from the company and has not yet appeared for WWE in any on-screen capacity.

    One of the more heavily scrutinized performers during her time on-screen, Rhodes attempted an in-ring career in AEW that never really took off, thanks to a combination of inexperience and fans' perceived nepotism because of her relationship with her Executive Vice President husband, Cody.

    New surroundings and a rare second chance to make a first impression await Rhodes if she is to attempt an in-ring return. A red-hot fanbase, eager to embrace her husband, should help considerably with her acceptance in that role.

    Whether she can perform up to the level that fans expect from in-ring workers in today's women's division is what will ultimately determine her success.

Triple H Will Stay Aggressive in Talent Acquisition

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    Triple H has earned rave reviews for his recent talent acquisitions, including the reintroduction of Dakota Kai, Karrion Kross, Scarlett Bordeaux and Dexter Luimis, and that is not expected to end anytime soon, according to a report from Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select.

    "We've also heard of several talent meetings individually with Triple H that have already taken place during a busy first week of kicking Raw and Smackdown into gear," the report stated.

    Top Dolla, Ashante Thee Adonis and B-Fab returned as Hit Row Friday on SmackDown to really hammer home the idea that the surge in talent is still ongoing.

    With the potential returns of Johnny Gargano and Bray Wyatt, the roster could look more like Triple H envisioned it when he created the characters that were either unceremoniously dismissed or repackaged under his father-in-law.

AEW Stars to Appear at New Japan Pro-Wrestling's WrestleKingdom Event?

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    Dave Meltzer reported on Wrestling Observer Radio that there are plans for AEW stars to compete at January's New Japan Pro-Wrestling WrestleKingdom event.

    The two promotions recently did business for the Forbidden Door event over July 4 weekend and have kept communication open in the weeks that have followed.

    In fact, as part of their relationship, NJPW's United Empire (Will Ospreay, Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis) will compete in the quarterfinals of the AEW World Trios Championship Tournament.

    One has to surmise that Kenny Omega will be involved in some manner after his injuries left him out of commission for the aforementioned Forbidden Door extravaganza. A dream match with Kazuchika Okada that would rekindle their legendary rivalry would almost certainly be on the table.

    A match with Ospreay cannot be out of the question, either. Nor should a showdown with Jay White, the man who excommunicated him from the Bullet Club.

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