Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Naomi, The Young Bucks and More
The spotlight is on women's wrestling following the New Japan Pro-Wrestling debut of Mercedes Moné, and it may well stay there for the potential return of her tag team title-winning partner, Naomi, if reports are correct.
The latest on the former SmackDown women's champion headlines this collection of wrestling rumors, which also features contractual updates on The Young Bucks, a report on William Regal and the latest on recent brand crossovers on WWE television.
Naomi Returning to WWE?
Sasha Banks made her NJPW debut as Moné at Wrestle Kingdom 17, and if a report by Bryan Alvarez of Wrestling Observer Live is any indication, the other half of the former WWE women's tag team champions is also expected to make her return to the squared circle soon.
Alvarez noted that it is expected Naomi will be returning to WWE.
The 35-year-old joined Banks in walking out of the company in May amid frustrations over the creative plans for the then-tag team titleholders. She has not been seen on WWE television since, and the report by Alvarez is the first real indication that she has any plans to return.
A decorated competitor who has twice held the SmackDown Women's Championship, Naomi is somehow still underutilized by management. As seen in her feud with Sonya Deville a year ago, she has a strong connection with fans, who genuinely want to see her succeed.
WWE would be foolish to bring her back without a plan in place to push her and maximize the excitement that would accompany her return. Book her against Charlotte Flair and let them tear the house down at WrestleMania 39 in April.
This time, WWE should also actually market and merchandise Naomi, whose customized glow version of the blue-brand title could have made the company millions had it been wise enough to recognize how over she is with fans and produce it ahead of time.
Who knows if a match with Flair is in the cards or what Triple H and Co. may be thinking in regards to Naomi's reported comeback, but now is the time to evaluate how to best utilize her in way that reflects her talent and her popularity within the WWE Universe.
A New Deal for The Young Bucks
Not that it's particularly surprising, but Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select reported The Young Bucks are in negotiations for a new deal that would keep them with AEW for the foreseeable future.
"Fightful Select has learned that Matt and Nick Jackson, The Young Bucks, have been in discussions with All Elite Wrestling about new contracts," Sapp wrote. "We don't have details, terms, or know if they've been signed, but them being in discussions has made its way through the locker room."
The report also noted there is some uncertainty about the actual terms of the original deal. "Wrestling Observer had originally reported in January 2019 that Cody [Rhodes] and The Young Bucks had all signed five-year deals, but Cody left after three in early 2022. On the October 7, 2019 episode of Being the Elite, the contracts were described as 'four-year deals,' and no other details were provided."
Regardless of the length of that first contract, the idea that the Jackson brothers would stick with the company they helped create is no shock. They have formed the foundation of the promotion and been apart of some of its most unforgettable moments.
Their matches with The Lucha Bros have been as good as any since 2019, and they are currently embroiled in a heated six-man tag team feud for AEW World Trios Championships that were created specifically to spotlight them and Kenny Omega.
They are top stars in the company, and it would seem rather silly for them to depart for the uncertainty of WWE, to return to New Japan Pro-Wrestling or put themselves through the grind of the indies again.
While Sapp conceded there was a lack of details surrounding the deals, he did say the proposed deals would "would keep them around for quite some time."
William Regal Is Back in WWE
Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com reported that William Regal is back working for WWE effective Wednesday morning.
There is no indication as to what his actual role is with the company, but Johnson previously reported he will take on a vice-president position.
Regal previously trained and scouted for NXT during his previous run with the company as WWE director of talent development and head of global recruiting, helping to acquire many of the top stars who excelled for the black-and-gold brand.
Considering his success in that role previously, one would assume the 54-year-old will have similar duties this go-round. And it cannot be understated how much his desire to help train his son, Charlie Dempsey, had on his desire to return to WWE.
That familial connection was instrumental in Tony Khan's decision to let Regal out of his contract with AEW.
"Frankly, the last thing I wanted to do at that moment was prevent any parent and any child, any son, from being together as I was sitting on a park bench, Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where my mom was sleeping inside recovering from a major operation," Khan told reporters in December.
It will be interesting to see how the NXT product changes with Regal's influence but one thing should be expected: A greater emphasis in the acquisition of trained, experienced wrestlers rather than untrained college athletes, as had been the case over the last year.
WWE still has an NIL program in place and will look to recruit from a pool of collegiate athletes, but expect indie stars to give the company a close look with Regal back in an influential position.
Brand Crossovers Continuing in WWE
Sapp also wrote, "We're told that brand crossover talent won't be slowing down any time soon, especially as a vehicle to accelerate Bloodline feuds."
That isn't particularly surprising when one takes into account the idea that The Usos and Roman Reigns are unified champions and would naturally have stars on Raw gunning for their titles.
One such person is Kevin Owens, who is a current Raw Superstar and top contender to The Tribal Chief's Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, while The Street Profits and Alpha Academy are logical challengers for Jimmy and Jey Uso's tag belts.
That The Bloodline are the top act in the company and would generate additional viewers for Raw only solidifies Triple H and WWE Creative's desire to have them on both programs.
As the company embarks on The Road to WrestleMania, we typically see more brand crossover anyway, so all this report suggests is that it is beginning sooner than usual this year.
As Triple H looks to rearrange the rosters for Raw and SmackDown in his vision—most likely through a WWE draft at some point after The Showcase of the Immortals—this also gives audiences the opportunity to get used to seeing certain Superstars on certain shows.
Considering the fact that Raw is a three-hour show and could use some freshening up from time to time, it's probably a good call, especially after the loss of AJ Styles to a broken ankle.
Reports of a potential injury suffered by Seth Rollins—and his own cryptic Twitter post—only serve to further underline the need for more talent on the red brand.