Backstage WWE Rumors: Latest on Announce Teams, Toni Storm and More
The landscape of WWE television is about to change with the arrival of NXT to USA Network on Wednesday and SmackDown Live's jump to Fox on October 4, and the backstage rumor mill is rife with reports and speculation regarding everything from scheduling to announce teams.
Which voices will fans hear when they tune in to the flagship Monday nights? Who will voice SmackDown's broadcast television return? And what might the blue brand look like when it does hit the FOX airwaves?
When might NXT be shifting its TakeOver specials to and why?
The answers to those questions, as well as the immediate future of a former NXT UK women's champion, can be found in this week's collection of backstage WWE rumors.
Announce Team Changes Coming Soon
WrestleVotes reported that a change to the commentary teams in WWE is expected with SmackDown Live's move to Fox in October. One such change would see Michael Cole switch to the blue brand, while Vic Joseph of 205 Live would become the new voice of WWE Raw.
SmackDown may end up taking precedence upon its move to one of the big four broadcast networks, but Raw is still WWE's flagship with an enormously rich history, so Joseph's promotion to the show would be a big deal for the young announcer. His work on 205 Live had been strong for quite some time, so it would be no surprise if he has earned such a reward.
Cole as the voice of SmackDown only makes sense.
He has been the voice of the WWE product for more than a decade and, for all of his faults, is capable of getting across the main storyline points as well, if not better, than anyone else on the mic because of his intimate knowledge and understanding of the product.
There is no one better suited or more trusted to be in the position to explain the motivations of the characters, the storyline developments or the significant points CEO Vince McMahon wants to be stressed to a new audience than Cole.
Toni Storm to Appear on NXT
Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com reported Toni Storm is expected to jump from NXT UK to NXT imminently. The Australian competitor recently lost the NXT UK Women's Championship to Kay Lee Ray at TakeOver: Cardiff, freeing her up for the transition.
Storm is a star in the making, a performer with the natural charisma to run alongside the likes of Becky Lynch, Bayley, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks if WWE saw fit. Calling her up to NXT in time for its debut on USA Network and placing her in a position to be one of the faces of that brand's women's division would be a sensible and smart move on the part of the creative team.
The 2018 Mae Young Classic winner would be the perfect foil for dominant heel champion Shayna Baszler or prospective No. 1 contender Rhea Ripley. She has history with Ripley, having defeated her compatriot to win the UK title.
The question is whether NXT officials feel she is more valuable than Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, Mia Yim or Io Shirai, all of whom have made significant headway of late and are poised to compete in a Fatal 4-Way match on Wednesday to determine Baszler's next challenger.
NXT TakeOvers to Air on Same Nights as AEW PPVs?
Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats reported, "there's speculation that WWE will air TakeOver events the same nights as AEW pay-per-view shows."
That comes on the heels of the news that there will be no TakeOver special the night before the 2020 Royal Rumble. Instead, WWE will produce its When Worlds Collide event, featuring Superstars from NXT, 205 Live and NXT UK.
While there are those who will insist there is no real competition between WWE and All Elite Wrestling, that they are simply alternatives to each other, this would be yet another instance of Vince McMahon's company deliberately counter-programming the upstart company.
History tells us McMahon can be a ruthless businessman, taking steps necessary to snuff out the competition when the opportunity presents itself. NXT is the closest thing the company has to the look and feel of AEW, and with its immensely talented roster, it is no surprise that WWE officials continue to put that brand's product up against the Tony Khan-owned opposition.
The question is whether AEW can continue to produce pay-per-view events that feel special enough for fans to throw their money at as opposed to firing up WWE Network and watching the more affordable NXT shows.
SmackDown to Become the 'A' Show?
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported SmackDown will no longer be treated like the "B show" once it moves to Fox, beginning with what will feel like a "legitimate sports draft" (h/t Ortman of Cageside Seats).
Considering Fox's investment in the show, it should surprise no one that WWE would put more effort into ensuring its broadcast television product is not treated like the afterthought it has been in the past.
The company has an opportunity to reach a broad new audience. The hype for the upcoming transition to the network was prominent across Week 1 NFL games, proving Fox is a dedicated television partner. Now, WWE has to reward that effort with its own.
Intriguing is the proposed "legitimate sports draft" and just how that will look.
The inaugural draft way back in 2002 felt more like that, with Raw and SmackDown heads Ric Flair and Vince McMahon picking and choosing the Superstars they wanted to build their rosters with. Hopefully, the draft takes on that sort of format, making that inaugural October 4 broadcast destination television.