Backstage WWE Rumors: Latest on AEW, Eric Bischoff and More
WWE may have set its rosters for Raw and SmackDown with its latest draft, but the long-reaching effects of the two-night event have claimed their first victim in the form of Eric Bischoff.
The former WCW president joined WWE over the summer as SmackDown executive director but finds himself jobless after his shocking ousting from the company Tuesday.
Find out what his departure is attributed to, whether Mike Kanellis will get his wish in the form of his own release from the company and why The Usos were not part of the draft proceedings with our rundown of the latest backstage rumors.
And just weeks after returning to national television in a significant on-screen role in professional wrestling, we will also look at what fans can expect Jake Hager to bring to All Elite Wrestling.
Reports on Eric Bischoff's Firing
The wrestling world was taken aback Tuesday when it was announced that Bruce Prichard had been named executive director of Friday Night SmackDown in place of Eric Bischoff, who had been relieved of his duties with the company.
Bischoff had kept fans updated on his move from Wyoming to Connecticut with his wife and his excitement at working with WWE again, making the departure that much more stunning.
Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated reported "Bischoff's firing is Vince McMahon's reaction to the ratings and a message to his stockholders that he is entirely committed to the future success of SmackDown on Fox."
The blue brand lost nearly a million viewers from Week 1 to Week 2, dropping from 3.869 million for the debut episode to 2.899 million for the first night of the WWE draft.
Barrasso added: "He was originally intended to oversee creative, but multiple sources confirmed that his directive was largely to observe," leaving one to wonder why the company even went through the trouble of bringing Bischoff in when it already had his replacement on-staff in Prichard.
The disarray within the creative team is no surprise given recent storyline developments and the lack of continuity (or sense) therein.
There is no telling what Bischoff could have offered WWE. He is more than 20 years removed from his enormous success with WCW but had a strong mind for the business and, if nothing else, could have worked as a great go-between for WWE and Fox. Instead, he was scapegoated.
WWE will have to take a long, hard look at the product and take responsibility for its own shortcomings because sooner or later, there will be no one left to shoulder the blame.
Bischoff will make his first post-WWE appearance as part of Starrcast IV during AEW Full Gear weekend.
Update on Mike Kanellis and His Request for Release from WWE
Mike Kanellis made his desire to be released from his WWE contract public Monday, citing a desire to work more than once a week.
According to Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats, that request is not expected to be granted.
Kanellis and wife Maria re-signed with the company in July, as Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet noted. He was then berated and degraded by his significant other in a storyline that never went anywhere but did not hesitate to make him look like a fool.
Recently, the 34-year-old had been seen aligning himself with The Brian Kendrick on 205 Live, a show seemingly on its last legs. The fact that he was not drafted either Friday or Monday likely went into his decision to ask out of his deal.
In her expression of support for her husband, Maria reiterated that she has not requested her release from the company.
The couple are expecting their second child.
The Usos Go Undrafted
Of all the Superstars not drafted Friday or Monday, three of the more interesting names were The Usos and Naomi. Arguably the best tag team in WWE and one of the cornerstones of the women's division for years, they were conspicuous by their absence from the proceedings.
Dave Meltzer of F4WOnline.com reported, "after Jimmy's most recent arrest for a DUI in late July, The Usos and Naomi were all taken off the road. While they were at a recent television taping backstage, there is right now no creative for them nor return date, nor a decision regarding which brand they will be with. Because of that, they weren't involved in the draft."
There needed to be consequences given the reports about Jimmy Uso.
Even though Jimmy and Jey have had their share of show-stealing matches and Naomi has been steadily consistent as a babyface in the women's division, it seems the company felt it should take the situation seriously and withhold them at this time.
Jake Hager Update
Wade Keller of PWTorch reported AEW sees Jake Hager as a major player in the company going forward (h/t SEScoops).
"People in AEW are telling me he is super-motivated, he's regained his confidence that he lost in WWE and there are some powerful people in that company, influential people who think he is going to be not a support player, a guy standing behind a star, but be a star," Keller said.
He added: "And if that's what they think and he can deliver on that, then that will show itself in the next couple months."
Hager has always had the raw potential to be a massive star in professional wrestling. There is a reason WWE pushed him as the face of ECW early in his career and felt comfortable giving him a world title run off a Money in the Bank victory in 2010.
However, creative inconsistencies and his own immaturity cost him opportunities and halted what were relatively sizeable pushes.
Hager rebuilt his star by kicking ass in Bellator, though, and he has a rare second chance to make a first impression. As the towering muscle of The Inner Circle and Chris Jericho's No. 1 guy, he has the potential for his star to burn brighter than it ever has before.