Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Royal Rumble, Brock Lesnar, More
The end of the year in WWE traditionally brings with it rumors and rampant speculation about the company's plans for January's Royal Rumble pay-per-view and the march to WrestleMania.
The conclusion of 2019 is no different as industry insiders have updates on the two Superstars favored to win the men's and women's Rumble matches, as well as what fans can expect from WWE champion Brock Lesnar.
But the Rumble is not the only topic of discussion in the wrestling rumor mill.
Find out the latest on Buddy Murphy, Aleister Black and which free-agent competitor WWE officials are trying to wrestle away from All Elite Wrestling.
Early Royal Rumble Favorites
Tom Colohue of Sportskeeda reported Shayna Baszler and Roman Reigns are the current favorites to win the women's and men's Royal Rumble matches on January 26.
Reigns is hardly a surprise as he appears destined to tangle with Bray Wyatt's The Fiend at WrestleMania 36 in Tampa, Florida. The Big Dog has conscientiously been kept out of the title picture since returning from his most recent leukemia diagnosis so as not to overexpose him in that role.
While some may look at him winning the Rumble as a predictable outcome, given the current landscape of the company, there are few options who would make sense and provide the main event of the show with the type of star power The Showcase of the Immortals demands.
Meanwhile, Baszler freed herself of her NXT ties by losing the women's title to Rhea Ripley on December 18. And after defeating Bayley and Becky Lynch at Survivor Series in November, she appears poised to make the jump to Raw or SmackDown.
The Queen of Spades has been a completely dominant, kick-ass competitor who has bowled over her competition. A win in the Rumble would set her up for a showdown with Lynch on wrestling's grandest stage. Historically speaking, she would be the first heel to triumph in the women's Rumble match, freshening things up a bit.
If the early report holds true, there are far worse options to emerge victorious from January's signature matches, even if the proposed winners don't spark a ton of excitement on first glance.
Brock Lesnar Update
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported Brock Lesnar's return is imminent, perhaps as early as the New Year.
The WWE champion was last seen vanquishing Rey Mysterio at Survivor Series on November 24.
The Beast Incarnate has bowled over his competition to such an extent that identifying his next challenger is far from easy. There is Kevin Owens, who has built some momentum as the babyface opposite Seth Rollins, but it feels like he may be busy dealing with The Architect and Authors of Pain come Royal Rumble.
Then there is Samoa Joe, who stood up to the imposing Akam and Rezar Monday night, only to endure their wrath at the direction of Rollins. Again, it feels like he may be otherwise preoccupied come January 26, assuming that is the date of Lesnar's next in-ring appearance.
Perhaps WWE transitions Rusev out of his ongoing rivalry with Bobby Lashley and estranged wife Lana and into a high-profile title opportunity. Maybe AJ Styles gets the call, looking to avenge his defeat to The Beast at Survivor Series in 2017.
The most intriguing option would be Drew McIntyre, who squashed Zack Ryder Monday on Raw and proclaimed 2020 to be his year. What better way to kick it off than by squaring off with Lesnar in a battle of bruisers at one of WWE's most significant events?
Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy to Continue?
Meltzer also reported the rivalry between Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy will extend beyond their TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs rematch on Monday's Raw as Paul Heyman wants their feud to be a significant push for both Superstars.
It is not difficult to see why the head of Raw's creative efforts would want the pair to play an important role on the brand. Both are among the most consistently great in-ring performers on the roster and have the potential to set the standard for the flagship. All they need is more consistency from a creative team that has failed both of them since their arrival on the main roster.
Murphy was last seen on SmackDown upsetting Daniel Bryan, only to lose a King of the Ring match to Mustafa Ali and disappear from relevancy. Injuries and tone-deaf booking hurt Black's initial year on the red and blue brands.
Working together, stealing shows and proving their abilities to fans will only help Black and Murphy get over and stay over as they chase sports entertainment greatness under the bright lights provided by WWE.
WWE Pursuing Killer Kross, Attempting to Keep Him from AEW
WrestleVotes reported WWE is actively and aggressively looking to sign former Impact Wrestling star and current free agent Killer Kross. The urgency to do so is, understandably, to keep him from inking a deal with All Elite Wrestling instead.
Paul Davis of WrestlingNews.co followed up, reporting WWE is even offering the opportunity to go right to Raw or SmackDown, thus bypassing NXT.
While it might come across as desperate on paper, WWE understands the upside value in Kross. He is only 34 and debuted in 2014. He only has five years of wear and tear on his body and is in his athletic prime.
Why allow a guy who showed as much promise as he did in Impact Wrestling to go to the competition when Vince McMahon and Co. can lock him down in a contract?
That Kross' real-life partner, Scarlett Bordeaux, is already signed to an NXT deal only helps tilt the odds in WWE's favor.
Before he would do any work for the company, though, he is already slated to make his debut for Major League Wrestling in Philadelphia on February 1.