Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Edge, Shayna Baszler and More
WrestleMania season kicks off with Royal Rumble Sunday night in Houston and as such, the rumor mill churned out several reports regarding top stars who will likely play a major role in the march to WWE's most prestigious event.
From a celebrated Hall of Famer to one of the most dominant female performers in company history, the stars at the center of the rumors and innuendo will affect WWE programming if reports prove accurate.
Elsewhere, All Elite Wrestling has its sights set on one of the most talented big men in the industry while a former Impact Wrestling champion may soon find herself part of the WWE Universe.
Update on Edge's Return to WWE Television
In an audio exclusive as part of the PWInsider.com's Elite subscription service, Mike Johnson stood by his initial report that Edge is slated to return to WWE at Royal Rumble Sunday night. This, despite recent denials by the former WWE and world heavyweight champion.
If it proves accurate, the report would have major implications on WWE's march to WrestleMania.
The Rated R Superstar retired from in-ring action in 2011 due to neck injuries that threatened his wellbeing. Since then, he has built a reputation in the acting world for his work on SyFy's Haven and History's Vikings. He also married fellow WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix and had two children.
At age 46, any return by Edge would almost assuredly be a short one. Factor in the lengthy history of injury and you have a very unlikely scenario for a long-term return. Even a short one, though, gives Edge something he did not have some nine years ago when he stepped out of the ring for the last time: the opportunity to go out on his own terms.
What a return would look like, and against whom he would be programmed, remains to be seen but there is an entire generation of fans who would love to see Edge back for one last go-round and a final shot to dance on the grand stage of WrestleMania.
Shayna Baszler-Royal Rumble Update
Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio reported former NXT women's champion Shayna Baszler remains a favorite to win the women's Royal Rumble match Sunday night.
The Queen of Spades was last seen on WWE pay-per-view defeating Bayley and Sasha Banks in the Triple Threat main event of Survivor Series. Though she recently lost her NXT women's title to Rhea Ripley, Baszler is still the standard-bearer of that brand's women's division and its most dominant competitor since Asuka.
Baszler winning the Rumble match would serve as the elevation to the main roster many expected a year ago. It would also validate her incredible evolution from MMA castoff to wrestling superstardom.
Such a win would seemingly put Baszler on a collision course with Becky Lynch in a battle between the two most successful female performers of the last year. Whether Baszler, a close friend of Ronda Rousey, would be the woman to dethrone The Man remains to be seen but such a match would be accompanied by a level of intensity befitting a WrestleMania program.
WWE Eyeing Former Impact Wrestling Champion?
Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats reported, "there’s lots of talk that Taya Valkyrie is wrapping up with Impact. With husband John Morrison on SmackDown, there’s also lots of speculation she’ll be WWE bound if she is."
With Morrison's return, it certainly makes sense for Valkyrie to join him in WWE, if the company will have her.
And why would it not?
Valkyrie is a talented worker whose charisma, both in and out of the ring, is undeniable. The longest-reigning Impact Wrestling Knockouts champion in that company's nearly two-decade history, she became the standard-bearer for women's wrestling in a promotion where the revolution began long before it became a buzz word elsewhere.
Considering the lack of depth within the women's division on SmackDown, at least from a star perspective, it would not be a surprise whatsoever if Valkyrie arrived on the scene as soon as her contract with Impact runs out.
The only question is whether WWE would insist on her spending time in NXT, where the women's division is already jack-packed.
AEW Interested in New Japan Pro-Wrestling Star
Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated reported former IWGP United States champion Lance Archer is in high-level talks with All Elite Wrestling about joining the promotion.
Archer, known previously to fans stateside as Vance Archer and Lance Hoyt in WWE and TNA Wrestling respectively, has developed into one of the best and most intense big men in the industry. Dating all the way back to his days in TNA, he has blended a raw power with a shocking athleticism that allowed him to hang with heavyweights like Monty Brown and X-Division performers like Kid Kash.
In New Japan, he rose to prominence as one-half of the Killer Elite Squad with Davey Boy Smith Jr. and at age 42, is as good as he has ever been. Signing with AEW would provide him the platform he has never really received to showcase his talents, including his brief run in WWE.
Attitudinal when necessary, funny if the opportunity presents itself, he is a well-rounded performer who has earned the chance to star on a national stage. If AEW is willing to give it to him, expect Archer to break out and become one of that promotion's top stars in short order.