Backstage WWE Rumors: Latest on Rob Gronkowski, TV Tapings and More

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2020

Backstage WWE Rumors: Latest on Rob Gronkowski, TV Tapings and More

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    A WWE-heavy round of wrestling rumors and speculation this week features Hall of Famers, strange TV taping schedules and...Rob Gronkowski.

    Which WWE Hall of Famer was asked to manage a debuting Superstar on SmackDown? More importantly, why did they turn down the opportunity?

    What is it about this week's television tapings—days before Backlash on June 14—that will be so unique? And why did Gronk have heat with the office following one of his few appearances with WWE?

    Find out the answers to those questions and more with this peek behind the curtain.

Kurt Angle Turns Down Opportunity to Manage Matt Riddle

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    Kurt Angle revealed to Tim Adams of CBR.com that he turned down an opportunity to manage Matt Riddle on the main roster.

    "He's phenomenal in the ring. There's no doubt about that," the Olympian said. "But his whole bro gimmick thing works really well. And he's going to do extremely well. WWE has offered me a job to manage him. Unfortunately, I turned it down due to a few different reasons, but I would have loved to manage him. It just wasn't the right time."

    Having Angle introduce Riddle as the newest signing to SmackDown was the right move given their history as amateur wrestlers. Both are legitimate badasses who can ground their opponent, twist them into a pin or force a tapout. In that regard, WWE's offer makes sense.

    Thankfully, Angle opted not to accept it because Riddle doesn't need a mouthpiece or anyone to share the screen with. He is charismatic, has an enormous personality and his character will have no problems getting over with the WWE fans.

    Would Angle have provided a bit of credibility for him right out of the gate? Absolutely, but he also would have stunted Riddle's growth. The minute the former NXT tag team champion gets in the ring with someone like AJ Styles or Daniel Bryan and shows he can hang with them no matter the stage, fans will buy into him.

Post-WWE Backlash TV Tapings

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    Raj Giri of WrestlingInc.com reported WWE will be recording the next two weeks of television on June 8, 9 and 10, including the post-Backlash shows—before the pay-per-view even airs.

    While that may seem strange and open the event up to spoilers, it also forces WWE's hand creatively. No longer able to make things up on the fly, the company must have a more focused approach to its writing.

    The revelation by Giri suggests WWE knows what it wants to do on the go-home episodes of Raw and SmackDown, as well as Backlash itself, so that it can write the post-PPV episodes for air.

    Of all the hardships and inconveniences to come out of the coronavirus pandemic for WWE, the taping schedule has actually proved beneficial. While the quality of the shows still leaves a lot to be desired, they are at least more coherent, with proper stories told over the course of time rather than angles being introduced with little or no follow-up.

    Hopefully, WWE can capitalize on the opportunity this has provided and retool its storytelling methods so that things are more streamlined when it returns to live television.

Vince McMahon Supports Diversity and Mental Health

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    Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com reported Vince McMahon sent an email to the entire WWE staff that supported diversity and inclusion while announcing several new company initiatives.

    Johnson revealed those initiatives to be: 24/7 mental health counseling for anyone who feels they need it, a specific email address to address any diversity concerns employees may have and free diversity training courses. 

    It is no secret that black athletes have not always had the same success in WWE as their peers. Yes, the company is as diverse as it has ever been and just a year ago, Kofi Kingston became the first black WWE champion since The Rock, but its track record in relation to its pushing and promoting of black talent to prominent spots on the roster has not always been the most sparkling.

    For McMahon to reach out and address that issue, essentially admitting his own shortcomings by finally addressing it on a company-wide scale while also promoting mental health, is a sign of growth. At least outwardly.

    Given the current landscape in America, it is a move he needed to make, along with the official statement released to WWE.com.

    The next step should be a close look at the celebrity wing of his company's Hall of Fame. 

Rob Gronkowski's Backstage Heat

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    Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful reported, prior to his release from WWE this past week, Rob Gronkowski had heat with officials stemming from his stint as WrestleMania 36 host.

    During the event, the Super Bowl-winning tight end held up taping as he was reluctant to do the dive from the platform that would see him wipe out several Superstars. So hesitant was he that Vince McMahon himself had to do the dive to prove it was safe.

    Truth be told, Gronk never really appeared comfortable in WWE. He came across as trying too hard, from his awkward entrance to the questionable mic work to the fact that his shtick just didn't work in an empty arena.

    And it probably would have gotten him booed out of the ones with fans.

    A return to football, where he can catch passes from Tom Brady for an overhyped Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that still doesn't have a defense is probably best.