Backstage WWE Rumors: Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Factions and More
The most interesting week of WWE television in months sparked discussion in the wrestling rumor mill as to what it all means.
If you guessed "WWE's attempt to recreate the Attitude Era," you win.
As the company continues to try to find a way to reverse dwindling television ratings, it has dug deep into its playbook from that period for an edginess its shows have lacked recently.
How? Find out with this collection of rumors and speculation from across the web, which also includes reports on Ric Flair and SummerSlam.
WWE Raw to Become More Edgy?
Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio reported WWE is heading back to the 1990s for a creative spark, hence the edginess and grittiness of Raw Underground, which was unveiled Monday.
Nothing about that report should surprise anyone. When ratings sink, CEO Vince McMahon's solution typically involves the return of his family to television or some half-assed attempt to relive the glory years of the Attitude Era.
This one includes both, with Shane McMahon leading a new underground fighting ring, complete with half-clothed dancers and a dingy setting.
While the execution of Monday's debut edition of Raw Underground was great, and the final images of The Hurt Business standing tall were exactly what that show called for, there is reason to be skeptical that WWE will see the gimmick through—especially if ratings return to record lows.
As we will find out in a few moments, the new element of the flagship show is not the only evidence of WWE looking to implement some attitude into its programming.
Ric Flair to Accompany Randy Orton Going Forward
Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats reported that Ric Flair is expected to regularly accompany Randy Orton for the time being.
Why WWE thought it was necessary to bring back The Nature Boy to second someone like The Viper, who has been at his best this year and in no need of a second or mouthpiece, is a question only the creative team can answer.
Yes, Flair is a throwback to the days of Evolution and a reminder of Orton's Legend Killer days, but he is not doing anything for that character that a few video packages would not have.
Other than being the antagonist in backstage segments with Christian, Big Show and Kevin Owens, Naitch hasn't had a defined purpose, making his presence on the show that much more of a curiosity.
SummerSlam Location Update
Meltzer reported the following on F4WOnline.com: "Regarding stories going around about SummerSlam in the Northeast, the plan right now being talked about was Atlantic City."
WWE really wants to hold SummerSlam outside of the Performance Center, huh?
With such a short turnaround between now and August 23, one has to wonder whether it's worth the trouble to move things out of the TV-ready arena in Orlando, Florida, and into an unknown venue with no guarantee fans will be in attendance or any real benefit of changing things up.
It would also be a strange switch considering WWE just posted its most profitable quarter ever by sticking to the studio wrestling format.
While a change of venue would help make SummerSlam more special, it is probably best WWE continues its safety precautions, stays where it has been for the past five months and focuses on delivering a quality show rather than emphasizing the location.
WWE to Introduce More Factions
Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc reported WWE has filed two new trademarks that hint at an emphasis on factions as the company turns to the 1990s for inspiration in a bid to climb out of the ratings hole it's in.
Those trademarks are The Hurt Business, which we saw introduced officially Monday when MVP, Bobby Lashley and Shelton Benjamin stood tall to close out the broadcast, and Justus. The latter has not been used on the show to this point.
Those trademarks, coupled with WWE's revelation via social media that the faction responsible for the chaotic technical issues that affected Monday's Raw is known as Retribution, suggests Middleton's report of added emphasis on factions is accurate.
In 1997, the company introduced gang warfare to its programming with The Nation of Domination, The Disciples of Apocalypse and Los Boricuas. While those factions were not headliners, they did bring a wild and chaotic edge to the promotion that helped make Raw essential viewing.
Don't be surprised if we see groups become the order of the day as Vince McMahon looks to recapture the magic of the past.