Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Bayley-Banks, WWE Draft and More
Women's wrestling headlined the rumor mill this week, with updates on the feud between Sasha Banks and Bayley over the SmackDown Women's Championship and Mercedes Martinez's role (or lack thereof) in Retribution's future.
Also on tap was an update on the upcoming WWE draft and which two SmackDown Superstars could be making a jump to Monday nights.
Finally, there's the latest on the relationship between All Elite Wrestling and New Japan Pro-Wrestling in light of Hiroshi Tanahashi's appearance during the celebration of Chris Jericho's 30 years in sports-entertainment Wednesday night.
Update on Sasha Banks vs. Bayley Feud
Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio reported the rivalry between Sasha Banks and Bayley was always the intention but WWE management delayed it due to the quality of their heel tag team work.
That's not surprising. You could tell midway through the summer when Vince McMahon and WWE Creative really ramped up The Golden Role Models' on-screen presence. They dominated Raw and SmackDown, and they even made an appearance or two for NXT.
Banks and Bayley became workhorses and a genuine breakout act for the company at a time when it desperately needed a spark to keep fans engaged with the product. They were legitimate stars, headlining shows and routinely competing in the main event of WWE's two top television properties.
Their breakup was inevitable, and the matches between them will be extraordinary, but their work as a heel tag team this summer was the type of thing that ultimately determines how well-rounded a performer is, and they delivered in spades.
Mercedes Martinez Not Joining Retribution After All?
Sai Mohan of WrestlingInc.com suggested this week that Mercedes Martinez may no longer be a part of the Retribution faction, citing a tweet from Mustafa Ali explaining why each member chose to join the renegade group.
While this may be considered strictly speculation, an October 4 response to Triple H announcing the returns of Toni Storm and Ember Moon to NXT by Martinez herself suggests she may be sticking with the black-and-gold brand's women's division for the foreseeable future.
Martinez is an incredibly talented worker, a veteran of the mat game who could (and should) have the opportunity to tear it up against the best women's wrestlers on the planet. A handful of them reside in NXT, including Io Shirai, who she has yet to work with. That should change, though.
And while a role in a high-profile storyline on Raw is hard to turn down, Martinez may best be served as a contender to the women's title on Wednesday nights on NXT, where she can consistently showcase her abilities.
Superstars Set to Move to Raw in WWE Draft
Randall Ortman of Cageside Seats noted AJ Styles and John Morrison are two Superstars linked with a move to Raw in the WWE draft, which kicks off Friday on SmackDown before wrapping up on Monday's flagship.
Morrison moving would be the jolt of energy he needs to make a move up the card that simply was not happening on Friday nights. The moment he was partnered with The Miz, his upward trajectory was limited, if only because it is difficult for a tag team to get over as a main event unless it consists of already-established headliners.
As a singles star on Raw, he can finally achieve the main event status he has chased in McMahonland since debuting way back in 2005.
Meanwhile, Styles has been shuffled back and forth to escape the presence of Paul Heyman. With the special counsel for Roman Reigns now on SmackDown, it only makes sense that The Phenomenal One would make the jump back to Raw, no matter how much he and the blue brand have become synonymous over the years.
Given the current state of the red brand, Styles may well resume his run as a main event star, particularly if he has the opportunity to work alongside Drew McIntyre in a WWE Championship program.
Tanahashi's Appearance and Softening of AEW-NJPW Relationship
On his official Twitter account, Meltzer reported the appearance by Hiroshi Tanahashi during the Chris Jericho 30th anniversary special edition of AEW Dynamite should not be considered evidence of cooling relations between the company and New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Jericho worked with Tanahashi during his last stint with NJPW so it should be of no real surprise that The Ace would want to wish Le Champion well as he celebrated three decades in the business.
Nor should it be much of a revelation to anyone that AEW and NJPW may be at odds, considering the U.S. company's foundation is made up of guys who were major stars for New Japan as part of The Bullet Club.
It is a relationship that, one day, may manifest itself in something truly awesome for wrestling fans, such as a talent exchange, but that time is not now.