Backstage WWE Rumors: Latest on John Cena, Mandy Rose and More

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2021

Backstage WWE Rumors: Latest on John Cena, Mandy Rose and More

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    Fans are returning to arenas and WWE is taking its show on the road after 16 months at the Performance Center and ThunderDome, and its plans to bring back John Cena in time for SummerSlam on August 21 continued to dominate the rumor mill this week.

    The WWE icon is expected back in time to battle Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship but when and where might he pop up?

    That is the question at the heart of this week's collection of rumors and innuendo, which also features the latest on Mandy Rose's NXT status and an update on the WWE draft.

John Cena's Return Date Revealed?

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    John Cena is on his way back to WWE, presumably for a Universal Championship match with Roman Reigns at SummerSlam, and Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select revealed plans for him to return on the July 23 episode of SmackDown.

    "Fightful has learned that Cena is scheduled to appear on WWE programming at some point over the next 11 days, as fans return," he wrote. "Fightful has been told that the working plan for Cena is for him to appear on the July 23 episode of WWE Smackdown, and possibly sooner than that."

    Cena is in the middle of a summer in which he appears in two Hollywood blockbusters: F9 and The Suicide Squad, the latter of which will result in his own television series for HBO Max based on his Peacemaker character.

    That he is returning to the company, presumably against its top star, is a testament to his love for an industry he championed as a main event act for over a decade. Reigns will also benefit from working with him, the last possible hurdle on his way to the showdown with The Rock that so many fans desperately want.

    And Cena will get a rub from the contest, too. Sure, his status as one of the greatest professional wrestling stars of all time is already cemented, but a return to a stage as grand as SummerSlam will reiterate that WWE is his home and his passion for wrestling is unwavering—regardless of the success he finds in acting.

Mandy Rose Back to NXT?

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    Mandy Rose returned to NXT Tuesday night by scouting the match between Sarray and Gigi Dolan. And according to WrestleVotes, she may be back on the brand permanently.

    "While I'm not sure why, source says it seems like a trade went down between rosters: Raw trades Mandy Rose to NXT for Aliyah," the report stated.

    The timing does seem curious as Rose and Dana Brooke were in the thick of the women's tag team division and seemingly top contenders to Natalya and Tamina's titles.

    However, The Golden Goddess now seems to be returning to a brand that made her a star, but one where she never really achieved the level of success she did on the main roster.

    It will be interesting to see if she is an in-ring wrestler or she is utilized more as a manager/collector of talent, as her ode to the early days of Trish Stratus Tuesday night would suggest.

    As for Aliyah, the long-time NXT project has earned a run on the main roster. She has improved leaps and bounds from her days as an inexperienced young rookie, as captured on the 2014 docuseries WWE Breaking Ground.

    Given the crowd's reaction to her as she turned on former manager Robert Stone, the core audience is ready to support her in the jump to the big time.

WWE Draft Update

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    Andrew Zarian of the Mat Men Pro Wrestling Podcast reported this year's WWE draft has been bumped back from a post-SummerSlam slot to October.

    "I was just told a 10/4 date but not sure if that's night one or two," he wrote. He surmised the dates would be either October 1 and 4, or 4 and 8.

    There are some who will look at this as evidence that WWE doesn't know what it's doing, and some who will attribute it to the fluidity of wrestling in the post-pandemic era. In reality, it's fairly in line with the way things have been since 2019.

    That year, the draft took place from October 11-14; last year, it was October 9-12. 

    The precedent is there for it to occur in October, so why anyone would be critical of the company for pushing back a proposed earlier date for the normal schedule is confusing.

    Would it be nice for WWE to give the new rosters time to breathe before presenting the annual Raw vs. SmackDown Survivor Series pay-per-view in November? Sure, but the company is typically in a viewer slump in the fall and winter as kids go back to school.

    Presenting the WWE draft as a nice gimmick the company can lean on to pop a TV rating isn't such a terrible idea.