Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Ronda Rousey, Mustafa Ali and More

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2022

Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Ronda Rousey, Mustafa Ali and More

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    Ronda Rousey may not have left WrestleMania 38 with the SmackDown Women's Championship in tow, but her upcoming I Quit match with Charlotte Flair and WWE's plans for the title are at the forefront of this latest collection of wrestling rumors.

    The UFC Hall of Famer and former Raw women's champion is just one top name covered this week, though.

    Also dominating headlines is the recently announced partnership between All Elite Wrestling and New Japan Pro-Wrestling, the return of Mustafa Ali and its impact on his contractual status with WWE, and the meteoric rise of United States champion Theory. 

    What do industry insiders have to say about those Superstars and issues? Find out with this roundup of the latest rumors, reports and speculation.

Update on Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania Backlash

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    Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio speculated that Ronda Rousey will defeat Charlotte Flair to capture the SmackDown Women's Championship because WWE would never have a celebrated athlete and mixed martial arts competitor lose an I Quit match.

    On top of that, the impending return of Lacey Evans gives The Queen someone to work with after her program with Rousey wraps up.

    Common sense would suggest The Baddest Woman on the Planet is winning, too, because WWE did not bring her back into the fold just to put over Flair in consecutive pay-per-views.

    For all of the issues with her presentation since returning at the Royal Rumble in January, Rousey is still a recognizable face beyond WWE and someone the company will look to take advantage of where mainstream media attention and promotional opportunities are concerned. 

    Her beating Flair and winning the title at WrestleMania Backlash on May 8 feels like a foregone conclusion, with the spoiled Queen finally getting her comeuppance on the receiving end of a cross armbar or ankle lock. 

    The proposed feud between Evans and Flair allows those women to resume a feud that was heating up prior to the former's maternity leave and immediately positions her as a top-tier competitor in a SmackDown women's division that should always be looking for fresh talent. 

WWE Not Freezing Mustafa Ali's Contract

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    Mustafa Ali exploded back onto WWE programming Monday night on Raw, interrupting Miz TV with United States champion Theory and proceeding to defeat the host of the segment clean in the middle of the ring. 

    Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select (h/t Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc) reported that while WWE had the ability to freeze his contract due to inactivity, it has not done so. It still could, but at this point, it is on schedule to end in 2024.

    Ali disappeared from WWE programming for six months amid reports of a backstage disagreement with Vince McMahon, according to the report.

    It was during this time that the 36-year-old asked for his release from the company, stating "I have a message that is much bigger than my dreams in professional wrestling. Despite my best efforts, I will not be able to deliver this message while working with WWE."

    Sapp noted: "Ali was scheduled to be at Raw Monday, and meet with Johnny Ace according to people within the company, and had yet to be informed of the creative plans at that point. Those that we've spoken to said that he was more than comfortable referencing his absence and why it happened."

    Ali is an immensely talented worker who has repeatedly stolen the show when given the opportunity. Creative misfires and his on-screen persona have surely been frustrating for the performer and his fans, but hopefully the clean victory over The Miz and tease of a feud with Theory over the U.S. title are signs of an expanded role.

    At the very least, it gives Ali something meaningful to do as he waits out his contract with the promotion.

Plans for Theory and His Future

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    WrestleVotes reported that "a person with direct knowledge states Vince [McMahon] 'sees a young John Cena in Theory' and will 'give the kid everything he needs to be successful.'" 

    Anyone paying attention can see the WWE chairman's trust in Theory. The 24-year-old was booked in a high-profile WrestleMania 38 match with SmackDown commentator Pat McAfee and shared the ring with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. He was also the final competitor to lose to Brock Lesnar at Elimination Chamber in February and recently defeated Finn Balor to capture the U.S. Championship.

    To suggest he is the next Cena may be a stretch given how multi-talented the 16-time world champion was (and is) and the wealth of classic matches he has under his belt. But Theory does possess a considerable amount of ability himself and has lived up to the faith put in him by management so far.

    Perhaps WWE should stop looking at young stars as the "next" anything, though. Let them be themselves and develop their own personalities. Don't force the issue by comparing them to legends of the past. There is, after all, a reason why those men and women have earned the label of "legend' in the first place, and it's not because they can be manufactured in a writer's room.

    Theory will have every tool necessary to achieve success in WWE, but if he cannot capitalize on it, there is nothing he or management can do to ensure it works. 

    Luckily for all involved, he has proved more than capable of taking advantage of the opportunities thrown his way to date.

Latest on AEW's Working Relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling

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    Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated reported that Tony Khan found out about WWE's overtures to New Japan Pro-Wrestling by way of his trusted sources with the Japanese promotion.

    Furthermore, NJPW confirmed to the owner of AEW that working with his company was its "priority."

    In WWE's attempt to re-sign Bryan Danielson in 2021, the company reached out to NJPW in hopes of establishing a partnership that would allow The American Dragon to work for New Japan while remaining a contracted WWE Superstar.

    NJPW officials also encouraged Khan to cut a promo in which he referred to WWE President Nick Khan (no relation) as "some conman from Connecticut." 

    The partnership between AEW and New Japan recently became public to fans of both promotions with the announcement of the Forbidden Door PPV on June 26 that will likely feature several inter-promotional dream matches.

    Excitement for the event among fans of AEW is palpable, as is the anticipation for future co-branded events. The partnership provides both companies with the opportunity to expand their businesses globally and introduce their products to an audience that may not have been as familiar with them previously.

    Given Chris Jericho, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Adam Cole and "Hangman" Adam Page's history in New Japan, it is a logical choice for AEW and one that will help the ever-growing company entrench itself in a new market moving forward while providing its ardent fanbase with exciting content.