Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Brand Split, Kenny Omega and More

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2022

Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Brand Split, Kenny Omega and More

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    Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    All Elite Wrestling fans have not seen Kenny Omega since November, when he left Dynamite in the wake of losing the world title to "Hangman" Adam Page four days earlier at Full Gear.

    One of the biggest stars in the industry, Omega's absence has been felt. A new report provided an update on his condition and if there is any idea of when he may return to the squared circle.

    The former AEW champion is not the only topic of discussion in this week's collection of rumors, though.

    The WWE brand split has been in effect for years now but might it be ending in the near future? What is the latest on the tournament to crown new WWE women's tag team champions? Did a high-stakes tag match nearly fail to provide the advertised outcome?

    Find out the answer to those questions and more with this look behind the curtain, thanks to top industry insiders.

Is the Brand Split Finished?

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    Though not official, Bryan Alvarez of Wrestling Observer Live (h/t Aidan Gibbons of Cultaholic) reported that the brand split in WWE is "essentially done."

    We have seen more crossover between supposedly exclusive stars of late, with RK-Bro freely moving between Raw and SmackDown and Los Lotharios recently popping up on the red brand to battle AJ Styles and Finn Balor.

    Throw in a report by PWInsider.com's Mike Johnson that Cody Rhodes, Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens are all slated for Friday's SmackDown and you have further evidence that Alvarez's report may be accurate, though it's possible those three Superstars will take part in a post-show dark match.

    This all would fly in the face of Alvarez's teammate over at F4WOnline, Dave Meltzer reporting on a different edition of Wrestling Observer Live (h/t Colby Faria of Wrestling Inc) that Fox wants Superstar exclusivity as part of its deal with WWE. 

    If Alvarez is proved correct, it would be a major change for WWE programming. The recent unification of titles points to the idea that his report is accurate while the company's utilization of Rhodes, Rollins, Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley in recent post-SmackDown dark matches may be an attempt to condition fans to seeing names from both shows when they head to arenas across the country.

    The roster depth is low enough that it would benefit both Raw and SmackDown while still giving enough stars the opportunity to be visible every week. Five hours is a lot of television time to fill so the Mustafa Alis, Ricochets, Chad Gables and Sami Zayns of this world would not have to worry about seeing their roles diminished.

    It would bring major stars like Rhodes, Roman Reigns, Edge, Randy Orton and Drew McIntyre to both shows and create fresh matchups, something sorely lacking in the current incarnation of the brand split.

    This is not 2002, and the roster is not nearly as deep as it was. If WWE is toying with the idea of dissolving the brand extension, now would be the perfect time to do it and benefit the product as a whole. 

Update on Kenny Omega's Health

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    Meltzer also noted in this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter that former AEW world champion Kenny Omega recently underwent hernia surgery, but there is no potential timetable for a return.

    The 38-year-old has not appeared on AEW television since November after ending an 11-month run as the top heel in the company with his title loss.

    Meltzer had reported on Wrestling Observer Radio in November that Omega was likely to take time off to address several injuries, with surgery required for most of them.

    Fans are understandably anxious for the return of The Best Bout Machine, but the company has filled the void seamlessly. MJF has assumed the role of lead villain while the star power of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley, Chris Jericho and Sting has ensured that the show can move on without having to rush Omega back.

    When he does return, several dream matches await, including a high-profile contest with Punk. 

Latest on Women's Tag Team Championship Tournament

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    A busy week for Alvarez continued with a report that NXT officials were recently told several Superstars from the brand would likely be used in the upcoming WWE Women's Tag Team Championship tournament.

    Michael Cole announced Friday a future competition for the titles vacated when Sasha Banks and Naomi walked out of Raw on May 16. One look at the main roster in WWE suggests the talent just isn't there for a full tournament, so it makes sense it would delve into its NXT reserves for competitors to fill out a bracket.

    If true, it would not be surprising to see Toxic Attraction's Gigi Dolin and Jacey Jane appear, nor would it be a shock for Kayden Carter and Katana Chance (Kacy Catanzaro) to compete in the event.

    There is a wealth of talent in NXT, but the question becomes whether WWE officials feel comfortable enough sacrificing those competitors and potentially further diminishing the Tuesday night brand in the name of producing champions they will probably forget about creatively soon after they are crowned.

    At least, that's what history suggests will happen.

Original Plans for RK-Bro vs. The Usos

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    The Usos may have defeated RK-Bro to unify the tag team titles on the main roster, but that was not always in the plans, according to Meltzer.

    The original idea called for The Bloodline to beat down RK-Bro and leave them lying after a vicious assault to close SmackDown, but the decision to actually go ahead with the unification was made late in the process.

    The beatdown in question was designed to set up Randy Orton and Riddle as opponents for Roman Reigns in the near future. Considering the lack of other stars ready to step into such a key role, there are far worse options than leaning on The Viper and The Original Bro to provide the opposition for The Tribal Chief.

    It is interesting that WWE was not completely sold on actually going through with its unification stipulation. If that is the case, why did the company even announce it knowing there was a good chance it would not deliver as advertised?

    For a company lambasting Naomi and Sasha Banks for walking out on an advertised bout, it sure is hypocritical to even consider not producing something hyped and advertised substantially in the week ahead of the bout.

    It did deliver, of course, but the idea that it may not have is interesting given the recent rhetoric used to besmirch the former women's tag team champions in their absence.

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