Welcome to Canton’s Corner. This is a column/blog name I used in the past many years ago and I decided to bring it back as we undergo some changes at TJRWrestling that has allowed me more time to write articles like this. What I plan to do is cover some of the more interesting topics in the wrestling business and offer some thoughts on them. This week’s edition will cover three topics. Other times it might be one topic or more than three. It’s just whatever I feel like at the time. Let’s roll.
Bray Wyatt Released by WWE
This has been one of the strangest years ever in terms of covering World Wrestling Entertainment and seeing some of the decisions they have made regarding talent releases. When Braun Strowman was released by WWE back in June shortly after he was in a WWE Title match at WrestleMania Backlash, I was stunned by that. I was also surprised by Aleister Black being let go too, but in Braun’s case, we’re talking about a main eventer that was making a lot of money. Then we see the shocking news from Saturday when WWE announced that Bray Wyatt was released. Just like Strowman, Wyatt is a main event talent that won three World Titles (WWE once, Universal twice) and at 34 years old, you would think a guy like him was just entering his wrestling.
The release of Bray Wyatt left me shaking my head. I don’t get it. I don’t like it. Like Strowman, he probably had a big salary, so WWE is likely looking to save some money by cutting a guy making seven figures. The question is, why? They can tell the talents “budget cuts” all they want, but this is coming in a year where WWE will make record profits thanks to the massive TV (and WWE Network) deals they have. This makes me think WWE is possibly considering a sale within the next year or two, but I don’t know if it’s coming. It’s just a feeling I have.
I didn’t love “The Fiend” version of Bray Wyatt. Frankly, the stuff The Fiend did in the last couple of years sucked big time. I don’t think 2020 was good for The Fiend at all because of the booking. Losing the Universal Title to Goldberg was disappointing. The Strowman feud last summer was bad, the rivalry with Orton didn’t really help anybody except maybe Alexa Bliss if you like that she’s a creepy character now. That Orton/Fiend match at WrestleMania 37 was probably the worst match of WrestleMania weekend. Is it the performer’s fault or is it creative? To me, it’s the fault of the creative team. (On another note, I know there are rumors online about Bray’s mental health being a potential reason for his long absence since he was sad over the death of his good friend Brodie Lee/Luke Harper. I don’t know if it’s true. I think people just guess at some of this stuff and make things up.)
I really enjoyed the cult-leader version of Wyatt. When he had Luke Harper (Rest in Peace), Erick Rowan and then Braun Strowman with him, they were a dominant group, but then it was broken up and it faded away. I don’t think that was the best move. They could have been together for a lot longer. I also think that WWE could have moved on from The Fiend and simply had Wyatt return to his original form as the confident cult leader with a group of new wrestlers by his side or even make him a solo act. That’s not a guy that should be released considering his talent in the ring, his ability on the microphone, the creativity he has and being a part of WWE for the past decade.
As a WWE fan, I’m upset that Bray Wyatt is gone from the company. However, as a fan of professional wrestling that watches a lot of different promotions, I’m excited for a motivated, hungry Windham Rotunda (his real name) to show what he can do wherever is next. Obviously, people will assume that All Elite Wrestling is next since that’s where most ex-WWE wrestlers end up since they have money to spend and a growing audience. I think that’s where Wyatt is going to end up although I don’t know what his name will be. I know that I will support him wherever he goes.
With all of this said, I want to make it clear that I think WWE is going to be just fine without Bray Wyatt. I just think it was foolish of them to release somebody as talented as him considering his history in the company and the fact that he has many good years ahead of him. If this was a broken-down 40-year-old wrestler then I would understand, but a guy in his mid-30s with a lot of good years left should still be there. If it was me, no way do you let Bray Wyatt go. I wish him the best with whatever is next. I’m excited about his future.
Adam Cole Could Be Out of WWE Soon…Bay Bay
The other big story over the last week is the news that WWE NXT superstar Adam Cole (bay bay) is working on an expiring contract. It actually expired in August, but Adam agreed to extend it to the NXT Takeover 36 event where Cole will probably face and lose to his good friend (now on-screen rival) Kyle O’Reilly since their series is at 1-1, so Kyle will probably win the tiebreaker.
I always find wrestler contract news to be interesting in the sense that somebody leaked it on purpose. There are some people on WWE’s roster who have been there for a decade or longer who you never hear about in terms of contracts. Their deals come up, they stay and we have no idea about it. Do you know why? Because they want it to be kept private and those that want it out there will leak it out. What percent of wrestler contract news even gets out? Maybe 10% at the most. I know somebody in WWE (a wrestler not on TV that much) that had a deal expire last October, nobody knew about it and that person re-signed. Most of the roster is like that. My guess is Adam Cole’s agent or manager, whoever that is, may have leaked this. It’s a leverage play. Get the news out there, then see all the fan reaction with WWE fans wondering how you can let it reach this point where Cole could leave, and then there are AEW fans giddy about the possibility of Cole working there.
I listened to Wrestling Observer Radio earlier in the week with Dave Meltzer & Bryan Alvarez practically fantasizing at the idea of Cole reuniting with his AEW buddies Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks. Bryan was screaming about how WWE could never use Cole right since they are pushing Shanky (a guy with no wins on WWE TV, so Bryan’s claim was ridiculous), but that’s what they do. They are pro-AEW even though they try to deny it. I’m a Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame voter (I vote for CM Punk and Edge every year by the way, neither are in yet!) as well as a subscriber, so I support what they do. A lot of people are biased toward AEW and anti-WWE in 2021. I get it because they want the new guys to be successful. I do too. I’m for all companies and all wrestlers getting a chance to showcase what they can do to a bigger audience. I love that. I am just a fan of the business that is fortunate enough to write about it for a living. There’s no bias here.
As an Adam Cole fan, I am intrigued with whatever is next for him as a talented 32-year-old at the top of his game. If he stays in WWE, I hope he gets a significant raise as well as a push to the Raw or Smackdown brand since he’s done all you can do in NXT. I want to see Cole, who is just a regular-sized wrestler, match up against Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Cesaro, Kevin Owens (a close friend of Cole), Sami Zayn and more of the best of WWE. All of those stories would be fresh. By the way, if you’ve never seen Cole wrestle Rollins, the video is below. That’s from my birthday too!
Cole would have a lot of rivalries that could be built up over the next several years and I think he could be very successful as a face or heel. Of course, we only know how Triple H has booked him in NXT for the last four years and we don’t know if Hunter’s father-in-law Vince McMahon will see the same star power in Cole. Vince might think he’s too bland or boring, but if that’s the case, I doubt WWE would offer Cole a huge contract to stay. In my opinion, Cole could be a main event talent in his first year on Raw or Smackdown the same way that AJ Styles was in 2016. Cole is that good. It’s just up to the creative team to give him a chance.
A popular theory among online wrestling fans is that Cole is AEW bound because of how close he is to Omega and The Young Bucks as well as the fact that his live-in girlfriend AEW Women’s Champion Britt Baker is one of AEW’s biggest stars. Cole has been with Baker for several years, Cole has been backstage at several AEW events because of her and I’m sure there are people thinking that’s a big reason why he’ll be in AEW. It makes sense, right? For sure it does. AEW also has a much friendlier schedule than WWE where you might only have to travel four or five days per month and wrestle maybe two of those days in a whole month. If you’re on WWE’s main roster, the schedule is a lot more grueling with two or three live event matches and all of the travel that comes with it. If you work for AEW, the travel is a lot easier and he’s with his girlfriend, who he might want to marry some day.
Another thing that Cole is passionate about is video games. He is one of the main guys on WWE’s UpUpDownDown video game channel run by Xavier Woods. The other three main guys are Woods, Cesaro and now released Tyler Breeze. If Cole were to go to AEW, he wouldn’t be on UUDD anymore although I know he has a good video game following on Twitch too. I’m just saying that UpUpDownDown could be a factor in this.
I don’t know what’s next for Cole, but if you would have told me a few months ago that AEW could bring in CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Bray Wyatt and Adam Cole at around the same time I would have thought you were crazy. Punk and Danielson are in, we assume, while the other two are certainly possible now. What a crazy year for the wrestling business.
WWE SummerSlam Announced Lineup So Far
There are only three official matches announced for WWE SummerSlam and I wanted to offer up some quick predictions. SummerSlam takes place on Saturday, August 21 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (c) vs. John Cena – I expect Reigns to retain the title. However, John Cena is going to appear at the WWE Smackdown episode at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It wouldn’t surprise me that much if Cena won the title at SummerSlam and then dropped it back to Reigns at MSG. I don’t know how possible it is, but I’m just saying I could see WWE wanting to end SummerSlam on a happy note. I’m just throwing it out there.
WWE Championship: Bobby Lashley (c) vs. Goldberg – The popular prediction here is that Lashley should win. I hope he does. What’s intriguing to me is the possibility of Big E cashing in the Money in the Bank contract before the match or after the match and leaving Las Vegas as the WWE Champion. It could mean a move to Raw for Big E where he would be reunited with his New Day buddies (until the draft in October). They could even have Goldberg win and then Big E cashes in on him. Big E has said that Goldberg was his idol, so it would probably be cool for Big E to win the title from Goldberg. Anyway, that’s another thing that is certainly possible.
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Nikki A.S.H. (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Rhea Ripley– This storyline has had a lot of screen time on Raw since they have main evented three weeks of Raw in a row. I’m not that interested in it, but at least it is elevating Nikki a bit. I figure Nikki will retain, but it’s certainly possible that Charlotte gets the title back and is given a significant title reign since she only held it for a day after Money in the Bank. I doubt Ripley would win it back.
I’ll wait to comment on other matches until they are official. I assume we are getting Seth Rollins vs. Edge and Bianca Belair defending the Smackdown Women’s Title against Sasha Banks in a WrestleMania match. On the Raw side, I figure it will be AJ Styles & Omos defending the Raw Tag Team Titles against Riddle and a returning Randy Orton. I don’t know how many more matches there will be.
That’s all for me. Thank you for visiting Canton’s Corner. My contact info is below.