Before I get into all the news, I wanted to just quickly plug my top 10 favorite matches of 2022 post, if you missed it, as well as the video I recorded with fellow wrestling enthusiast Jordan Olds on the Youtube page.
WWE Announces Top Mexican Lucha Star Dragon Lee Is Coming to NXT
WWE's latest signing is turning out to be a major political move, according to wrestling insiders. On Wednesday, Triple H and WWE announced Dragon Lee, a second-generation lucha libre star, had signed with WWE and will be reporting to NXT shortly.
Just that night, Lee teamed with his brother, Dralistico, who is signed to AEW, and defeated another AEW tag team, FTR, for the tag team titles of Mexican promotion AAA. The title change was planned in advance and AEW president, Tony Khan, was aware that Lee, who was going to WWE, would be getting the win.
After getting the win, Lee grabbed the mic, and announced he was vacating the title and heading to WWE to represent Mexico.
Khan had attempted to sign Lee himself after Lee appeared on an August 11th episode of AEW Dynamite in the trios title tournament, teaming with his brother Rush, and Andrade, against the Elite. Lee created this viral moment, with his explosive topé into the first row, that not only got fans' attention but WWE officials' attention as well.
Dave Meltzer reports in this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Lee, who had been on WWE's radar previously, had gotten an offer shortly after his appearance on AEW TV. Lee had a decision to make and started reaching out to friends for advice on where he should go. Because AEW is flush with great lucha talent at the moment (Fenix, Pentagon, Bandido, Rush) the feeling was he would get a better spotlight in NXT. Meltzer speculates the WWE deal is likely for less money than he was offered with AEW, but even still he will be the highest-paid performer currently on NXT. Meltzer noted that main roster contracts begin at $250,000 a year, so Lee is likely making less than that. Dragon Lee would also be relocating to Orlando with his family.
It looks like AAA is sunsetting their working relationship with AEW. The Mexican league stripped Sammy Guevara and Tay Melo of their intergender tag titles, after Melo had to cancel the booking since she was booked on Dynamite last week. Meltzer reports that AAA will not be regularly booking AEW talent. The only exception would be if Kenny Omega would want to take dates.
Meltzer also noted it was interesting that AAA owner Dorian Roldan congratulated Dragon Lee on Twitter for going to WWE, signaling the potential for a start of a working relationship.
The story was picked up by ESPN, with a report by Marc Raimondi including quotes from Lee and WWE officials about the intent to grow their audience in Latin America and Lee's hopes for the future. "I think I can become the new Rey Mysterio in WWE," Lee told ESPN. "I just need the opportunity." He told ESPN that WWE has his dream and cited Shawn Michaels and Batista as other wrestlers he was a fan of growing up. WWE's head of talent strategy and operations, James Kimball, told ESPN "This signing is reflective of WWE's renewed emphasis on globalizing our talent pipeline with Latin America positioned as a focal market."
The hope is for him to learn English and the "WWE style" for a year in NXT and then have him called up to the main roster by 2024.
This is a big deal because a year or two ago, WWE seemed to lose interest in smaller indie stars and focused more on recruiting collegiate athletes to mold into stars. This allowed AEW to sign a swath of talent, to the point where their roster is a bit crowded now.
With Triple H taking over this year, the edict has clearly changed and now talent will have options on where to go. This could be the start of a very interesting year of talent bidding. The ultimate winners will be the wrestlers and the fans.
What's on TV tonight?
It's the biggest Smackdown of the year and they have a loaded card at 8pm on Fox:
- John Cena & Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns & Sami Zayn
- SmackDown Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Raquel Rodriguez
- Sheamus vs. Solo Sikoa
- Lacey Evans returns
AEW Rampage looks really fun as well at 10pm on TNT. It's final AEW show of the year:
- AEW All-Atlantic Champion Orange Cassidy defends against Trent Beretta
- TBS Champion Jade Cargill defends against Kiera Hogan
- Swerve Strickland vs. Wheeler Yuta
- Jon Moxley in-ring interview
- Jamie Hayter promo
- Sting & Darby Allin speak with Tony Schiavone
- Jeff Jarrett, Jay Lethal, Sonjay Dutt & Satnam Singh promo
Wrestling News from Around the Internet
AJ Styles may have injured himself last night in Hershey, Pennsylvania, during a match against The Judgement Day. Footage surfaced on Twitter of officials helping him to the back:
Kevin Owens spoke to the New York Post about how his match with Steve Austin at this past WrestleMania came about, saying “I still don’t have a full grasp on how that happened. All I know is I was told by several people, from Steve to Vince McMahon to Bruce Prichard, it couldn’t have been anybody other than you — meaning me — with Steve. I’m not sure who suggested it, who asked for it or how it came about. One day I’ll find out. But the point is that it’s extremely flattering to me that those three all thought I was the best choice. There’s really no higher compliment than that for me.”
Boxing star Tyson Fury was penciled into plans for the Royal Rumble this year but he currently is not allowed in the country because of ties to alleged Irish mob boss Daniel Kinahan. Over 700 people linked to Kinahan are prevented from entering the US, including Fury. Dave Meltzer reported that Fury told WWE officials he "did not want to look weak or vulnerable" which makes it hard to book him in a wrestling match.
Dax Hardwood said on his newly-launched podcast that he hoped that the Elite and CM Punk could just shake hands and apologize and move on and do business. A wrestling page posted a short transcription of this on Instagram and Punk himself commented on the post, writing "duh," setting off new speculation but the word is there are a lot of top guys in AEW who would refuse to work with Punk. Dave Meltzer named Chris Jericho among those people.
Sasha Banks update: the president of BUSHIROAD, the company that owns New Japan Pro Wrestling and the women's league, STARDOM, said that Sasha "may" show up at the big Wrestle Kingdom show next week. He could've certainly denied it, but did not do so. Banks is reportedly already in Japan. She is expected to work a big show in Japan in April.
Sting told The Ringer he's starting to think about his final match. Sting noted he would never do another singles match. “Well, I know Darby
Dr. Britt Baker DMD, Saraya and Eddie Kingston were unable to get to the AEW Dynamite tapings causing some rewrites, according to Fightful.
Platinum Max Caster of the Acclaimed had an awesome rap about Jeff Jarrett on this week's AEW Dynamite:
Matt Cardona, the former Zack Ryder in WWE, has been in the gossip pages as somebody WWE might be looking to bring back. WWE has signed his wife, Chelsea Green, and there were rumors of a new reality show for E! focusing on couples in the company, and Green and Cardona have been approached as one of the couples. To cash in on the publicity, Cardona has been sharing old pitches he would send to WWE creative, to try to be featured on television. This pitch in particular stands out as something very very WWE:
Do you enjoy pro wrestling? Knotfest Wrestling has a bi-weekly column filled with wrestling news. Read previous editions of this column here. You can always follow me @robinjection on Instagram and Twitter and @Squaredcirclpit.