– Effective immediately, John Laurinaitis is resigning his position as WWE Senior Vice President of Talent Operations after 8 years of service. WWE.com issued the following statement.
John Laurinaitis resigns as Senior Vice President of Talent Operations
Effective immediately, John Laurinaitis is resigning from his position as Senior Vice President of Talent Operations. Following his very public firing at June’s No Way Out, Laurinaitis continued to work behind-the-scenes in his corporate role. After eight years of service in talent relations, he’s “burned out” and now hopes to concentrate on what he knows best: putting together matches and working with WWE talent as a producer.
According to the PWInsider, Laurinaitis remain with the company as a producer assisting talent with their matches. His resignation is legitimate and not part of any storyline. In an indication that he was on his way out of the position, Laurinaitis was quietly removed from the WWE Corporate website’s index of Executive Officers in April. Though WWE stated in their article that Laurinaitis was “burned out” from the position, multiple sources have stated that recent changes to the corporate infrastructure represent Paul Levesque, Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events, assuming control of certain sectors of the company and re-shaping them to his liking. Laurinaitis’ duties had been scaled back in recent years as Levesque and fellow executive Stephanie McMahon gained control over Talent Operations and creating line-ups for house shows. He had overseen the department since April 2004, when he replaced Jim Ross. He was hired as a producer after the sport entertainment organization’s acquisition of certain assets of WCW in March 2001.
– Just prior to Raw’s showtime, there was a minor incident involving the show’s pyrotechnics and as a precaution, the limited number of people in the venue during the incident were evacuated. The fire marshal issued safety clearance for the show to proceed as scheduled. Due to time constraints, however, no WWE Superstars matches were held. There were no injuries.
Check out this report from Cincinnati, Ohio’s Local Fox 19 News
– During Monday’s live WWE Raw broadcast, A.W. made an off-color remark referencing NBA player Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault case in 2003 and 2004. As client Titus O’Neil tangled with Kofi Kingston in a singles match, A.W. yelled from ringside, “Titus O’Neil is like Kobe Bryant at a hotel in Colorado hotel room. He’s unstoppable!!”
Following the commercial break, WWE broadcaster Michael Cole issued an apology on behalf of the organization for A.W.’s remark. He then quickly transitioned to a replay of a backstage segment featuring John Cena and CM Punk that took moments prior.
A.W. then issued an apology late Monday evening via Twitter and noted that “there was no malicious intent behind the joke.”
“It was either a Kobe or Lebron joke. Lebron jus won the Finals so there you have it..Myself!”
The remark was in reference to the basketball star being accused of sexual assault in summer 2003 after having sex with a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado. In September 2004, prosecutors dropped the case after his accuser refused to testify. A civil suit was later filed and settled out of court.
After Raw, WWE issued an official apology via TMZ.com reading, “A.W. made an inappropriate comment and WWE immediately apologized. WWE has taken appropriate action in the matter.” The representative, however, did not specify what “action” was taken against A.W.
– During a recent interview with the “Inside the Ropes” podcast, wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino had some harsh words about fellow legends Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and Ric flair. Regarding Steve Austin, Sammartino said:
“Steve Austin, I didn’t care for him because of his mouth. He was a very vulgar individual and anybody that’s like that, I can never be a fan of. So, anything else that he had positive, it was shattered by the negatives.”
Steve Austin has responded to Sammartino’s comments, tweeting:
“I have always respected Bruno’s career and what he accomplished. However, I could give a rats ass of his opinion of SCSA”
Sammartino recently appeared on the “Inside the Ropes” podcast and had some very negative things to say about fellow legends Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. Audio of Sammartino’s comments can be heard below:
– According to the Wrestling Observer, with Kelly Kelly still off WWE television, WWE sources indicate that she has not signed a new contract with the company. WWE reportedly offered her a new 5-year deal in recent weeks. She was backstage at RAW 1,000, but was not used. During her time away from WWE, she has been doing her own personal appearances and looking for acting work.
– The Wrestling Observer reported last week that with the ratings success of the weekly “Legends” segments on Raw, WWE officials are strongly considering making the feature routine by having one former Superstar brought back on every show. PWInsider.com reports Monday that internally, the belief is that the re-emergence of former talent such as Vader, Sycho Sid and Bob Backlund caused part of a lapsed wrestling audience to tune in to WWE programming again. Should WWE continue the angle, names most likely to resurface are Tatanka, Steve Blackman and Big Daddy V. Those three and several other alumnus were contacted to appear on Raw 1,000, but WWE officials ultimately changed their minds and limited the Heath Slater gang beating to the APA and those who had already participated in the storyline.
– Conspicuous by his absence last week on Raw 1,000 during the Brothers of Destruction reunion between The Undertaker and Kane was longtime manager Paul Bearer. When Bearer last appeared on Raw in April, he was kidnapped by Randy Orton and then stuck in a storage freezer while strapped to a wheelchair. Kane later came for Bearer, only to roll him back into the freezer and say, “I’m saving you…from me.” A Twitter user pondered whether Bearer’s noticeable absence stemmed from the legendary manager still being locked up in the freezer. Bearer responded, “Yeah….. still in the freezer, dumb ass.” Bearer also said of his whereabouts, “I am not going to waste my time playing your silly “where were you” games. I never said I would appear, not scheduled, enjoyed being home.”
– CM Punk will defend the WWE Championship against John Cena and Big Show in a Triple Threat Match at SummerSlam on August 19. The match was determined on Raw after the Cena vs. Show bout resulted in No Contest due to interference from Punk. Raw General Manager AJ Lee then announced the match, which led to Punk scolding her as Raw went off the air.
In addition, it was announced during Raw that World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus will defend his belt against Alberto Del Rio at SummerSlam. As the No. 1 contender to the title, Alberto Del Rio declared following his victory over Santino Marella that he would not compete again until his SummerSlam bout.
– It was announced on Raw that WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon will appear on this Friday’s episode of SmackDown to announce the new SmackDown General Manager.
– The July 27 episode of WWE SmackDown averaged 2,834,000 viewers over the course of two hours—the final rating has not been released. The prior week’s show drew a 2.04 cable rating, with 2,964,000 viewers.
– In this week’s episode of WWE Download, Dolph Ziggler looks at the ridiculous things people do when they’re drunk.
– Despite WWE’s product generally being geared toward children, the median audience for Raw ranges from 38 to 40, according to the Wrestling Observer.
– Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com recently interviewed former WWE creative writer Court Bauer. During the interview, Bauer spoke extensively about his time with WWE as a member of the creative staff, here are some highlights:
His First Day In WWE: “I’ve been around wrestling. I’ve seen it. I’d been my own boss for a lot of that and I think that was one of my biggest issues there. I got along great from jump street to finish with Vince but Stephanie and I were constantly butting heads. Michael Hayes and I were constantly butting heads. Brian Gewirtz and I were just constantly butting heads for various reasons with all three of them. Some of it was just personalities; some of it was just professional issues. Some of it was just crazy shit.”
“The first day on the job, people are kind of just sizing you up. There are a lot of alpha-males there so you’re kind of sizing everyone up. Everyone’s looking at you and everything. I was very laid back. For me — it was a little bit of vindication and a little bit of validation because of how things went with MLW. I had hoped — MLW was really — I would say — arguably, the number three biggest company during it’s run. With the TV penetration and its crowd size and what we were doing and the impact we were making. Especially with our international television.”
“So, that was something that I felt — to me, people talk about pressure and everyone warned that this is a high pressure job. I was, like, “Dude, my money is not on the line. All I’m being told is to produce talent, create stars with Vince and Stephanie and the WWE machine, write to the best of my abilities and be a matchmaker/suggester and angle-suggester. To me, this is easy. it’s like auto-pilot. I love it, I’m going to bring my A-game. But pressure? Nah. No. Not really.”
“So, people are warning me from day-one. I thought that the rest of the writers for the most part were very quiet and detached and not to outgoing. At the time, the only wrestler on the team was Michael Hayes. I think like a week a two after I got that, the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase started. I worked a lot with Ted and to this day, we’re close friends. He’s a great guy. I’m talking about Ted DiBiase, Sr. of course. Along the way, we had a ton of wrestlers come in, trying to contribute to the writing team. Really, none of them stuck. Dusty Rhodes and Ted were there for a few years. Dusty was terrific to work with. Dusty was fun, especially after hours. Ted was terrific.”
“Michael [Hayes] was a challenge in a lot of ways. He has a lot of interesting ideas and doesn’t like to hear your ideas. He has his other issues and demons and things that if you look online, you can find out. It is what it is. We had a lot of wrestlers go through there and a lot of them had an issue trying to contribute to that kind of process. The creative department is a toxic environment, very passive-aggressive environment. Dysfunctional. If you look at the ratings and just the business in general, you’ll see a decline over the 12 year period since they started that department. There’s never really been a real revamping of the division and there’s nothing been done to address these issues. So, you can see these drops in everything… creative out-put, television content, character development… They go from a playbook of plays and pick out one and you’ve seen it a few dozen times beforehand.”
“It’s a tough thing to deal with because you want to bring new concepts to the table and produce the best product. But, a lot of the times — it’s such a hyper-political division — it becomes very tough to navigate those waters. I’ve seen masters of that try to navigate those waters and ultimately drown. Everyone remembers how it went for [Paul] Heyman at the end of his run there. The only way to really navigate those waters and have any varying degree of success is (based on) how you define success. Is it that you’re getting a paycheck, just chugging along and toeing the company line? Or, is it trying to bring the best ideas, push them forward and if it doesn’t work out, sometimes you might hang yourself because of that. And that happens. There’s other people that can’t take the travel. There’s other people that can’t deal with Vince. There’s other people that are their own worst enemy when it comes to how they present things.”
“There’s so much turnover for a multitude of reasons, but the creative division as a whole — they don’t really set anyone up for success. It’s almost like they want to watch you fail. So, it’s a very intriguing thing being in an environment like that and also try to contribute and create positive change. It’s really tough. I saw a lot of guys that could have been really good contributors and could have helped the company. We could have seen really great stuff but you had so many people that just wanted to hold on to their position (and would) pretty much sabotage them and wouldn’t give them a heads-up about something and ultimately they failed. It’s unfortunate because there’s a lot of successful people that went through there. A lot of wrestlers, a lot of wrestling fans. A lot of people that weren’t wrestling fans but didn’t necessarily have to be for their particular position within the creative team. They had been executive producers for top-rated network shows and ultimately they were shown the door.”
“So, it’s an unfortunate thing. Because they are the number one company. They are the only game and the only show in town. The central-nervous system is the creative division and it’s a very, very dysfunctional system.”
Whether He Was Encouraged To Interact With Wrestlers: “It depends on who you spoke to and what day and what time and what year and what month and week it was. There were times I was told by Vince that I’m tasked with Ric Flair and setting up his Flare-For-The-Gold retirement run that Steve Austin had pitched to Vince at WrestleMania XXIII. So I start working on it. Then, a day later, before I can even get to Ric, Stephanie tells me, “You’re going to be working on this but I do not want you talking to Ric Flair. Any ideas you have for Ric, you can bring them to me and we’ll go from there.” So, I’m like, “How the hell is this going to work and what’s that mean?””
Was He Told Why He Should Not Talk To Flair? “I asked her and then some shit-storm came into her office and never got an answer. Some def-con 5 phone call or something. I thought that was kind of a cop-out. So at that point — this was towards the end of my run there — I was like, “You know what? I don’t care. I’m going to do the best that I can.” A lot of the times, Stephanie would have erratic decisions or comments that just didn’t really add up. So, you learn to live with it and just try again. Just try to produce the best product. I never compromised my integrity in doing that. But I also realized that you’re dealing with people that have their own limitations. Sometimes, you do stuff that may hamper or hinder these things. So, I was just, “I’m going to do what I got to do and not really sweat this stuff.” I mean, it’s really strange. With Steph — there’s a great with Steph and there’s also a side that just makes you shake your head.”
Other Big Disagreements With Stephanie: “I’ll tell you a strange story where we were all sitting around the table, talking about the first time they got busted open or got color — color of course being blood. So, Vince is talking about the first time he did and how terrified he was that he was going to fuck it up real bad. Then, Ted [Dibiase] tells a story about what happened to him and where it happened and all that stuff. Michael [Hayes] tells a story, Dusty [Rhodes] tells a story. One of the writers tells a story that had nothing to do with wrestling but it was a pretty horrific story about how he gashed open his arm and you could still see the scar. Then, I tell the story about how my mentor, Gary Hart — who was a terrific booker out of World Class, was there and set them up for their run in the ’80?s and was the manager of The Great Muta, Terry Funk.”
“So, I start telling the story of when he was in MLW when he did an angle with Low-Ki and Homicide and they ultimately cracked a broom stick over me and they used the wrong side and there was a sharp edge to it that sliced my forehead open and I’m gushing blood. So, we start talking about that and everyone and it’s a very chill, laid-back conversation. Stephanie then points to me and says, “Can you come here?” after the meeting. We used to call that “getting called to the principal’s office.” She told me never to do that again. I said, “Why?” She said, “Only the boys can talk about getting color.” I said, “Well, I was in wrestling. You hired me for my experience in wrestling. I’ve been in wrestling since 1998. That was 6-7 years ago. This is 2005. This is a little shady. But that’s what she wants and I was like, “Fine. No problem.”
So, everyone came back wondering what happened. I was like, “She doesn’t want me talking about any of that wrestling stuff.” They’re like, “Really? What do you do now?” I said, “I’m just going to not say it in front of her!” [Laughs.] She’s a very quirky person and I think there some deep-rooted drama that goes back to our backgrounds and I think there was some conflict based on that.
I got along great with Hunter. Vince (and I) only once had a disagreement. It’s not that I was a “yes-man” it’s just that I could read him and tell him what he wanted to hear without compromising my concept.
What The Disagreement Was About: “I think it was a house show or something and I think we were in a predominately-Latino market or a Tennessee-type market and they had New York City-level prices for ringside seats but they were all scattered. So you had Madison Square Garden-level prices for general admission seats in a market that wasn’t going to pay that price because who would out of big, top-five markets. On top of that, all the radio was for the wrong demographic. You had Rey Mysterio on the card. I think it was in Texas in a border town. You had Rey Mysterio and maybe Eddie Guerrero on the show. Instead of promoting it on bi-lingual and Latino stations and networks, they instead were putting it on smooth Jazz or whatever it was. I think it was classic Rock and smooth Jazz or something that made no sense.”
“I said, “Wouldn’t it be better to reconfigure these prices in the market and target the talent that has huge followings according to Nielsen and according to the arenas.” It seems like this was a slight adjustment that could make a little bit of a difference. He just disagreed. Some days — Vince is just the kind of guy that you can’t just tell him something. You got to pick your battles and when you’re going to fight him and that wasn’t that day. Ultimately, we agreed to disagree on that day but it wasn’t like it was World War III or anything. It was a pretty logical argument.”
“I always had very positive experiences working with Vince and to this day, once in a while, we shoot e-mails back and forth that are non-wrestling related. Just to put it out there; I’m not looking to get back into wrestling. I’m not putting Vince over because…”
Does He Think It’s Time For Vince To Step Down? “I only know what I’ve heard. I mean, I haven’t worked under Vince McMahon for close to five years. So, I can only say from personal experience that the Vince McMahon I worked for was a guy that was coming out of his glory years. He wasn’t a guy that I felt was incompetent at his job. I felt he had great days and some days that I fiercely disagreed with the direction. I think you could say that about a lot of people. You have good days, bad days, so-so days. I never saw the guy that I hear is running the company now. So, it’s a different guy.”
“I can only go by what I hear from other people and it’s unfortunate. When you get a guy like Vince McMahon who has been a world-beater and such a competitive guy, it’s hard to get a grip on where you are in your life. It’s not like this guy has hobbies. He’s not an avid golfer. His only hobby is lifting weightsand that’s it. He sleeps four hours a night, he runs his company 24/7/365, and he’s a driven man.”
“But when you’re yielding diminished results, you start to wonder, ‘How long should this guy be in this position?’ It’s a very hard situation. He doesn’t want to go live on an island in Bermuda. He doesn’t want to do that, he wants to do what he’s doing. There is no exit strategy, there is no, ‘I’m going to get to this age and leave.’ That won’t happen, I don’t believe that how he’s wired. Dana White’s not wired that way. There’s certain people that just aren’t wired that way.”
– Senators’ captain Daniel Alfredsson will return for the 2012-13 NHL season. The 39-year-old Swede will play his 17th season in the NHL, and is coming off a 27-goal, 59-point season. Alfredsson helped the Senators return to the playoffs last year and was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy after the season. The five-time league all-star and former rookie of the year has 416 goals and 1082 points in 16 NHL seasons, all with the Senators.
– According to the Arizona Republic, UFA F Shane Doan did talk to potential Coyotes’ buyer Greg Jamison over the weekend, but it came Saturday instead of Friday, according to the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan. The 35-year-old was expected to gain some clarity on the franchise’s ownership situation, but it appears that nothing new has surfaced. McLellan says that 16 teams are interested in Doan. Stay tuned.
– The Mavericks and Magic have discussed a Dwight Howard trade, but Mavs’ GM Donnie Nelson believes “there’s just not much there.” As expected, Dallas doesn’t have the tradeable assets to get a deal done, and their best chance at getting Howard would be through free agency in 2013, assuming Howard doesn’t sign an extension prior to then.
– The Bulls and G Nate Robinson have agreed to terms on a contract, according to multiple sources. In 23 minutes per game last season, he averaged 11.2 points, 1.3 threes, 4.5 assists and 1.2 steals. Robinson will play the backup point behind Kirk Hinrich until Derrick Rose (ACL surgery) is ready to return.
– The Warriors and F Carl Landry have reportedly agreed on a 2-year/$8M contract. The second year is a player option. He averaged 24 minutes per game last year, and will backup at power forward.
– The Cavaliers are “looking at” UFA G Carlos Delfino and G C.J. Miles. The report indicates that either play could be signed, in addition to retaining RFA G Alonzo Gee. Delfino, who is coming off of sports hernia surgery, has drawn little interest on the market. He averaged 9.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.6 treys on 40.2% shooting last season.
– Wolves’ G Ricky Rubio (knee surgery) visited with a specialist in Colorado on Monday, writing afterward, “Check out [with] the doctor went great! My knee [is] even better than he expected!” The Wolves should provide an updated timetable for his return based upon this checkup, but early indications are that Rubio could resume running some time in September. Stay tuned.
– Jazz’ GRaja Bell “has not accepted a buyout with the Jazz,” a source tells the Salt Lake Tribune. Bell and the Jazz had verbally agreed on a buyout. After the team officially offered him a buyout, Bell has now refused to accept the deal. Stay tuned.
– ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed Tuesday that Giants’ RCB Terrell Thomas (ACL) will likely miss the entire 2012 season. ”It looks like he’s going to need surgery. It looks like he’s going to be out for the year.” This is the third ACL tear of Thomas’ career, as he suffered the injury once at USC and twice more in the pros. It’s believed that no player has ever returned successfully from three ACL reconstructions. Stay tuned.
– Ravens’ TE Dennis Pitta (broken hand) suffered a broken hand in Monday’s practice, and is questionable for Week 1. Per beat writer Aaron Wilson, Pitta will likely need surgery.
– Lions’ GM Martin Mayhew is “very positive” and “very comfortable” that RB Jahvid Best (concussions) will be cleared to play in 2012. Mayhew, however, added that he’s “a little bit surprised, a little bit disappointed” that Best has yet to be cleared. “It’s up to the medical professionals to decide when he’s going to be available. Eventually he will get cleared. I’m very positive.” Mayhew also admitted the Lions have “had conversations with a number of (free agent running backs)” since March. “When it comes time to pull trigger, we’ll be ready.”
– The NY Daily News reports the Jets will void their acquisition of Panthers’ OT Jeff Otah. Otah, who has chronic knee issues, had to pass a physical by Tuesday afternoon for his trade to become official. He will be sent back to the Panthers, who are expected to release him.
– Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com recently interviewed former WWE and TNA superstar Matt Hardy. In part one of the interview (view here), Hardy discussed his time an an enhancement talent for WWE, his favorite stars growing up, working with the Kliq, tag team wrestling today and much more. here are some highlights of what Hardy said about:
His Favorite Wrestlers Growing Up: “Obviously, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage just because he was the first guy I was really drawn to and I think he was one of the top guys in the company at the time and his finishing move was a flying elbow drop off the top rope. For me, I thought it was really cool. A lot of guys did moves that seemed more boring. There was the Hulk Hogan leg drop. ‘Macho Man’ always flew off the top to do his elbow drop and it was very exciting.”
“Obviously, growing up in North Carolina, I was a big Ric Flair fan. I dug him, he was from Charlotte. The Four Horsemen were very cool. I was a big fan of the Freebirds as well. It was very ironic that later on, I’d work with Michael Hayes. When I first started wrestling and Jeff and I were on a trampoline, I actually emulated Michael Hayes and the Freebirds to a degree with the way my character wrestled, dressed and acted and whatnot.”
What It Was Like Being WWE Enhancement Talent: “It was exciting. We actually went the very first time with ‘The Italian Stallion’ Gary Sabaugh and we did shows for him all across North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee. We’d work Thursday, Friday, Saturday and sometimes for free. But, as long as we would work all his shows, he would take us to WWE every few months when he got the opportunity to. So, we were really excited. The first time walking in the dressing room and just seeing the guys you’ve grown up watching on TV. They’re real human beings and they’re interacting. Actually, getting to see that every superstar was actually a human being was a pretty amazing feeling.”
Whether Anybody Gave Him Advice Early In His Career: There wasn’t really anyone that gave us an overload of advice. But the one thing I will say, the first time me and Jeff went up, we both wrestled Scott Hall/Razor Ramon and he was really good to both of us. The first night, he wrestled Jeff and Jeff was only 16. He had to lie about his age and move his birthday back by two years and he kind of banged Jeff’s knee on the pole when he was doing a certain move in the match. He checked on him the next day and the day after that. All the Kliq guys, especially Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were really cool to Jeff and I in the beginning. Jeff has his hair cut like Vanilla Ice, they actually called him Ice. They always knew the Hardy Boyz and the Ice guy. So, they were really cool to us overall. You hear a lot of horror stories about those guys, but Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and X-Pac were all really good to us early on.
Favorite Memories Of His First WWE Run: “Man, it’s really amazing that we were able to come in during that time. Once again, looking back, ‘Stone Cold’ was white hot. The Rock was white hot. DX was a huge deal. For Jeff and I, once we got out on the road full time, we were wrestling Too Cool/Too Much every night as the opening match. For us, we almost became accustomed to it. Every night, we were in a building that was sold out with 20,000 people. That was pretty amazing, pretty special. I think we were almost spoiled a little bit because in 2001-2002 when the business slowed down a little bit and the big, hot Attitude cycle ended and the shows weren’t sold out anymore, we were like, ‘Oh, my God. What is this? We’ve never seen this before. This is new to us.’ So, we were really lucky and really gifted to be there.
I mean, there were so many great memories between the ‘Stone Cold’-McMahon thing. Just for us, obviously, our feud with Edge and Christian and going through with the first ever tag team ladder match and having that and the TLC matches. Winning the tag team titles, which was our only goal that we really set for ourselves when we started in the business. There were so many great, monumental moments that there’s too many of them to list now. But, it was a really special time in the wrestling business.”
– The latest in TNA’s ongoing lawsuit against WWE and former employee Brian Wittenstein is that a hearing is set for this Wednesday, August 2nd in Nashville, Tennessee. The nature of the hearing is that TNA is looking for the temporary restraining order against Wittenstein to be changed to a court injunction that would require him to submit all materials relating to confidential TNA manners and prohibiting him from him transferring that material to a third party.