WWE’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view will take place on June 20, far earlier than its usual October date, but for good reason. It will mark WWE’s final pay-per-view in the ThunderDome, with a return to the road scheduled to begin in July.
Per sources close to WWE, Sports Illustrated has learned that July’s pay-per-view will be Money in the Bank. The reason behind the move is that, internally, it is believed that Hell in a Cell in June will be a stronger broadcast from the ThunderDome, while Money in the Bank in July—which is currently slated to be held in front of a crowd in Texas—is significantly more captivating with fans.
There is a sense of optimism throughout WWE for its persistence to run weekly shows throughout the pandemic, especially with the creative outlet of the ThunderDome. Once WWE hits the road, there are no plans to return to the ThunderDome. Weekly travel will then commence for Raw and SmackDown, with the summer storylines built around SummerSlam in August. SI has confirmed SummerSlam will take place in Nevada.
Despite a pandemic, the world of wrestling never sleeps. Here are some of the more pressing pieces of news emerging out of the industry:
- WWE made several cuts this week, including Jessamyn Duke, Alexander Wolfe, Vanessa Borne, Skyler Story, Ezra Judge, Kavita Devi and referee Jake Clemons. First reported by Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful, WWE also cut ties with Drake Wuertz.
This felt inevitable. Formerly known for his fearlessness on the indies as Drake Younger, Wuertz was at one point equally well-liked and respected as a top NXT referee. But he became obsessed with his political beliefs, which became more and more radical. Wuertz appeared at multiple local government hearings in recent months to rail against mask mandates in schools, citing QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories about face masks’ connection to child sex trafficking. During one such appearance, he wore a shirt with the NXT logo. Sapp also reported that Wuertz’s actions in the workplace made many wrestlers uncomfortable.
While the other releases are cost-cutting measures—which seems ludicrous, since none of the deals were hurting the cash-laden company—sources close to WWE indicated Wuertz’s dismissal was related to his behavior.
- As of 2022, AEW will move from TNT to TBS.
In news that AEW president Tony Khan broke on SiriusXM’s Busted Open, a new Friday night show, AEW: Rampage, will debut Aug. 13 on TNT. This will be an hour long, and it will move to TBS in 2022.
Dynamite will also be moving to TBS in 2022. After signing a deal to bring the NHL to Turner, the writing was on the wall that the NHL would be airing on Wednesday nights on TNT. While moving stations is never preferred, there are positives for AEW.
As has been reported by PWInsider, AEW is getting an “eight figure payday” from Turner, but another important detail is less time-shifting each year during the NBA playoffs. Television shows need to air consistently on their night, which simply cannot happen for Dynamite when it is bumped by a playoff game. Also, launching a new event franchise through its quarterly supercards is significant. This is also a positive for viewers, especially on the creative side, since supercards give AEW additional events to build storylines around outside of its four yearly pay-per-views.
- If you feel as though Adnan Virk’s voice does not fit on the Raw broadcast team, you’re not alone. He has struggled to call the show since his post-Mania debut, sounding more like a guest than the one in charge of calling play-by-play. This was a Nick Khan hire (and Khan is Virk’s former agent). Khan otherwise has had a magic touch as WWE’s president, but part of the issue here is the way WWE conditioned its audience to hear a broadcast.
Many of the lead play-by-play commentators in the company have a very similar style, tone and delivery, and that includes Michael Cole, Vic Joseph and Tom Phillips. So Virk was destined to stand out. Though the transition was expected to take some time, it has not been smooth. This has to be frustrating for both parties. Virk is an immensely talented broadcaster, yet calling three hours of Raw is an altogether different universe. Ironically, the perfect person for this role—bringing legitimacy, authenticity and a world-class call to the broadcast—was Mauro Ranallo, who dealt with a plethora of nonsense that led to his leaving the company.
Of all the attributes Vince McMahon is known for, patience is not one of them. If Raw continues to stay under the two-million viewer mark for ratings, changes are expected to be made. But as a Khan hire, Virk will be afforded more time to find a rhythm and flow. Fortunately for WWE, Pat McAfee has fit in far better on SmackDown. Internally, those within the company are very pleased with McAfee’s work.
- New Japan Pro-Wrestling officials are thrilled to have Jon Moxley represent the company as their IWGP United States champion. While New Japan stars were often underappreciated on Nitro back in the WCW era, AEW—specifically Tony Khan—made it a point to highlight the legendary Yuji Nagata in his match last week on Dynamite. The Moxley-Nagata match felt different and special, helping Dynamite foster an environment where viewers (and talent) believe that anything can happen.
Moxley’s title defense against Nagata was originally scheduled to be on NJPW Strong, but instead it received even more exposure on TNT. Nagata still wrestled on Strong, but it was in a tag match with Ren Narita against Moxley and the wildly underrated Chris Dickinson.
Sports Illustrated has learned that Moxley’s partner was originally intended to be Shooter, who is a New Japan prospect (or, in NJPW terminology, Young Lion) Shota Umino. He suffered an injury and was unable to work the match. Dickinson was a late addition to the match, specifically requested by Moxley, and he fit in perfectly with his violent, believable commitment to the craft.
- AAA’s Triplemanía is officially set for Aug. 14 in Mexico City. The show will include a must-see matchup as Kenny Omega defends the mega championship against former WWE star Andrade, who had starred for years in Mexico with rival company CMLL. This will mark Andrade’s AAA debut, as well as his first match against Omega. The card also includes a lucha de apuestas match pitting famed luchador Psycho Clown defending his mask against Rey Escorpion, who is putting his hair on the line. There is also a title vs. title match between AAA’s Reina de Reinas champion Faby Apache and Impact’s Knockouts champ Deonna Purrazzo.
Like Omega, who is currently the top men’s champ in both Impact Wrestling and AAA, Purrazzo is expected to leave Triplemanía with both belts.
While Purrazzo can brawl and fight a tough, rugged style, her calling card is her masterful work as a technician. It is an old-school approach, but one that belongs in pro wrestling. Though this was overlooked during her time in WWE, Purrazzo has excelled in her time away from the company, firmly cementing herself as a top star in Impact. The opportunity to wrestle Apache at Triplemanía is a benefit for AAA, Impact and Purrazzo, as the match—and likely the title victory—will further elevate her status.
More Wrestling Coverage:
- Salvador: New AEW Show ‘Rampage’ Coming to TNT on Friday Nights
- Barrasso: Why Shawn Michaels Is Impressed by Dakota Kai
- Barrasso: Johnny Gargano Examines His Work as a Heel
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.