A big part of the fun of being a fan of the WWE and professional wrestling is predicting matches, angles, storylines, feuds, etc. And that is amplified this time of year as we approach the Royal Rumble and embark on the road to WrestleMania. A good majority of that prognostication is supplemented by wrestling websites (including this one) that report the backstage news and speculate on circulating rumors.
By reigniting the brand extension last summer, the WWE added an extra layer of intrigue for the two aforementioned pay-per-views. Theoretically, the winner of the Royal Rumble match is awarded a world title opportunity of his choosing, though the WWE haven’t acknowledged that specifically. As of now, the impression is that if a RAW superstar wins, he’ll challenge for the Universal Championship and if a SmackDown superstar wins, he’ll challenge for the WWE Championship.
Of course, the WWE’s “rules” would allow the winner to decide for themselves which belt they go after, but the company has kept a majority of those plans (if there are any) under wraps. And for the most part, that is how Vince would prefer it. After all, there are very few surprises left to exploit, and he’d rather not have those leak to the public before they air on television.
As most WWE fans already know, Mickie James made her return to the WWE last week during the main event match on SmackDown Live. Her initial return came two months prior when she agreed to wrestle Asuka at the NXT Takeover: Toronto special for the NXT Women’s Championship. Soon after that match, it was revealed that Mickie agreed to a new three-year contract with the WWE.
It had been nearly seven years since James was a member of the WWE roster, after departing in 2010 and spending significant time with TNA and on the independent circuit. In the time between her match with Asuka and her reappearance on the main roster last Tuesday, SmackDown had been running an angle with Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss that also featured occasional interference from La Luchadora, a masked female performer.
Both Becky and Alexa took turns wearing the costume to add fuel to their feud, but La Luchadora then aimed her attacks on Becky, solidifying her role as a heel. For the several weeks that it wasn’t Alexa or Becky under the mask, it was actually NXT talent Deonna Purrazzo who played the character.
Of course, when the mask was finally pulled back at the conclusion of the steel cage match between Becky and Alexa, La Luchadora revealed herself to be Mickie James. Unfortunately for Vince and the WWE officials banking on the moment providing major shock value, the news had leaked well before that show aired.
According to a report from Cageside Seats, the leak has prompted a “crackdown” backstage to prevent further news letting out before a big moment happens on tv. Some argued that the pop for Mickie’s return wasn’t memorable enough because the match took place inside a steel cage and a lot of sight lines were blurred, but in the WWE’s mind, the leak certainly didn’t help matters.
There are experienced journalists in wrestling like Dave Meltzer and Mike Johnson whose sources will continue to provide them information, but it’s Vince’s hope that no more surprises are ruined, especially during WrestleMania season. Marquee matches for big events may always leak out beforehand, but if heel/face turns and unique finishes are kept quiet, the belief backstage is that it will result in a better product. Shane McMahon’s return last year is easily the best example in recent memory.
[Featured Image by WWE]