ASK TITO: Follow-Up on Cody/Rock/Roman, Ashley Massaro, Mercedes Mone in AEW, Bret Hart, & More

The EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING has returned to answer your questions, specifically on current events, from your emails, comments below, and other inquiries. Honestly, most of it is from a very loyal audience who has been with me for 1 or 2 decades now who email me, sometimes daily, on wrestling topics. The ongoing chatter with longtime fans is appreciated and they really help fuel the topics of this column.

Now, I just want to say that I’m EXHAUSTED right now as a wrestling fan. No, it’s not because I have written MANY COLUMNS since late December covering all of the current events… No, writing columns is a breeze for me, as I type like a machine gun and would probably complete with, and even defeat, secretaries at typing tests. How I’m able to produce so many volumes of columns is because I (a) daydream about the column during the day and then (b) I produce said dreamed column quickly through very fast typing. Most of these columns, which are never short in length take between 1-2 hours, sometimes under an hour if I’m really passionate about a topic.

No, what I’m exhausted about is the DRAMA… Too much drama in both WWE and AEW right now, and too much drama among many (but not all) wrestling fans. THAT is wearing me out. And I’m actually grateful that AEW has been dull and boring lately, because I was getting tired of covering the stupid things Tony Khan was tweeting. Good for them, though their viewership and attendance still sucks and those are facts that the many AEW marks around here at NoDQ cannot deny (but they’ll lie about).

The WWE, since an experienced and calm Triple H took over, has been a juggernaut since June 2022. Storylines have improved, Main Events on PLEs have greatly improved, and many midcard to upper midcarders have become far more interesting. I was SO HAPPY on last night’s 2/9 Smackdown when Triple H came out and everyone was chanting “Triple H” and then gave him a standing ovation. That is 100% out of appreciation for his efforts for the past 2 years and getting us away from Vince McMahon’s obsolete creative ideas. HHH is never going to get a bad pop ever again because wrestling fans know that HHH has delivered a great product for the past 2 years and THAT is what convinced CW, USA Network, and Netflix to pony up cash.

It’s not about Triple H… I’ve been critical of his Creative and Talent Relations work during the 2010s, but he’s experienced now and it’s showing. The issue is the PR department of Endeavor and TKO going into hyperdrive, and the Rock trying to put on a Superman cape to prove that it wasn’t his fault that DC Comics film Black Adam was a total financial disaster.

Sure, CM Punk had an extensive injury, Seth Rollins will barely be ready for Wrestlemania, and Brock Lesnar has been temporarily cancelled… But Triple H’s Wrestlemania 40 main event was, in fact, Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns. That’s what HHH was building to, hence why Cody got the better of the Brock Lesnar feud and hence why Cody won the 2024 Rumble Match. THAT WAS THE DAMN PLAN ANYWAY.

Yet, thanks to Endeavor, TKO, and the Rock thinking that TKO/WWE needed publicity away from the gross Vince McMahon story, that’s why Rock vs. Roman Reigns was shoehorned into the picture. Then, when very loyal WWE fans pushed back, the reactionary Endeavor/TKO/Rock decided to do a 180 and give fans back Cody vs. Roman.

Think about the power that you were just granted, loyal WWE fans… Just raise holy hell anytime you dislike something and Endeavor/TKO will flip on a dime. Think about the GOOD things that you could accomplish… Maybe give us 2 hours of RAW instead of 3. Make #WeWant2HoursofRAW trend?

MY POINT of yesterday’s column was to point out how MESSY WWE’s booking had become and it looks painfully obvious because it contrasts with the calm, long-term storytelling that Triple H has fed us since June 2022. You know, the style that grew viewership, attendance, and sold lots of merchandise again. The kind of booking that made Sami Zayn and LA Knight relevant again. THAT kind of booking that calmly tells a story, delivers a great payoff at a PLE with time, and empowers talents to be greater than themselves.

But me recognizing that CHAOS caused by Endeavor/TKO’s PR machine and Rock suddenly thinking he has to micro-manage everything himself as a freakin’ Board member makes me the bad guy.

Listen, many of you attacked me for YEARS for my opinions on Triple H, and by the way, I stand buy those opinions. HHH didn’t do a great molding Main Event talents in NXT during the 2010s, as he pushed Finn Balor to be the greatest thing since slice bread but he feels uneventful in the WWE. HHH was EVP of Creative for the entire 2010s mega babyface push of Roman Reigns, including inserting himself as a wrestler into that push, and it lost over 2 million RAW viewers and emptied the stands at arenas (which means merchandise sales flopped, and houseshows began to be cancelled). BUT, I recognize that the 2010s were “trial by fire” for HHH and with experience but also wisdom (he had lots of time to think, too), he’s the RIGHT GUY for the WWE job.

Yet, we have an Endeavor corporation and a new TKO Board member who wants to overrule his creative achievements that brought WWE to a position of strength through early 2024. WWE was doing just fine in spite of Vince’s lawsuit allegations, CM Punk getting injured, and Brock getting cancelled. Cody vs. Roman was penciled in long ago and was going to happen anyway, but Endeavor/TKO/Rock’s kneejerk reaction briefly took that match-up away and then half-assed gave it back to us. Now, the Rock has become a full blown heel and the center of attention, and that reduces the value of Roman Reigns as the #1 heel. THAT is what’s lost here, folks… Rock will suck the oxygen out of the room for the Bloodline, while the Roman vs. Rock match has lost its value because they tried to shoehorn it into Wrestlemania and then they took it back.

Oh, but I’m a bad guy for pointing out that obvious fact.

Screw you, marks.

Onto your questions.

ASK TITO: Your Questions, My Answers

Do you think that past stories involving Ashley Massaro will haunt the WWE?

No, it will further haunt Vince McMahon and his stooges. In case you missed it, it was revealed by John Laurinaitis’s lawyer that Vince knew about Ashley being sexually assaulted during one of the Tribute to the Troops shows. Furthermore, before she died, Ashley wrote stories about Vince McMahon harassing female wrestlers, including always trying to call her.

While I was shredding Endeavor above, these are the advantages of being a big corporation. By acquiring WWE, Endeavor had to deal with Vince McMahon who is clearly the #1 shareholder. The way they chose to do it was to convert Vince’s shares into this new TKO operation in which Vince would own like 16% of the shares (27 million shares, but Vince sold about 7 million). They recognized that sharepower, hence why he was put on the TKO Board as Chairman. HOWEVER, TKO properly filed an SEC S-1 document presenting Vince McMahon as a RISK FACTOR, citing the legal risk that he may still present. Lawsuit drops and that risk factor document is proven to be true, as sponsors began to bail on the WWE. There you go, Vince then resigns…

Speaking as someone who has worked with corporations on mergers, the buying corporation is ALWAYS going to inherit stuff as provisions of the merger. What a corporation is always sensitive about when acquiring or merging is any kind of shareholder revolt. Vince McMahon had 27 million TKO shares at the start, but the many loyal WWE shareholders to Vince were within that 49% of TKO shares. THAT is what TKO is afraid of, even though they own 51% of the company, 49% or even just Vince’s 16% is big enough to raise hell. Why? Because shareholders can attend annual shareholder meetings and raise hell. If you have shares of a company, you have the ability to present something or make the Board react to a proposal. Even the majority can easily squash said proposals, they are still documented in proxy documents as being proposed and that’s bad public relations.

Endeavor, TKO, and WWE will be fine because Endeavor acquired them long AFTER Vince McMahon’s documented incidents.

But Vince McMahon’s legacy is where the next bruises will come.

Here’s my prediction where the next shoe will fall… Among the almost $20 million in NDA settlements, there was 1 female wrestler during the late 2000s who left the WWE because of some improper stuff asked and/or performed with Vince McMahon. THAT is the story that will explode. I don’t know if Ashley was the one, as she was released from her contract during 2008. There have been others suggested in that role, particularly ones emanating from the Divas Search contest that was filling WWE’s backstage area with beautiful women back then. It wouldn’t surprise me that if an investigative reporter began digging during the 2000s, he’d not only find the Vince McMahon incident but find other bad behavior amongst the boys back then.

As I’ve said before, the “Vince McMahon stench” has long left the WWE and Endeavor/TKO. We knew about Vince’s awful behavior through June 2022 and for most of us, the lawsuit wasn’t a surprise (though some of the details of peeing, pooping, and trafficking were). I think Vince McMahon’s rest of his life will be fighting lawsuits and other allegations, and thus I figure the stress will begin to overwhelm this 78 year old. WWE has been Vince’s “fix”, but now he can’t have it and that will make him miserable.

Ashley Massaro’s story is so heartbreaking. It makes me wish that she wanted to become a wrestler in Triple H’s NXT system rather than come to the WWE via the Divas Search. She was so talented, charismatic, and on top of that, incredibly beautiful. Total package. She was a part of a WWE that went un-regulated on many things until Benoit’s June 2007 incident that put more awareness on concussions and strengthened the Wellness Policy. But Ashley started in 2005 to endure parts of those bad years prior to this, while she was also a women in Vince’s lion’s den.

If any of her friends or family are reading this, I’m very sorry for your loss. I thought she was tremendous and her personality would thrive in today’s women’s wrestling.

Hopefully, in spirit, her past will help “rattle the cages” to protect other women from corporate monsters like Vince McMahon.


Can Mercedes Mone (formerly Sasha Banks in WWE) help AEW?

In my opinion as an AEW viewer for the past 5 years, the women’s division is a place to showcase female talent. It was poorly constructed and managed by Kenny Omega for many years (his duties), and has since added a few WWE castaways to improve it somewhat. I just don’t know if throwing a big fish into a smaller pond will make a bigger impact.

But I just don’t know how much Mercedes “wants it” in 2024, either. It just didn’t seem like the enthusiasm we saw with Sasha Banks, during her peak years, was there with the New Japan Pro Wrestling run. This is also someone who walked out of the WWE twice, now granted, that was walking out of Vince McMahon’s tenure as a woman. I just don’t know if the hunger is there to be great again.

Apparently, she’s been signed and her debut will be in her hometown of Boston. Good luck to her… I’ll be rooting for her, as I consider Mercedes to be one of the best female wrestlers to ever do it. I WANT HER TO SUCCEED… But succeeding as a female isn’t a common theme in AEW based on the creative given to the ladies by Tony Khan and the talent surrounding the division built mostly by Kenny.

BUT if this is a big payday for Mercedes, and she’ll likely get perks as being the highest paid female superstar, then GOOD FOR HER.

I still wish that she chose WWE because with Triple H back in charge, she could thrive again. Go look at that NXT Takeover Brooklyn event before SummerSlam 2015 and be BLOWN away by her match with Bayley. Best women’s match that I have ever seen, but look at those entrances… Bayley is a babyface mega force and Sasha has so much swagger as a heel. Both get to the WWE and their character roles switch, with Bayley becoming a heel and Sasha was pushed as a babyface. Just stupid creative by Vince overruling things.

But hey, Tony is an ATM machine and why not get that payday with an easier schedule. Why not?

I just don’t see her accomplishing big things, like headlining Wrestlemania Night #1 against Bianca Belair in a very special match that every fan remembers.


What are your thoughts on Bret Hart’s recent comments about Vince McMahon “becoming a weirdo”?

It’s funny, because I guess Vince McMahon is a weirdo now and that’s where Bret Hart now has “absolutely zero respect”, but when Vince’s negligance literally killed his brother Owen Hart or when Vince McMahon screwed Bret’s career at Survivor Series 1997, there was a little respect for Bret to later return and work for the WWE? Go watch Wrestlemania 26 from 2010 and witness Bret Hart actually wrestling “a match” with Vince McMahon.

Oh please, Bret Hart, spare me on your righteousness. You knew Vince McMahon better than anyone and what he was capable, even with women. It was well known about his antics cheating on his wife back then and it translated into the WWE tours enjoying women while on the road or even backstage at events.

Read these hilarious quotes from Vince, mind you this comes after his WWE company killed Owen and screwed his career: “I always had a respect for him. Now it’s tainted. I’m embarrassed that I thought so highly of him. I think, despite all of the issues I ever had with Vince, I know, deep down, I always respected him; but now, knowing what kind of a weirdo he became, I have absolutely zero respect for him. I do not think I could ever shake his hand if he extended it. Too creepy.”

Pure clown shoes, Bret.

So yeah, that’s my thoughts on the opportunistic Hitman as he always has been, always will be.


Could WWE’s “Speed” show succeed on X (Twitter)?

It’s a fun experiment to try, especially if the 5 minute time limit is enforced. Why not? They could easily air this, without much cost, and the anticipation of the time limit (especially if the timer is shown) could get the crowd hyped.

I’m perfectly OK with it if this is minimized to just a 5 minute match per week. If it grows more than that, then we have something else piling onto the many hours of content that we somehow have to follow.

I’m of the mind that time limits should return on televised matches, as it built tension during those older NWA broadcasts and was an easy tool for a heel to escape losing a title.


Thoughts on Darby Allin and Sting winning the AEW Tag Titles?

Good for them, but I fear that them winning the Tag Titles will lock-in the Young Bucks to beat them to win the titles at AEW Revolution Pay Per View. Sure, if you’re leaving a promotion, you should always put over talent.

But the last thing that I want is for these 2 Young Buck TURDS to hold up the titles and then brag that they retired Sting. Yeah, it will give them cheap heat, but neither of these guys deserve that honor. For one, they look like complete goofs in their current outfits and look, but their bad behavior for the past 2 years has NEVER created actual accountability. Oh yeah, they were briefly “suspended” following All Out 2022, but I guarantee that they didn’t lose a dime of their contract that year. Then, Tony Khan signs them to lucrative extensions during early 2023 and retained them as EVPs.

F those guys. They’ve brought nothing but shame and bad choreography to pro wrestling. While they did a great thing with Cody Rhodes for the All In 2018 event (though that Joey Ryan stuff was disgusting), their influence on Tony Khan and talent management backstage has legitimately hindered AEW’s growth. Instead of embracing CM Punk and supporting him as a talent as EVPs of a company, they sought to tear him down. Had they simply acted like real EVPs instead of competing & jealous wrestlers, AEW could still have CM Punk and AEW could be much bigger right now. But noooooooo, politics had to occur and the Bucks fed complete lies to Dave Meltzer and other insider marks to willingly report during 2022 that started everything.

I’m glad for Sting and Darby to get some shine, but am sad that the Bucks will help retire Sting and jerk off over everyone as new Tag Champs who also retired sting.

I’ll say this boldly right now… I will never trust the AEW product as long as those 2 idiots remain EVP of that company. They are the kind of employees who are toxic to any workplace, as they gossip and become highly jealous of anyone. Both of those guys need to work on building trust and relationships with wrestling fans that go beyond the cult-like fans who will support them no matter what.

So yeah, as long as the Bucks are in AEW, I’m proudly anti-AEW. Do you like them apples?

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