ASK TITO: Wrestlemania 17 vs. 40 Debate, Jacob Fatu, The Rock, Edge, Ronda Rousey, and Much More

Welcome back to the EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING which is posted exclusively here at NoDQ and it has been the home of my columns since August 2020 (prior to that, LoP since October 1998). I gotta way, 2022-2024 is starting to prove to be my FAVORITE stretch of covering professional wrestling. In reality, I tried to scale back and walk away from the Mr. Tito mask through late 2021, but then the utter chaos of Vince McMahon‘s scandals pulled me back in. Since mid-2022, it’s nothing but an endless news cycle as WWE is changing without Vince McMahon and AEW seems to struggle to get over CM Punk.

Honestly, wrestling has been fun since 2019… Granted, WWE was still in the dumps, but AEW’s arrival as a somewhat legitimate competitor has upped the game a bit. Took about 2 years for the WWE sleeping giant to wake up, but they did and through August 2020, they finally got Roman Reigns right and he pulled this company (with Paul Heyman) out of the 6 year business decline that it had. Make no mistake, that Wrestlemania 40 that we just witnessed and maybe we’re calling the “best of all time” was built brick by brick by Roman Reigns. Reigns and Heyman created the Bloodline storyline and everything added onto it like Sami Zayn, Solo Sikoa, Jimmy and Jey being spotlighted as singles wrestlers, and the Rock could thrive. Any opponents of the Bloodline would also thrive.

It’s a shame on what is happening to AEW and they don’t have a real business plan to get out of it, other than paying a little extra for free agents. If you’re going the free agent route, they have to be the RIGHT FIT for your company and not from a New Japan promotion that less than 125,000 viewers used to watch on AXS here in North America. Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho were “right fit” guys during 2019 because they had more in the tank and something to prove, and I’d argue ditto for Brody Lee (Luke Harper in AEW). I love Edge/Adam Copeland, but we’ve seen the best of him already while we’ve seen the best of Okada/Ospreay in New Japan already. WWE got the best out of Sasha Banks before she self-destructed and walked out twice.

AEW fans need to hold Tony Khan and the Young Bucks accountable. Tony is the President/CEO, while the Young Bucks are 2 of the EVPs who oversee the tag division and did much of the recruiting for the roster. HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE, AEW fans. Want an example? Just read my columns from throughout the 2010s or early 2020s… I held Triple H accountable for his managerial abilities during the 2010s with Talent and Creative. Many, many columns and I took a lot of heat for that position. I was hammering WWE back then because I demanded better as a wrestling fan instead of pushing the wrong guys while neglecting many talented individuals.

Yes, I 100% agree now that CM Punk threw the first punch (well, shove to the face) and I’ve written before that CM Punk should have been terminated for (a) shooting during the Media Scrum and (b) fighting backstage and possibly threatening the President/CEO. HOWEVER, the Young Bucks need to be terminated for their roles during the 2022 stuff by leaking inside company information to dirt sheets and in particular, lies about Colt Cabana being moved to Ring of Honor. They also need to be held more accountable for their aggressive confrontation backstage after the Media Scrum. Then, they need to be held accountable for repeatedly skipping meetings opportunities with CM Punk throughout 2023 to make amends. They are EVPs and need to act like it. Instead, Tony gave the Bucks new lucrative contracts to remain as EVPs.

DEMAND BETTER, AEW fans… The AEW product is not good right now, and lower viewership + lower attendance are metrics validating this. Plus, look at the largely negative reaction AEW is receiving for using security footage 7 months after the fact to hype a Pay Per View tag match. Instead, we see AEW marks or yes-man columnists writing love pieces on how AEW has the “best roster”, the “best matches”, and the “best product”. No, you don’t… You are a distant second right now and those big free agent signings (Adam, Mercedes, Ospreay, Okada) aren’t helping you. In fact, you’ve lost audience since CM Punk and Sting left.

For the WWE, whatcha got after Roman Reigns, eh? If he’s truly going to take serious time off, maybe a significant portion the remainder of Spring or part of Summer… Do you believe that Cody Rhodes can carry the company like he could? We’ll see on Smackdown tonight if the Bloodline regroups, but Roman was the vital drawing component and Cody and the Rock rode in on Roman’s wave of momentum. it’s been 4 years of Roman Reigns and he’s dominated everything, along with the Bloodline members’ contributions (especially Heyman).

We will truly see how good Triple H really is, but I’ll be honest, I have faith… Wrestlemania 40 wasn’t just great because of the Main Event, it was great because guys like Sami Zayn, Rhea Ripley, Bayley, Logan Paul, Seth Rollins, LA Knight, Gunther, and many others complemented the big Cody/Seth vs. Bloodline/Rock/Roman storyline. Sure, the top event draws the most, but the midcard has to be strong, too, to grow as well. Everybody is benefitting right now and there are a bunch of younger wrestlers ready to step up (Bron Breakker is ready!). Furthermore, with success comes more participants. I’m willing to bet that the WWE Performance Center is getting tons of applications lately and their tryouts will be packed. People want to work for WWE right now and join the positive environment that Triple H and Shawn Michaels (how about that?) are building.

AEW needs LESS chaos and just get a little calmer with how they do business and how they treat their performers. Furthermore, stop being biased towards certain wrestlers and difficult for others. You’re lacking authenticity as leaders and it shows with a declining product.

I’m rooting for ya, AEW… WWE just endured the chaos of Vince McMahon’s exit, yet they are growing like fire because they have a calm Triple H hand guiding them right now. They have stability, AEW does not. Showing a backstage video of talents fighting does NOT show stability, but a poor and toxic working environment. Yes, Punk got aggressive with Jack Perry, but he didn’t just randomly do it. Perry refused to hear “no” about smashing a lead pipe through the windshield of a rental car from multiple AEW officials and because Tony isn’t trusted to de-escalate a situation, the officials had Punk try to talk Perry out of destroying a rental car. Jack Perry mouthed off to AEW officials and later CM Punk because he felt entitled and bulletproof because he was close friends with the EVP Young Bucks. Bucks and Tony wouldn’t tell Jack Perry “no”, and that dumbass would proceed to eat a Fisherman’s Suplex through a windshield at All In 2023 at Wembley.

THAT is where you lack accountability, AEW fans. The weakness of leadership needs called out and held accountable for being inept at managing their own talent. NOBODY should (a) go off script on a promo, (b) leak information to dirt sheets, (c) storm into someone’s locker room aggressively, (d) want to destroy a rental car, and (e) yell into the camera in an unscripted manner about a backstage discussion. But Tony’s culture enabled all of this drama to build up and that clashed with a complicated and emotional CM Punk. Punk doesn’t have this kind of nonsense in the controlled yet nurturing Triple H WWE environment, hence why he’s thriving there.

On to your questions…


Is Wrestlemania 40 the greatest Wrestlemania of all time?

Well, most wrestling fans consider Wrestlemania 17 to be the “best of all time”, so let’s compare them in a head to head fashion. I’m going to rank each by categories.

WRESTLEMANIA 40 (3 great, 5 good, 1 Decent, and 5 Meh)

Sami Zayn vs. Gunther
Rock/Roman vs. Seth/Cody
Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns

Drew McIntyre vs. Seth Rollins
LA Knight vs. AJ Styles
Logan Paul vs. Kevin Owens vs. Randy Orton
Bayley vs. Iyo Sky
Rhea Ripley vs. Becky Lynch

Tag Team Ladder Match

Rey Mysterio/Andrade vs. Santos Escobar/Dominik Mysterio
Jey Uso vs. Jimmy Uso
Jade Cargill/Bianca Belair/Naomi vs. Damage CTRL
Damian Priest vs. Drew McIntyre (MITB Cash-in)
The Price vs. Final Testament

Here is my current opinion on Wrestlemania 17:

WRESTLEMANIA 17 (5 Great, 3 Good, 1 Decent and 2 Meh)

Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit
Shane McMahon vs. Vince McMahon
Edge/Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz – TLC
Undertaker vs. Triple H
Steve Austin vs. the Rock

Chris Jericho vs. William Regal
Chyna vs. Ivory (served its specific purpose)
Gimmick Battle Royal (Bobby Heenan was on fire!)

Eddie Guerrero vs. Test

Tazz/APA vs. Right to Censor
Kane vs. Raven vs. Big Show

I have to give props to Wrestlemania 17 as the remaining champion based on match quality… The only issues I had with the 2 “meh” matches were that they were too short and didn’t feature many great talents in those match more prominently.

THAT SAID, where Wrestlemania 40 may have the edge is with better outcomes. Sorry, but the end of Rock vs. Austin SUCKS and it was the true end of the Attitude Era. Austin turning heel in Houston, what a BAD decision! Then he teams up with Triple H after Wrestlemania 17, another dumb decision.

THIS is why I need more viewings of Wrestlemania 40 to see where it properly fits in my personal Wrestlemania rankings.

As of right now, though, I gotta hand it to Wrestlemania 17 as the remaining champion. As much as you may dislike the Austin vs. Rock ending, the match was still hot until the ending. Then, you got a CRAZY TLC match, an awesome technical masterpiece with Angle and Benoit, complete insanity in the Shane vs. Vince match, and HHH vs. Undertaker just killing it. That said, I have like 23 years of nostalgia carrying my analysis of this show.

For now, Wrestlemania 17 remains the #1 Wrestlemania show ever.

My other favorite Wrestlemanias would be 5, 8, 10, 18, 19, 21, and 39, though I really love that 13-15 cluster for Steve Austin’s growth alone.


What will WWE do with Jacob Fatu?

I figure you’ll see a revamped Bloodline tonight on Smackdown or something close to it… Fatu will emerge and Heyman will promote him as “re-enforcements” or something like that. Then, you’ll see Jacob Fatu/Jimmy/Solo and maybe they’ll keep harassing Cody Rhodes who will be Smackdown’s world champion now.

Simple as that, I suppose or I hope. Fatu is an overlooked piece of talent and I’m very happy that he’s getting a chance in WWE.

EDIT: Smackdown happened, and a new storyline of the remaining members of the Bloodline began. Solo wanted Jimmy Uso out and Tama Tonga arrived to help solo attack Jimmy Uso. Tonga is the newphew and adopted son of the legendary Haku (or Meng in WCW) and has been a fixture of New Japan Pro Wrestling since 2010. Does this mean that Jacob Fatu will join Solo and Toma to form a HEEL Bloodline and maybe the Uso brothers reunite? Question is this… Where does Rock, Roman, and Paul Heyman go with each of these possible teams? Survivor Series could be lit!


What do you make of Steve Austin reportedly wanting more money for Wrestlemania 40?

I think he’s a smart man… Believe me, Austin knows his worth and knows how the WWE is printing money right now. If TKO can hand the Rock $30 million in WWE stock to join their board and then $10 million more after Wrestlemania 40, then they can pay $1 million or more to get Austin on Wrestlemania 40. It’s very likely that the WWE knew that they really didn’t need Austin with as much star power that WWE already had for Wrestlemania 40, so they passed.

But I would expect WWE to consider using him in the future, as there will be other opportunities. Maybe make Austin a Board member, too? Why not? The guy is smart about the business and understands the MMA from a business standpoint, too.

Honestly, though, if that Glass Shattered at Wrestlemania 40, fans would have became unglued and attention would be on Austin and nobody else. The attention needed to be blunted to keep the focus on Cody winning the title that night.


What do you make of Ronda Rousey’s wish that she had more time to rehearse like Logan Paul?

Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl (God, I hope someone catches that movie reference). It’s just more sour grapes from Ronda Rousey, which I covered previously in this column. Again, I want to emphasize how much WWE salvaged her career and opportunities. UFC no longer wanted her to fight, and Hollywood dried up. Yet, the WWE was willing to pay he millions and push her continuously.

The fact is that she didn’t take her training seriously and hence why she couldn’t work like a pro wrestler, as she hurt herself taking bumps and hurt others slamming them. Compare that to someone like Ken Shamrock who learned how to work and didn’t hurt anybody else while not hurting himself too.

Logal Paul’s agreement is to wrestle as a special attraction and only for PLEs, so he has requested to rehearse the matches to put on a better looking product for the fans. That’s his choice and because the WWE wanted him, he had leverage… Maybe you should have utilized your leverage that way, eh?


What do you think of Adam Copeland (Edge) admitting that he didn’t watch CM Punk’s interview with Ariel Helwani?

Just adds to how unauthentic his “shoot” promo was a few weeks ago on Dynamite. Fact is that Edge wasn’t there for the chaos and has only been eating scoops of what Tony/Bucks tell him about that situation. Yeah, he probably knows how grouchy Punk can be based on his late 2000s and early 2010s time working with him, but he didn’t see Punk in AEW nor did he witness the toxic elements that caused the chaos.

I guarantee that if someone leaked info on Adam, he’d get PISSED and ditto if someone did a shoot interview on him.

THAT SAID, Edge goes out of his way, much more, to be more well liked backstage and fit in. You could argue Punk should do that too, but he received text messages from the Bucks and Cody to join AEW rather than a more formal invitation.

It just adds to my opinion that Edge was the wrong guy to deliver that shoot promo. I know that he’s the veteran, but he’s not an “AEW Pillar”. MJF would be the perfect guy for that promo, but he’s not there.


Thoughts on WWE Talent Relations losing an executive?

Meh – I wouldn’t think much of Dan Ventrelle leaving the WWE. While he was an EVP there since September 2022, he reported to Triple H and was needed as someone in Corporate to help more on the scheduling and human resources side and likely payroll services too. They’ll find someone else with similar skillsets who will fit HHH’s scheme and corporate support needs.

I don’t expect Shawn Michaels to become the permanent role… HBK is just getting into the groove of operating NXT and the Performance Center and doesn’t have the managerial skills to handle the parts needed of Triple H at Corporate to manage talent. I figure that a talent agent that Endeavor knows will soon fill the role.

A complete “nothing burger”. Sounds like Nick Khan, whom I trust, is reorganizing things and maybe Dan didn’t fit the strategy of TKO or he wished to move on himself.


What are your thoughts on Will Ospreay taunting Triple H?

Stupid, stupid, stupid… He may have cost himself a big opportunity in the WWE for the future by taking the bait and responding that he was grinding against Stephanie McMahon. If you’ll recall, Randy Savage mocked Stephanie in his shoot response to HHH calling him a “dinosaur” during 2000 and it banned Macho from any WWE appearance for 10 years. Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it (George Santayana).

What many in the wrestling industry needs to realize is that you don’t have to respond back… Don’t take the troll bait. Yes, HHH could have not have alluded to wrestlers he was negotiating with, but he did not name Ospreay by name. Will assumed it was him and then made things a thousand times worse by making it VERY personal. Your issue is with HHH, no need to pull his wife into things.

By doing that, Will Ospreay just justified WWE’s decision to not overpay him. Will fits right in with the clique there who goes unscripted in promos, leaks info to dirt sheets, or other immature acts. Grinding on Stephanie, give me a break!

Hilarious to see the conflicting reports between the Torch and Fightful regarding if Will Ospreay was told to say this or not. Either way, it was a dumb thing to say whether Will wanted to say it or was told to say it.


What do you think about the Rock possibly defending the “People’s Champ” title?

I’m careful on the source on this one, but I don’t think he’ll attempt to defend a belt personally made to him by Lonnie Ali (widow of Muhammad Ali). And I cannot imagine Rock doing that to discredit the 2 World Titles that the WWE has that he could potentially win. Maybe in an angle against Cody, he puts up his People’s Title up against Cody’s WWE Title (maybe that is in the letter?), but I would imagine Rock would rather win the real WWE Title rather than making a gift become yet another title in the WWE.

Rock probably joked about it backstage and someone ran with it as a story…

We just worked really hard to establish the World Heavyweight Championship on the RAW brand… Why add another title to the mix?

Oh, and to answer another question…

What’s in the letter given by Rock to Cody Rhodes on RAW?

I think that it’s an open challenge for SummerSlam 2024 and I believe that is when the Rock wins the WWE Title to begin preparations for Wrestlemania 41. I don’t believe Cody vs. Rock is happening at Wrestlemania 41, as I believe Cody’s drawing power may deflate with weaker post-Wrestlemania 40 opponents.

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