Posts Tagged ‘Departure’

Toni Storm hasn’t been shy of sharing her thoughts on her WWE exit since leaving the promotion in late 2021 and signing for AEW in March of this year, though this new interview on The Sessions with Renee Paquette might be her most headline-worthy yet.

Storm, who was called up from NXT to SmackDown in July 2021, told Paquette that wrestling on Raw or SmackDown had always been her goal. It didn’t take her long to realise that this wasn’t going to work out, however, with main roster life making her miserable (h/t Cageside Seats):

“My main goal in wrestling was to be on RAW or SmackDown, main roster WWE TV. Then I got there and figured it out pretty soon, I realized this is just not going to work out. Also, I’m 26. — I want to have a really good time at this job. I want to have a really good career and I want to enjoy part of it. I just wasn’t enjoying it for so long and I abruptly quit. I woke up that morning having no idea that I was going to quit by that night. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. A lot of people don’t enjoy it at all. For some people it just works out and for others — it just makes them miserable. I guess I just fell into that category. I guess it just wasn’t for me at that point.”

Continuing, Toni spoke on WWE’s swooping rounds of roster cuts, which have become a habit since the COVID-19 pandemic’s March 2020 inception.

“Let’s face it. They just fire people left, right, and center out of the blue. I could be fired next week and then it’s like, ‘What’s the point?’ It just got very pointless to be honest. It’s been hard to convey that, especially to fans, especially to people that just aren’t in this business, and will never understand. I must sound ridiculous to those people, but it’s the reality of what it’s actually like.”

The AEW newcomer then stressed that she wasn’t upset with how she was booked in WWE, nor was she angry with the company in general:

“I’m not mad about the booking. I certainly don’t want to bury it. I don’t want to say bad things about the place. I think I had a great time there for the most part… I’m not mad. I’m not angry at WWE. I don’t have anything against them. I’m sure they got bigger fish to fry than me. You know what I mean? Like, why do they care? People get let go from that place constantly. People move around constantly. It doesn’t matter if I’m there, but what matters is I’m not having a very good time, and why shouldn’t I be having a good time?”

But after what she called a long, complicated ordeal, Storm no longer wanted to work for a promotion that “didn’t give a shit.” She realised, in the end, that even though WWE’s main roster used to be her goal, she loves wrestling itself more than any specific company:

“It was a complicated ordeal. I had built up frustrations with the place for a very long time, like a lot of people do. They don’t give a shit, so why should I? This isn’t going to work. I know what’s going to happen here. I’m just going to be sent back to catering again. I’m not going to succeed here, I can just see it. I know they see me as I’m such a kid and I’m such a newbie and this that and the other, but I like to think that I’ve been around wrestling long enough to know — I just know what’s right and what’s wrong for me and what I like and what I don’t like and I just didn’t like it in the end. I didn’t feel that appreciated. And I just felt like they, at times, didn’t have very much respect for me. I feel like over time they just crushed my love for wrestling, it just wasn’t even wrestling anymore. You’re not even allowed to say wrestling. I thought my whole purpose in life was to go to WWE but then over time I realized it’s just pro wrestling that I love, it’s not a company that I love.”

Storm was granted her WWE release soon after requesting it in December 2021. “Burnout” was reported as the reason behind the move, which Toni has now elaborated on.

Las Vegas Raiders president Dan Ventrelle is no longer with the organization, the team announced Friday.

Raiders owner Mark Davis didn’t reveal a reason for Ventrelle’s exit.

“Dan Ventrelle is no longer with the organization,” Davis said. “We will have no further comment at this time.”

Ventrelle says he was fired by Davis in retaliation for concerns he brought up regarding a hostile work environment within the franchise, the former president said in a statement obtained by Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Ventrelle has also retained legal counsel regarding his departure.

His statement read:

Today, Mark Davis terminated my employment as president of the Las Vegas Raiders. I have committed almost 18 years of my life to the success of the Raiders as general counsel and president. I take that responsibility very seriously, which is why multiple written complaints from employees that Mark created a hostile work environment and engaged in other potential misconduct caused me grave concern. When Mark was confronted about these issues, he was dismissive and did not demonstrate the warranted level of concern. Given this, I informed the NFL of these issues and of Mark’s unacceptable response. Soon thereafter, I was fired in retaliation for raising these concerns. I firmly stand by my decision to elevate these issues to protect the organization and its female employees. I remain committed to doing everything in my power to support the Raiders and the Las Vegas community I now call home. I have retained counsel and will have no further comment at this time.

The NFL issued a statement saying that it will look into Ventrelle’s claim about the Raiders’ work environment. “We recently became aware of these allegations and take them very seriously,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, per Josh Dubow of The Associated Press. “We will promptly look into the matter.”

The Raiders named Ventrelle as interim president last July to replace Marc Badain, and he took over the job permanently after the 2021 season. The 46-year-old joined the Raiders in 2003. He served multiple roles over his time with the organization, including executive vice president and general counsel.

Ventrelle is the second member of Las Vegas’ front office to depart this week, after chief operations and analytics officer Jeremy Aguero, who resigned Thursday following just seven months on the job.

Candice LeRae has left WWE following the expiration of her contract, reports Fightful Select.

The former NXT Women’s Tag Team Champion had been added to WWE.com’s alumni section earlier today, raising suspicions that Fightful’s WWE sources have since confirmed. LeRae has joined husband Johnny Gargano in becoming a free agent.

When news of Gargano’s expiring WWE deal broke in September 2021 (he was out of the promotion by December), it was accompanied with a note on LeRae, whom Fightful stated was bound to WWE until some stage in 2022. Then, when Gargano left NXT, the outlet stated that Candice’s contract was up in spring, with no word on whether or not WWE would add time off due to her pregnancy. LeRae had been off her full-time television schedule for this reason since August, giving birth to her and Johnny’s first child, Quill, in February 2022.

Fightful not that there was no word of extension talks as of a week ago, though no further details had emerged between now and then.

As LeRae leaving WWE is a consequence of her contract expiring rather than a release, she will not be bound to any kind of non-compete clause.

Considered amongst the most important independent wrestlers of her generation, and later a vanguard figure in NXT, Candice had been with WWE since January 2018, when she signed her first deal with the market leaders.

As a guest on the latest episode of WWE After the Bell with Corey Graves, The American Nightmare Cody Rhodes joined the show to talk about his time spent away from WWE and his comeback at WrestleMania 38. The former Intercontinental Champion spoke about what he learned from his experience doing independent wrestling and how it made him connect with wrestling fans on a different level.

“At WWE I was spoiled, I started right in front of thousands and thousands of people,” Rhodes said. “The lights are down, the spotlight is on the ring, it’s WWE, the place is going nuts and I felt like I was taking it for granted. Go to the independents and even with the large crowd, independents at the time were booming and they’re doing good again right now, but you did get the opportunity to do these meet and greets, that’s a big part of independent wrestling. To me, the match was almost secondary, I wanted to meet every fan.

“That’s why I started wearing a suit and tie everywhere I went, it became second nature to me. I wanted to meet them and I never felt like I really crossed the isle, I never felt like I really met all these fans over the years because you see the power of television when you travel around and do that loop like I did. That’s also where I developed what I would call a bad habit and a habit that a lot of people disagree with. I will stay out there until I meet every single fan, until I take every single picture, until I sign every type of autograph. It’s because that’s what brought me to the dance.”

Continuing to talk about his return to WWE, Cody Rhodes mentioned how he’s been receiving some negativity regarding his departure from AEW, with people calling him a sell out. The American Nightmare highlighted how integral he was in building AEW and mentioned how people should just be happy knowing that WWE now has viable competition.

“It initially was unanimously positive,” Rhodes said. “I feel like that fanbase, that divide that exists amongst all the different bubbles, if there was any negativity, well I can put some of the blame on my shoulders. Again, the last shows I had done before taking this WWE return, I’m taking little fun and pod-shots talking smack which is what wrestlers do. I think sometimes the fans attach themselves to those statements and forget that we are in the realm of entertainment. I added to the tribalism myself so I can’t necessarily get mad at it when I see it.

“It was unique to see a lot of people burning like my old AEW shirts which was a trend for a few days on social so it felt like you were kind of leaving a sports team. It didn’t break my heart but I thought it was odd because the place doesn’t exist without me. There’s other people that needed to be there for it to exist for sure but I am one of the people that that place exists because of. AEW exists partially because of me. I saw a few times the term ‘sold out’ and I thought like you have this, it’s great.”

As far as what’s next for WWE’s newest acquisition, Cody Rhodes is set to take on Seth Rollins in a WrestleMania 38 rematch on May 8th at WrestleMania Backlash.

Many fans were surprised when Toni Storm abruptly parted ways with WWE late last year.

On Friday’s episode of Busted Open Radio, Storm delved into some of the factors that led to her departure from the company.

“I guess I just freaked out and went home,” Storm said flatly.

The reasons are more complicated than that and Storm did not provide many details about what was happening to her behind the scenes in WWE. She did make it clear that she was feeling overwhelmed by mounting pressure mentally and emotionally.

“I went two and a half years without going home at all and that’s after a life of like – well, about seven years of being on the road,” Storm explained. “Like, I left for England. About seven or eight years had passed and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ And then take into account the amount of negativity that you hear about WWE and then add that on top of it.

“And I’m not saying that I had a problem with WWE at all. I’m actually really grateful for the time that I got to have there. I learned so much. And you know what? It was so cool. It was real and it was cool. But in the end, it wasn’t real cool. And something just happened and I left. And it felt – I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, to be honest.

“I just kinda – you know, have you ever lost it? Have you ever just lost your mind?  That’s kinda what happened, I guess. The stress of not seeing family in years and then just so many overwhelming things all at once and uh, yeah. I’ve been happier ever since.”

Toni Storm recently signed with AEW and made her debut on the March 30 episode of Dynamite. Storm defeated The Bunny to become the first individual to qualify for the Owen Hart Foundation Women’s Tournament.

“I felt really overwhelmed in that moment,” Storm recalled. “I was excited and really happy because I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at my career and it’s not all over. When I left WWE I wasn’t banking on going anywhere else.”

Toni Storm admitted she didn’t have a plan for life after WWE at the time she left the company. However, she had been working for months to get her body into better shape.

“I’ve been going pretty hard for about a year,” Storm said. “I feel during my time in NXT and after the pandemic, I was feeling a bit slow, lacking motivation a bit, but I pushed through. But just in the last year, I’ve managed to get my diet and training down. I don’t know. I guess I’m growing up. I’m coming out of my early 20’s and I’m, like, being careful and I’m being better.”

AEW wrestler Kyle O’Reilly appeared on SiriusXM’s Busted Open Radio just hours after he faced Jungle Boy one-on-one on Dynamite in Pittsburgh, PA.

O’Reilly picked up the win against one-half of the AEW Tag Team Champions, to officially advance to the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament. Looking ahead to the future, the former Ring of Honor Champion revealed a dream match that he would like to have while working for All Elite Wrestling.

“A guy who I’ve wanted to wrestle my entire career is Bryan Danielson,” O’Reilly said. “I broke in, in ’05 and he, at that time, was having this epic run with the ROH Title. He inspired me to want to make it to ROH. He was going over to Japan and making a living there, so that inspired me to want to follow that path.

“He always worked a very similar hybrid style, as you put it, which I totally agree with that definition of it because it’s very much a hybrid style. It’s whatever you want it to be. It’s kicks, it’s strikes, submissions mixed with professional wrestling, which is a style of its own.

“Certainly with Danielson. And now he’s teamed up with Mox, I think it’d be an amazing tag match as well. There are a ton of guys in AEW I’d really love to wrestle. I think it’s a very deep roster, so there’s no shortage of dream matches from where I’m standing.”

Kyle O’Reilly also disclosed the feelings he felt when he joined AEW in December 2021, after leaving WWE just days prior due to the expiration of his contract.

“So many of the guys in AEW, it was kind of like a reunion or a homecoming,” Kyle said. “Guys I want to Japan with, or who I was in Ring of Honor, or in the independents with now run this huge platform together. I never had the luxury of making it to the main roster [in WWE], so I didn’t really get that experience.

“So coming over here, it feels like I’m having that main roster run now, because it’s a major show, it’s huge. I’m traveling to a different city every week. It feels now like, ‘oh,’ it feels like now I’m in the big leagues.”

O’Reilly stated that he will always look back fondly on his time with Vince McMahon’s company, and noted that his tenure made him a better performer.

“I look at it so fondly,” Kyle O’Reilly said. “I truly believe that I am ten times the performer now than I was before getting signed to WWE. I am way more polished, I have way more confidence, with a microphone.

“I know my role better, I know how to work a main event match, I know how to work tag matches better, I have better psychology now, I feel. I wouldn’t change anything about this journey to where I’m at now.”

Charlotte Flair was recently interviewed by Ariel Helwani for BT Sport and talked about her desire to start a family one day. Right now, she is engaged to Andrade El Idolo, and revealed that she does want to have children at some point.

“No, I want babies. I am such a planner, I know you can’t all the time,” she said. “But seeing Ronda and Becky both with a family on the road it’s very, not inspiring, but like, you can have it all as a woman in this industry and they’re showing everyone that. I guess it’s like, when is the right time to take a break, when is the right time to leave? But I still want to do this, I’ve been on top since 2015. Good, bad, or indifferent storylines, but I definitely want all of that.”

Charlotte Flair also revealed that they have set a date for their wedding, which will take place this summer. However, Andrade doesn’t want her to have hair like she would when in gimmick.

“We have a date. It’s this summer in Mexico, I have my dress,” she stated. “I think Manny (Andrade) would be a little angry if I walked down the aisle with my title. He was like, ‘Mami, for the wedding, I do not want your hair to look like Charlotte.’ I was like, ‘what does that mean?’ Just less makeup, he likes the fresh face.”

Of course, Andrade is currently part of the AEW roster, and Ric Flair is no longer with the company either. Reflecting on that is something that Charlotte Flair got emotional about, as her best friends are gone. She pointed out that both of them would have gone to bat for her.

“A little difficult at first, because I was like, ‘my two best friends are gone.’ But now I am just used to it,” she emotionally said. “It sucked because they’re my people, they would do anything for me, you know, go to bat. But Manny had to make career decisions, and seeing him do so well is so important. My dad comes and goes, that wasn’t as hard.

“It’s just hard to see the couples in the back get to have that time together. And I would do anything to have that time with Manny because that’s how we met, was on the road. But him being happy, to me, is what’s important, and he knows how much this means to me. It’s just making the schedules work, and we will do anything to make it work. I just don’t have that ride or die from town to town.”

Tony Khan has reiterated that there is no ill will between himself and Cody Rhodes following the latter’s AEW departure and subsequent WWE return.

During his latest appearance on Barstool Sports’ Rasslin’ show, the AEW founder and President stated that he and his former Executive Vice President remain friends, saying, once again, that Rhodes’s All Elite split was down to the two sides being unable to agree on new contract terms (h/t Figure Four Online/The Wrestling Observer):

“Yeah, I think it’s just one of those things where, you know, we couldn’t reach an agreement on going forward. I think he has found a situation that’s good for him, and we’re in a great position right now. There’s no ill will either way. We’re still friends, and I wish him the best. I think he wished us the best publicly and privately. So it’s all good.”

Though Rhodes had technically been a free agent since his last AEW contract in December 2021, he stayed on company television as TNT Champion, eventually dropping the belt to Sammy Guevara in an acclaimed ladder match. In February, it was confirmed that Cody and wife Brandi had left AEW outright.

Rhodes’ match against Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 38 (2 April) was his first for WWE since he asked for (and was granted) his release in 2016. Having re-signed on favourable terms, Cody vowed to win a world championship in his father Dusty’s memory on this week’s episode of Raw.

Ronda Rousey may be a member of the UFC Hall of Fame, but UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Pena isn’t impressed by the legacy “Rowdy” left behind in MMA.

Fresh off spending a weekend in Dallas for WrestleMania, where she watched Rousey fall short in a pro wrestling match against WWE star Charlotte Flair, Pena took aim at the former UFC titleholder on The MMA Hour and issued an open challenge for Rousey to try to pen a better final chapter in MMA than the 0-2 slump that ended her UFC career in 2016.

“Ronda is so old news, right?” Pena said on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour. “I think that what’s incredible about her is that she opened up the door and was destroying people in 10 seconds, and became a star because she was demolishing people in the first round, and that’s great — but she got knocked out twice and never came back. So how legit is she?

“She had to go to pro wrestling. And I get that and I think that that’s great. But as a fighter and somebody who is competitive, I know that — deep down — it probably truly bothers her, the fact that she went away off of two knockout losses and never came back to make her name good. If it really truly does bother her and if it gets under her skin at the end of the day to know that, you know, her legacy is kind of ruined by the fact that she never came back and never got back on the horse, then I would like to invite her to please come back — and if she would like to come back, I would welcome her with open arms.”

Rousey memorably left the MMA world in 2016 following back-to-back knockout losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, the latter of which lasted just 48 seconds. Rousey had risen to be one of the biggest stars in combat sports prior to those career-ending setbacks, having kicked off her MMA run with a 12-0 record that included 11 first-round stoppages and multiple headlining spots on major UFC pay-per-views. Rousey’s breakout as Strikeforce champion in 2012 is also what convinced UFC president Dana White to ultimately open the doors for women’s divisions in the UFC, and her impact in that regard cannot be overstated.

Still, Rousey’s exit from MMA was ignominious, to say the least, and Pena believes the reality of that fact must continue to eat away at the former UFC champion.

“That’s what I’m saying, she’s kind of a joke in the MMA world now, because she’s a — what is the word? — sellout,” Pena said of Rousey. “Like, a little bit of a sellout there. I mean, I guess I understand, right? It’s like, pro wrestling is fake, you get paid millions of dollars, I get it. But for me, for real shit, for like the ‘you’re the real, real deal,’ I would say that that’s in the UFC. And if she ever wants any of that real smoke, I’m ready.”

The likelihood of Rousey ever returning to MMA is slim. She’s currently busy with a full-time schedule in the WWE, and Pena, likewise, is readying to put her UFC title on line this summer in a rematch against Nunes. Pena and Nunes are also dueling coaches on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter 30, which is set to begin airing in May.

So even if Rousey never takes Pena up on her offer, the bantamweight champ still considers herself a fan of the woman who helped put female athletes on the map in the UFC.

“I thought she had a great [WrestleMania] match,” Pena said. “I thought she was very good, yes. And this is just from girl to girl as a fan — I’m a fan and I think that she’s great and I’m happy for her, and I think that it’s awesome what she’s doing in the WWE — but as a fan, she either needs to be more comfortable in her own skin or needs to figure out a different attire, because every move that she does, there becomes a wardrobe fix. You know what I mean?

“Wear something that you’re comfortable with. Wear something that you love and that you’re not going to have to constantly be yanking at your clothes the entire match. You didn’t see Charlotte Flair one time touch anything that she was wearing, it was just all about the match. But Ronda’s constantly pulling. So wear something that you’re comfortable in so that you don’t have to do that, because it just takes away a little bit.”

Johnny Gargano has spoken at length on the reasons behind his late-2021 WWE departure for the first time, doing so as Renee Paquette’s guest on The Sessions.

The 34-year-old, who left the market leaders following his contract’s expiration in December, said that he had effectively done everything he wanted to do in NXT, adding that turning WWE’s last contract offer down was “scary” while he and wife Candice LeRae were expecting their first child (h/t Figure Four Online/Wrestling Observer):

“I felt like I was in a good place. I had felt this way for a while to where I felt like I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in NXT. It is kind of a scary thing to have a new baby on the way and decide I’m going to turn down this new contract that’s a good contract, a safe contract that you’re going to get money every single week coming in, to kind of go off and do your own thing.”

Gargano and LeRae welcomed daughter Quill into the world on 17 February 2022. Candice is still contracted to WWE, though her contract is believed to expire sometime this spring.

Johnny has previously cited Quill as one of the reasons behind him taking time away from professional wrestling, stating the understandable want to be a family man following his first child’s birth.

Continuing, Gargano said that the treatment he received on the way out of NXT was so good that those around him figured he had re-signed:

“I was very lucky to be given that chance. It’s so funny because so many people thought that I had re-signed, obviously, because they were like “no one gets this treatment. I went and I sat down with one of the writers but all the words that came out were my own. I wrote my own thing. I wanted to thank people, I wanted to do things like that. I feel like I just have such a good relationship, a good rapport with everyone in NXT and everyone in WWE, in general.”

But despite all this, the former NXT Champion decided he was going to leave the black and gold brand a year in advance:-

“I kind of made my mind up a year in advance that this would be my last. I wasn’t leaving to go to any particular place. I kind of just felt like I needed to go because I felt like if you watch a TV show or if you watch anything in general, if you see the same character – obviously, I changed character, I turned heel, I did funny stuff, I did things like that here and there – but if you see the same person on TV for five years, six years, it gets stale. I believe that being off TV and being away makes people miss you and I think people need to have a chance to miss you.”

Though not bound to any kind of non-compete clause in the wake of his WWE departure, Gargano is yet to re-emerge in professional wrestling.