POST NEWS UPDATE: Cezar Bononi discusses WWE NXT contract, AEW appearances

Cezar Bononi opens up about NXT, AEW and more. Sasha Banks discusses The Mandalorian, Stephanie McMahon on WWE's digital viewership numbers.

If any of the quotes from the following podcasts or video interviews are used, please credit those sources and provide an H/T and link back to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.

** Dan Matha welcomed former WWE talent Cezar Bononi onto his ‘Spark In The Dark’ podcast. Cezar was released from WWE back in April as a part of the company’s mass furloughs/releases. Cezar dove into a plethora of topics during the two-hour interview including WWE not wanting to help him with the process of obtaining a Green Card. Cezar got fired from the WWE so he had to find another route to stay in America.

“Of course I had talked to WWE before about applying for a Green Card. They never wanted to help me out with that. They said my case wasn’t strong enough, that it was better for me to stay on [a] P1 visa, which my wife cannot work any place. I can only work [for] WWE. If they fire me, I gotta go back [to Brazil] so there was a little bit of interest [for] them having me on that instead of a Green Card. So I called this attorney, he said this, ‘So, there’s two options. You got an EB2 visa which is an exception of abilities which applies to you. You got exceptional abilities on sports and arts, or we can just apply for a student visa then you gotta go to study English and you just can stay here and work part-time.’ Of course I don’t want that. So I go, ‘Okay, let’s go for this EB2.’ ‘There’s one problem. This EB2 is closed, nobody can apply for it and we don’t know when it’s gonna open,’ and I was [like], ‘Okay, I knocked on the [proverbial] door.’ I knocked on the door, right? But still, there’s this student visa stuff. So, I’m there, waiting two, three more days. Then I wake up one day, pick up my phone. First email, email from the attorney: ‘I don’t know what happened, but EB2 is open. You can apply for it right now.’ Like that. We had no idea. Then my wife wakes up and I, ‘Hey baby, you want some good news? EB2’s open’ and she [said], ‘Oh, you got news? I got news too’ and she showed me the test that she’s pregnant and we’d been trying for four years.”

Cezar moved from Brazil to Florida in 2015 to be a part of the WWE. He talked about the money he was making via his developmental contract and how difficult it was for him and his wife to adjust to life in America with the amount of money that he was bringing in.

“It was hard to adapt. It was really hard adapting. It’s just me and my wife and it’s nobody close. Everybody told us, ‘Don’t get close to Brazilians [in Florida] because Brazilians are gonna scam you,’ and we really believed that, even though we did not need to work with Brazilians so there’s no way we could get scammed by other Brazilians. We believed that so — that was a mistake that I did, because we were feeling alone. We did not have money to do anything. It took me two and a half years to go to [an] amusement park, living in Orlando, because money was so short that I could not do anything like that. It took them [WWE] a long time for them to help me out a little bit. Like, ‘Hey, here’s a raise.’ It took me almost two years. So, I was getting $600 for like six months [per week] then, when I finally got paid off, it felt like a raise because I was getting $750. Oh cool, I can buy a TV right now, but I cannot get cable and that’s how it was. It was hard in the beginning but that also helped me build my character even more.”

Cezar further discussed the struggles he and his wife endured. He stated that there were times when money was so tight that he couldn’t take her out for ice cream if she wanted it. Ultimately, he feels that those times made their relationship stronger.

“But that helped us out so much and now, me and my [wife] have been married for seven years and I just look at her and she knows what it is. She looks at me, I know what it is. That really helped us learn about each other and love each other even more.

I was never disrespectful to her, untruthful and she did the same. It was just difficult aspects of life. She said, ‘I wanna have an ice cream’ and I can not take her out to have an ice cream. There were weeks that I would have to pick if I would buy soap or shampoo. I bought shampoo, so then we could wash our head and our body, and of course I would look at her and I knew that she didn’t like it and she was not disappointed or mad, she was sad. That’s even worse.”

Dating back to September, Bononi has worked four matches for All Elite Wrestling on their ‘Dark’ program. During the pandemic, Bononi trained at the ‘Flatbacks’ school which is ran by Shawn Spears and Tyler Breeze. Bononi is unemployed and did not have a way to pay for training but Spears and Breeze allowed him to train anyway and Bononi stated that he still owes both of them.

“So, as you asked me as well, I never stopped [wrestling]. Of course I never stopped. Even before I got my papers, I went back to training. As soon as [the] Flatbacks school which is Shawn Spears, Tye Dillinger and Tyler Breeze’s school got open again after the pandemic, I hit them up. ‘Hey man, I wanna train.’ They don’t know me and I said, ‘I know you don’t know me. I wanna train, I wanna know how it works,’ and they said, ‘Man, this may be too novice to you because we’re getting people that never got experience’ and I told him, ‘I don’t care. I want to get ring time, I need to know people, I need to know you guys, I need you guys to know me. I need connections because I wanna work and I don’t know anybody outside of WWE. This is what I want’ and they told me their price and I told them, ‘I have no idea how to pay that because I’m unemployed. What can we do?’ And they [said], ‘You do whatever you want, however you want’ and I still owe them money. But, I’ve been working there. They have like an eight-week course. I did the first eight-week course, it was great. I learned so many things that I never learned at the WWE. So many things. Like I never learned how to do a false finish. Over there in eight weeks, I was doing matches with three, four false finishes. I learned so many things, I [met] so many people. I met Billy Gunn and his sons over there because one of his sons is learning. The other one is pretty good as well so we train together. Billy Gunn’s been like a mentor to me as well because he’s got [similar] size, lot of experience, Hall Of Famer.”

It was Shawn Spears who helped Cezar get the AEW Dark spots. He recounted what it was like backstage at Daily’s Place and feeling like he was in a completely different environment from what he experienced at WWE.

“Whenever I got my papers, first thing, just hit up Tye Dillinger, Ronnie and he got me in contact with the guys from AEW, they invited me over, I went there. They treated me so good, different environment that I had no idea how to behave. I was like [how] I was in the WWE. Looking, not much looking people in the eyes, I had no idea what to do until one point, one of the refs just came to me and said, ‘Look, you’re not at the other place anymore. Just relax, talk to people, everybody’s cool’ and it’s true. Everybody’s cool, everybody [will] talk to you. Tony Khan called me by my name from far away, ‘Hey Cezar! How are you?’ And I was… like such a different environment.”

** WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon took part in Forbes’ CMO Summit Virtual Series. She dove into WWE’s ratings since the pandemic started and talked about the decline up until their move to Amway Center where they’re presenting the ThunderDome setup. Stephanie mentioned that WWE was hoping to return to arenas with fans by the Fall.

“And without them [the fans], it’s just not the same. Our ratings fell off. We tried bringing in our developmental talent to see if that would help in terms of some type of audience but it just wasn’t enough, and ultimately we had hoped to be back in arenas in the Fall but when we realized that wasn’t gonna happen, we doubled-down and invested with a new partner called The Famous Group and we now have nearly one thousand virtual fans.”

McMahon detailed some of the digital viewership numbers that WWE has produced over the months. She stated that there has been a huge increase in that department.

“We’re very hopeful that there will be a return to live events of course and we will continue to produce our content but additionally, what we’ve seen is a huge increase in digital viewership. Similar to what Adam [Grossman] and Kimberly [Paige] are both saying, we had an increase of 70 percent viewership across YouTube, 55 percent for WWE Network which is our direct-to-consumer platform. We saw an increase in subscribers for that platform and we also pivoted our posting strategy on digital. We started posting longer form content on digital and social which in the past we hadn’t, and more historical content and we saw a huge rise in viewership there. People just really having the time. I think also to dig deep and go deep, and we’re definitely going to continue in that vein.”

** The Young Bucks were guests on Wrestling Observer Radio and during the conversation, both Matt and Nick Jackson talked about the signing of Top Flight (Darius & Dante Martin) and how Top Flight reacted the news of the contract offer.

Nick Jackson: “Just trying to keep the boys happy is something that you will find difficult being in a office position that we’re in and just little things like that, but it’s so fulfilling. I just said this the other day, there’s nothing better than making someone’s life and seeing it happen right in front of you. Like for example, last week when we told Top Flight that, ‘Hey, you guys could go quit your day jobs. You’re signing here full-time’ and seeing their eyes light up, those are the moments that make me feel like, ‘Oh, this is so worth it.’ I don’t care how hard this is because seeing things like that, it’s so fulfilling. It’s almost even better than winning the championships, you know what I mean?”

Matt Jackson: “Darius tells us, the older brother, I think it was him, because we were like, ‘Look, we’re offering you a deal’ and I don’t think they understood what exactly we were saying. ‘This means that you’re going to make a lot of money and you’re going to have a guaranteed salary and you’re going to have a check every two weeks so,’ and Darius goes, ‘I work at a grocery store.’ I go, ‘Not anymore you don’t buddy,’ and Dante said, the younger brother, he’s 19. He’s working at a gym and the gym, it’s been really tough obviously because of [the] COVID thing and we told him the same. We told him, ‘Well tell them that you no longer need to work there man.’ I said, ‘You guys are set now’ and all it took was them having the courage to just reach out and send me a direct message on Instagram.”

Nick Jackson went on to speak about how the COVID-19 pandemic has made AEW change up plans that they had and alter plans as they formulate storylines during this period of wrestling. He initially wanted to wait until fans were back in arenas to do the match against FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) but Tony Khan insisted that they not drag it out.

“You don’t want to save everything. Especially in this pandemic-era. We were trying to save things. For instance, the FTR match. We were trying to milk that until we got fans back in the building but at one point, we were like, we don’t know when the world’s gonna get back together, so we can’t hold this anymore and Tony [Khan] actually said, ‘You know what? We’re doing it. We have to do it.’ So we booked it for Full Gear. So there’s points where you just have to go balls out but there’s sometimes you have to have patience if that makes any sense.”

** WWE’s Dana Brooke has signed with the ‘First Round Management’ agency.

** PWInsider noted that Brian Kendrick has been working as a producer for NXT. Also, the site noted that Shane “Hurricane” Helms worked backstage as a producer for the 11/23 RAW. Helms was furloughed by the company back in April. He recently appeared on AEW programming as a part of Matt Hardy and Sammy Guevara’s ‘Elite Deletion’ match at Full Gear. He was also a guest on the ROHStrong podcast.

** Yuke’s Senior Vice President and Producer Hiromi Furuta spoke to ‘Video Game Chronicles’ via email and discussed the creation of AEW’s console video game. She mentioned that she does not see this as a rivalry with WWE, as Yuke’s is no longer creating WWE video games but just views it as creating something fresh with AEW.

“My goal is simply to create high-quality pro-wrestling games that are loved by the community. I do not think of it as being a rivalry with WWE, but rather as us creating a new product with AEW. I still love the WWE and respect its talent.”

** TSN conducted an interview with AEW’s Ricky Starks. Starks reflected on his time with the National Wrestling Alliance, how he was planning to depart from the promotion regardless of the pandemic and what led to him making that final decision.

“I didn’t plan to stay there for a long time. I gave myself a six-month or eight-month plan to really stay and then use that as a jumping-off point for me to get things going. I wasn’t getting paid a lot in NWA, so I was barely making it by off the salary that I was on. On top of that, once the pandemic hit and they weren’t really trying to increase my pay, they were going with a new TV show called Carnyland that I didn’t necessarily agree with. That was really just the writing on the wall for me to step away from it and try something else. It was a bit scary to try something else, especially because of the fact that we just started in the pandemic, so the timing [wasn’t great.]”

** Announced for the 11/25 AEW Dynamite is Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley’s contract signing for their world title match on 12/2. Last week, Moxley was ambushed before the original contract signing. Also, FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) are returning to Dynamite after their loss at Full Gear to The Young Bucks.

** Comicbook.com ran their interview with Sasha Banks (Mercedes Varnardo). Banks talked about the schedule she took on while filming for The Mandalorian. She detailed the 5 AM flights and having to be secretive about it all.

“To be honest with you, it honestly never set in. Every time I went to set, because I went straight from WWE from live national television, I would have to wake up at 5:00 in the morning, catch a flight and go straight to the trailer. And they’re like, ‘Why do you have glitter all over your face?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m sorry. I’ve been Sasha Banks.’ I would walk on set and [I’d] just be like, ‘Oh my God, I can not believe that I’m here,’ because the set was just so, so, so incredible. I literally felt that I was in a whole different galaxy, in a whole different world. I have no idea how they did that. Whoever made that set, wow! Wow, wow, wow! It’s so breathtaking. And the whole time I was there, honestly, it never set in because I went from that straight back to WWE and I couldn’t tell anybody. So I just kind of always had to live in the moment and be present in everything that I was doing.

So I was just like, all right, eventually, when I’m able to talk about it, I think that’s when it will probably set in that I’m part of something really, really cool and special.”

As far as the physical scenes go, she was able to do some of the stunts but not all because she was actively performing for WWE.

“Yeah. I got to blend some of my wrestling moves in but we had a great stunt team, I didn’t want to do too much of the work because I was still trying to get at the WWE championship every single week. So I got to do some of my stuff but not all of it, I have to give that to our stunt team. But I wanted to make sure that I brought a lot [of] Sasha Banks into my role so right away I was like, ‘You have to do dropkicks and back elbows.’ From my stance, that was me.”

** The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Mercedes Varnado.

** Ken Shamrock was a guest on the ‘Scheduled for Two Falls’ podcast and discussed some of the highlights from his MMA and pro wrestling careers. Shamrock recalled WWE wanting to do an incest storyline with Alicia Webb, who was known on-screen as “Ryan Shamrock”. Ken mentioned that Ryan is the name of his real-life son so having Alicia’s on-screen name be “Ryan” was off-putting to him.

“Here is this beautiful young lady who’s interested in me and just felt comfortable and next thing you know, we’re in a relationship and she’s my sister supposedly in this wrestling thing, and that was the actual next storyline that they wanted me to do was they wanted me to have this incest with my sister. That’s why I was running around trying to save her and all these other things and I was like, ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man, wants to have sex with his own sister?’ And by the way, my son’s name is Ryan. My legitimate son’s name is Ryan and they made her Ryan and I’m like, people are gonna go, ‘Isn’t that his kid?’ Way too close to home, and I was like, ‘No. I’m not doing that.’”

** Tony Deppen was announced for Ring of Honor’s Final Battle pay-per-view and he will compete on the show. In Sports Illustrated’s ‘This Week in Wrestling’ column, Deppen was interviewed and talked about what it means to him to be a part of ROH’s biggest show of their calendar year.

“The opportunity to work Final Battle means a lot to me. I’m a big independent wrestling fan and I’ve been watching independent wrestling for way too long. I have wrestled so many high-caliber tournaments and shows. I did CZW, Japan, PWG, and Ring of Honor is the last one for me, so this makes the independent wrestling fan in me very happy. And to be able to work on a Final Battle is a cherry on top.”

Tony stated that he would like to get signed. He and his wife welcomed their first child into the world recently and while he says he’s not going to jump at the first contract thrown at him, he’s going to do what is best for his family.

“Ideally, I would like to get signed. I’m not saying I’ll take the first offer, because there is a lot more that goes into it. I want to sign a contract that helps me make a living for my family. So I’ll keep grinding, either until my wheels fall off or somebody throws me some money.”

** Sasha Banks (Mercedes Varnado) chatted with ‘Inverse’ about her role in The Mandalorian.

** Forbes has a feature up about WWE’s chief product and technology officer, Rajan Mehta and how WWE has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic as far as their on-screen product goes.

** Chris Van Vliet chatted with Ricky Starks for an exclusive interview. Ricky shared that on the day that his TNT Championship match against Cody aired, he received a call from WWE during-which they expressed interest in bringing Starks in after not bringing him on board in the past.

“So I don’t know why that happened and I thought every time I went to WWE, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s gonna be it. This is how I get in’ and it wasn’t and that’s fine and I’m okay with that, because the funny thing is, the day that I wrestled Cody, I got a phone call from WWE saying, ‘Hey, we’ve been watching you and we wanted to bring you in.’ I said, ‘Oh, really? Okay, mhm, interesting. Of all days’ and so I entertained that conversation because I was curious. So I think I already knew what decision I was gonna make and I had a very dear, great friend tell me once, ‘You should look at the people who want to invest in you and not know anything about you as opposed to people who only wanted you when they saw someone else having interest.’ So that put things in perspective and I don’t hold any ill will towards WWE. But, I really think they dropped the ball majorly on that and I’ll never know why and I guess I don’t care now but…”

Starks was asked had the COVID-19 pandemic not happened, would be still be with the NWA and he feels that he would be but he always planned to move on.

“Uh, probably, probably. I think so. But that’s a hard one because I had a year plan already scoped out for myself and in that year plan, it wasn’t in the writing for me to be there for as long as I could’ve been right now. In my head, I was gonna be there for maybe like eight months, get what I could out of it and then assess my career from there and then move on. But obviously that got shortened out a bit just through the pandemic and things like that and now we’re here.”

** Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson went live on Instagram with FOX NFL analyst Jay Glazer.

** AEW President Tony Khan spoke with CBR.com.

** The latest edition of ‘Ace’s HIGH’ is up on NJPW1972.com and during this portion of the interview series, Hiroshi Tanahashi discussed the early stages of Shinsuke Nakamura’s run in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

** Mike Bennett sat down with Matt Taven to talk about his return to Ring of Honor.

 

** WWE announced Karen Mullane as their new Controller & Chief Accounting Officer.

** Sammy Guevara was a guest on ‘Shot of Brandi’ on the official AEW YouTube channel.

 

** Trish Stratus is starring in a Christmas movie titled ‘Christmas in the Rockies’.

** Below is the newest episode of WWE The Bump:

 

** Nikki and Brie Bella guest appeared on the Tamron Hall Show and further spoke about their plans for a return to the ring.

** NJPW Best of the Super Juniors Results (11/25/20) Niigata, Japan
– Satoshi Kojima & Tomoaki Honman def. Yuji Nagata & Gabriel Kidd
Best of the Super Juniors Tournament Match: Hiromu Takahashi (4-1) def. Yuya Uemura (0-5)
Best of the Super Juniors Tournament Match: Master Wato (4-1) def. DOUKI (0-5)
Best of the Super Juniors Tournament Match: BUSHI (3-2) def. Ryusuke Taguchi (2-3)
Best of the Super Juniors Tournament Match: Taiji Ishimori (4-1) def. Robbie Eagles (2-3)
Best of the Super Juniors Tournament Match: El Desperado (3-2) def. SHO (3-2)

** Stephanie Chase conducted an interview with Ken Shamrock.

** IMPACT Wrestling announced the following matches for the 12/1 episode of their weekly show: Rohit Raju vs. Crazzy Steve, Chris Bey vs. Willie Mack and the duo of Larry D and Acey Romero taking on Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin). The Knockouts Tag Title tournament is continuing as well as Killer Kelly and Renee Michelle are facing Jazz and Jordynne Grace.

** Dylan Postl (Hornswoggle) is joining AdFreeShows and will have a weekly show on Saturdays.

** NXT North American Champion Leon Ruff was interviewed by Stephanie Chase.

** Scheduled for the 12/1 edition of United Wrestling Network’s ‘Prime Time Live’ show is a singles match between Heather Monroe and Cece Chanel. Davey Boy Smith Jr. is taking on Slice Boogie along with Levi Shapiro defending the UWN Television Championship against Anthony Idol.

** ‘Metro’ ran their interview with Ken Shamrock. The outlet also spoke with Leon Ruff.

** The UpUpDownDown crew recorded another UNO session.

** Sasha Banks (Mercedes Varnado) talked to TV Guide about The Mandalorian.

** Darren Paltrowitz has an interview with Ken Shamrock.

If any of the quotes from the following podcasts or video interviews are used, please credit those sources and provide an H/T and link back to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.

About Andrew Thompson 1422 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.