WWE: Randy Orton on Injury Return, AJ Styles Return Plans Update, TKO’s Mark Shapiro on Expanding WWE & UFC Pairing

Randy Orton Comments on His Return to Wrestling from Back Injury

As noted before, Randy Orton made his official return from injury at this past November’s Survivor Series WarGames 2023 event in Rosemont, Illinois.

A recent episode of the Impaulsive podcast featured Orton as the guest. One of the topics discussed included Orton’s thoughts about his recent return to WWE from his back injury.

“I’m like the only guy that’s never left and come back, other than John Cena. I’m going to be here for the rest…this is me. I’m not moving on to Hollywood. I love what I do. I just had 18 months off recovering from spinal fusion. I was kind of faced with the fact that I might not be able to do this again. It’s almost like I got a second lease on my career here. I’m not going to take a day for granted. Not a second in that ring for granted. Even now, more so than the matches you would have seen a year ago when you first started or a couple years ago, I’m feeling even more in my element now.”

Orton also gave his thoughts about his lengthy road to recovery from his injury and being unsure if he would be able to resume his wrestling career.

“I changed a lot of stuff off these last 18 months. I really needed the time. I had a lot of ailments. I couldn’t stand for more than a couple minutes without having pain shoot down my legs. When I would sit, I had a disc slipping every time I would bend. On a plane, sitting here, my feet would go numb and I had pain shooting down my legs. It really sucked. It was really hard. That last year, before I had to leave because of the back, I was in a tag team with former WWE superstar Matt Riddle. I have to give him props because that year we tagged together, I was not able to be in the ring unless i was in there with someone like him. He was able to take the brunt of the physicality. He tagged me in, I come in, do my shit. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have made it that far. I had some great doctors, they fixed me up right. They didn’t cut through any muscle, which would enable me to get back in the ring. Once you start cutting muscle, that’s never going to heal back. You’re done. I’m blessed, all the way around.”

Transcript h/t: Fightful.com

AJ Styles “Injury” Return Plans Update

AJ Styles has been noticeably absent from WWE programming since the September 22nd SmackDown show due to a storyline injury suffered at the hands of The Bloodline. Styles was originally planned to return at the November 10th SmackDown show, which did not happen in the end.

Dave Meltzer reported in a recent episode of the Wrestling Observer Radio that his sources stated that WWE officials currently have plans for Styles to make his return at this Friday’s SmackDown show in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The reason why Styles did not make an appearance at last month’s SmackDown show is currently not known.

TKO President Mark Shapiro Comments on Status of New RAW TV Deal Talks & Expanding WWE and UFC’s Pairing Together

A recent UBS Global Media And Communication Conference event featured TKO Group President Mark Shapiro as one of the guests.

One of the topics discussed included Shapiro’s thoughts about the current status of TKO and WWE’s negotiations for a new media rights deal for WWE’s RAW brand.

“We’re in conversations on Raw. Our deal with USA is not up until October of next year. We have time. We have time to be flexible, we have time to be creative. We have time to develop different solution models depending on what the player may be. We could go before the NBA if the price is right or after the NBA is somebody is left at the alter. Our job is to maximize the rights value of Raw.”

Shapiro also gave his thoughts about the potential of TKO merging WWE’s WWE Network service with UFC’s UFC Fight Pass service in the future.

“WWE Network, the deal with NBC is up in March 2026. We could take it to market all by itself or we could package it with UFC since it’s similar content.”

In an interesting note, PWInsider’s Mike Johnson reported that WWE recently sent out a new fan survey gauging fan interest in the idea of WWE holding events on the same weekend as UFC events and if fans would be interested in attending both shows. Johnson reported that this new survey asked fans how interested they are in today’s WWE product, how often they attended WWE live events, their level of awareness of TKO Group now owning both WWE and UFC, and their interest in attending WWE and UFC events on the same weekend.

Transcript h/t: Fightful.com