The Undertaker and WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle have been pulled from the Starrcast II convention that takes place during AEW's Double Or Nothing weekend in Las Vegas in late May, according to Sports Illustrated.
SI reports that the top stars were pulled from the convention due to the "burgeoning war between All Elite Wrestling and WWE." While Starrcast is not directly affiliated with AEW or any other promotion, there is some connection there and the convention will feature several AEW stars.
Taker was officially booked for the event and a deposit had been paid before he was announced back on February 14. As we've noted, WWE officials were not happy with Taker taking the booking.
"The announcement went wide and viral," said Starrcast founder Conrad Thompson. "I was told it had gotten WWE's attention and that Vince McMahon texted The Undertaker about the appearance. 'Taker's representation, which is a company called Get Engaged, called to tell me, 'WWE says he can't do it.'"
Get Engaged ended up returning Taker's deposit to Thompson. Thompson said he had a friend talk with Vince McMahon, and he was assured that the heat was not on him or Starrcast.
"I had a friend discuss the situation with Vince McMahon, and I was assured the 'heat' wasn't on me or my event but rather that The Undertaker shouldn't be doing personal appearances outside of WWE," Thompson told SI. "I was assured that damages would be covered, a suitable replacement offered, or some sort of compromise to make everyone happy."
Thompson offered a compromise to WWE with proceeds going to Connor's Cure, but he was informed that Vince would not allow any main roster replacements. Conrad then wanted to bring in WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels and Michaels was set to be booked to appear, but then he backed out before inking the deal due to the close proximity of Starrcast and AEW.
"I suggested Vince McMahon, Hunter, or Stephanie McMahon," Thompson said. "And I said I would donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Conor's Cure and match the donation personally, which would turn a negative into a positive for everyone involved."
Thompson said the plan internally was to have Michaels replace Taker, then have Michaels and WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall do commentary and a photo-op for the 24th anniversary of their WrestleMania 10 Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Title. Conrad has not heard back on an official word about booking Michaels.
"I asked to keep Kurt Angle and announce Shawn Michaels as the replacement for The Undertaker," said Thompson. "I offered to book everyone 'through the office.'. I wanted to play by the rules but I felt like I already had, since each of these guys were actively marketing themselves for outside appearances via booking agents or their own social media. I have checked in daily for a week now and nothing is changing."
Taker and Angle have both signed new WWE contracts and the company is exercising its right to withhold talents from any events that are deemed not in the best interests of WWE, according to SI.
"I had an agreement in place with the talent," said Thompson. "Without exception, I dealt directly with the talent or their management, they set their terms, and I complied. First class travel accommodations were made and marketing was done. Now, thanks to the influence of WWE, the performers are missing out on substantial income and the fans are being punished."
As we've noted, the working relationship between WWE and Taker is an interesting situation these days as things changed greatly when he was first announced for Starrcast. Vince was upset then but WWE reportedly made Taker an offer he couldn't refuse, financially, once things calmed down between the two sides. It was believed that Taker would appear on the dates he had already booked, but part of that new contract had an agreement that Taker could no longer work the outside dates. It was reported just last week that Taker had no legal way to get out of the Starrcast deal, but it looks like something has changed within the last week or so. A similar situation happened with Taker's upcoming UK appearances for Inside The Ropes. He was pulled from the Q&A portion of the tour, replaced with WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, but will still be meeting fans for autographs and photos. Taker pushed hard to keep the UK tour dates as totally backing out would have really hurt the promoters.
Taker is expected to return to the ring for WWE at their next event in Saudi Arabia, rumored for Friday, June 7. There is speculation on that match being against Elias. Angle just finished up with WWE at WrestleMania 35 earlier this month, losing his Farewell Match to Baron Corbin.