Last week, WWE - arguably the world's biggest and most-known professional wrestling company – parted ways with 10 of its wrestlers, ending their working relationships with a number of high-profile men and women.
These ‘releases’ are not uncommon in WWE, and wrestlers are often let go in batches as the company looks to shore up its finances.
The period following WrestleMania (the company’s biggest show of the year, akin to a Super Bowl of wrestling which takes place in early April) is often an uncertain one for talents, with the company hitting reset and looking for a fresh start, but now some of the rumoured reasons behind a number of the releases are being revealed.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
Who has been released?
Perhaps the biggest name to be released was Samoa Joe.
A veteran of the sport who had been wrestling since 1999, Joe was signed to WWE in 2015, and won numerous championships during his career there, including the WWE United States Championship, which he held twice.
For the past year or so, persistent injuries had kept Joe out of the ring, but he was nonetheless a prominent figure on WWE television, serving as a commentator on Monday Night Raw, WWE’s flagship TV show.
Also struck from the payroll were Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, an Australian tag-team duo known as The IIconics, who have been competing for WWE since 2015, and at one time held the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship.
Women’s wrestling veteran Mickie James was also let go from the roster; James first worked for the company between 2003 and 2010, and returned to WWE in 2016 for a second run. She is a five-time WWE Women's Champion.
Mexican American luchador Kalisto also has championship pedigree, having won both the WWE Cruiserweight Championship and WWE United States Championship during his eight-year stint with the company.
Bo Dallas was a fan favourite during his time with WWE’s development branch NXT, but failed to find momentum on the company’s ‘main’ roster, and in 2016, was arrested for public intoxication in Texas.
It was revealed in February that Dallas has started a real estate family business with a fellow professional wrestler to prepare for life after professional wrestling.
Wesley Blake signed to WWE in 2013, but never really took off as a star on the company's main television shows, and the same can be said of Tucker, who signed with the promotion in 2013 immediately after graduating from college.
Chelsea Green may not be familiar to many WWE fans, as she had only made fleeting appearances on the company’s main television shows, but the promotion obviously saw promise with the 30-year-old, as she was offered a three year contract extension in November 2020. That has now been cut short.
Finally, Mojo Rawley – a former professional NFL player turned wrestler – was also released, having served with the company since 2012.
Why are the releases controversial?
While many of WWE’s released talents will be compensated, and are young enough to yet find fame in other wrestling companies, it’s always sad to hear of somebody losing their job, especially during a pandemic.
The news also comes after it was revealed 2020 was WWE’s most profitable year to date, despite the many changes to its programming necessitated by the Covid-19 crisis.
The company has been broadcasting shows from its ‘Thunderdome’ venue, a repurposed sports arena where live crowds are replaced with banks of video screens, on which fans can tune in remotely.
With the company's usual touring schedule on hold, no need to accommodate fans, and lockdown boredom driving new subscribers to its WWE Network streaming platform, WWE has been able to save and turn profits unlike those ever seen previously.
WWE was first founded 68 years ago in 1958.
Why were they released?
The confirmed reasons behind the releases have not been made public, but that hasn’t stopped fans and industry insiders from speculating on the motives behind letting some talents go.
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter – a much trusted source of backstage rumour and gossip in the wrestling world – at least two of the names were released having complained about their ‘booking’ (ie their storylines – or lack of) on television in recent weeks.
And wrestling pundit Vince Russo believes that the release of Chelsea Green could be attributed to her marriage to Matt Cardona, a former WWE wrestler who last year turned down his former employer’s request to shoot a segment at his pool.
Could Samoa Joe go to AEW?
The news of Samoa Joe’s release was instantly met with excited fans clamouring for him to sign with rival promotion, AEW.
The upstart company has only been running for a couple of years, but is already proving itself a welcome challenger to WWE’s professional wrestling monopoly, delivering consistently entertaining weekly television shows featuring fresh and exciting talent.
Joe himself has not responded to any rumours, and it appears as if he has been released under a 90-day no compete clause, a standard practice which means wrestlers cannot work for other companies within three months of their contract expiring.
He is also 42, and had been struggling with injury prior to his depature from WWE, so were he to sign (retirement is surely an tempting prospect), it may not be as an in-ring wrestler.
Will there be more releases?
WWE’s batch releases often take place over a couple of days, so it’s possible that more talent might be wished the best in their future endeavours soon.
We’ll keep this article updated if any new names are revealed to have been released.
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