Budget Cuts Or Lack Of Direction?

It’s ironic that just hours after I wrote a column about some of the rumored departures within the wrestling world and the free agents on the market, WWE announced that several more talents were released from the company yesterday due to “budget cuts,” which translates to the fact the corporation wants to pad the stock price after the recent earnings call. The firings ranged from surprising to moot in the grand scheme of things, but collectively, these releases revealed the overall direction or lack thereof within the company. Since there were nearly twenty cuts, it would be too lengthy to even attempt to discuss all of them individually, but the releases of Trey Baxter, Jessi Kamea, Jeet Rama, Zayda Ramier, Katrina Cortez, and B-Fab are those on the roster that were more or less just names on a page that were expendable to the organization. That’s not a knock on any of them, but rather to point out that within the developmental system, they weren’t really given a chance to make a name for themselves so it would be unfair to judge their skills based on that sample size.

On the flip side, Karrion Kross, a former NXT champion, was released not too long after he made his Raw debut, and that firing could provide the most insight into the WWE process. For the office to book Kross as strong as they did in NXT, clearly, they saw some level of potential in him. How that was completely derailed when the moment he appeared on Raw and jobbed to Jeff Hardy in less than two minutes is anyone’s guess. I know I attempt to provide analysis or an opinion on the often over-the-top world of sports entertainment in this column, but I have to be honest, I’m completely flabbergasted by the decision to cut Kross. It’s not that I’m the president of the Karrion Kross fan club either, I think he’s a solid performer, but I wouldn’t call him the next Ric Flair. The surprise is more based on that fact that management knew what they were getting with Kross, they ran with him as NXT champion, and then completely hindered all of that progress as soon as he went to Raw. The rumor mill suggest a few of the cuts were made because of their vaccination status, but until something is confirmed publicly, any of that discussion is pure speculation. Even if Karrion Kross wasn’t vaccinated, his path to a pink slip began before vaccination status was a topic of conversation around WWE.

Quite frankly, the more important part of the discussion is, how does the WWE process change so radically in such a short period of time when a wrestler goes from being featured on television to released? Scarlett is a talented performer and the pairing with Kross is a good combination, but it appears that her released was based on the fact that the writing team probably just didn’t have anything else for her to do if Kross wasn’t on the roster. I’m sure the pair will find work elsewhere rather quickly, but what promotion it is might be a toss up because of the crowded wrestling landscape.

Another wrestler release that exposes the lack of direction in the company is Keith Lee, who just recently returned to Raw with a revamped gimmick as Bear Cat Lee after an extended absence due to the effects of COVID. In truth, the WWE never knew what to do with Keith Lee and even his success in NXT was more or less kept under the radar. It’s ironic that when he returned to television as the Bear Cat, he worked a very generic big man style, despite the fact that he was noticed for his agility that gave him a non-traditional style for someone his size. If the office wants a generic big man then there’s an entire performance center of wrestlers that they could randomly pick for that role. However, the bigger point is, management knew what they were getting with Keith Lee and knew what he could do under the WWE umbrella so how exactly did he suddenly become expendable after he was reintroduced on television? If he wasn’t brought back to TV then it makes sense if the writing team just didn’t have anything for him, but for him to return and then be released suggests that the office is just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks rather than a plan to make new stars. I would guess that Lee will find a lot of work on the indies or could return to Ring Of Honor if the organization actually relaunches in April of next year.

I was very surprised to see that Ember Moon got released because in my opinion, she has all the tools to be a major star. She has the look, the skills, and the presence to be on the same level are Sasha, Bianca, or Bayley. I know Ember had some injuries, but her upside goes beyond the risk of being injury prone. Another female athlete, Mia Yim was released and all things considered, she wasn’t given a fair chance on the main roster when she was included in the doomed Retribution stable. Considering that AEW could use more depth on the women’s roster, especially with the addition of the TBS title, I would say that both of these athletes would be wise signings for All Elite Wrestling.

I was also surprised by the firing of Eva Marie, simply because despite no actual talent for any aspect of sports entertainment, not only was she re-signed by the company last year, but was also featured on television. As far as the future, Eva Marie might want to consider cooking, building bird houses, roller skating or anything other than professional wrestling.

Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado were more or less lost in 205 Live purgatory when they weren’t squashed on Raw so their WWE tenture wasn’t an accurate representation of their skills. I would guess that both, more specifically, Metalik could pick up a lot of work in Mexico. Speaking of Mexico, Franky Monet made a name for herself there and in Impact Wrestling so I would guess that a return to Impact is in the future for her. Oney Lorcan was a guy that occasionally got a chance to show what he could do, but never had a chance to truly make a name for himself on the WWE stage. Known as Biff Busick as an independent standout for years, I think he will return to a lot of opportunities on the indies or even some work for New Japan Strong. Harry Smith was signed to a contract, worked one dark match, and was released so obviously, there wasn’t a chance to see how he would’ve done in a second WWE stint. That said, Smith could be a major asset for any organization so it will be interesting to see where he signs next, especially if he inks an AEW deal.

Perhaps, the most shocking release was Nia Jax, who made headlines recently for a legitimate in-ring confrontation with Charlotte after a match went off the rails on Raw. The shocking part isn’t her value to the company or necessarily her in-ring ability, but rather that she’s a cousin of The Rock, and it’s within the company’s interest not to cause any tension for his family. Nia was outspoken about her objections to the validity of the vaccine so if vaccination status played a role at all, this might be the situation. That being said, while Nia is a marketable star, she has a well-known reputation of injuring opponents so her departure isn’t exactly a major downside for the organization. She was purely a WWE product, starting in the Performance Center so I don’t think there will be many other options for her within professional wrestling either. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if she eventually returns to WWE.

The WWE just touted revenue of $256 million for the quarter on a conference call earlier this week so it’s not as though these cuts were going to make a major difference, but it’s possible it was done to boost the stock price. Still, at some point these strategies for the short-end money will result in a company without any new legitimate money-drawing stars in the future. Keep in mind, the Saudi deal, the most profitable venture on the WWE calendar, is based on nostalgia, not the current product. The WWE is more profitable now than any other time in the history of the company so it’s difficult to argue with success, but what stars will be the draw for their next TV deal in a few years?

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta