Looking At The Recent Wrestling Shuffle

Just days away from The Royal Rumble, an event that will shape the card for Wrestlemania, there was quite the shuffle in the industry recently, making the addition of All Elite Wrestling to the sports entertainment landscape that much more interesting later this year.

Last week, Dolph Ziggler posted a message on Twitter that implied his run in the WWE is going to end. This was after a report from PWInsider that his contract expires at the end of the month and it appears that he didn’t renew his deal. The former two-time world champion had a rather complicated run with the company. Signing a contract in 2004, Dolph began as a caddie for Chavo’s brief run as Kerwin White and then played a role in the Spirit Squad, a stable that ruined almost as many careers as Vince Russo’s booking. After he changed his name, Dolph found a persona, but one that seemed to morph a little too often over the years and sometimes it seemed like he often tried to play the role of Shawn Michaels instead of solidifying the Ziggler character. However, he was a true workhorse and always put in the effort to deliver quality performances in the ring. Unfortunately, during his initial run as champion in 2013, a concussion cut that title reign short, and another concussion the following year halted much of his momentum for consideration in the main event picture.

At times, it looked as though management was going to run with Ziggler, including when Sting debuted for a historic moment and assisted Dolph with a win at Survivor Series in 2014. But, Ziggler didn’t get further up the card than IC status, and more often than not was put in the role of making others look good in the ring than a presentation that would progress his career. Again, it’s a complicated scenario because on one hand, Dolph hasn’t been given the opportunities that are on par with his skill level, but on the flip side, he has a history of concussions so it’s a risk for WWE to invest a major amount of TV time in him. It’s a harsh reality, but Ziggler could’ve been one concussion away from the end of his career, and that affects the role the writing team will choose for him. Don’t get me wrong, Dolph Ziggler is one of the most talented of his generation and deserved better, but from a business stand point, WWE brass wasn’t willing to bet on him long term because of the injuries. That said, it makes sense for him to exit, as he’s too talented to continue to flounder in mediocrity, and after 15 years in the promotion, he’s more or less been typecast in a mid-card role. So, Dolph can continue his ventures into stand up comedy or perhaps he will be another addition to AEW when the group launches a full-time schedule?

Another WWE departure was rumored last week when The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported that The Revival requested their release from the organization, but it wasn’t granted. The duo worked a match on Raw this past week so it looks as though they will continue as scheduled for now. It’s puzzling that despite the expanded roster and enough teams to theoretically present a credible tag division, there are still teams that get lost in the shuffle of the abundance of WWE programming. In fact, The Revival are one of the best teams of the modern era and a duo that the division could be built around, but since their debut on the main roster, they haven’t done much. Granted, an injury for Dawson in mid-2017 sidelined their progress at the time, but they spent almost the entire year of 2018 without anything notable on television. Similar to Ziggler, The Revival are simply too talented to be regulated to less than meaningless roles within the company. Both Wilder and Dawson are still young enough to get a fresh start elsewhere so it might be best for their careers if they were granted the release. Another aspect could be that Wilder and Dawson are another example of performers that could departure from the organization to eventually return with a fresh start later. Keep in mind, Drew McIntyre played a plastic guitar before he left to rejuvenate his career and now looks to have a main event push post-WM.

Outside of WWE, Impact Wrestling had its share of changes, not within the active roster, but rather behind the scenes. Abyss, who had one of the longest runs with the company, spanning back to its early days in Nashville, left the company to take a role as a producer with NXT. Along with Abyss. Sonjay Dutt, another longtime worker for Impact, will also work within the NXT brand. Reportedly, Abyss worked in the office while Dutt was a member of the creative team for Impact. More than what they brought to the table for the Anthem-owned group in their respective roles, the exit of Abyss and Dutt might speak volumes to the state of Impact. I penned an article last month that explained the major drop in TV clearance as Impact’s TV show wasn’t renewed for Pop TV and moved to The Pursuit Channel, a network under the Anthem umbrella. The switch translated to a 40% drop in availability and many viewers simply didn’t have access to the new time slot at 10 PM on Fridays so it was announced that the program would also stream on the Impact Twitch channel.

Recent editions of the show peaked around 10,000 viewers on Twitch, and the Pursuit channel didn’t garner enough viewers for the ratings to be listed. Abyss is one of the hardest working performers in the history of the industry and it’s somewhat disappoint that he didn’t get a big run on the WWE stage for him to get the recognition he deserved. But, more than anything, Abyss was always considered a “TNA guy,” opting to stay with the organization despite a WWE offer in 2006. For Abyss to leave Impact Wrestling, it might be an indication that the future of the promotion isn’t too bright. In some ways, Abyss’ exit from Impact Wrestling is similar to when AJ Styles left TNA, it doesn’t speak well of the state of the organization. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no benefit for Impact to close, but as I wrote previously, with the crowded wrestling market this year, there might not be a place for the company.

With the departure of Abyss and Dutt, PWInsider reported that Konnan and Tommy Dreamer will be replacements for the creative team. Both veterans, specifically Dreamer, bring a lot of knowledge to the table, but again, given the limitations of the availability of the product, the efforts of the writing team might be moot. How exactly does anyone even with a great plan for the product make stars or generate a buzz when the general audience can’t find the show? As I said previously, Anthem might’ve decided to use Impact as more of a television commodity for The Fight Network than a group that attempts to be competitive in the industry, which is fine, but it also limits the progress of the organization.

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