Looking At The Recent WWE Releases

Last week, the WWE announced that they cut five wrestlers from the roster, not anything near the mass releases around April each year in the past, but still an indication that the billion dollar corporation will continue to run like a true business, releasing talent if there isn’t anything for them from the creative team.

Xyon Quinn was given a pink slip, and the only reason that this release was surprising was that most people probably forgot that Quinn was on the roster. The 34-year-old former rugby player inked a WWE developmental deal almost six years ago and worked on the NXT brand for a few years, debuting in 2020 before he appeared sporadically on the main roster throughout the past year. All things considered, Quinn was a WWE project, as far as he was recruited to be in the WWE system and was trained specifically for WWE television without any prior wrestling experience. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, especially with the top notch coaches that work with the developmental talent at the Performance Center, but it takes an athlete with an incredible aptitude for sports entertainment to progress to a level where they are ready for national television within only a few years of the first time that they stepped into a ring.

Obviously, Xyon Quinn was a good athlete with the rugby background, but he never really stood out as someone that seemed destined for major success within the major leagues of pro wrestling. He was a WWE project that worked like a WWE project, but didn’t seem to be on the cusp of any break out success in terms of being able to work at a level that would’ve gotten over with the national television audience. He was okay in the ring, but nothing spectacular and seemed to be an average WWE project at best.

As far as why he would get the axe, it was probably a combination of a lack of anything from the writing team, and the fact that the company invested nearly six years into his development as a performer. Granted, the pandemic had a major effect on the industry, but the point is, Quinn was on the payroll for six years, including when dozens of wrestlers were released during the shut down so if he didn’t reach the next level yet, there probably wasn’t a reason for the company to continue to invest money into him as a project. Speaking of which, since he was signed specifically as a WWE project, it’s doubtful that he will continue to pursuit the sport.

Another release that was added to the list earlier this week was Von Wagner, a second generation wrestler that only had five matches on the NXT brand this year. Wagner seemed to have the size and the athleticism that the company looks for, but for whatever reason, he didn’t have the opportunity or the skill set to make the jump to the main roster. In some ways, he’s in the same boat as Xvon Quinn, the company inked Wagner to a deal in 2019 so he was near the five-year mark of working within the developmental system. At some point, the office had to see the potential to move him to the bigger platform of the main roster or decide to release him, because again there’s a five-year investment from the organization. The main difference between Quinn and Wagner is that at just 29, the second generation grappler has time to find himself and evolve his career in other promotions to become a more complete performer. It will be interesting to see what he does next since the argument could be made that he just needs the opportunity to evolve and he might be an asset for a pro wrestling group.

Another athlete that was recruited by WWE and was also released was Veer Mahaan, a former pro baseball player that spent the majority of his baseball tenure in the minor leagues, but achieved notoriety for being the first Indian player to be signed to a MLB team. Similar to Xvon Quinn in the WWE developmental system, Veer inked a WWE contract in 2018. Veer had the look of a monster, even if his in-ring work was somewhat flat at times. In fact, he had a few different stints on Raw, and it almost became comical that vignettes would air for weeks to hype his arrival but it didn’t lead to a debut. If I had to guess, I’d say management probably didn’t see enough improvement in the ring to try to repackage him again so they released him. There are only so many times a performer can be repackaged before the organization has to put its resources and invest the TV time elsewhere. The same can be said for his tag team partner, Sanga, who was also released. Sanga wasn’t a terrible performer, but he was just another name on the roster and ultimately, he’s an expendable talent.

However, there were a few talents that were cut from the company that were surprising releases.

Among the initial list last week, former WWE champion, Jinder Mahal was a name that you wouldn’t have expected to see. In the early-2010s, Mahal had a mid-card stint in the company when he eventually worked as a comedy figure in the 3MB stable. He was released in 2014 and spent almost two years outside of the organization, getting himself in great shape during his time off. There was speculation online about how Jinder made such a transformation to his body, but let’s just assume that he had a lot of Icopro and a regular exercise routine. More because of his look at the time, Jinder won the WWE championship in 2017 when he beat Randy Orton for the title. He had a rather undistinguished six-month reign and was eventually shuffled back down the card. He was booked with Veer and Sanga, but the trio had limited TV time. Jinder worked just six matches last year and eight matches this year so despite his prior accomplishments with the company, this might be a situation where the writing team didn’t have anything for him, especially if Veer and Sanga were already released. Still, it’s surprising because with as much potential as you’ve heard about the Indian market in recent years, and with the WWE’s expansion of more international events under the TKO banner, you’d think that Jinder would be kept on the roster, if for nothing else than being spotlighted as the top star of those potential overseas events.

It was somewhat puzzling that Xia Li was released because despite a cup of coffee on the main roster, she didn’t really get the chance to do much in the company outside of her time in NXT. Maybe management didn’t see enough progress to move her to the main roster full-time or maybe there wasn’t a spot for her on the main roster, given the depth the division has, but between decent in-ring skills and the flashy entrance, it just seemed like he would accomplish more on the main roster.

The most surprising release was Cameron Grimes, considering that the young grappler had a lot of success and popularity during his NXT run. For whatever reason, after he was brought to Smackdown last year, he was used as an enhancement talent, which was completely counterproductive to anything that was established during the stint in NXT previously. Cameron Grimes is a talent with all the tools to be successful and an asset to a promotion, he just wasn’t given the chance on the main roster. At just 30, Grimes still has the prime of his career ahead of him, while he has enough experience on television to already be set to make an impact in another promotion. I’m not sure where Trevor Lee will go next, but he will undoubtedly be an asset to any company in the industry.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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