What The Budget Cuts Said About WWE

I was very sad to read the news that over two dozen people were released from their WWE contracts, as the corporation cited budget cuts based on the economic impact of the corona virus. On the surface this makes sense because companies across the board have either adjusted their spending with top executives taking a pay cut to keep employees on the books or workers were laid off while businesses remain shut down. While it’s disappointing to see talented wrestlers get released, let’s not forget the other industries that have also had several workers lose their jobs. It’s just a sad scenario all around. That being said, make no mistake about it, obviously the WWE didn’t need to make these cuts. Their massive television deals alone will have the organization profitable for at least the next five years. These releases were made for the publicly traded company to look as though they are doing something in the interest of their shareholders. In other words, these cuts were made to maintain the stock price ahead of the company’s conference call next week. Granted, the WWE is absolutely within their right to do it, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be criticized for it because the whole thing just screams corporate greed.

Ironically, these releases were just days after the Florida governor deemed WWE an “essential business” so that would technically minimize the impact the shutdown would have on the sports entertainment business model. Even more ironic than that is that just before the governor gave the company a pass to continue running events at the performance center, a Linda McMahon super PAC pledged $18 million dollars for the Trump reelection campaign in the state. The government is more of a work than pro wrestling.

All of that aside, the fact remains that a group of free agents just hit the market and there’s a certain amount of them that were simply overlooked by WWE brass so there’s an opportunity for them to flourish elsewhere. Obviously, All Elite Wrestling is the immediate thought, but considering that AEW already has a sizable roster, there’s realistically only so many spots. The harsh reality is that there are some cuts today that will more or less be the end of the road for some of the competitors as far as their time in the major league groups.

Drake Maverick, who made his name as Spud in TNA and as a courageous underdog on the UK independent scene before that, was a name I was surprised to see on the list. Quite simply, Maverick is a top-tier pro that can do it all, which he proved during his TNA run. You can put him in virtually any role and he can make it work, and the value of that type of performer can’t be understated. As a manager, a GM, and as a wrestler, Maverick can deliver. There was some speculation that perhaps some of these cuts are temporary with a portion of the list to rehired after the WWE resumes a full-time schedule. If Maverick isn’t re-signed at some point, management missed the boat on him and he will be an asset to any company he works for after that. Eric Young is another guy that did the best with whatever he was given, especially during the wide array of roles he had in TNA, something that probably got him an offer from WWE in the first place. As much as Eric Young is a valuable utility worker, I would say it’s doubtful that he signs another WWE deal, simply because the organization had nothing of any significance for him in the past several months. If Young continues wrestling, I would say it’s almost a given he could return to Impact because he has a very useful skill set.

Zack Ryder was another name I was surprised to read on the list of cuts because he survived extensive releases before, even when the promotion didn’t have plans for him. Ryder is known as much for his fandom as he is for his wrestling, which is one of the reasons he got over with the audience. The crowd identified with him because you could see the sincerity he brought to his dedication to the industry. At the same time, Ryder was the prime example that if you get yourself over when the office doesn’t plan on it then they will more or less squash it. Ryder took the initiative to produce his own Youtube show and he garnered a following for himself. Management ran with it to an extent because they couldn’t ignore the chants, but then totally halted his momentum with the infamous Cena/Eve angle that concluded with Kane pushing Ryder off the stage in a wheelchair. In the time since, there were various points that Zack got a few highlights, including a one-day IC title run, but at least a memorable moment at WM 32. He also had a recent tag title run with Curt Hawkins last year. But, there wasn’t anything more than brief stints in the spotlight for a competitor that has worked for WWE for the past 14 years. Obviously, they could’ve and should’ve done more with Ryder and the same could probably be said for Curt Hawkins, who was also released. You have to wonder why Ryder didn’t pursue other options before this, especially when he still had some steam, but I would guess the reason why is that since he’s a lifelong WWE fan, he wanted to work for the top company in the world for as long as he could. Still, it’s disappointing that he truly didn’t get the chance he deserved when he was one of the most over competitors on the roster. That being said, I’m not sure what demand there will be for either Ryder or Myers outside of the WWE, but I hope both of them find success in the future.

Another example of someone that got themselves over when it wasn’t a part of the office’s plan was Rusev, who had an initial push, but then floundered before he got himself over with the Rusev day gimmick. The bottom line is, Rusev had something that was over, but management didn’t truly let him run with it. This speaks volumes to how important it is to strike while the iron is hot in terms of when something is over because there’s a limited time frame to go with it before the fans lose hope that the performer will get a chance. The tag team with Nakamura was more or less a way to keep Rusev busy with something other than what he used to get himself over. They could’ve made him a sentimental baby face and had a celebration moment where the crowd was legitimately happy to see him win a major title, but it wasn’t even given the chance. The Lashley angle gave Rusev some TV time, but some of the segments where so cringe worthy that it’s difficult to say that it benefited his career.

The release of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson was also surprising because not only did they sign major contracts when they initially made the jump from New Japan, but had signed new deals recently as well. Plus, they were a featured part of AJ Styles’ feud with The Undertaker. One of the ways to enhance the presentation of AJ Styles was to have a stable around him, but without The Club, where does heel AJ go from here? In truth, I don’t think the writing team really knew what to do with Gallows and Anderson after they were signed for the company. They were a stellar tag team in Japan and that reputation is what ultimately led to their WWE offer, but they weren’t ever necessarily used as a way to reignite the tag division. If anything, The Usos and The New Day, both homegrown projects, had that spot while Karl and Gallows were mostly secondary. I would say that management undoubtedly should’ve done more with the former members of the Bullet Club. Speaking of which, a return to New Japan would probably be an option for them, but a debut in AEW might actually be a more productive move, simply because they’ve already had an extensive New Japan run. With the emphasis on tag teams and the rumored addition of the Revival soon, it would be extremely interesting if Gallows and Anderson joined the AEW tag division.

Epico and Primo were released, but considering they were nowhere to be found anyway they could’ve been in the witness protection program and it wouldn’t have made a difference to their WWE status. Both were fine in the ring, but were under the radar for so long, it’s doubtful they will be in demand free agents in the United States. The same can be said for No Way Jose, the guy wasn’t terrible, but he was cast as a jobber for so long that it’s doubtful that he will be a major priority outside of the WWE unless he’s completely repackaged. Mike and Maria Kanellis are somewhat of an odd case because they had previously requested a release, signed a new deal, and then asked for a release again. While many thought Mike Bennett had a lot of potential, I wasn’t particularly impressed with him in either ROH or TNA. If he continues wrestling, I’d guess it would be for Ring of Honor since the company lacks depth right now, but even if he returns there, he will probably have to reinvent himself because of how he has been portrayed on WWE TV. Lio Rush is another athlete that might make the move to ROH. He didn’t do himself any favors with some of his complaints on social media, but hopefully the release will be the start of a fresh chapter in his career because the talent is there.

There were a few on the list of cuts there seemed like a victim of circumstance and were released just to trim the budget. Aiden English was very entertaining, both in the ring and on the mic, but seemed to get lost in the shuffle. I’d say he will have a bright future regardless of the next promotion he works for because he has the ability, but just didn’t get the chance to showcase it. Health Slater is another one that was always entertaining with whatever he was given to do. I’m not sure what his options would be outside of WWE because much of his work there was specifically tailored to that environment, but it would be nice to see him get a chance elsewhere. EC3 seemed to be exactly what WWE looks for in a TV wrestler, but outside of a few weeks on Raw, he was rarely given a chance to do anything of importance. He would be a good heel for AEW and potentially in a stable with MJF. Sarah Logan seemed to do fine with the role she had and was just a name on the list to slash the budget so it would be nice to see her return to be given an opportunity to do more than just a secondary member of a stable. I’d say it’s almost a given that Rowan eventually resurfaces in AEW to join Brodie Lee because that pairing works so well together. It makes you wonder why the WWE insisted dissolving the team when they were such a good combination.

As I mentioned earlier, the WWE corporation absolutely has the right to slash the budget to protect their stock price, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be criticized for it or that these cuts were their only option. Wrestlers get released all the time, it’s a harsh reality of the entertainment business, and those cuts are ultimately what leads to new talent getting a chance to sign a contract. Let’s keep in mind, the WWE is completely financially secure because of their mega TV contracts, they didn’t have to make these cuts to stay afloat. If a business has to lay off workers to stay open then that’s an understandable decision to make because otherwise everyone at the company would lose their job. The bottom line is, if a business has to cut workers to stay above water then it’s a completely different story. The WWE was going to make a profit either way, they made these cuts to make sure they could still maximize those profits under the current economic circumstances. Again, it’s within their right to do it, but is the extra money really that important? The WWE, a billion dollar company just released over two dozen wrestlers at a time when no other wrestling events can be run because of the shut down. Those wrestlers don’t have a job when their profession isn’t running and even jobs outside of the wrestling industry aren’t readily available because of the shut down. Is the extra profit margin that important?

There are a few releases that I must point out as being completely ridiculous, especially given the circumstances of some specific individuals. Kurt Angle’s role as a producer was mostly based on the new deal he signed with the company when he returned a few years ago. On the flip side, Mike Chioda has been a WWE referee for over thirty years and one of the best officials in the history of the company. Chioda deserves better than this. Lance Storm, who closed his training center that he ran successfully for 15 years to take a job as a WWE again, was released just four months after he took the job. Lance Storm deserves better than this. Perhaps the more ethical way to trim the budget would’ve been to make these cuts after the shut down is done, but it wouldn’t have been the most profitable way to make the decision. I’m all for capitalism, but the entire scenario, including WWE’s financially security that doesn’t make these releases necessary speaks volumes about the corporate greed in the country.

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