What The Most Recent Releases Say About WWE

The “overhaul” of NXT and the WWE Performance Center continued this week with the releases of numerous office staff, as well as some of the coaches that fans would know from their careers. Granted, some of those in the office aren’t public figures, but it certainly sends the message that Vince McMahon wants to rebuild the Performance Center from scratch since many of the Triple H hires were among those released.

There are several questions around what this means for some of the wrestlers released, the WWE itself, and the rest of the industry. However, these particular cuts might also reveal the WWE agenda for the future.

I was absolutely shocked to read the news that William Regal was released from his role within the WWE developmental system. In my opinion, Regal is not only an underrated legend, but one of the best all-around performers to ever lace up a pair of boots. Considering that Regal wasn’t being used on television, if he doesn’t have a non-compete clause, Tony Khan should be on the phone to offer him a job ASAP. From a political level, Regal’s exit was a way to get rid of the Triple H formula, considering that he is longtime friends with Regal and trusted the British grappler to scout many of the talents that found success in WWE in recent years. Although, when you take into account that the speculation is that management is not longer looking to sign known talent from the indy circuit, it’s very possible that one of Regal’s main duties was phased out from the company. Still, as a trainer, coach, and an overall brilliant mind, if a company can’t see the extreme value that William Regal brings to the table, I sincerely question that organization’s decision-making process.

A few more from the Triple H regime that were cut are Road Dogg and Scott Armstrong. The two brothers worked on both the main brands and developmental in recent years. Road Dogg had a stint on the writing team for Smackdown before he transitioned to the developmental system. It’s not really a knock on either guy, but both could be replaced with other veterans with a similar experience level that would bring a different focus to the new direction of the NXT brand. In short, any time there was a complete overhaul in the direction of an organization in the wrestling business, the old regime is usually released to make room for new management so I would guess that their releases have less to do with their specific performances and more to do with Vince McMahon’s decision for a fresh start with the developmental system.

Timothy Thatcher and Danny Burch were among the active wrestlers released, and it more or less goes along with the repackaging of NXT, as the brand shifts to a more sports entertainment style. In particular, Thatcher has such a wrestling-based presentation that his in-ring style just doesn’t seem to gel with the direction of the brand. That said, and I might be wrong, but I always got the notion that Thatcher signed with WWE because it was an opportunity that happened to present itself and offered good money as opposed to signing a deal because it was a specific goal for him. Keep in mind, Thatcher spent years as one of wrestling’s best kept secrets wrestling in Europe full-time. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he returned to WXW and continued his career in Germany. I’m not sure where Burch goes, but somewhere such as New Japan Strong could be an option.

Gabe Sapolsky, former Ring of Honor booker and ECW office staff, was also released from working with the NXT brand. Considering that WWE bought Evolve and before that the group had unofficially funneled talent to the brand, this is another one of those Triple H cuts. Sapolsky, who ran Dragon Gate USA and Evolve after his stint with ROH, has his critics, but nobody can deny that he has worked in the industry for more than twenty years so obviously, he brings some valuable tools to the table. This might be another call for Tony Khan to make because Gabe might be very helpful with the booking structure of All Elite Wrestling. One of the criticisms of the Khan-owned organization is sometimes a competitor will plateau after a notable match or angle. Where’s Miro? Perhaps, Sapolsky could lend some of his experience to tighten up the shows. However, that would depend on if Khan would be willing to relinquish part of the creative control for his shows, which is difficult for any owner in pro wrestling. Still, I think Sapolsky would land work somewhere else sooner rather than later since he has too much experience not to be an asset for another organization.

Alison Danger, longtime veteran wrestler, was signed to be a coach just a few months ago and was released. I have to be honest, I completely understand it’s within the WWE’s right to release someone from their contract, but to hire someone with the thought that they have a new career and then to cut them three months later is completely ridiculous. It’s totally disrespectful and she deserved better than that.

Finally, Samoa Joe was cut from the company for the second time in a year and the entire scenario is very puzzling. In many ways, Joe’s status in general is a grey area because a concussion originally put him on commentary on Raw where he did very well, but for whatever reason he was shifted away from that before another injury put him on the shelf again. He wasn’t medical cleared and released for “budget cuts” before he was re-signed, wrestled one match to win the NXT title, was medically uncleared, and then eventually released. Reportedly, Joe worked backstage for NXT since he wasn’t cleared to wrestle for the brand. Given his skills in a variety of areas, I would think that Joe will land a job in AEW as soon as his no-compete clause expires. The determining factor is if he’s actually medically cleared as far as what he does for the company. Obviously, he’s at the latter stages of his in-ring career, but if he can wrestle, I would say that AEW could get at least two years of solid matches from him. If not, Joe as a broadcaster for the slew of All Elite shows is an option. The bottom line is, Joe is too talented not to work for a major company.

The bigger story and the narrative of the sum total of these releases is that WWE is pivoting away from the Triple H version of NXT, and prehaps that’s the right move for the corporation. Keep in mind, the “work rate” version of NXT was assembled because Ring Of Honor began to make a lot of noise in the pro wrestling world with The Elite and the working agreement with New Japan. The Triple H booking of NXT was more or less to garner that part of the market before ROH expanded with it. Granted, we know now that Tony Khan took that same buzz that The Elite had and actually put money behind it to create AEW, but the point being that a few years ago, Triple H designed the NXT brand for a specific purpose in the industry. That’s exactly why this move makes sense for the WWE in terms of repackaging the show, but not necessarily the releases themselves. Despite its critics, AEW is basically the “work rate” product on a national level, and considering that the WWE has a much broader agenda as a publicly traded company, they aren’t going to compete for that smaller demographic. Their attempt to capture that audience failed during the Wednesday night ratings competition so it makes more sense for Vince McMahon to use NXT to attempt to generate more main stream stars, especially because of the lack of star power on the main roster.

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