This past Thursday, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) released 10 wrestlers from their contracts. This year’s releases happened one year to the day WWE released over 20 wrestlers from their contracts stemming from financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sean Ross Sapp from Fightful has reported that this year the wrestlers were told it was due to budget cuts.
In the last two rounds of releases, the reasons given to the wrestlers for being released have been heavily criticized. In 2020, the wrestlers were told they were being released because of COVID financial hardships, even though WWE was on the receiving end of yearly record profits, thanks to a 2.5 billion dollar deal with Fox, and their deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (a decade long deal reportedly in the hundreds of millions). The budget cuts reason from this year is a bit odd. Just around two months ago, WWE announced a one billion dollar deal with NBC to exclusively move their WWE Network streaming service over to Peacock, NBC’s new streaming service. Obviously live attendance at their shows has been down over the last year, even though they are starting to have fans in attendance again, but the two multi-billion dollar deals in less than two years should have made up for that, right? Add merchandise and other international TV rights deals on top of that too. I’m no accountant, but to me, it seems like WWE seems to be doing just fine financially.
The 10 wrestlers released this year are Samoa Joe, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Bo Dallas, Kalisto, Tucker, Chelsea Green, Wesley Blake, Mickie James and Mojo Rawley. A couple of the wrestlers that got released came as a complete shock to fans. Billie Kay wrestled at Wrestlemania 37 Night 1 and Samoa Joe was at the commentary table for Wrestlemania. A few of the wrestlers (Bo Dallas, Tucker, Kalisto) had not been featured as much on television in the last year or so. In the past, WWE has done a “spring cleaning” kind of mass release before, and this is where wrestlers who aren’t featured on television as much unfortunately get “future endeavored.”
Samoa Joe was not only the most shocking, but the biggest bummer as well. Before signing with WWE in 2015, Samoa Joe was globally one of the most beloved and well-known wrestlers. There was a huge buzz around his signing. He had a huge push during his time in NXT, winning the NXT championship. Once he got to the main roster, his time there was very up and down. He was plagued with injuries during his time on the main roster and had a run on commentary more recently.
The wrestlers who were released in 2020, for the most part, found their footing and are doing well in wrestling outside of WWE. For example, Brian Myers (Curt Hawkins), Matt Cardona (Zack Ryder) and Eric Young are all in Impact now. EC3, Michael Bennett and Maria Kanellis are all in Ring of Honor. Miro (Rusev) is in All Elite Wrestling.
For all the wrestlers released, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They’re multiple promotions for these wrestlers to sign with. It will be interesting to see where these men and women end up in the coming months. In 2021, wrestlers have options. All Elite Wrestling (AEW), Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor (ROH) and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) are just a few of the options. As always, these wrestlers have the independent wrestling scene to go to as well, which has had a real boom period and turn around in the last decade. They are all very talented wrestlers who should have great careers in wrestling outside of WWE, should they choose to do so.