If you unconditionally love WWE and the federation is where your love for pro wrestling starts and stops I would suggest just stop reading here. That’s my trigger warning for what’s about to come.
On Aug. 7, the WWE released more than a dozen wrestlers suddenly. This was just one of a number of mass releases the company has undertaken in the last two years. Those releases began almost immediately after lockdowns started amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since then the usual suspects have defended this practice as “just business” and on face value it makes sense as most big companies do such a thing amidst big financial loss.
The problem, though, is WWE hasn’t faced big financial loss. In fact, the former Titan Sports has reported record profits in the past two years despite not holding a single show with fans for a year. Yes, the company lost out on huge money-making tickets sales like WrestleMania, but it also avoided the overhead of having a traveling company with many of their house shows typically losing money. Add that to the gigantic television contracts the WWE has continued to rake in, despite continuously falling ratings.
Still, the WWE has steadily released talents since last April, not to mention the office workers, agents, and trainers that have been cut during this time. Releasing talent in mass is never going to be good optically but doing so amidst a pandemic while making record profits looks even more disgusting.
What makes these releases stand out more than even the frequency – and the sheer number of them – is the names that have been let go. WWE Hall of Famers have been fired, World Champions have been let go and stars that were in the Main Event just before being let go have been shown the door. Even more bizarrely has been the WWE’s public reaction to these releases.
Vince McMahon, who has spoken less and less on conference calls in the past two years, made a bizarre and incredibly flippant comment about the releases and AEW just a week ago.
“I don’t consider (AEW) competition in the way that I would consider WCW back in the day, not anywhere near close to that,” McMahon said. “And I’m not sure what their investments are as far as their talent is concerned, but perhaps we can give them some more.”
That sort of flippant attitude to firing human beings is already disgusting but days later former WWE Champion Bray Wyatt was released, and apparently just days after being cleared to return to the ring. A week later more than a dozen more were let go.
If anyone here follows the things I say online you know when these firings first began it was exciting – at least to me and many others – because it meant so many underutilized and misused talents could get a shot somewhere else. There are a lot of options out there with AEW, Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Major League Wrestling, and various other international and independent promotions in the world.
But, there is a limit to how many spots there are for wrestlers being thrown onto the free market. AEW already has a very large roster and Tony Khan has previous stated that the company simply can’t take everyone. Impact and ROH also have fairly large rosters for companies of their size and even NJPW doesn’t seem like they are going after talents like they were a year ago. Not to mention some of these talents are athletes that the WWE trained, meaning they have no previous experience wrestling elsewhere with no knowledge of how independent wrestling works. Those wrestlers are being thrown into a world completely foreign to them, that is if they want to continue to pursue pro wrestling.
These releases come off the heels of WWE “stockpiling” talent starting in 2018 when the company all but obliterated what was once a white-hot wrestling scene in the United Kingdom. Then, as AEW started to come to fruition the WWE continued to stockpile talent and actively refusing to allow a number of wrestlers to leave when they wanted to. Even with these releases, as recent as last year, Nick Khan has stated that WWE intended to expand its footprint into Japan and Mexico. To that, I would point out that the WWE would find trying to kill off (or buy out) promotions like AAA, CMLL, and NJPW a much tougher challenge than the relatively young promotions in the UK.
The wild thing about all of this is you can argue these releases aren’t even the worst thing WWE has done in the last five years. We’re talking about a company that happily regurgitated propaganda for a county that’s leader chops up American reporters. That same company covered up a bizarre situation where that same country reportedly – and when I say “reportedly” I mean reported by the wrestlers there – was holding the talent hostage over a money dispute. Hell, if you want to go further back you can point to the steroid trial, the countless sexual harassment accusations inside the company, and even the accusation of a murder being covered up.
With that said, I’m not sitting here with the intent to convince anyone to stop giving the WWE your money – though you should – or stop being a fan of WWE. Just do you and enjoy what you enjoy, I will always say that. I’m not even going to whine about the WWE “die-hards” that trigger me so badly on social media, who will defend any and everything that company does without hesitation. I’m talking to everyone else.
Even if you still want to support the WWE, let’s support everyone else, too. You don’t have to like AEW because it’s sort of seen as the “cool” or “hot” promotion right now. There are promotions all over the world that I would just about guarantee you there is someone somewhere doing something you enjoy. Even if it isn’t American promotions like AEW, Impact, MLW, ROH, PWG or Japanese promotions like NOAH, NJPW, Dragon Gate, AJPW, or Mexican promotions like CMLL and AAA, there might even be something in your own backyard. Independent promotions all over the country are finally getting back out there.
Go to a local show and support the local talent there. If you enjoy any of those other “national promotions” I can promise you they all have merchandise, PPVs, and live events again finally. The wrestlers that are being fired – and some of them who may not get a chance to be on TV again – most of them will likely begin selling their own merch. WWE is not the be-all, end-all for those wrestlers and it’s damn sure not for the fans.