WWE made the wrong type of headlines on Thursday, releasing 10 wrestlers. This list included Samoa Joe, who was recently a featured part of the WrestleMania 37 broadcast team, as well as rising stars in Peyton Royce and Billie Kay, formerly known together as The Ilconics.
The Samoa Joe release is especially perplexing. On Monday, he was listed internally as an active WWE talent, but that obviously changed drastically in a matter of days. Chelsea Green, who appeared to have a bright future in WWE, was also a surprising release. The others who were cut included Mickie James, Kalisto, Tucker, Bo Dallas and Wesley Blake.
As disheartening as it is for the talent to be released, this is a group that was severely underused. They each now have the chance to rewrite their script. Royce, Kay, James and Green would all make big contributions in AEW, Impact Wrestling or the NWA, as well as generate buzz on the indie circuit, which is still struggling amid the pandemic. And as much of a global platform as WWE offers, these performers now have an opportunity to evolve in a distinct manner, far removed from the restrictions and limitations of a company so beholden to its stockholders.
And though WWE is coming off a commercially successful WrestleMania, and continues to produce massive profit, these cuts are another cold reminder that the bottom line runs Vince McMahon’s enterprise.
- Sources within WWE say there was universal praise for the work of Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair in their match at WrestleMania 37. Only weeks ago Reginald was shoehorned into their program, but ultimately the decision was made to allow Banks and Belair to have the moment to themselves–and the result was spectacular.
Internally, Banks and Belair is the single biggest narrative in WWE, with the work of universal champion Roman Reigns a close second.
- Following the success of last weekend’s WrestleMania, which was held in front of a live crowd at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, WWE returned to its ThunderDome on Monday, performing in front of a virtual crowd. Sources within WWE confirmed to Sports Illustrated that the plan is to hold SummerSlam in front of a live crowd.
- Sports Illustrated has confirmed that Sasha Banks is scheduled to be on Friday night’s SmackDown, confronting Bianca Belair.
- Aleister Black was among those at the talent hotel at WrestleMania 37 in Tampa. As PWInsider’s Mike Johnson reported, WWE is in the process of filming vignettes connected to Black’s on-screen return.
- Pat McAfee is the newest member of the SmackDown broadcast team. The timing of the announcement is unrelated to the previous day’s cuts.
This platform is an opportunity McAfee has long been seeking. And though the world of wrestling, especially WWE, is always subject to change, the current plan is to let McAfee be himself on the air and avoid over-producing him. He will also continue to work on his other projects, including his podcast, while serving as one of the premier voices of SmackDown.