Another year, another grim post-WrestleMania day in the wrestling calendar as you have no doubt heard already we’ve had a repeat of last year’s Black Wednesday – this time on a Thursday to keep things fresh.
One year to the day, April 15th, WWE announced a slew of releases of talent – with Samoa Joe, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Mickie James, Chelsea Green, Kalisto, Tucker, Wesley Blake and Bo Dallas all getting the chop. It was also announced a few hours after this group that Mojo Rawley had also been released by the company.
No word on whether or not backstage and creative staff have also suffered the same fate, but if it is anything like last year then the superstars let go are only the most visible minority of the cuts WWE makes to its workforce.
It was reported that John Laurinaitis was in charge of making the calls and was citing “budget cuts” to talent released as the reason for their termination – last year WWE made similar pre-emptive releases as the pandemic and lockdown began and then went on to post record profits for the year.
According to the Wrestling Observer all talent are under 90 day non-compete clauses and won’t be free to sign with other promotions until July 14th. Where you would have to imagine the likes of AEW, Impact and other promotions will have their eye on a lot of the talent released.
I think what is quite shocking about this way of announcing is that first of all it’s WrestleMania week and we’ve not even finished WWE’s schedule of post-Mania programming as Smackdown is still to air tonight so this is really counter to the overall buzz of the week.
Plus you’ve got people like Billie Kay in that list who wrestled at WrestleMania and has been doing good stuff recently and Joe who was on commentary for the show.
Backstage Details on WWE Release
Even the likes of Bo Dallas according to Fightful Select was backstage on Smackdown recently though no creative plans were in place for him and he also reportedly wrestled a test match at WrestleMania to help test out the equipment for the show. His last televised match was the battle royale at Crown Jewel in 2019.
WWE Stars Respond To Releases
While it’s always bleak when someone loses their job unexpectedly, as Oli said in his breaking news episode yesterday this year’s releases are at least in a better position with the world opening back up and indie promotions running shows. At least there is somewhere to go for these talents.
Which is likely why the overall sentiment from the releases on Twitter had less of a sombre tone than last year.
Samoa Joe got into a fun little exchange with CM Punk, who posted a gif of Dave Chappelle’s Rick James having a tantrum, to which Joe replied: “they really should of never have me money” and then tweeted a message saying “be well” with Jim Carrey bowing at the end of the Truman Show. Both references Andy Datson did not know on our stream yesterday. What have you been doing to miss both of these cultural touchstones? Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
Superstars React To WWE Releases
Chelsea Green who had a rough go of it in WWE with multiple injuries and reportedly signed a new three year deal very recently posted a heartfelt goodbye saying she had made a “lifetime of memories” and “it’s been short and sweet WWE Universe. I’ll see you on TV.”
And also posting an image of her as hot mess Laurel Van Ness saying “welcome back, it’s been a while”. She also immediately got to the graft tweeting Barstool Sports offering herself out for a female wrestling podcast.
Former Heavy Machinery member Tucker tweeted saying “freedom baby!!” and that he was looking forward to telling his story and a picture of himself playing a round of golf and smoking a joint. It’s not all bleak.
Mickie James, who honestly, has been utterly wasted in this contract said she was “grateful for these little keys to my golden handcuffs” suggesting she’s wanted out for a while.
And Billie Kay, who wrestled at WrestleMania remember, and just started a thing with Carmella on TV, posted a heartfelt message thanking WWE, Vince and Triple H for the past 6 years, thanking the locker room and fans and thanking Peyton Royce, aka Cassie, saying “our journey started together and it’s only fitting that it ends together” “I’m with you forever”. AEW, Impact, anyone, you’ve got to get the Iconics as a package deal.
Update on Aleister Black Status
Obviously when a series of releases happen it sets minds racing about who might be next on WWE’s list of ‘budget cuts’.
One name riding high in people’s minds yesterday was Aleister Black – who has a few checks against him in the old speculation tracker.
Not been on TV for a while. Check. Unsatisfied with recent storyline and character direction. Check. Wife recently released from the company for doing Twitch or other bullsh** reason. Check.
Well, so far, his name hasn’t been added to the list and according to PWInsider won’t be as WWE have reportedly been producing vignettes to hype up the return of Black.
Apparently these vignettes centre around his childhood – bet you it’s pulling wings off of flies and all that kind of thing, and then I found this book with human skin on the cover and now I like candles and pentagrams.
Black hasn’t wrestled since he was drafted to Smackdown last year which coincided with Zelina Vega being released for ‘breach of contract’.
WWE Hall of Famer Set For NXT Feud?!
Now, over on the black and gold brand business is booming – if you’re Cameron Grimes.
Grimes has been crushing it with his Gamestop investor schtick adding himself to a rich heritage of rich guys in WWE. Even paying tribute to the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase.
Now according to Ted there are plans in the works for him to work with Grimes, which he revealed in an interview with Booker T on Reality of Wrestling.
Saying “As a matter of fact, I’m supposed to go down to the developmental center pretty soon. I think I’m gonna do something with that new guy, their new money guy, Cameron Grimes or something. I’m gonna have a little feud with him.”
This I can get on board with.
Mauro Ranallo Returns to Wrestling
Former WWE commentator and Mamma Mia enthusiast Mauro Ranallo has been announced for his wrestling return. Ranallo last commentated for WWE in August last year, and confirmed his departure from the company on August 31st.
However, late last night, or early this morning depending where you are, Impact Wrestling revealed that Ranallo will be announcing the main event of Rebellion on April 25 of Rich Swann vs Kenny Omega with the AEW and Impact World Championships on the line.
Ranallo calling an Omega match, screaming V-Trigger? Yes please.
Speaking on the announcement as part of the press release, Ranallo said:
“Swann vs Omega, champion vs champion, title vs title – this match represents everything I love about professional wrestling. I have been fortunate to call these two superstar’s matches in the past and I’m very excited to be part of this historic encounter.”
It’s good to see Mauro coming back, personally I think he’s one of the best commentators in the world and has a real way of injecting excitement into his calling of a match.
The bout itself could see AEW’s Kenny Omega pick up the first title on his quest as belt collector, which may draw in even more viewers to Dynamite. Not that they need any help based on this week’s ratings.
Dynamite Gains HUGE Ratings
Fans were very excited after NXT moved to Tuesday nights, as the perception was that it would help both shows thrive in viewership. NXT this week certainly seemed to show a big improvement, with them nearly doubling their 18-49 demographic numbers and increasing their average viewership from the TakeOver episode the week before.
And the effect seems to be even stronger for AEW, as this week’s episode pulled an average viewership of 1.219 million viewers, their second highest viewership of all time, only behind their premiere episode. They also managed a huge .55 rating in the 18-49 demographic as well.
Whether this is a bump from NXT lifers who checked out the show for the first time now that they could, or a solid indication of what’s to come for AEW going forward, we’ll have to wait and see. But one thing’s for sure: this move has definitely helped both brands. Yay for wrestling.
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