LaBar: Why WWE released 11 talents
Independent wrestling promoters and Jeff Jarrett just had an exciting Thursday of potential new employees after the WWE future endeavor storm hit.
WWE released 11 talents: JTG, Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal, Aksana, Curt Hawkins, Theodore Long, Camacho, Brodus Clay, Evan Bourne, Yoshi Tatsu and referee Marc Harris.
None of these releases should be surprising. If someone said WWE was going to release people and you had to make a list of potentials, none of these talents would be immune from the list. I know, because I made my own list.
A few weeks ago on the video wrestling talk program I co-host, Chair Shot Reality, during a segment discussing the amount of money Vince McMahon recently lost, I read a text from a WWE source just minutes before the cameras started rolling. The text said to expect mass cuts to take place in the near future. A few of the released names were in my head of potentials.
Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal and Brodus Clay are the highest profile names who have people talking. McIntyre and Mahal were getting regular television time as part of 3MB. McIntyre also was once dubbed “The Chosen One” by McMahon himself. Not saying the three didn't have talent, but it was clear WWE dropped any attempt at viewing these guys are serious assets in the long term for the company.
WWE has been publicly losing money. However, I think these cuts could have happened regardless. Sure, they get magnified due to the substantial losses, but it was time.
You have Rusev, Adam Rose, Bo Dallas on the main roster and expectancy for guys such as Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville and The Ascension to soon come up from NXT. It's out with the old and in with the new. I'm not saying those released all were utilized or given the best chances. But they all had been around for a long time, and we've seen failed runs from all of them.
Not everyone on the roster can be main event stars. You need guys to lose to the up-and-coming guys being built. You need bodies to fill out a long European tour or split live event tours domestically. But even then, there are only so many spots.
With everyone released, rightly or wrongly by WWE creative/management, they had been tossed against the wall a few times to see if something would stick.
JTG wasn't relevent since Cryme Tyme.
McIntyre's wife caused problems when working with WWE, and it seems he paid for it ever since.
Mahal was taken seriously as a competitor for a few weeks like Khali. WWE uses the circus attraction of Khali's size and his ambassadorship to India. Mahal became a chuckle of not-funny WWE comedy to put the Middle Eastern guy in a turban in a rock band and tell him to play air guitar. So much for “Don't Hinder Jinder.”
Aksana was starting to grow on me in the looks and in-ring department. Sadly, she never exploded through the television with personality. WWE has a talented crop of Divas coming up through NXT. Plus, she never played the backstage politics to get ahead. Sad, but true.
Curt Hawkins was a body to fill low-level matches. Probably capable of more, but WWE had no interest.
Theodore Long had a great run with the company in a variety of roles. Nice guy, but his act was worn out.
I don't know much of Camacho because I didn't see much of him. I know his father who wrestled as Haku or Meng was considered one of the toughest ever by his peers. I guess making him a gangster on a bike was the best WWE's 16 writers could come up with.
I thought Brodus Clay had the most potential, given his look, size and mobility. As I said, I'm not surprised by anyone, but I have the most questions concerning the evaluation of Clay from his WWE superiors.
Evan Bourne had been with the company for six years and I felt like I saw him for two. Injury and suspensions took up too much time. Another nice guy, but there are those coming up in NXT who can wow the crowd with high-flying moves, are more marketable looking and can talk.
Yoshi Tatsu had a good run but was never not in a low-level filler role.
Marc Harris was a bad referee. Made some bad mistakes on national television and responded with an aroma of arrogance. From those I've talked with, many of his peers didn't think much of him. I'm sure he'll be selling valuable 8x10s of his WWE glory days in the black and white stripe for years to come.
WWE management has responsibility for the failures, but unfortunately often they are above blame and prosecution in the system.
Let me address a few questions or myths I've got from fans since the releases.
• Are you surprised Zack Ryder wasn't released?
No, Ryder still makes the company money despite losing his television matches. He's marketed himself well. Also, he is top on the list of guys you could potentially see WWE release due to not being used much, but he could make the biggest splash independently. Ryder has charisma. If WWE has a choice, I'm not surprised they'd rather pay him than let him be a free agent.
• Do big money guys who are part-time like Brock Lesnar or Batista causes for these releases?
No. Forget your personal feelings toward Lesnar, Batista, The Rock or anyone else like that — those guys do draw. They are worth a lot for eyes on the product, merchandise and cross-promotions. WWE gets the money back in those investments.
• Who do you want to see released from WWE that hasn't been?
Nobody. I might critique someone or not like someone. However, I don't ever want to sit here in an analyst position and request to see someone lose their job. I might agree with it if it happens — see Marc Harris — but I don't have any want to select someone before it happens.
• Who do you think will be the big breakout independent star or who will make the biggest impact?
I'll stick with Brodus Clay. He might not be able to do the moves Bourne can or have the fanfare McIntyre does, but Clay has bigger qualities. He can hold his own in the ring. He has a unique size and look. He stands out in the crowd.
• How can WWE cut someone who's contracted, but they can't work elsewhere for 90 days, nor are?
It's a clause in a contract. They aren't WWE employees. They are independent contractors. WWE gets the better end of this deal. WWE inserts clauses that says if released, you can't work anywhere else for 90 days. These guys sign it because the contract looks appealing, and they hope they will be life-long talents with the company. These kind of clauses aren't uncommon. You find this in television a lot with news personalities who if they leave one place, can't go to another especially in the same market.
Sometimes those clauses in the local news business can be up to a year. WWE can use these clauses because it is the only game in town. Back in the day when it had WCW or other territories as competition, these clauses weren't an issue because someone could easily turn it down and find work somewhere else.
• What's the money like for the lower-card guys versus the independent scene?
All guys are different. But to speak in general, most of the guys we're talking about who were released from WWE that are wrestlers were probably around $100,000 of a downside guarantee a year. Some might be more, some less, but let's use that as a basis. They all have to pay their hotel, rental cars and flights. They get a percentage of their merchandise sales, but most of these guys weren't heavily invested in the marketing side of things.
On the indy scene fresh off of WWE, I wouldn't be shocked if these guys get anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 an appearance with all of their hotels and travel paid, plus they get to keep all of their merchandise. They are charging money for pictures, shirts and more. So an entire weekend of almost no expenses and several thousand dollars where they are their own boss being billed as top stars on the show is profitable.
Justin Labar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JustinLaBar. Join Justin LaBar at Blue Line Grille on June 24th for a special 5pm radio broadcast on TribLIVE Radio getting everyone ready for WWE SmackDown at Consol Energy Center