Saturday, March 2, 2024
EditorialExamining WWE's Latest Round of Releases: Braun Strowman and More

Examining WWE’s Latest Round of Releases: Braun Strowman and More

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Here we go again. Again. WWE has once more decided to release a bunch of people due to so-called “budget cuts” and we’re all left wondering why and how this happened.

Last year, there was a big cull and we all thought it wasn’t too strange, considering it the start of a pandemic and post-WrestleMania. More releases were scattered throughout 2020, but even then, it felt like it was just leftovers.

Then, it happened again this year on the same day. At best, we argued that it could have been a tax thing, but we knew something was up. You don’t report record profits multiple quarters and then still have budget cuts.

Then, another round of releases happened with NXT. And then, further still, the media divisions were dismantled and shuffled around with more releases. There were literally reports about how WWE told people that was it and no more releases were to come.

But here we are. Six more people have lost their jobs—at least. And at this point, history has shown there shouldn’t be a moment of thinking the storm has passed. We could be in the eye of the hurricane and tomorrow, there could be even more releases.

What gives? Why is WWE doing this? For that matter, why these people in particular?

The Big Picture(s)

I recently wrote up a post that was trying to look on the optimistic side of things. Boy did that not age well. The basic gist of it was that they’re restructuring things and soon enough, they’ll go on a spending spree and the company as a whole will be better off because of it, even though it sucks for the people who are losing their jobs.

Now, just a few days later, I no longer feel such optimism. Instead, I’m filled with doubts that WWE as it stands will even remain the way it is within a year.

Something is up. This isn’t just a matter of having too big of a roster, feeling sick of the clutter and wanting to trim the weeds like what WWE used to do back in 2011 and such when they’d release guys like Eli Cottonwood and Ricky Ortiz.

There has to be a bigger picture in mind, and there are three possible scenarios I can imagine being why this is happening:

Reasoning 1

Nick Khan’s ascension and newfound power is in full-effect. He’s looking at WWE not from an entertainment perspective, but from a pure numbers game. Every time someone’s contract is coming up, he’s tossing out the idea that they might not be worth it and this is going to happen to EVERYONE going forward.

They’ll try to renegotiate every single person to make less money because it just looks good on paper to not have as many expenses. Basically, the new guy in control is an accountant who is only looking at employees as numbers and 5 beans is better than 4 beans, even if you steal one from someone else.

Note that I hope this isn’t the case, nor do I have any knowledge about this. It’s pure speculation.

Reasoning 2

WWE is afraid that the lower ratings and the lack of interest is going to severely hurt the company going forward. They’re trying to stockpile as much revenue as they can to keep them afloat for what they think is an even bigger catastrophe, rather than the awful situation they’re in right now.

Basically, it’s like running out in the rain and getting wet because you know you have to put your car windows up or it’ll ruin the interior.

Instead of fixing the problem with Creative, they’re hoping to just grit it out and weather the storm on pure cash.

While I have no degree in business management and such, I can’t help but to think this is actually shortsighted and foolish. It strikes me as the type of mentality businesses have where they unknowingly speed up their demise, rather than save themselves.

Ever see a restaurant that isn’t doing as well because the food/atmosphere/service/etc isn’t all that great, so they UP their prices to try to make up for the lack of customers? In their minds, they’re counterbalancing the lost revenue. However, all that does in the long run is damage. Suddenly, more people will think “the food isn’t worth that price” and stop showing up, so they’ll repeat the cycle until there isn’t anyone left.

The issue is that you are drawing less people into your restaurant, rather than the prices being off. If you have a full house every night, you can charge a minimal increase and make more profit and it won’t greatly affect you, but if you drive away your customer base, how do you expect to get them back?

Likewise, if WWE keeps releasing talent and has even less to work with, meaning more rematches, weak storylines and feuds that are stretched out far beyond their welcome, just in order to compensate for the lack of variety, then how do they expect to get more people interested in their product to watch?

Reasoning 3

They’re selling. Frankly, I think this is the most likely situation, too.

The streaming service bubble is about to burst. There are far too many signs of this. MGM was bought out by Amazon. Disney+ is doing well and will need to expand to offset the losses from the pandemic. WarnerMedia and Discovery is something more people should be talking about.

I’m becoming more and more suspicious about the Peacock merger. For a while, I thought it was just a means to get an influx of cash in WWE. A five year deal that they can then switch to a new service afterward.

Now, I think we’re in “the before times” prior to Comcast making a big play. We all know cable isn’t going to last much longer. People don’t want to pay that much money for hundreds of channels they don’t watch just because it’s a bundle deal. The value of it isn’t there.

But if a corporation like Comcast can buy out Warner and have access to all that material, as well as Peacock and WWE, suddenly, there’s a strong foundation. They sell you their internet service with their options to buy the individual streaming platforms a la carte. Then, they give you a bigger bundle deal that’s more expensive, but a better deal. Instead of paying (arbitrary numbers here) $100 for your internet, with $10 for Peacock and $10 for HBO Max and $10 for Discovery and $10 for DC Universe and $25 equipment rentals, for $165, they’ll give the whole thing to you for $150. That way, you won’t think about how you don’t need HBO Max, Discovery and DCU and end up paying them $135.

I think WWE is going to be a “channel” in the new regime, so to speak. Their partnership with NBC goes back a long way and they’re on Peacock now as a test, in my mind. Maybe WWE Network even separates, so you’d have to spend $5 on Peacock for The Office and such, $5 for WWE, etc.

It wouldn’t shock me if all this is to maximize the pure numbers value of WWE for the people who aren’t going to look at the quality of the entertainment (aka, the other bean counters) and will just look at “the company assets” like the hours of content (which people are stockpiling as if it’s actual stock, which is insane in this market in its own right because everyone is just into investments they think will make them right post-pandemic). Then, Comcast will come along, offer to buy WWE and they’ll sell.

What About the Talent?

Let’s shift the focus on to the men and women who were released. As mentioned, it’s obviously awful and any decent person doesn’t wish this on anyone. You shouldn’t be happy to see someone lose their jobs. Granted, you might be happy they’re free to go elsewhere and explore their creativity, wrestle some other people and so on, but it’s one thing to be hopeful their talents won’t be wasted and another to be glad they got fired.

Santana Garrett – It’s baffling they supposedly had a bunch of ideas for her to come up to the main roster, barely used her in NXT, and then released her. You thought she was worth investing in and put that effort into the ideas, but you still let her go? Or did you not have much faith in her and those were last-ditch effort type of ideas?

I assume she goes to Impact Wrestling, works the indies, pops up on AEW Dark/Elevation, etc. Maybe she even goes to NWA. It’s a shame she never got a foothold in WWE.

Buddy Murphy – I’d anticipate Murphy requested his release, in so many words. He’d been floundering for a long time. Without Paul Heyman’s support, this past year has been rough. His partnership with Seth Rollins fizzled out. The storyline with Aalyah was terrible and dropped like a lead weight. Then, he just did nothing.

Murphy’s going to bounce back strong. I feel it. He’s a great worker who could go to New Japan, ROH, NWA, Impact, AEW or work the indies and hone his craft even more. I’m getting Juice Robinson vibes, basically, where he wasn’t a big deal in WWE, but he’s going to be a much bigger star elsewhere.

Lana – It was weird that Lana didn’t leave alongside Rusev. For a year or so, Miro was out of WWE and Lana stuck around, where she was one of the most featured women in the division.

Now, poof. Gone. I guess her contract was too high. Maybe there wasn’t much of a chance for her to grow.

Ultimately, I think this will be a good thing for her. She clearly has lots of interests and avenues she can go down. Acting, modeling, social media influencing and so many other things have been and will be on her checklist. CJ Perry will also bounce back well and may leave wrestling altogether and be even happier about it. Hell, she might want to start a family and can do it since she won’t be bumping in the ring.

I don’t think she joins the AEW women’s division. Actually, I don’t think she goes anywhere. I’d imagine her time wrestling is over and if she does show up, it might be as a supporting character in AEW just for the sake of it, but not as a true member of the roster. Think less Penelope Ford and more Eric Bischoff.

Ruby Riott – Heidi Lovelace needs to join the AEW roster. Absolutely. They need women with her level of experience, talent and name recognition.

It’s great to have young rookies you can train up, but as has shown, you can’t build a division around that. Tesha Price could be the best thing to happen to the division in years, but she’s not there yet to be that top woman right now.

The minute her contract is up, Riott should be snatched up and brought in as a challenger for Dr. Britt Baker. She’d be a believable contender and a great asset to the roster.

This will be good for her if that happens. Despite the downside of leaving her friends and the comfort of a cushier WWE gig, AEW could be a better platform for her talents.

Aleister Black – Likewise with Riott. Every bit of it. I fully expect Tommy End to pop up in AEW, possibly alongside Thea Trinidad (or they can both be signed and not partnered up on screen).

He’s too good to be ignored. Every promotion is going to want to get him. Out of all the options, AEW fits the bill the best, in my opinion. I can’t imagine he’s better suited for NWA, for example.

Tommy End will be a name the AEW audience will go nuts for and he’ll look like a “big get” without being worth a contract the size of a Hulk Hogan in 1993.

Braun Strowman – Supposedly, he had a $1 million contract that they were in negotiation about. My assessment may be way off, but I’m imagining a scenario where Vince McMahon likes him and this was a legitimate budget thing where they couldn’t come to terms. Strowman might want to do more bodybuilding, focus on his mental health (which he’s talked a lot about recently) and even get into something like acting, and would have stuck around if the price was right, but WWE could have been trying to low-ball him and they can’t see eye-to-eye, so they parted ways.

For now.

I’m also imagining a scenario where a year or two, maybe three, and Strowman’s returned to WWE. I actually don’t think he’s going to wrestle for anyone else in the meantime, either. This doesn’t strike me as a Drew McIntyre situation where he’s going to reconnect with his passion for wrestling, retool himself and come back stronger. Strowman isn’t someone who grew up idolizing the business in that same way, so he isn’t using that as his driving force.

Plus, he’s already accomplished practically everything. He’s a Triple Crown champion who won the Greatest Royal Rumble, Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and Money in the Bank. Maybe he even feels fulfilled, at least for now.

I’d be shocked if he pops up in another company. Down the line, I expect he’ll “come back home” to WWE, instead.

Now What?

That’s a million dollar question with no answer other than “we sit back and see what happens next.”

I do expect more releases. Maybe it’s on the talent side. Perhaps it’s more internal stuff. For all we know, 205 Live and Main Event and NXT UK end up being gutted entirely and taken out of the mix with this Diamond Mine thing replacing at least one of them.

I know I’ll be on the lookout for more warning signs and questionable activities. If suddenly, WWE starts using corporate speak about mergers, for instance, it’ll fuel my theory about them selling. The more I hear about “budget cuts”, the more I’ll think they’re paranoid about a massive drop in revenue to come, especially if more people sell their stock.

For the talent, we’ll have to hope they can bounce back quickly and efficiently. I’m excited to see what they can do with the chains off and I wish them the best. For WWE, I guess we can just hope the healing process starts and this wound doesn’t get any bigger, or infected.

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