On the one year anniversary of Black Wednesday, last week WWE announced its monotonous and uninventive sequel “Black Wednesday II” as 10 wrestlers from across Raw and Smackdown were released from their contracts in an eerie mirror to the 2020 excisions.
Here’s the reality of the situation though: these WWE releases needed to happen. Andrade included.
Let’s dispense with the obvious first. WWE is a business and they owe their financial future to the business side. They need fans too, yes, but it’s obvious by now the company is going to secure billion dollar deals with or without a serious, steady increase in total viewers on Raw especially. Financially, especially with quarterly earnings reports on the horizon, the company needs to present substantially strong financial optics to its stakeholders. Anyone who’s been laid off from a company knows how this works in terms of timing. This additionally isn’t unusual for WWE at this time of year, as we well know.
Where WWE differs from other companies is not only do they shed “weight” from its “staff,” almost inexplicably they have added depth to their overall roster at an unreasonable rate, as opposed to leaning out the roster/staff and expecting the smaller team to focus their efforts and do more within the condensed “work day.” Focus leads to cohesion, and cohesion gives you something sensible to latch on to as a viewer.
But WWE isn’t the same as say, working in a newsroom with overworked, overstretched editorial teams that are expected to do more with less. In wrestling, the product needs focus. It needs a smaller team to crystallize the directive and execute its direction as a whole, which is something they do share. The hook for wrestling materializes better when it’s focused and structured.
For years now one of the company’s problems has been that focus, or lack of it, evident through its rotating roster and disappearing characters. Especially over the last several years with the rise of NXT, WWE has all-too-readily signed as much talent as they could financially handle, creating so much depth it’s impossible to manage. When you hear stories of people sitting at catering, or when NXT was running its live events almost entirely made up of individuals not appearing on NXT TV, it’s an indication of bloat. You can easily dismiss NXT as getting its freshest signings reps at the time, but that a portion of that team has since moved on elsewhere and not up to the main shows says something about the company’s talent directives, “developmental” and philosophy on signings. Which has been, “sign everyone.”
That’s their prerogative at that. They owe it to themselves to continue to cultivate next-gen wrestlers for next-gen fans, and that’s the way it’s always been. WWE signs wrestlers for developmental brands, gets them ready and brings them up. However, with a bloated roster, which no one can seriously argue against, the pipeline to the primetime shows are clogged and backlogged to such a degree it’ll be quite some time before we continually see the likes of recent signings Ben Carter, Blake Christian, Parker Boudreaux, Bronson Rechsteiner, Elayna Black, Gigi Dolin, Christian Casanova and the like on any of the shows.
These releases remove some of that clutter on the roster, but this cycle will only continue; that can be confidently said, because it’s been the case. So in a few years time we’ll conceivably see some of those new signings released in combination with old-guard names on the main shows. I say that mournfully, but it’s literally what just happened to 10 people last week.
WWE should undoubtedly sign new young talent, and for many working WWE has been their dream as young fans. Look at people like Carter and Christian, it’s something they truly want. The reality is though WWE can’t, shouldn’t and ultimately won’t hold on to talent they no longer have work or plans for. At their height the company did not formerly have a roster this large, with less programming hours at that even if you include places like OVW and Deep South. WWE needs a focused roster with clear main events, a clear midcard, clear tag divisions and a clear developmental philosophy. All of these trend toward not overstocking the depth chart, and WWE should care about their roster wasting their careers away at catering or waiting on the sidelines for someone in creative to get bored, or for one of their friends to get injured so they can have a shot. That’s awful for morale.
The one positive to take away from the last two years of releases is that WWE has not gone out of their way to replace the people they’ve let go with fresh, equal-calibre talent. If anything, it’s fair to argue the company is trending toward focusing its roster and its directive. Match that with decent creative consistency across all corners of the company and WWE will be on good footing, because those people recently signed to NXT are either really good (seriously, check out Blake Christian in Impact and NJPW), or genetically have the potential to be (looking right at Rechsteiner).
Businesses staff based on their needs, not what they think they will potentially, maybe, possibly need. I know from blunt experience several times over. In planning for the eventuality of needing XYZ talents, WWE has veered toward losing its scope. So with that in mind, these releases are awful and they suck, and losing your job (any job) is the worst under all circumstances. Yet, it’s the best for everyone involved so all sides can move forward. The company has an opportunity to refine itself, and the released stars, including last year’s “class,” have the chance to show why the company was wrong about them.
And especially with so many different, great options out there, that isn’t a bad thing for wrestling as a whole.
Black Wednesday 2.0
Hopefully this doesn’t become an annual event, at least not to the degree it has these last two years. Turnover is always expected and is WWE’s post-WrestleMania norm. Off the back off last week though, 90 days from now 10 people will be on the market for new jobs and with so many promotions up and running again, there are options for everyone from Samoa Joe to Chelsea Green, to Mickie James, the Iconics and Bo Dallas to work should they choose. So let’s take a moment to look at some possible destination spots.
Samoa Joe: More than any other released male, this is the only person Tony Khan should even consider signing for AEW’s already too-large male roster. There’s no value in signing anyone else just for the Dark shows, they need someone who can work, can talk and appears as an actual threat on screen, even if that means AEW parting with some of its own roster. Joe can be that valuable. The issue with Joe though is the wear and tear on his body, never mind his recent rash of injuries. He does appear ready and willing to work again, so if he can go he’s a no-brainer. That said, AEW just doesn’t have room for him and are nearing a bloating problem of their own. I think better destinations for him would be going back to Ring of Honor, who could pay decently, are thin at the top and could benefit from his name-value, or going to NJPW and working on Strong. They suffer from many of the same issues as ROH right now, and with a new openweight title being introduced this Friday, he’d fit right in there. The only other option is Impact, but I’m not sure how well he’d fit there near the top of the card when the world title is going to be tied up in the Omega storyline for as long as “Omega Dragon” is active as a belt collector. It’s something they could run for sure, but I feel like Joe will either play the field, or sign with ROH or NJPW. AEW and Impact just make less sense.
Andrade: Much like Joe, I don’t think he should sign with AEW. Given that he’s also younger and wrestles a different style, Andrade has options in Mexico with CMLL and AAA should he desire, in addition to having contacts in ROH whom he’s friends with. Tack on Thea Trinidad and as many have commented, you have a ready-made act already in full gear. Similarly, I think with NJPW Strong and ROH so thin, Andrade would best fit those companies right now. Both shows are starved for familiar faces to work off the preexisting rosters, and Andrade especially fits well with NJPW’s defined focuses on lightweight classes, openweight divisions and the heavyweight title – he’s additionally at a weight he can do all three. AEW could be possible, but with so many better options I’d expect him to show up in Ring of Honor or NJPW on Strong, and eventually the shows in Japan like the summer’s G1 tournament.
Peyton Royce/Billie Kay: Now going by alternate ring/real names, at least by their social handles, these two should have never been split as a tag team. They work well as a duo and have made progress on their own, but the money is in the tandem and with Impact having a fresh set of women’s tag team titles they’d be a good fit on a roster that has had some turnover of its own over the last year. Much like Andrade and Trinidad, they’re a ready-made act of people fans will recognize. Secondarily, given places like ROH and NWA are in need of women for their rosters, that’s a possibility although it’s not exactly clear what NWA pays its talent at this point even with the Fite TV deal. In ROH they would surely be solo acts unless they ran a Velvet Sky-Angelina Love type angle, but the draw is the familiarity of what they delivered in WWE. It really depends on what they want to do, but the easy answer is Impact. I suppose AEW is an option, but without a tag team division and too many new women in the mid-card working towards upper roles or contracts, I don’t know that adding them is the best move for either party. But for all the positive traits AEW does have, impulse control isn’t one of them; them signing is seriously possible in either Impact or AEW. Even just to reestablish themselves, Impact is the better fit right now and they’d need them more.
Chelsea Green: Much like Joe, she can do whatever she likes and everyone should try to sign her. WWE included. She’s somehow underrated in the ring combined with the perception she’s injury prone, does great character work and has the resume to prove it, and can cut a promo. This is the one woman AEW needs to make a definite play for because she carries more name value having worked outside WWE, while also having worked FOR World Wrestling Entertainment very recently. She can be slid right into the upper part of the women’s card, can help the younger women working Dark and coming over from Mission Pro with TV readiness, and I’d imagine she’d have a ton of ideas on developing characters given her past work. She’d be a great pickup for the company, but I wouldn’t be surprised all the same if she were to end up working in Impact or ROH given both rosters need the boost; she has history in Impact and recently said she’d like to check ROH off her bucket list of promotions to work for. Any of those are possible, frankly, but the biggest platform of those is AEW, especially if her ultimate goal is to make it back to WWE. But if WWE were wise, they’d just resign her. Now.
Mickie James: She’s hard to peg because we haven’t seen her work in some time. She looks like she’s still in shape and is ready to go, so she could conceivably work anywhere. I’m skeptical of her signing with AEW, simply because if you look at their roster and the limited TV spots as is even if you loop in Dark, there isn’t room for her when they already have someone like Serena Deeb on the payroll who fills a similar mentorship roll that James would be perfect for. I think she just really wants to work though, so I also don’t think she’d care where she signs as long as consistency is assured. Again AEW is the biggest platform, and given NWA and AEW still have their loose partnership her working with both isn’t implausible with husband Nick Aldis being so central in NWA; that division itself needs help with Thunder Rosa’s contract coming up reportedly this year, the champion injured (Deeb) and too few others ready to work other than Mission Pro upstarts. I think simply from the perspective of wanting to work, I think James kind of disrupts AEW’s slowly building momentum in the division. I think more than AEW, she’ll go to the familiar haunts like Impact or head to NWA. Either way, unless WWE snaps her back up (which they should for a variety of reasons), they are the most logical destinations. You could look at ROH too, but their division isn’t back off the ground just yet, which is a definite knock against it not just for James but for all the released women eyeing future prospects.
Bo Dallas: He’s been on the sidelines for far too long and has shown he can work and make his characters work. He’s still young enough (30) that he can work anywhere, and worked a test match at WrestleMania. If he wants to work, I think any company in need of someone like him should pick him up. I can see him popping up in a lot of the smaller-scale promotions underneath AEW to start just to reassert himself on the scene. After that, who knows, because he’s better than he’s given credit for.
Wesley Blake: As for Blake, I think if Cutler heads to Impact then Blake will follow. Impact’s tag division could use some help with the departure of now-VSK. They worked well together and they’d be a good pickup for a much too lean division. He’s a proven tag team competitor and had good chemistry with Cutler, so if Cutler goes to Impact to follow his better half (Purrazzo), Blake might easily follow to reform their team.
Mojo Rawley: With Mojo, I think he’d likely be happy to work anywhere consistently which is an opportunity he never had in WWE after a point. NWA has been in the habit of picking up people and giving them a spotlight, such as Eddie Kingston and Ricky Starks prior to their AEW signings. He might do well there, or perhaps at Impact. It would be a good place to work to get his timing and confidence back, but you really can’t write off Impact as an option. It’s difficult to write off AEW under any scenario too, but I’m having a hard time envisioning him there in the same way I can’t see NJPW pursuing him with people like JR Kratos and Chris Dickinson already on the roster. I’d be looking for him in Impact and NWA.
Tucker: I think he could pop up anywhere. Like many, especially the names above, he could work smaller promotions like NWA, the Championship Wrestling brands, UWN, or just sign to ROH or Impact. He hasn’t really shown enough to warrant an AEW call, which is no fault of his own. Much like Mojo, and presumably Dallas, I think he’ll just be happy to work anywhere and build his body of work and name value to similarly reassert himself on the scene. He’s already started using twitter to his advantage, and seems happier now overall.
Kalisto: His credentials are middling compared to Andrade, Joe and Mickie James, but Kalisto is still one of the more decorated among the recently-released wrestlers. He’s one of the more well-regarded luchadors, but in terms of what that means for his employment prospects isn’t as clear. His past is primarily within AAA and WWE itself, with sporadic work across the U.S. in smaller regional promotions. He does carry some value as a former WWE product, and with his skillset he’d be a good fit anywhere on the mid-card. Once again, in what’s becoming routine in this breakdown, I don’t think AEW would work considering what they already have. In that, he’d be a really good addition to the NJPW, ROH, Impact or NWA rosters, most likely the former two considering their current makeup.
One Door Closes, Two More Open
The takeaway for all is that while it’s always awful to lose work, each of them have something to offer outside the WWE scope. Given time some of them could easily find their way back, and this is their opportunity to both prove WWE wrong for their past decisions and prove why they belonged in the first place, or blaze a path on their own in the bigger scene.