Thursday 14 April 2011

Lottery of Unemployment

“WWE has come to terms on the release of NXT first season rookie Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) as of today June 11, 2010. We wish Daniel Bryan the best in all future endeavors.”  - WWE’s announcement concerning the release of Daniel Bryan last year.

That’s the message (dates and names have varied, obviously) that has been used to acknowledge the release of WWE contracted performers for several years now. Due to its distinct lack of sensitivity it has led to being released by the company being known as “getting future endeavoured.” It’s used to signify releases all year round, but it’s at this time of year that it gets used the most as the annual post-WrestleMania roster cuts are made.

Large numbers of cuts have been made at this time of year annually for a number of years now. The timing of it has always seemed curious to me, with the company waiting until after its most financially successful annual event to make perform a mass firing. Perhaps they wait to give themselves plenty of disposable jobbers for the two months between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania. Maybe they do it to be nice, allowing men and women who have been on the roster all year to experience the Axxess event, the Hall of Fame ceremony, and the pay-per-view itself before dropping them. The most likely reason for waiting until now is because this is the time of year that traditionally sees new acts introduced to television, necessitating a few firings.

The men and women usually facing the axe are those who appear predominantly on weekend shows. It’s easy to understand why. Having been neglected for so long they’re only ever booked competitively against opponents of a similar status in matches not many care about. On the rare occasions they do find themselves in the ring with a star they will be there to take a beating before staring at the lights. Sometimes an established name will find their way onto the list of sackings if they’ve done something to be in management’s bad books.

The silver lining is that the released talent tend to go on to find employment outside of the company. For most it means a return to the various independent promotions of North America, though having spent time working in the big leagues means they get more money than other indy workers. A good number will wind up in TNA, making decent money with a position near or at the top of the card. A lucky handful will head to Japan, the best option for replicating the sort of money WWE will pay. Travelling the Orient tends to be a dream for a lot of wrestlers, due to the respect the country has for the business, so being released can occasionally be a blessing in disguise.

Personally I wouldn’t release anyone from the company, at least not right now. It’s a subject I intend to write more on at some point soon, but basically I think the developmental system needs a complete overhaul, ideally seeing four or five feeder promotions instead of the current one. Anyone not doing anything on the main roster would have a role in that. The younger guys would have numerous companies to tour through to gain experience before receiving another shot at carving themselves a spot on the main roster, while underutilised veterans could be installed as trainers. It would be more about removing than releasing.

But that’s me. Vince McMahon and his team disagree.

WWE is touring Europe until Friday April 24th. The cuts are expected to be made after the tour has finished. My guess would be that the names of those released will be announced on either the 26th or 27th. It may seem distasteful, but I’m going to make a few predictions as to who will be released. I’ll give a few reasons for each, though most are going to be listed because the company does nothing with them and isn’t likely to change its mind on them soon.

Primo (real name Edwin Colón)

If you saw the debut of Sin Cara on Monday’s RAW then you’ll be aware that Primo was the masked man’s opponent and that the match featured a glaring botch. I’m not knocking either man’s ability, I think the decision to perform a top rope move for the finish of the match was the right one and it was just unfortunate that they tumbled before they could execute the move as planned on the first go. It was bad luck. They’re both talented wrestlers. I can’t see Vince McMahon sharing my point of view though. I imagine he will want someone to blame. As the company has spent a lot of time hyping Sin Cara and needs him to take over from Rey Mysterio in the masked babyface role that leaves Primo as the (ahem) fall guy.

Husky Harris (real name Windham Rotunda)

I like Husky Harris’s look and work in the ring and think he’d work well in an enforcer role for a smaller wrestler. Company officials are apparently unhappy with the man’s weight, and with CM Punk’s Nexus returning to RAW on Monday without him I think he’s headed for a P45.

Eve Torres

Eve was given the WWE Divas’ championship at the Royal Rumble in January. With hindsight I think that may have been a test to see if she could get over herself over and become a hit with fans. She dropped the belt to Brie Bella on RAW, which could indicate the company’s preparing to sever ties with her. If they do it’s a shame: while she initially seemed an odd choice for champion with the likes of Gail Kim, Natalya, Beth Phoenix and Awesome Kong under contract I think she could have grown into the babyface role had she just been given more air time in which to do it.

Curt Hawkins (real name Brian Myers)

I cannot remember anything he’s done since he and Zack Ryder stopped tagging together. No wait, I can. He formed a team with Lance ‘Vance Archer’ Hoyt... and then Hoyt got released.

Trent Barreta (real name Greg Marasciulo)

Again, I can’t remember anything he’s done. No wait, I can. He lost a squash match to Cody Rhodes on SmackDown a week or two ago.

Tyler Reks (real name Gabriel Tuft)

Another guy who’s done nothing memorable. No wait... actually no, he really has done nothing memorable.

David Hart Smith (real name Harry Smith)

I enjoyed Smith when he was working with Natalya and Tyson Kidd as the Hart Dynasty, but since that team was broken up (prematurely) he’s done nothing. Natalya’s wrestled on a pay-per-views and Tyson’s currently being used on NXT, so I think they’re both relatively safe. Smith had the least personality of the three, hasn’t done anything of note since the team was broken up, and has been viewed negatively by management in the past (stemming from an incident when the three were in developmental and he pitched an idea that he be brought up without his teammates, which higher-ups supposedly thought made him a backstabber).

Jey and Jimmy Usos (real names Joshua and Jonathan Fatu)

With tag teams being of ever decreasing importance to WWE what chance to identical twins have of staying with the company for much longer? I can’t remember seeing them used for months and they’ve been on the main roster long enough to have their chance at creating an impression with the audience.

Michael Tarver (real name Tyrone Evans)

He was an original member of the Nexus (back when the stable still had potential to produce some genuine big name talent) but he was sidelined with a groin injury for quite a while and was never really considered an integral part of the group. He has been reintroduced on TV, but in such an odd way that I suspect it was a storyline that was started and quickly dropped: he was seen loafing around backstage on episodes of RAW and SmackDown, but was never acknowledged by either shows commentary team.

JTG (real name Jayson Paul)

JTG stands for Just Too Good. He isn’t too good. He isn’t even good. He’s about the only wrestler on the roster that I think has nothing to offer. His gimmick is old hat and promotes a negative stereotype, he can’t wrestle well enough to ever progress into a tolerable performer, and his promos are unintelligible at best, channel-changingly annoying at worst. He may be a pro on NXT (which is laughable), but it wouldn’t take more than a moment to think of a way to write him off the show if needed.

Ted Dibiase (real name Theodore Dibiase Jr.)

It’s not that likely, but I do think there’s a slim chance Dibiase will be let go. He’s not done anything of note since his feud with Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes ended at last year’s WrestleMania. Personally I think he’d make a fine upper mid-carder, but he’s been used so poorly for such an extended period of time that I think the company’s lost interest in him.

Dean Malenko (real name Dean Simon)

The Michael Cole v Jerry Lawler WrestleMania match didn’t just annoy fans by going on too long and featuring too much offence from Cole, it annoyed company brass too. The man responsible for setting out the majority of the match was apparently Malenko. This is another case of someone being let go as a fall guy because there are no other options. In fairness to Cole, he is not a wrestler and couldn’t be expected to lay out a compelling match (and if Cole was going to be fired it would have been for his homophobic comment on Twitter a few weeks ago – he survived that, so his future with the company is assured for the time being). While ‘The King’ has been in the business even longer than Malenko he is also WWE’s most trusted colour commentator. He is far too important to be released over a dud match, despite whether or not his experience should have made it better. I wouldn’t like to see Malenko released, but I don’t think it’s impossible.

Melina (real name Melina Perez)

Melina always seems to be in the bad books for something. Currently it’s because she made comments that Trish Stratus did not deserve to wrestle at WrestleMania because she doesn’t go on the road for the company all year round. While Stratus may not go on the road it doesn’t mean she hadn’t earned her spot. She is the most decorated women’s performer of the past decade, and was full time with the company up until five years ago. Fans like her and wanted to see her in the ring.

What makes Melina’s release even more likely is her boyfriend’s (John Morrison) behaviour following the six person match. Stratus went to celebrate with Morrison but he brushed her off and went to pose in an opposite corner. Morrison’s behaviour was likely attributable to Melina’s influence. It’s cost Morrison a pay-per-view main event slot (R-Truth will main event Extreme Rules against John Cena and the Miz in a match that was originally set to be Miz v Cena v Morrison) but the company’s so light on top of the card talent that it’s unlikely his behaviour will cost him his job. Melina, on the other hand, is not involved in any current storylines and isn’t considered a draw. That means she’s expendable.

I like Melina and think she’s one of the most talented performers, male or female, WWE has, so I hope she stays employed.

That is everyone I think could be in with a chance of being released. None of them deserve to be released (with the one exception I mentioned), because they’ve all worked hard to earn the jobs they have. It’s just a sad fact that the company has gotten itself into the habit of having too many people on the roster and not using them. I’m not blaming the writing team, I don’t believe they’re the ones insisting on the excessive numbers of call-ups. There simply aren’t enough minutes on RAW or SmackDown to make everyone a star.

I’ll post a follow up to this blog once the releases are announced, partly to see how accurate I was, but mainly to give some thoughts on what could be next for those released and how I would have used them were I a WWE writer. Until then, best of luck in all your future endeavours.

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