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May 2017: WWE Mass Layoffs 2017


In recent years I’ve been hearing more and more about how wrestlers in WWE feel extremely insecure about their positions within the company. In episode 42 of The FightBox Podcast, Luther Ward, a former NXT wrestler went into detail about the atmosphere in WWE and how it can cause a feeling of job insecurity.

“It was kind of like ‘We are NXT, you’re so privileged to be here’ and then at the same point … they tell you like two minutes later that it’s everyone for themselves, that you have to go get yourself ahead … It was not a great working environment.”

It certainly doesn’t help much either when you know that every year WWE does a mass firing.

Why it Happens

I get why it happens. Wrestling is a business that is largely talent driven. It is always looking for the next big thing that is going to light the business on fire the way that Hulk Hogan did in the 80’s or Steve Austin did in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

Nowadays WWE doesn’t have the luxury of hand picking the best talents who have had years of grooming in the territory system like they did in the 80’s nor does it have the ability to cherry pick the best talents from WCW or ECW like in the 90’s. Nowadays they have their own talent developmental brand called NXT.

It’s NXT’s job to get talent ready for the big stage and hopefully prepare them to be the next big money-making wrestling superstar, but once you get up there, it’s pretty much sink or swim. If you don’t make a big splash and make it within a few years, your head could end up on the chopping block sooner rather than later.

Who Got Cut Last Year?

Although many fans see NXT as one of, if not the most popular brand that WWE has, it is also responsible for many of the annual layoffs which tend to confuse and anger a lot of those same fans. For example, a wrestler who was consistently underutilized and overlooked, Damian Sandow, was released in 2016 along with a host of other wrestlers including Wade Barrett, Santino Marella, Hornswoggle and several others.

Sandow is a guy that basically grew up within the WWE talent developmental system. He was signed to WWE only a year or two into his career and went through all the different incarnations of developmental including OVW and FCW. Having signed with WWE in 2002, he was finally called up to the main roster in 2012 where he debuted his genius / aristocratic character. Over the course of the next four years, he was definitely a company man, taking any assignment he was given and any tweak to his character in stride, and more often than not, making it work and getting it over. His best work was arguably right at the end of his tenure with the company when he was doing the “Mizdow” character, which at one time, was perhaps the most entertaining thing on WWE programming.

But the WWE / NXT wheel keeps on turning and it’s always a case of ‘out with the old and in with the new’. With a slew of NXT talents joining the main roster after WrestleMania, there’s only room for so many players on the team. In fact, a few NXT wrestlers were just let go several weeks ago when Andrea D’Marco, Chris Atkins and Josh Bredl were future endeavored.

Who Gets the Axe This Year?

I expect 2017 to follow the same pattern as in years past and for there to be another mass layoff coming probably sometime between now and SummerSlam. These are the heads I think are going to roll.

Eva Maria

One thing is for sure now in WWE, girls can work. As far as in ring work, character development and emotionally connecting with the audience, female wrestlers such as Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Asuka and others have really raised the bar for the fairer sex in WWE. Although you can’t blame her for trying, Eva Maria just hasn’t seemed to catch on as quickly as the other ladies despite her well publicized trainings with Brian Kendrick. She was suspended for 30 days in August of last year and now seems to be more interested in out-of-ring projects than working towards a big return.

Mauro Ranallo

It has been reported that WWE’s most celebrated commentator will continue to sit out the remainder of his contract, which is said to be until sometime in August. WWE had a huge public relations nightmare recently surrounding bullying allegations, which have largely not been publicly recognized by the company. JBL has a history of being a bully in the WWE including beating the shit out of The Blue Meanie in 2005, stealing Justin Roberts’ passport, and hazing wrestlers such as The Hardy Boyz, The Miz, The Public Enemy and The Dudley Boyz. Ranallo was removed from television by the company earlier this year after allegedly being bullied by Layfield which could have caused some problems for someone who openly suffers from bipolar disorder. Fans responded, using #FireJBL on social media. When these kinds of things happen, WWE tends to deal with the situation swiftly, but not in this case. Ranallo later squashed the situation by saying his hiatus had nothing to do with JBL. He has been put on “sabbatical”, let’s say, and it’s not clear whether or not JBL has received any backlash at all from the WWE office.


Titus O’Neil

With no previous wrestling experience, Titus O’Neil was signed to a developmental contract in 2009. Here’s another mid-card guy (at best) who has never really broken through for whatever reason. He spent quite some time as part of the Prime Time Players tag team with Darren Young, having little success. Then, at the 2015 Royal Rumble, in what looked to be a spot where Titus would be quickly eliminated from the match, he completely botched his exit of being double clotheslined over the top rope. Later, in February of 2016, he was suspended for 90 days when he attempted to grab Vince McMahon by the arm on Raw. Since then nothing noteworthy has really happened in his career.


Paige has not been in a WWE ring in about a year. Neck surgery coupled with a few curious suspensions for banned substances have perhaps put Paige in the doghouse. Her eccentric relationship with her fiancé and ex-WWE champion Alberto Del Rio (now a part of Impact Wrestling) and her leaked nude videos and photos are also probably not helping her standing with the office very much either.


Dolph Ziggler

Okay, okay, this one is probably a long shot, because I really feel that there would be a HUGE backlash from fans on this, but you never know. Put yourself in WWE’s place. If you’re an upper-management type in the company, you’ve got to ask yourself if it’s worth keeping Dolph on the roster or if it’s better to invest in a younger talent from NXT. Why has Dolph Ziggler never really ascended to a top spot? He’s never been featured in a major role at WrestleMania, being relegated to multi-person matches (ladder matches, battle royals and mixed tag matches) for the most part. After a while it’s going to be a case of “creative has nothing (left) for you”. Maybe WWE only sees Dolph as “a good hand” who can work with anybody and have good matches, but doesn’t view him as a main-eventer. He’s 36 years old right now and has been on the main roster since 2009. That’s eight years if you’re keeping score. Is this guy ever going to get his big break? Was winning the WHC his big break? Maybe there’s a higher-up somewhere that doesn’t like Ziggler? Whatever the reason, I have a feeling that The Showoff’s time is running out, which is a shame.

Sour Grapes?

For most wrestlers, making it to WWE is a childhood dream come true but once they get there and they get involved with the WWE machine, things don’t always turn out the way they had imagined they would. More and more wrestlers are leaving their WWE experience with a bad taste in their mouth, most notably CM Punk who walked away at the peak of his popularity for multiple reasons. Other wrestlers such as Cody Rhodes, Ryback, Alberto Del Rio, Rey Mysterio, Jack Swagger, Ted DiBiase Jr. and several others have all left WWE on their own accord due to the fact that they were not happy with how they were being used or the direction their career was going.

A Blessing in Disguise?

Being let go from WWE is not necessarily a bad thing. As I talked about in my April 2017 blog, sometimes it’s the best thing that can ever happen to you. Just look at the Hardy Boyz for example. You’ve really got to hand it to them for using their creativity and thinking completely outside the box to reinvent themselves and make it back to the show. The same goes for guys like AJ Styles, Drew Galloway, John Morrison, EC3 and a host of others who have left WWE and are doing really good for themselves. Some of them have even made returns to WWE later in their careers and had even more success.


I haven’t wrestled since March of 2015 and in my 14 year career I never once set foot in a WWE ring. A part of me is really disappointed that I was never able to achieve that, but another part wonders what WWE would have done with a guy like me. Would they have done absolutely everything possible to make me a superstar and have invested in me 100% or would I have just been another underutilized, underappreciated fly on the wall?

I can’t help but think of my friend Joe Legend, a guy I’ve worked with a number of times and a guy who I think was one of the best talents of his day and could always make anyone he worked with seem better than they actually were. WWE called him “Just Joe” and did absolutely nothing with him. In fact, “Just Joe” should have killed his career, but due to the fact that he’s such a good hand, he was able to make a great living on the independents for a number of years afterwards.

Be that as it may, and make no mistake about it, there is an unstable, tip-toeing, ‘watch what you say’ atmosphere in WWE. Eggshells are being walked on, especially this time of year with a mass layoff looming in the near future. Who will stay and who will go? Who will get the call up to the main roster and get a chance to live their dream? Who will get the axe? Who will finally say ‘screw it’ and just leave out of frustration? In wrestling, more than any other form of sports or entertainment, sometimes the soap opera behind the soap opera is more entertaining than the actual soap opera itself. What a weird and wonderful thing.

- Daniel Austin (Don Roid) (blog) (podcast)



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