Predicting the Next WWE Releases

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Predicting the Next WWE Releases

Last night WWE released eight wrestlers from their contracts. Exactly two weeks earlier, shortly after WWE touted better-than-expected performance on a quarterly earnings call, the company released 18 wrestlers. Those were just the latest of several rounds of roster cuts so far in 2021, with 80 wrestlers losing their job throughout the year. That comes on the heels of over 50 wrestlers being released last year, during the height of the pandemic. WWE executives cite “budget cuts,” despite the company seeing record profits since the start of 2020. Various factors have played into the releases; some unhappy wrestlers requested a release, others were cut as part of a larger movement within the company towards younger and more physically imposing wrestlers, while a few were justifiably let go in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations. Still, this is the longest sustained period of bloodletting in WWE’s recent history, and represents an about-face from the company’s recent attempts to hoard talent and keep them away from other promotions. Some wrestlers were let go less than a year after signing with the company; some were fired in the middle of storylines, or shortly after making their debut on the main roster. More than one set of romantic partners lost both their jobs, and some wrestlers were laid off within months or even weeks of relocating to the Orlando area by the company’s request. From the outside, there’s not much rhyme or reason to the releases; some of the company’s most popular stars were cut alongside relatively new wrestlers who seemed like can’t-miss superstars and fresh recruits who never even made it to TV. In short, it’s an incredibly turbulent time for the WWE roster, with WWE’s moves baffling both outside observers and, often, the wrestlers themselves.

WWE’s moves might seem unpredictable, but we here at Paste have noticed a pattern behind all of these releases. After closely analysing the company’s personnel moves this year, we feel like we can predict WWE’s next round of roster cuts with a fairly high level of certainty. According to WWE’s roster page, there are currently 217 performers signed to the company’s four different brands; this includes wrestlers, announcers, commentators, on-air authority figures, and pretty much anybody who appears on WWE television outside of the referees. Assuming the goal is to turn WWE’s roster into a leaner, cheaper, more stock price friendly version of itself, and given the releases of the last two years, we forecast that the following wrestlers will be released from WWE over the next few rounds of cuts—probably wrapping up by Christmas, although don’t count out one last round in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We’ve scoured the facts and cracked the code, and based on what we’ve seen, this is who we expect WWE to release soon.

This is based on WWE’s current roster, according to the WWE website. It’s entirely possible the company fired another dozen or so people in the 30 minutes it took me to set up this post.

A-Kid
Adam Pearce
AJ Styles
Akira Tozawa
Aleah James
Alexa Bliss
Alicia Taylor
Aliyah
Alyse Ashton
Amale
Amari Miller
Andre Chase
Angel
Angelo Dawkins
Aoife Valkyrie
Apollo Crews
Ashton Smith
Asuka
Austin Theory
Bayley
Becky Lynch
Bianca Belair
Big E
Blair Davenport
Boa
Bobby Lashley
Booker T
Bron Breakker
Brooks Jensen
Brutus Creed
Byron Saxton
Cameron Grimes
Candice LeRae
Carmella
Carmelo Hayes
Cedric Alexander
Cesaro
Chad Gable
Charlotte Flair
Commander Azeez
Cora Jade
Corey Graves
Dakota Kai
Damian Priest
Dana Brooke
Dani Luna
Danny Burch
Dante Chen
Dave Mastiff
Dexter Lumis
Dolph Ziggler
Dominik Mysterio
Doudrop
Drew Gulak
Drew McIntyre
Eddie Dennis
Edge
Elektra Lopez
Elias
Erik
Fabian Aichner
Finn Balor
Flash Morgan Webster
Gigi Dolin
Grayson Waller
Guru Raaj
Hachiman
Happy Corbin
Humberto
Ikemen Jiro
Ilja Dragunov
Indi Hartwell
Io Shirai
Isla Dawn
Ivar
Ivy Nile
Jack Starz
Jacy Jayne
James Drake
Jeff Hardy
Jerry Lawler
Jey Uso
Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Uso
Jinder Mahal
Jinny
Joaquin Wilde
Joe Coffey
Joe Gacy
Johnny Gargano
Jonathan Coachman
Jordan Devlin
Joseph Conners
Josh Briggs
Julius Creed
Kacy Catanzaro
Kay Lee Ray
Kayden Carter
Kenny Williams
Kevin Owens
King Xavier Woods
Kofi Kingston
Kushida
Kyle O’Reilly
LA Knight
Lacey Evans
Lewis Howley
Liv Morgan
MACE
Madcap Moss
Malcolm Bivens
Mandy Rose
Mansoor
Marcel Barthel
Mark Andrews
Mark Coffey
Maryse
Matt Camp
McKenzie Mitchell
Mei Ying
Meiko Satomura
Michael Cole
Mike Rome
Montez Ford
Mustafa Ali
MVP
Naomi
Nash Carter
Natalya
Nathan Frazer
Nigel McGuinness
Nikki A.S.H.
Nina Samuels
Noam Dar
Odyssey Jones
Oliver Carter
Omos
Otis
Paige
Pete Dunne
Primate
Queen Zelina Vega
Rampage Brown
Randy Orton
Raquel Gonzalez
Raul Mendoza
Reggie
Rey Mysterio
Rhea Ripley
Rick Boogs
Ricochet
Matt Riddle
Ridge Holland
Robert Roode
Robert Stone
Roderick Strong
Rohan Raja
Ryan Pappolla
Sam Gradwell
Sam Stoker
Sami Zayn
Samoa Joe
Santos Escobar
Sarah Schreiber
Sarray
Sasha Banks
Saurav
Saxon Huxley
Scott Stanford
Seth Rollins
Sha Samuels
Shane McMahon
Shanky
Shayna Baszler
Sheamus
Shelton Benjamin
Shinsuke Nakamura
Shotzi Blackheart
Sid Scala
Solo Sikoa
Sonya Deville
T-BAR
T-Bone
Tamina
Teoman
The Brian Kendrick
The Miz
Timothy Thatcher
Titus O’Neil
Tommaso Ciampa
Toni Storm
Tony D’Angelo
Trent Seven
Trick Williams
Triple H
Tyler Bate
Veer
Von Wagner
Wade Barrett
WALTER
Wes Lee
Wild Boar
Wolfgang
Xia Brookside
Xia Li
Xyon Quinn
Zack Gibson
Zoey Stark

That will leave nine performers under contract. Given the direction WWE has been headed in for years, that should be enough to fill up the three hours of Raw, two hours of NXT, two hours of Smackdown, two hours of NXT UK, one hour of WWE Main Event, and half-hour of something called “205 Live” that WWE produces every single week. Roman Reigns, of course, will continue to be the centerpiece of the show, speaking directly into the camera for over 10 hours a week as Paul Heyman trembles behind him. About four times a year Brock Lesnar, one of three wrestlers still on the roster, will come out to stare Reigns down and maybe have a tug of war over Reigns’ championship belt. Whatever time isn’t filled by Reigns will feature R-Truth, the only other full-time wrestler still under contract, doing comedy solely for the enjoyment of Vince McMahon. Twice a year John Cena and the Undertaker will each do their entrance to piped-in chants of “you’ve still got it.” Pat McAfee will also be there, for some reason, as WWE continues to hope that his mainstream success brings in any new fans at all. Vince and Stephanie McMahon will watch on from backstage, as their staff of 35 TV writers furiously rewrite every script even after the show has already started. It’ll be the culmination of Vince McMahon’s ultimate dream, an efficient, streamlined, fat-free version of what he’s always wanted WWE to be. And across America, two million people will still tune in on Friday nights, and 1.5 million on Mondays. It won’t be good for wrestlers, or the wrestling industry, or the enjoyment of the millions of former wrestling fans who tuned out during WWE’s near-monopoly throughout the ‘00s and ‘10s, but it will more closely reflect McMahon’s vision for what wrestling should be, and as he himself would tell you, that’s some good shit, pal.

Satire aside, and in all honesty, the way WWE treats its employees (who, of course, are somehow defined as “independent contractors,” despite WWE handling every aspect of their career while under contract) has long been shameful. The unpredictability created by these rampant, unexpected cuts can only make things worse, as now anybody outside of the biggest stars must feel expendable. And even some main eventers must worry in the back of their heads, as both Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman were at the top of the card when they were unceremoniously fired earlier this year. With Ring of Honor releasing all of its talent as it eyes a transition back to a more traditional indie promotion, and WWE releasing scores of talent every month, this is the most unstable the labor market in wrestling has been in years—and it comes during a pandemic that is still very real, and still greatly cutting into both independent wrestling shows and the ability to get booked internationally in Japan or Europe. Unlike Ring of Honor, though, which has operated at a loss throughout the pandemic, and whose parent company Sinclair Broadcasting (yes, that Sinclair Broadcasting) is struggling with its debt-laden regional sports networks, WWE’s coffers continue to swell as the company guts its rosters, revealing how out of touch they are with their fanbase and the future by releasing some of the most promising potential superstars in the company. Regular, widespread cuts might make sense for shareholders, but it’s a terrible way to treat your employees, and another sign that wrestlers desperately need a union to protect their interests.

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