You’ve heard the term trimming the fat, based on the idea that things that aren’t a necessity become expendable. Well on Friday May 6th, the WWE released no less that eight performers from their roster. The releases came fast and furious, and too many they didn’t come to as a surprise because of how the competitors were being used (or not) at that point. When we explore who was cut, some would argue that it was probably in the best interests of these men and women, and their releases are actually a blessing in disguise. Let’s explore those released and their impact both on the screen and off, and whether or not they can still make a name for themselves in wrestling.
The first person who comes to mind is former Funkadacktyl Cameron. Too many wrestling fans, Cameron’s departure isn’t seen as much of a surprise. Her time on camera had diminished greatly. After her split from Naomi, she had a short-lived feud against her former partner, and nothing after. There is no question that Cameron had her share of followers on social media, and ones that supported her during her time with the WWE. Cameron’s most notable use by the company was as part of the Total Divas program, where she had the chance to show off her acting skills more so than her in ring skills. She was also used in NXT, in what was thought to be an opportunity for her to develop her in-ring skills. However, a live audience can be very unforgiving of in ring errors, though it is very disrespectful because the performers are trying their best to put on the best match they possibly can. However, if that polished product doesn’t make it to television, or isn’t evident, then fans will be merciless in their criticism.
Another of the released talents was Alex Riley. If there was ever someone who had a look and feel that should have carried him forward, it was Riley. For those unaware, Riley first appeared as part of NXT when that brand was similar to Tough Enough. Participants were aligned with a main roster talent that would help them succeed, and with one eventually chosen as the winner of the entire competition. Riley was aligned with The Miz, who he then later turned on because of how he was being treated. Riley had this frat boy, school jock type character about him that quickly changed. After his feud with the Miz ran its course, he was then made an announcer down in NXT. It wasn’t until he was repeatedly pushed and provoked by Kevin Owens that he decided he wanted to get back in the ring. Riley had a real intensity about him that should have been a spring board to something more, but it didn’t. Even after he recently returned from injury, Riley didn’t appear to be on the promotions radar to move up to the main roster. He was mostly being used to help elevate other talent, which didn’t serve him well in the least.
It also appears as though the WWE have decided to stop using wrestlers of a particular size as well. Both Hornswoggle and ElTorito were let go as part of the recent releases. While certainly gaining a following with fans, both wrestlers were generally used to lighten the mood of a particular feud or angle. Despite taking on a sidekick role while with the promotion, both characters managed to thrive. In the case of Hornswoggle, he was with the promotion for ten years, which is incredible. He was used in a number of different facets, from being Finley’s “Little Bas****,” to being the illegitimate son of Vince McMahon, to working alongside Degeneration X and 3 Man Band. He wasn’t seen on screen since his thirty-day suspension back in the fall.
ElTorito hasn’t been seen since Los Matadors gimmick ran its course. While both men certainly had a niche, if the company was truly going to move forward with changes and create a ‘new era,’ they had to try to make a conscious effort to assess all of their talent and whether or not they had a future on-screen role with the company.
One announcement that didn’t surprise anyone was the release of Wade Barrett. It wasn’t a surprise because he had already announced that he wasn’t going to be signing a new deal. When he was kicked out of the League of Nations, it was a means of taking him off television. Still, it was so unfortunate how he was booked throughout the majority of his time within the company. Upon his debut he was heralded as the leader and head of the Nexus faction. It worked well, as Barrett was a terrific mouthpiece for the group and was in the perfect situation. Once he was unceremoniously released from that faction, he was given the role as leader of the off-shoot group The Corre. The Corre once again put in him the role of leader, and it once again made sense as he was strong enough as a personality and character that he could lead another faction. However, once Barrett wasn’t given the role of faction leader, what did the company do with him? They worked to elevate him as a bareknuckle champion, tying into his English background, but the unfortunate part was the character wasn’t pushed better than he was.
After some time away, Barrett was repackaged as a character that unquestionably got a reaction from the WWE fan base, “Bad News Barrett”. As BNB, Barrett stood at a podium and enlightened the masses with what was no doubt, unfortunate information. However, the problem was, he was supposed to be a heel, but received a positive reaction by the fans, with lots of cheers. So it got over, but not the way WWE creative wanted it to. So Barrett had to steer away from this and change. It appeared as though things were going well for him as his character was over and it was generating some steam, but he then suffered another injury which derailed that push. Upon returning from his injured shoulder, it really wasn’t the same. He was transitioned to being King Barrett, but he had been so poorly booked that it was no surprie that he did not want to re-sign. The public outcry about his booking wasn’t shy either. How could one of the most liked characters be so poorly used and not allowed the time to develop was really beyond most fans comprehension. When he was the Intercontinental champion he was consistently booked to lose non-title matches, so when he won title matches it didn’t as much.
One person that fans were universally disappointed to see go was Damian Sandow.Sandow’s, Mizdow character was incredibly well received by not just fans, but critics as well. Fans knew that a Miz and Mizdow match up would provide lots of laughs. The angle came to an end when Mizdow ultimately got his retribution after turning on The Miz. Before doing that, however, Sandow had been the intellectual savior of the masses, a character that acted better than everyone else, and he was able to pull it off perfectly.
Post–Mizdow, what would have been ideal was for the newly free Sandow to turn into something else. He was put into another angle where he was imitating another (past) WWE superstar when he became Macho Mandow. However, clearly the well had run dry and it was time to allow Sandow some freedom to be himself and get himself over in another way. However, from a fan’s perspective, any opportunity to grow and connect was taken away. He remained off television for some time for no real rhyme or reason. When he did return, he was once again the intellectual savior of the masses. It was odd that the creative team abandoned an idea that was successful and parlayed into a feud with his friend Cody Rhodes. He even captured the Money in the Bank briefcase, only to lose his opportunity and never be put in that position to succeed again.
These releases in the eyes of many really don’t come as any surprise. When we see the likes of Hornswoggle,ElTorito, Cameron, ZebColter and Alex Riley cast aside, it is probably better for them to be freed to get work, rather than be tied down and not allowed the opportunity to get better. Many people wouldn’t have a problem getting paid and have to sit, but that they didn’t want to sit, and instead wanted to get better, says a lot about them.
As far as Damian Sandow and Wade Barrett, it isn’t hard to imagine they will generate interest regardless of where they are. Both men were almost immediately embraced by the WWE fans because they knew that what these men did in the ring and on the microphone wasn’t without hard work. As it remains right now, Barrett appears to want to put wrestling on the back burner for a little, while Sandow will more than likely be inundated with requests for independent bookings all over North America and Europe. He’s easy to market and well respected, and that bodes well for any of the black Friday releases.
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