WWE has come to terms with Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, Lio Rush, EC3, Drake Maverick, Eric Young, Heath Slater and Curt Hawkins as it looks to make massive cutbacks with business taking a hit during the spread of the novel coronavirus.
As WWE continues to make more cuts on this Black Wednesday, additional names will be added at the end of this article.
Gallows and Anderson had signed new deals with WWE in 2019, believed to be worth upwards of $500,000 per year, while Rush reportedly turned down a $300,000 extension as part of a tense negotiation with the worldwide leader.
WWE personnel is set to join the soberingly high ranks of the unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic in a developing story after WWE informed employees of cutbacks, furloughs and staff reduction.
All of WWE’s controversial decisions of late—from continuing to operate as an “essential business,” to the XFL declaring for bankruptcy, to the recently announced cutbacks—are profit and Wall Street-motivated decisions designed to hold WWE’s business together during a global pandemic at all costs.
WWE’s dangerous decision to remain open with essential staff is believed to be motivated by fear of breaching its current billion-dollar contracts with NBCUniversal and Fox, which may switch up the terms if WWE is unable to air live, first-run programming every week.
Despite WWE being among the rare live entertainment promotions still operating during the coronavirus, the threat of COVID-19 has all but crippled its already tanking key performance indicators.
Viewership for Raw this past Monday once again achieved 2020 lows, the same fate suffered for the most recent broadcast of Friday Night SmackDown which drew just 2.317 million viewers.
The coronavirus also forced WWE to move WrestleMania out of the 65,000-seat Raymond James Stadium. By refusing to postpone the annual spectacular, WWE missed out on tens of millions of dollars in revenue for ticket sales and merchandise.
With the world at a standstill, terminated talent will likely have to play the waiting game. It seems like so long ago, but prior to the onset of the coronavirus, the independent wrestling scene was flourishing like never before. 2019’s WrestleMania 35 week presented spectators with a historic amount of options for outside wrestling promotions piggy backing on WWE’s annual spectacular. WrestleMania 36 was headed in that same direction prior to everything being cancelled.
AEW now exists as an intriguing option for any displaced or disgruntled WWE Superstars. And while the promotion is currently in the midst of a former WWE Superstar spending spree—signing the likes of Brodie Lee, Matt Hardy and possibly The Revival—the reality is AEW will only be willing and able to take on so many.
Despite their recent acquisitions, Executive Vice President Cody and Chris Jericho have made it very clear that AEW has no intentions of being a sanctuary for those looking to leave WWE.
“Honestly, I’ve kind of jokingly said that it is five percent and I’m talking Jim Ross, Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho, maybe a few others,” said Cody during a 2019 appearance on the Ross Report (h/t Wrestling Inc).
“Hey WWE, Ring of Honor and IMPACT Wrestling… I love watching you push all your randoms, But [sic] just know that we are interested in maybe 6-8 of your talents total. We don’t need you!” said Jericho in a since-deleted tweet.
The good news, if there is any, is WWE’s unplanned staffing decision (the promotion typically tries to hold on to talent for dear life to keep them from jumping ship) will present suitors with a sudden excess of talent that can reinvent itself similar to current WWE champion Drew McIntyre when he was released in 2014.
WWE Superstars and Personnel Released Amid Coronavirus-Related Cutbacks
- Karl Anderson
- Luke Gallows
- Lio Rush
- Drake Maverick
- Eric Young
- Heath Slater
- Curt Hawkins
- Kurt Angle
- Aiden English
- Billy Kidman
- Mike Rotunda
- Pat Buck
- Fit Finlay
- Shawn Daivari
- Scott Armstrong
- Sarah Stock
- Shane Helms
- Lance Storm
- Sarah Logan
- Mike Chioda
- Erick Rowan
- Mike Kanellis
- Maria Kanellis
- Zack Ryder
- No Way Jose
- Andrea Listenberger
- Deonna Purrazzo
- Aleksandar Jaksic
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