By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Another day, another tone-deaf move by WWE (or TKO, or UFC, or WWECW or WCW or whatever the hell it goes by now that the merger has officially set in). On the same day the company announced it secured a new ga-gillion-dollar deal to move Smackdown to USA Network … it starts to hand out walking papers like Main Street preachers with a handful of pamphlets.
It’s been a while since the company has opted to let a bunch of TV personalities go all in one day (or in this case, a couple of days), and we’ve been through the song and dance before on this website in this space before. Mass layoffs always leave the door open for debates, what ifs and discussions about fairness. The pro wrestling world is such a weird space. “We dictate who does what and how much television time you get or do not get, yet if you can’t figure out a way to get on TV and build a fan base, you’re not any good to us … even though it’s our decision on a weekly basis who is given an opportunity … and even though you can try your ass off, but if we don’t think feel like it, you simply won’t be seen …. and even though … oh, wait, The Rock showed up … looks like those 90 seconds of screen time we promised you are gone … see you next week … oh, wait, we need to fire people … see ya.”
Or something like that.
Anyway, I’ve tried to articulate how wildly unfair this system is in the past as these announcements have been made. I’ve also played the fun fantasy booking game when it comes to where the latest batch of laid off wrestlers might end up next. This time around, though, I thought I’d keep it simple and lean on positivity for once. I can’t say I’m familiar with all the names that were dropped over the weekend, but I am familiar with some of them, and as they embark on the next chapter of their professional lives, I figured, why don’t we see these people out with statements of encouragement? And so behold: All the nice things I can say about those who start off this week without a full-time gig in WWE anymore. I know you know you’ll be fine, but a little boost of reinforcement always helps, right?
It’s kind of crazy to think that the last real thing Ziggler did in WWE was win the NXT title for a handful of seconds before dropping it right back to the guy he beat to win it. But Ziggler’s career in WWE has always been singular in that way, anyway – always around, rarely a bad match, and entertaining to boot. I’d hate to see this be it for him in the pro wrestling space because even though he’s officially gone now, it seems like it’s been quite a bit since WWE used him consistently on television, so a shot in the arm in the form of a Ziggler return to prominence would be very much welcome, wherever that may be. The guy felt like the definition of professionalism throughout all his years in WWE. Plus, don’t forget: Ziggler has one of the greatest Money In The Bank cash-ins in the history of the gimmick. Here’s hoping a Ziggler-sance is in the works.
Despite the off-the-field stuff, I thought Riddle took nicely to the WWE style – especially considering his fighting background. He just moves in such a unique fashion and he pulls out moves sometimes that are both innovative and simply just fun to look at. I’ve had friends say he’d be a perfect fit in AEW, but considering all the nonsense that company has gone through over the last year, I’m not so sure a guy with a checkered past would be the best idea for a new locker room presence there these days, but never say never. For now, Here’s hoping he can take some time to stand upright again before jumping back into working on a full-time basis.
Jim Ross has told the story a million and one times: Out of the OVW class the included Brock Lesnar, John Cana, Randy Orton, Batista and Shelton Benjamin, it was Benjamin who was the best pure athlete of them all. A classic case of “what could have been”, WWE never seemed to get it completely right with the guy, but that also never felt like any of that was his fault. All he did was show up, go to work, do some insane athletic stuff and head on to the next town. On top of that, he took what is perhaps the best super-kick Shawn Michaels has ever landed. Here’s hoping he’s not ready to hang up his boots quite yet.
I don’t know, man. I dug the Elias character. For a while, at least. The singer-songwriter who displays less than zero self-awareness will always get a chuckle out of me, and let’s not discount how over “Walk With Elias” was at one point. I mean, come on. The dude was so popular, he actually performed a concert on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during WrestleMania week and people actually went to it. Like … what? I’m not sure what happens next for him, but here’s hoping that triple-disc live album hits the streets someday.
Back in the dark days when I was on Twitter X, Ali was one of the bright spots of that thing. Some of his in-ring training videos were very cool to watch and I always kind of thought he was ahead of his time when it came to utilizing social media in a way a lot of others weren’t back in the day. His wrestling ability is off the charts and it’s no secret that he certainly has ideas he’d probably still like to see through. He never seemed entirely happy under the WWE umbrella, so here’s hoping that wherever he lands next, that place will let him run wild.
Oh, man. Speaking of Twitter X, how about penning a message saying how excited you are to perform in Australia … only to have to walk that back hours later when the company fires you? Heart-breaking. In my mind, Emma was one of those curious WWE cases where it never even felt like they gave her a chance. She returned to the company to some fanfare, and it seemed like things were looking up, but then … creative didn’t have anything for her? I don’t know. A lot of it doesn’t make sense. But at least she’s engaged to get married, so here’s hoping a life filled with marital bliss awaits her. Speaking of that …
Boy, it feels like it wasn’t all that long ago that Moss was cooking up something on the main roster in WWE. But sadly he was hit with some injuries and things never quite felt the same. It felt like he was coming along and he was clearly willing to do whatever the creative (not so) geniuses at WWE had in mind (Madcap Moss, anybody?). He kept improving and he kept working at it, so here’s hoping something like this will help kick him into the next gear somewhere else down the line.
Hey, remember Aliyah 3:17?! That was fun. Hats off to Natalya for that. But Aliyah grew somewhat of a cult following during her time in WWE and it’s not like there aren’t prominent women’s divisions out there that could use a budding star like her. She was a plucky, easy-to-root for babyface, which makes me wonder how much fun she could have as a sadistic heel. Hey, it worked Julia Hart, didn’t it? Anyway, here’s hoping Aliyah can find her mean streak.
He was great on that Most Wanted Treasures show! Really, guys, he was! His relationship with WWE has always felt odd in that from a thousand miles away, it seemed like he had important people who really thought a lot of him … but he also had important people who didn’t much care for him. That could be a hundred percent off-base (remember, this thought is from a million miles away), but he never seemed to be walking on sturdy ground there. His hip-hop videos/songs were really pretty good – and if you tack on “for a wrestler” to the end of that, then I’d even venture to say “great” instead of “good.” He seems to love the business and he oozes charisma, so here’s hoping Dolla won’t just be remembered for that botched dive on a Smackdown during his latest WWE run.
Built like a brick house. I persist that I have no idea how they pulled off that guitar-playing-while-walking-
You know what? She never gave up, and there’s something to be said for that. Sometimes, WWE makes no sense. OK, a lot of the times, WWE makes no sense. But this was one that really didn’t compute for me. She seemed to have everything that the company coveted in its performers. Athletic. Willing to learn. Good looking. But something never clicked between her and that God-forsaken Universe of theirs. Here’s hoping she doesn’t give up on a life in pro wrestling just yet.
If this isn’t saving the best for last, it’s close. I mean, come on. You loved Maximum Male Models. We all did. To a degree, at least. I don’t know how in the hell WWE got them to agree to the gimmick, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t own it. And I mean, own it. It was probably never going to work with LA Knight, but it had legs with Maxxine Dupri until they moved her in a different direction. I’m a little more curious to see where Mace ends up because while it seems like forever ago, you can’t forget that he was actually a member of the Raw commentary team. I say that only to illustrate that it seems like that’s a guy who’s willing to do anything to thrive in the wrestling business, and people like that always tend to succeed in the wrestling business. So, here’s hoping somebody, somewhere can tap into everything these two guys can offer.
Matt Cardona, anybody?