Is the WWE roster in a state of turmoil? Rob Bonnette doesn’t think so, and tells you why!
So the news that Luke Harper has requested his release, combined with the current Sasha Banks situation, the writer that quit, and Road Dogg resigning as head writer of Smackdown has led our good friend Ryan Satin (sarcasm) and others to speculate if there is some bad morale going on backstage in the good old WWE. The take here is that because seemingly so many people have recently asked for or were rumored to be have asked for their release (Neville, Tye Dellinger, Hideo Itami, the Revival, Mike & Maria Kanellis), openly complained about their role or lack thereof (Sasha Banks, Rusev and Lana, Tyler Breeze), or have chosen to not re-sign (Dean Ambrose) that this is some harbinger of bad times. With all this smoke there’s got to be some fire, right?
Well……..not really. Yes that seems like a lot of people but twelve people (or eight when you take into account that the Revival and the Kanellises all denied having asked out) out of almost 150 main roster people is not a huge number. And as a couple of people who used to work for WWE explained the sheer number of people there now means that there are always going to be people either feeling or actually being underutilized.
This is really short-sighted. There’s a ton of talented guys and only so many segments. Someone great always gets the short end of the stick
— Kazeem Famuyide 🏁 (@RealLifeKaz) April 16, 2019
This is when the internet bugs me. (Not singling you out, Ryan.) But to go from handful of wrestlers who have diff reasons for leaving, and jump to “BACKSTAGE IN TURMOIL” is an lot of assumptions.
Backstage is perpetually in chaos anyway. But that’s not why anybody leaves. 😂
— Tom Casiello (@tommiecas) April 16, 2019
Now I am not a former writer with WWE nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night but I have been watching and following pro wrestling for almost 35 years so I can tell you that this is nothing new. Way back during the 80s it was pretty common for people to come to the WWF and not stay as long as you remember they did. I’m talking name guys, some of whom main evented WrestleMania like:
- Ricky Steamboat – 3 years (1985 to 1988)
- Rick Rude – 3 years (1987 to 1990)
- Barry Windham – 1 year (1984 or 1985), then a few months in 1989
- King Kong Bundy – 3 years (1985 to 1988), then again from 1994 to 1995
- Paul Orndorff – 4 years (1983 to January 1988)
- Terry Taylor – 2 years (1988 to 1990)
- Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard – 1 year (1988 to 1989)
- Kerry Von Erich – 2 years (1990 to 1992)
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There were other name guys like Dick Slater who were there and gone in months. Sid Vicious never made more than a year either time he came over. Even Ric Flair asked for his release a year and half after coming over in 1991 and got it. All of those guys were considered serious acquisitions when they came in, and for various reasons left a lot sooner than expected. And like today those reasons largely had to do with their place on the card at the time or where it looked like they’d be in the future.
A few did get fired (Blanchard got popped for drugs and the Freebirds famously got run before they even debuted), or left because of injury (Orndorff) but most of these guys just left. Now fast forward to today. Harper asked for his release after six years. AJ Syles just re-signed and has already been there longer than Flair (the first time), Steamboat, and Rude were. Hell, Finn Balor has already outlasted most of the guys on that list. So has Baron Corbin (even though he sucks so bad that we got T-shirts saying so!) We haven’t gotten to Kofi, Sheamus, Dolph, R-Truth, etc.
There has always been a revolving door of sorts, and it spins even faster when things are going well be it the Hulkamania era, the Monday Night Wars/Attitude Era, or now. It’s never a sign of anything other than business being good and there being more than one place for people to work. They can get an offer from WWE, give it whirl, and if things don’t go to their liking they can move on. It was true during the mid 80s before the territories started dying. It was true when WCW was riding high.
And it’s true now when you have ROH/Impact/MLW out there, AEW on the way, and an indie scene that offers a lot of opportunities. When people don’t have to stay they’ll leave if they don’t like where they are and they can get on somewhere else. It’s a good sign for the business and not a bad sign for any one company (let’s not act like the revolving door only is only in WWE now). When business is good, WWE signs a ton of people and lots of them don’t stay long.
Now that brings the next the question: do they just have too many people? Well yeah, they do. But that’s how they operate during the good times. They sign some people because they have plans for them but they also sign people to get them off the market or to provide roster depth or just because the wider net you cast the better chance you have of getting a breakout star. The wide net got them the Shield, Daniel Bryan, Styles, Finn Balor, and several others. In years past it got the Hart Foundation, Ultimate Warrior, Jake Roberts, and 1-2-3 Kid (X-Pac). Wrestling is art not science, and finding success is often a matter of throwing as much stuff against the wall as possible and seeing what sticks.
So yeah if you have the capacity you sign as many people as you can. WWE isn’t the only place that did that. WCW did of course. New Japan tried to keep all The Elite guys even though they have a pretty large deck of guys, some of whom aren’t getting much use right now there. Do signings not field any tangible results? Sure. Do some departures hurt more than others? Sure. But it’s nothing new and nothing to get all bent out of shape over.
So let the dirtsheet guys do what they do, and don’t get too worked up. Nothing new under the sun here.