WWE announced a host of business related changes due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic during a business call with company talent. Among the changes announced during the call was that WWE will furlough some employees they hope to bring back when the crisis is over, along with some permanent roster cuts. The company will reportedly save $703,000 a month from the talent cuts.
Among those released include twenty-two wrestlers, ten producers, three coaches and six other members of talent or creative. Here is a rundown of those released along with some background information on each.
Rusev signed a developmental contract with WWE in 2010 and began training at Florida Championship Wrestling. Rusev wrestled in NXT until 2014 when he made his debut on the main roster in that year's Royal Rumble match. Rusev has been over with the crowd on multiple occasions, most notably during his run as part of the stable Rusev Day with his wife Lana and Aiden English. Rusev has reportedly been frustrated with the company for a long time, so his release comes as no surprise. Rusev spoke to The Sun where he revealed he took his up and down WWE career in stride.
"It doesn't matter about storylines or things like that," Rusev said. "One day you ride a tank but the next day, you do nothing but main event dark matches so it's a big wave, you just gotta ride the wave and do the best with anything that is given to you. You gotta enjoy everything you do, and you gotta control what you can control because some things you can't, and there's no point being mad so whatever I can control, I do, and if not, I'm just having a blast with it."
Rusev was recently involved in a storyline with Lana and Bobby Lashley, where Lana left him for Lashley. Lashley dominated the feud. Rusev's last match with the company was in February on RAW, where he teamed with Humberto Carrillo in a losing effort to Lashley & Angel Garza. Rusev commented on his release on Instagram, writing, "Life is life. God is great. I'll be alright." He also tweeted:
Thank you All, Rusev out!— Miro (@RusevBUL) April 15, 2020
Kurt Angle transitioned into a backstage role as a producer after his retirement match with Baron Corbin at WrestleMania 35 last year, a match that Angle lost. While the other producers were furloughed, Angle was under contract and released. Angle was a top star during his time with WWE and TNA. While Angle is considered to be one of the greatest in-ring competitors of all time, he told Wrestling Inc. he had to beg Vince McMahon to let him wrestle during his final run with the company.
"You understand what he did? He brought me back and had me settled in without doing anything physical," Angle said. "He continued to drug test me to make sure I was staying clean. Eventually he had me wrestle, but by then my body was arthritic."
Angle thanked WWE for the time he spent on his last stint, as seen below.
I wanted 2 say thank you to the WWE for the time I spent there.I made many new friends and had the opportunity to work with so many talented people. To the Superstars, continue to entertain the WWE Universe as well as you possibly can. They're the best fans in the world. #itstrue— Kurt Angle (@RealKurtAngle) April 15, 2020
Ryder progressed through WWE's developmental system with Hawkins and debuted on the main roster with him in 2007. He became a singles wrestler on the ECW brand in 2009. Ryder got over big in 2011 with the help of his internet show, "Z! True Long Island Story," and WWE's misuse of the superstar. WWE failed to capitalize on his popularity with the crowd and buried Ryder soon after.
Aside from brief periods of false dawns for Ryder, his time in WWE was spent has a lower level jobber in the singles and tag team ranks. Despite all of that, Ryder is a one time Intercontinental and United States champion and two time tag team champion in WWE. His Intercontinental Championship victory came in front of the largest WWE crowd in history at WrestleMania 32 at Cowboys Stadium. Ryder tweeted that he was looking at a picture of a painting of the match as he was getting released, as seen below:
The only thing I wanted to do in life was wrestle. I'm grateful I spent 14 years living my dream in WWE. Thanks to my fans & everyone who believed in me. As I was getting released, I was looking at this photo & smiling. I'm #AlwayzReady & beyond excited for the future. #NotThere pic.twitter.com/uKRVK7FboI— Matt Cardona (@TheMattCardona) April 15, 2020
You can purchase Ryder's new "Not There" t-shirt at Pro Wrestling Tees by clicking here.
Rowan's release came as somewhat of a surprise as he had been pushed recently. He even earned a singles victory over Roman Reigns at the WWE Clash of Champions pay-per-view last September.
Rowan debuted as Erick Rowan as a member of The Wyatt Family alongside Luke Harper and Bray Wyatt on NXT late in 2012. Rowan won the NXT Tag Team Championships with Harper once, and would arrive on the main roster with the group in the summer of 2013. He found his most success teaming with Harper as The Bludgeon Brothers, winning the SmackDown Tag Team Championships twice. He also took part in the shortest match in WrestleMania history against The Rock at WrestleMania 32, losing in just six seconds.
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Karl Anderson signed with WWE in 2016 after an eight year stint in New Japan Pro Wrestling as an original member of The Bullet Club. In WWE he has teamed with Luke Gallows as The Good Brothers, winning the Raw Tag Team Championships twice as well as the Tag Team World Cup. He has been a member of The O.C. with Gallows and A.J. Styles since 2019. He and Gallows experienced start-stop pushes during their run as a tag team, and were treated like Styles' henchmen when paired with him.
Gallows has a long history with the company, coming up through their developmental territory Deep South Wrestling in the mid 2000s. He had multiple gimmicks during his first run in the company, including Imposter Kane and Festus. His first run lasted from 2005 to 2010. He returned to the company with Anderson in the spring of 2016 after stints with NJPW and TNA Wrestling and is a two time tag team champion with Anderson.
The team signed new five-year deals with WWE last summer. Unlike most of the recent releases, they had been prominently featured on television. They were most recently involved in the "Boneyard Match" at WrestleMania 36 between Styles and The Undertaker earlier this month.
Sarah Logan had wrestled as recently as this past Monday night on RAW, where she lost a one-sided match to Shayna Baszler.
Logan signed with WWE in late 2016 and was sent to NXT. She competed in the first Mae Young Classic losing to Mia Yim in the first round. She was called up with Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott in November 2017 as The Riott Squad. The Riott Squad were never treated seriously as a threat and the group was quietly disbanded in the 2019 Superstar Shake-up. Logan floundered as a singles competitor, competing mostly on Main Event and appearing in multi-women matches such as the Elimination Chamber and the Royal Rumble to fill out the numbers. Despite having a Viking gimmick and being married to Erik of The Viking Raiders, she was never paired with the team.
EC3 returned to NXT at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia in 2018. He was known as Derrick Bateman during his first run with WWE's developmental brand before it became what fans know it as today. He had a memorable feud with The Velveteen Dream in NXT and competed in the acclaimed NXT North American Championship match at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans before making his main roster debut in early 2019, where he won the 24/7 Championship on four occasions. After failing to get cheered during a match with a departing Jon Moxley, f.k.a. Dean Ambrose, EC3 was pushed to the wayside and rarely featured on television.
"They put me against EC3, debuting from NXT," Moxley said on Talk Is Jericho last year. "Great talent, great friend of mine. Excited to work with him. They have EC3 come in as a babyface, defeat me in two minutes. ... The crowd does not like this, because it's transparent what's happening and this is not a - this is not good for EC3, because now he's gonna get the backlash."
EC3 posted the following video following his release showing himself working out with Drake Maverick, stating that he is not a victim.
I will not copy and paste a motivational quote. ?— essential character III (@therealec3) April 16, 2020
I will not make proclamations about a future that is uncertain, not only for an industry, but a planet as a whole. ?
I am not a victim. I am not the first, I will not be the last. ?
Drake Maverick debuted in January 2018 as the general manager of 205 Live and initiated a tournament for the Cruiserweight Championship upon his debut with the brand. He managed AOP to a Raw Tag Team Championship reign and was a constant figure in the 24/7 Championship scene, running with the gimmick he needed the title to have sex with his wife. Maverick won the 24/7 Championship six times, though he never consummated his marriage.
Maverick posted the emotional video below following his release and noted that WWE is allowing him to compete in the tournament to crown a new Interim WWE NXT Cruiserweight Champion, which kicked off last night.
Drake Maverick (@WWEMaverick) April 15, 2020
Curt Hawkins first debuted on the main roster as a member of the Major Brothers tag team along with Zack Ryder, then known as Brian Majors and Brett Majors respectively. They joined La Familia with Edge in late 2007. After his partnership with Ryder ended, he had failed tag teams with Vance Archer and Tyler Reks before he was released in 2014. He returned to the company in 2016 after the second brand split where he's mostly been a jobber. He reunited with Zack Ryder in 2019, and teamed with him until their departure, scoring an unlikely tag team title reign in the process. He is a two time tag team champion with Ryder.
Hawkins responded to the release with the tweet below, writing that "a lot of very talented ppl lost their jobs today and out of this disaster the PRO WRESTLING community will rise stronger than ever!"
Last time I got fired I had a really funny tweet in response to it. Doesn't really feel appropriate today. I will say this, a lot of very talented ppl lost their jobs today and out of this disaster the PRO WRESTLING community will rise stronger than ever! ????— Brian Myers (@TheCurtHawkins) April 15, 2020
You can check out Hawkins' merch at Pro Wrestling Tees by clicking here.
Mike & Maria Kanellis
Maria and Mike Kanellis, f.k.a. Mike Bennett, signed with WWE in the spring of 2017. They debuted at Money In The Bank in 2017.
Maria worked for WWE previously, debuting with the company as part of the "Diva Search" contest. She placed fifth in the contest but was signed to a developmental contract anyway as the company saw her potential. She began wrestling on RAW in 2005 and was released from WWE for the first time in 2010.
Mike never gained traction on RAW or SmackDown after debuting, although he started to build momentum wrestling on the 205 Live brand and engaging in a feud with Drake Maverick. He has been outspoken about his substance abuse issues and recovery during his time in WWE.
Mike and wife Maria had signed new WWE contracts last June, however they were used sparingly. Mike requested his release from the company months later in October. The couple just had their second baby 9 weeks ago. Maria took to Twitter to comment on the timing of the release, as seen below, and wrote, "Yes I just had a baby 9 weeks ago, yes my husband was released, yes I was a debit in a ledger for WWE that no longer exists, during a recession and a pandemic, is life not fair? You are damn right! It isn't. Still doesn't matter. Diapers to change. And Milk to buy."
Yes I just had a baby 9 weeks ago, yes my husband was released, yes I was a debit in a ledger for WWE that no longer exists, during a recession and a pandemic, is life not fair? You are damn right! It isn't. Still doesn't matter. Diapers to change. And Milk to buy. #milkmoney pic.twitter.com/sC4SkAUXsP— MariaKanellisBennett (@MariaLKanellis) April 16, 2020
Heath Slater was a member of NXT's first season and a member of the original Nexus. Slater has spent most of his time as a member of a stable or a tag team. Some of his notable stables and teams include The Corre, 3MB, Slater Gator and most notably, The Nexus. While speaking with Wrestling Inc. in 2017, Slater recalled that the group thought that they were going to get fired when they were called into Vince McMahon's office ahead of their infamous debut.
"We all thought we were getting fired," Slater said. He said once McMahon explained to them what they'd be doing, they were all excited and they had a lot of fun during that television angle. It was also a great way for them to immediately generate heat for their team.
"You're talking about one of those things, we had gotten there and waited around and had no idea what was going on. We were just blinded until we went to Vince McMahon's office and he pretty much told us that we were going to be a stable, everyone of us, and we are a young talent that is just going to go in there and destroy everything," Slater said. "We were all looking around at each other like what the hell is he talking about right now? He said that he wants us to destroy everybody in the ring, destroy the ring and everything. Pretty much in there a bomb had gone off, and here we were. We went down there and beat the hell out of everyone; including the announcers and refs and whoever we saw, and we had fun doing it. We had so much fun doing it, and my gosh people hated us. You had your rebel crowds were they loved the bad guys, but my gosh, I was getting food and treats being thrown at me, it was like, man, they hated us."
Slater won the WWE Tag Team Championship with Justin Gabriel three times and was the inaugural SmackDown Tag Team Champion with Rhyno.
No Way Jose
No Way Jose was signed to a developmental contract in April 2015. Vignettes began to air in April 2016 hyping Jose's debut on NXT. Jose didn't achieve much of note with the NXT brand, though he was on television and had feuds with the likes of Austin Aries and SAnitY. He moved to RAW the night after WrestleMania 34 and became an enhancement talent for the rest of his time with WWE, his only title chase being the literal chase for the 24/7 Champion during those disjointed segments.
The veteren Eric Young was brought into NXT to lead the stable SAnitY in 2016 after a 12 year career with TNA/IMPACT Wrestling. Young won the NXT Tag Team Championships with Alexander Wolfe and held the titles for 123 days. SAnitY, minus Nikki Cross, was called up to SmackDown in the 2018 Superstar Shake-up. The group never gained traction on the main roster and were quietly disbanded. Young's appearances on television were sporadic after that, although he did do some work backstage as a producer.
Lio Rush signed with WWE in 2017 to perform for their NXT and 205 Live brands. He was brought up to the main roster in 2018 to be the mouthpiece for Bobby Lashley. The duo were split up and he returned to NXT at the back end of 2019 where won the NXT Cruiserweight Championship, a title he held for 63 days. Rush was affectionate on Twitter towards his former co-workers.
"To all of my fellow co workers, whatever happens today or the remainder of this week.....just know, we're all going to be good," Rush wrote. "Once a family, forever a family. #Wrestling."
To all of my fellow co workers, whatever happens today or the remainder of this week....just know, we're all going to be good. ???? Once a family, forever a family. #Wrestling— Lio (@itsLioRush) April 15, 2020
A member of the legendary Colón family, Primo is the son of Carlos Sr and the brother of Carly, better known as Carlito in WWE. He first debuted with the company in May 2007 and would go on to team with his brother Carlito, unifying the WWE and World Tag Team Championships by defeating The Miz and John Morrison at WrestleMania XXV. Primo began teaming with Epico in 2011 and continued the partnership with his real cousin until both of their releases on Wednesday. Primo is a three time tag team champion in WWE, twice with Carlito and once with Epico.
Epico is the nephew of Carlos Colón Sr and debuted with WWE on SmackDown on November 4, 2011, alongside his cousin and Hunico. He endured multiple tag team gimmicks with Primo, including Los Matadores, where they wrestled as masked matadors alongside famed mini wrestler Mascarita Dorada dressed as a bull under the name El Torito, and The Shining Stars, who were presumably two employees of Discover Puerto Rico who thought wrestling was the best way to attract tourism to the area. He won the tag team championships once with Primo. Both have been wrestling in Puerto Rico with World Wrestling Council since 2019. He is their current Universal Heavyweight champion in his first reign.
Deonna Purrazzo first appeared on WWE programming as a "Rosebud" in Adam Rose's group of party-goers. Purrazzo appeared as a wrestler sporadically as enhancement talent on NXT and SmackDown Live from late 2015 through 2016. She signed officially on May 31, 2018, where she would go on to compete in the second iteration of the Mae Young Classic, losing to Io Shirai in the quarterfinals. She made a few appearances on the main roster in 2020, including against the returning Nia Jax on April 6. Leaving WWE was apparently on her mind before her release.
"The people closest to me know this is something I've been struggling with wanting for the better part of the last year," Purrazzo tweeted in response to her release. "Happy to say I gave this journey my best and MORE excited for the future!"
The people closest to me know this is something I've been struggling with wanting for the better part of the last year.— The Virtuosa (@DeonnaPurrazzo) April 15, 2020
Happy to say I gave this journey my best and MORE excited for the future! ??
Dan Matha (Dorian Mak)
Dan Matha signed with the company in September 2015, reporting to the Performance Center for more training. Vignettes aired in the weeks leading up to Matha's supposed television debut during the Oct. 5, 2016 episode of NXT, but it was ruined by Samoa Joe who destroyed Matha. He spent most of his time wrestling on NXT house shows, though he did make a cameo appearance in the Greatest Royal Rumble Match at the eponymous event. He debuted a new ring name, Dorian Mak, at a house show last June, but never appeared on television with the name.
WWE announced they officially signed MJ Jenkins on July 17, 2018. Jenkins competed in the 2018 Mae Young Classic tournament, where she was eliminated in the first round by former NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley in the first round. Jenkins spent most of her time on he NXT house show circuit. The ongoing pandemic hit Jenkins hard, as she explained on Twitter.
"Covid-19 has been devastating for me & my family," Jenkins wrote. "My brother in law; who was my legal guardian passed away to Covid-19. Today, Covid-19 stripped me of my dream job. Feels like life is being sucked from me. Thank you to everyone that has reached out. Be safe and stay strong."
Covid-19 has been devastating for me & my family. My brother in law; who was my legal guardian passed away to Covid-19.— MJ Jenkins (@RealMJJenkins_) April 15, 2020
Today, Covid-19 stripped me of my dream job. Feels like life is being sucked from me.
Thank you to everyone that has reached out. Be safe and stay strong.??
Alyssa Marino joined the NXT brand in January of this year. Marino worked as a wrestler, commentator and backstage interviewer for Championship Wrestling From Hollywood as Kathy Campanelli before signing with WWE. She performed in NXT as a wrestler but never made it to television, working live events.
Aleksandar Jaksic is a young German wrestler who signed a developmental contract with the promotion in November 2018. Jaksic was playing semi-professional basketball in Germany during the time of his tryout in Cologne. Jaksic didn't have much time to develop in front of a crowd as he only began wrestling NXT live shows in late 2019.
Fit Finlay has worked for WWE as a backstage producer since returning to the company in 2012. As a wrestler, Finlay was a respected midcard tough guy in WCW and WWE whose career spanned from 1974 to 2012. Finlay has a son, David Finlay, who is a wrestler for NJPW.
Shane Helms was beloved as a wrestler in WWE for his superhero gimmick The Hurricane, most notably in his feud with The Rock. Helms returned to WWE as a backstage producer in January 2019. He's made sporadic appearances on television in his time as a producer, including attempting to win the 24/7 Championship.
Billy Kidman has worked for WWE in a non wrestling capacity since 2007, when he was brought in to train developmental wrestlers. He was hired as a producer in 2010, where he's been ever since. Kidman was a decorated wrestler winning titles in WWE and WCW. Kidman was also a member of WCW's famed cruiserweight division in the 90s.
Known as Irwin R. Schyster, or I.R.S., during his wrestling days, Mike Rotunda has worked backstage with WWE as a road agent since 2008. Rotunda is the father of WWE wrestlers Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas. Rotunda was a five time tag team champion in WWE.
Pat Buck spent a short time with WWE. He was hired by the company to work as a backstage producer on August 7, 2019. Buck is a former wrestler and sole owner of the WrestlePro wrestling promotion that runs in the New York and New Jersey area.
Shawn Daivari was hired as a backstage producer in 2018 and spent the past two years in that role. Daivari was known as Khosrow Daivari, later shortened to just Daivari, during his days as a wrestler in WWE. Daivari was part of an angle with his brother, Ariya Daivari, at the Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia.
Scott Armstrong is a referee and backstage producer who had two stints with the company. The first was from 2006 to 2010 and his second was from 2011 until WWE's most recent cuts. Armstrong has performed in both roles during his second stint, working as the referee in high profile matches such as Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton's WWE Championship match a Night Of Champions in 2013.
Sarah Stock is a former professional wrestler who wrestled for TNA, CMLL and Stardom before joining WWE as a developmental trainer in 2015. Stock worked as a trainer in WWE's developmental system since then. She was part of Tyler Breeze's entrance at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable event.
Lance Storm signed with WWE as a producer on Nov. 2, 2019. Storm is a former champion in WWE and WCW, and ran the highly acclaimed Storm Wrestling Academy from 2005 until the end of 2019.
Serena Deeb signed with WWE in the spring of 2009. She debuted on main roster television on SmackDown as part of the short lived CM Punk stable The Straight Edge Society before she was released in August 2010. She returned to the company in 2017 to compete in the first Mae Young Classic, losing in the second round to Piper Niven. Deeb began working at the WWE Performance Center as a coach in February 2018. Deeb gave a statement about her release, saying she is grateful for her time in WWE.
"I'm forever grateful for my time with WWE and the people who illuminated my life there," Deeb wrote. "To those of you affected by this, my heart is with you. We are all facing these challenges together, so let's continue to spread love and find ways to support and care for each other. Difficult times strengthen our spirits and give us the chance to step back and reevaluate our paths. My heart has always been in pro wrestling and I'm excited for the possibilities moving forward. Much love."
Kendo Kashin joined the WWE Performance Center as a coach in August 2019. Before becoming a trainer, Kashin was a junior wrestler in Japan, winning both NJPW and All Japan Pro Wrestling's junior heavyweight titles. Kashin also fought in MMA, compiling a record of 1-5-1.
Chris Guy (Ace Steel)
Chris Guy, known by the ring name Ace Steel, was hired as a coach in November 2019. Steel worked for WWE in a wrestling capacity during the 2000s, wrestling as Donald Trump during the infamous intergender match against a Rosie O'Donnell impersonator.
Aiden English began his career in WWE as a wrestler, coming up through the developmental system. He is remembered for his NXT tag team with Simon Gotch, The Vaudvillains, and as a member of Rusev Day with Lana and Rusev. English is a former NXT Tag Team Champion with Gotch. He transitioned to announcing for 205 Live in 2019. English remained a commentator for the remainder of his time with WWE.
Jerry Soto worked as an announcer for WWE for the past nine years. Soto tweeted conformation that he was released.
"I have worked for #WWE for 9 years," Soto wrote. "I was furloughed today but people have been suffering everywhere for way longer. Let's help each other and work to come back stronger. Also, a #disinfectedhug for everyone!"
I have worked for #WWE for 9 years. I was furloughed today but people have been suffering everywhere for way longer. Let's help each other and work to come back stronger. ?????? Also, a #disinfectedhug for everyone!— Jerry Soto (@JerrySotoWWE) April 15, 2020
Mike Chioda's release surprised many since he's been with WWE for 31 years. Chioda began his career as a referee in WWE in 1989. He has refereed classic matches such as The 1-2-3 Kid's upset win over Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels match against Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV. Chioda became SmackDown's senior referee after the first brand split. He also spent time as the RAW brand's head ref, and continued as one of WWE's most respected officials until his release on Wednesday.
Andrea Listenberger was a writer for WWE who began working for the company in December. She did work on the Otis and Mandy Rose storyline that culminated at the most recent WrestleMania. She wrote on twitter she is "glad that the storyline I worked on resonated with so many people."
Lots of people getting let go at #WWE today and regrettably, I am one of them. But I'm proud of the work I've been able to do since starting in Dec., and glad that the storyline I worked on resonated with so many people. That's what writing is about for me. #OtisandMandyForever— Andrea Listenberger (@andrea_ml) April 15, 2020
Other On-Air Talent
Josiah Williams is better known as the rapper Wrestle & Flow, the name he posted WWE theme remixes under on YouTube. In April 2019, Williams joined NXT as an on-air social media host in the WWE Performance Center. He accompanied Adam Cole during the latter's entrance at NXT TakeOver XXV.
Jon Quasto signed with NXT as part of the announce team in April 2019. He debuted on the 205 Live announce team as the play-by-play commentator in February of this year.