Shortly after UFC and WWE merged to form TKO, over 100 employees and a handful of executives were released. The mass layoffs and releases apparently aren’t over as executives continue to look for more “savings,” especially on the pro-wrestling side of their business.
Full list: Dozens of WWE and NXT stars released from roster after UFC merger
A couple of days after Endeavor and TKO bosses finished making those massive cuts on WWE office staff, they’re now continuing with layoffs on the talent side of things. A growing list of almost two dozen wrestling stars and even a few former champions have been cut on Thursday.
- Dolph Ziggler, 2-time Heavyweight Champion, 2-time US Champion, 6-time Intercontinental champion
- Elias, 4-time 24/7 Champion
- Shelton Benjamin, US Champion, 3-time Intercontinental Champion, 3-time 24/7 Champion, 3-time Tag Team Champion
- Riddick Moss, 24/7 Champion
- Aliyah, Women’s Tag Team Champion
- Dana Brooke, 15-time 24/7 Champion
- Rick Boogs, 2-time 24/7 Champion
- Mustafa Ali
- “Top Dolla” AJ Francis
- Quincy Elliott
- Bryson Montana
- Yulisa Leon
- Daniel McArthur
- Kevin Ventura-Cortez
- Alexis Gray
- Brooklyn Barlow
- Ikeman Jiro
- Matt Riddle, US Champion, 2-time Raw Tag Team Champion
- Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald
- Melanie Brezinski
Most of these wrestlers will reportedly also have a 90-day noncompete clauses after the release.
UPDATE: UFC veteran turned WWE star Matt Riddle released from roster
Roster cuts have continued with more additions to the list, including Matt Riddle. The UFC fighter turned WWE star announced on social media that he has also been released.
Riddle fought for the UFC from 2008 to 2013, compiling an MMA record of 8-3 (2 NC). It should’ve been 10-3, but two of his wins were overturned by outdated rules on cannabis. He eventually switched to pro wrestling and eventually joining the WWE in 2018, where bloomed into a much bigger star. He became a WWE US champion, and two-time Raw Tag Team champion with Randy Orton.
Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald, who was part WWE next, and never actually made his in-ring debut, also announced his release.
UPDATE: Melanie Brezinski also announced on social media that she was cut.
WWE cuts done on same day they announced a billion dollar TV deal
These latest cost-cutting measures came on the same day WWE announced getting a lucrative TV deal that will move their Smackdown brand from Fox to USA Network in 2024. That new TV deal was reportedly worth $1.4 billion over five years, roughly a 40% increase from their previous deal.
According to Fightful, some wrestlers expressed frustration that WWE announced getting big money on a new TV deal, only to make cuts on the same day. They reportedly “thought the days of mass cuts were behind them, and deals would simply be allowed to expire.”
The report also noted how “many on the roster” thought the timing of the TV deal and talent cuts were done “in order to minimize the negative impact on the company.”
Despite Ari Emanuel and Vince McMahon’s efforts to turn things around with a “rah rah” meeting, company morale was previously described to be beyond “decimated” after the employee cuts. These talent cuts aren’t likely to help improve that.
WWE’s flagship show “Raw” is also expected to land a separate massive media rights deal in 2024.
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