WWE.com broke the news early on Sunday (Oct. 29) that Emma, Darren Young and Summer Rae have all been released.
There are no details at this time on whether they were fired or asked for their releases, but the WWE has experienced recent walk-outs from wrestlers fed up with creative choices.
Rumors circulated that Neville, former Cruiserweight Champion, and Nia Jax, dominant superstar in the Raw Women’s division, both walked out before Raw on Monday, Oct. 16. Both have grievances with the WWE regarding championships. Neville dropped the Cruiserweight Title to Enzo Amore. Amore is charismatic on the microphone, but many fans say his in-ring talent is nothing compared to Neville’s. Rumors of Amore’s back-stage heat, if true, could also play a factor if Amore is as disliked as wrestling fan websites claim.
But while Neville at least had a good title reign before dropping his belt, Nia Jax has been passed over repeatedly. Jax is so powerful it’s difficult for her to lose convincingly to any woman on the WWE roster in a one-on-one match. But NXT’s Asuka made her debut at TLC, defeating Emma. It’s likely WWE wants to make Asuka the new Raw Women’s Champion, and considering she held the NXT Women’s Title for 510 days, Jax is probably not the only title hopeful on the roster who’s thinking “Screw that.”
The WWE’s decisions about the titles have been a heated topic for years. Fans are outspoken about putting the Universal Title on Brock Lesnar, who rarely appears on Raw, and ratings on SmackDown have dropped dramatically since the post-WrestleMania “Superstar Shakeup” and Jinder Mahal’s reign as World Champion.
WWE superstars share this frustration with the fans. The Sun reports several WWE superstars have been thinking about following Jax and Neville out the door, and the news on at least two of the superstars being released could be taken as evidence that this report was correct. After two walkouts and three wrestlers out with meningitis, it would just be asking for trouble if the WWE fired Emma and Summer Rae. (Young has spent a lot of time sidelined with injuries and has not been seen on the air for a very long time, so his release, though sad, is not a surprise.)
If Emma and Summer Rae really did ask for their releases, that makes four WWE superstars who rage quit in less than two weeks. As we’ve seen before, WWE views most of its roster as expendable. But even the WWE would suffer if too many superstars quit. The WWE could refill any number of vacancies in a day, but these wrestlers are familiar enough that that their appearance on Ring of Honor could make this league a very appealing alternative to frustrated WWE fans.
In particular, these losses could damage the brand if a full-blown revolt gains the support of wrestling legends such as Daniel Bryan, who has been similarly marginalized by the WWE in his time. Mick Foley has also been an outspoken critic in the past, but has backed off of that since his son joined the creative team. The Rock, though he is Nia Jax’s cousin, is likely to remain silent as well because his other cousin, Roman Reigns, is a commonly-cited source of this same booking frustration that appears to be flaring up right now with both fans and superstars.
These walkouts will not cause the WWE to go out of business, not even close. And history tells us that Vince McMahon, in the face of declining ratings and financial loss, will usually keep doing what he’s been doing.
But the silver lining is that there are other wrestling leagues out there that will appreciate these wrestlers and their talent. The prestige of the WWE has dwindled in the eyes of these superstars, as shown by Ryback. This is a wrestler who devoted everything to his dream of joining the WWE, but when he achieved that dream, the reality of working for the WWE didn’t hold a candle to the reality and he hit the road. And fans who are nearly ready to do the same will find that some of these independent wrestling leagues offer something that the WWE has not offered in decades: they offer to give the fans what they want.