Following the release of dozens of WWE wrestlers and backstage talent from their jobs this week, many members of the much-lauded "WWE Universe" have been questioning the Fed's dedication to its own talent. Despite claims that WWE is a family, it seems that some members of the family are more expendable than others. And it might not just be perceived value in the ring that plays a role.
In his latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer (the Rich Johnston of pro wrestling) claims that age factored into WWE's decision on who to keep and who to let go. "In many cases age was a factor, notably the surprise cutting of referee Mike Chioda, who had been in that role for 31 years, the longest lasting referee in the company since its national expansion, who is 53 in a company that wants younger faces on the screen," Meltzer said in the newsletter. "With the release of the producers, it was both the older producers, Peter Gruner (Billy Kidman), 45, who has been with the company since WCW folded in 2001, Mike Rotunda, who is 62, Joseph Jones (Scott Armstrong), 58 and David Finlay, 62." Meltzer pointed out that Finlay's release was particularly surprising due to the respect Finlay has for training the wrestlers of the women's division, particularly the pre-Evolution women who had no prior wrestling backgrounds.
Meltzer continued, "But the list also included Sarah Stock, the former Dark Angel in CMLL and Sarita in TNA, and more recent hires like Lance Evers (Lance Storm), Shane Helms, Patrick Buckridge (Pat Buck) and Shawn Daivari. Storm, who was very highly regarded for his wrestling IQ, had three strikes against him, being 51, being from Canada at a time it becomes difficult to come to the U.S. and with everything based in Orlando, and being a recent hire." Meltzer goes on to say that many of the producers are on furlough and could potentially return in the future.
WWE's Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Week
The allegation that WWE would use age as a factor in releasing employees during a global pandemic seems shocking, but not so much when considering WWE's recent actions. On the morning of the layoffs, WWE sent out a press release announcing they have $500 million in reserves to weather the crisis, while the combined monthly savings of all the laid-off workers amounts to just $700,000. Just yesterday, WWE announced a dividend for shareholders that will pay out over $9 million in profits, money that could have kept every laid-off worker employed into 2021. Vince McMahon himself was entitled to $3.5 million of that dividend. The McMahon family has donated millions of dollars to the campaign of President Donald Trump, earning Vince a spot on a governmental task force for restarting the economy and Linda McMahon a spot on Trump's cabinet at first. Later, Linda McMahon took over a Trump SuperPac, and that SuperPac pledged to spend $18.5 million in Florida last week on the same day Florida granted WWE a special exemption to broadcast live wrestling events in the state. The hierarchy of who WWE cares about seems to go McMahon family members, stockholders, Republican politicians, and only after that wrestlers.