More names have been added to the list of wrestlers, backstage producers, and now referees released by WWE as part of the Company's reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. Zack Ryder, Sarah Logan, referee Mike Chioda, Maria and Mike Kanellis, Primo, Epico, and Rowan have all now been released. They join Drake Maverick, Kurt Angle, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, Heath Slater, Curt Hawkins, EC3, Lio Rush, Scott Armstrong, Pat Buck, Aiden English, Sarah Stock, Shawn Davari, Billy Kidman, Eric Young, Lance Storm, Fit Finlay, and Mike Rotunda in the unlucky collection of contracted talent who have seen their contracts terminated. Twenty-seven people have been released so far, and new names are released before we can complete an article about the previous group of names. It's a terrible day for the wrestling business.
WWE Shouldn't Get Away With This, But They Will
The news follows a week of bad PR for WWE after the Company decided to resume live broadcasts of its three weekly television shows amidst the coronavirus pandemic, even though that requires talent to travel more to get to the events and potentially puts them at higher risk. To do that, WWE needed to score an exemption from the state of Florida, where the Company's Performance Center facility is located, in order to be considered an "essential" business allowed to operate despite a state-wide shelter-in-place order. After that decision was made, it was reported that on the day WWE received its exemption from the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, a Republican SuperPac run by Linda McMahon, pledged to spend $18.5 million in Florida during the upcoming election. Soon after that, Vince McMahon was named to a special task force created by President Donald Trump to help restart the American economy.
With all of that making news in the mainstream media, you might think WWE would shy away from laying off dozens of performers and furloughing additional office and production staff as well. Still, WWE seems to be immune to repercussions for negative publicity. Fans didn't stop supporting WWE when they decided to continue to hold shows in Saudi Arabia even after the country's regime murdered an American journalist. Fans didn't stop supporting WWE after any number of egregious actions committed over the past several decades. Whatever the WWE does doesn't matter because they own stock in fans' childhood memories, and those nostalgic memories of classic wrestling moments are, for most people, more important than the reality of a company that will do anything to make a profit. This quite clearly includes throwing its own employees and contractors under the bus.
The 18.5 million dollars Linda McMahon's SuperPac will spend in Florida to reelect Donald Trump wasn't WWE's money. Still, the 7 million dollars the McMahon donated to help Trump win his 2016 election, and whatever they've donated since, is what allowed Linda McMahon to be in the position of controlling that SuperPac in the first place. So while WWE may not have directly chosen to spend their money on political influence instead of paying the wrestlers, who are putting their health at risk both in the ring under normal circumstances and even more so under the current circumstances. That being said, in a roundabout way, they certainly did make that decision.
"The Company's reductions of employee compensation and headcount result in an estimated monthly savings of $4 million along with cash flow improvement of $140 million primarily from the deferral in spending on the Company's new headquarters," WWE's press release said earlier today. "Additionally, the Company has substantial financial resources, both available cash and debt capacity, which currently total approximately $0.5 billion to manage the challenges ahead. Management continues to believe the fundamentals of the Company's business remain strong and that WWE is well-positioned to take full advantage of the changing media landscape and increasing value of live sports rights over the longer term." The challenges ahead don't include keeping wrestlers on payroll with that $500 million, apparently. We'll continue to keep you updated on more names as they're released.