WWE Roster Shake-Up: Mass Superstar Release Following Merger with UFC
Major Changes in WWE Post-merger
Following the historic merger of WWE with UFC into TKO Group Holdings, several WWE superstars have been released from their contracts. The line-up of released talent includes notable names such as Dolph Ziggler, Elias, Shelton Benjamin, Rick Boogs, Emma, Riddick Moss, Top Dolla, Aliyah, Dana Brooke, Shanky, Mace, and Mansoor, among others. The aftermath of the merger has also seen WWE part ways with over 100 employees, including many performers who had previously found success within the company.
A Closer Look at the Released Superstars
Dolph Ziggler, who joined WWE in 2004, has had an impressive career with the company, racking up multiple championship wins. However, his struggles to progress recently may have contributed to his release. Shelton Benjamin, a WWE veteran since 2000, was also let go. Benjamin had a successful collegiate wrestling career before joining WWE and was part of The Hurt Business until it dissolved in 2022.
Elias, known for his musical performances and heel persona, signed with the WWE in 2014. Despite his unique persona, his appearances were limited this year, similarly to Riddick Moss who had a notable run with Happy Corbin.
Women’s Division Also Affected
Several female superstars were also released in the shake-up, including Emma and Aliyah. Emma had a stint with WWE from 2011 to 2017 and returned in 2022, but failed to make her mark in the women’s division. Aliyah, on the other hand, spent six years in the WWE’s developmental system before being called up to the main roster. Her appearances were limited following a loss in 2022.
Endeavor Acquisition Leads to Layoffs
The merger, completed on Tuesday, September 12, followed the acquisition of Vince McMahon’s company by Endeavor earlier this year. This historic deal led to several backstage staff being laid off. These included Jamie Horowitz, Executive Vice President of Global Content, and Catherine Newman, Executive Vice President and Head of Marketing. Amanda Bloom, WWE’s Director of Enterprise Master Data & Governance, was also added to the list of departed names.
Concerns for the Future
The recent reports of potential further releases have left fans worried about the futures of their favorite stars. As of yet, no additional wrestling stars have been released, but the threat of further cuts has left the WWE community on edge. The list of confirmed releases so far includes Quincy Elliott, who was signed after working WWE’s Las Vegas tryouts during SummerSlam Weekend in 2021, and Dana Brooke, who held the WWE 24/7 Title at least 15 times.
TV Rights Announcement and TKO Launch
The WWE roster thinning comes in the wake of the company’s TV deal announcement for SmackDown. Under the new arrangement, SmackDown would move from Fox to USA Network beginning October 2024 as part of a five-year deal between WWE and NBCUniversal. The agreement will also see WWE host four NBC primetime network specials.
This string of releases followed the launch of TKO, a media conglomerate created by Endeavor, which merged WWE and UFC parent company Zuffa. While WWE and UFC continue to operate as separate entities, they do so under the banner of TKO. The new company officially launched on September 12 with a valuation of $21.4 billion. Endeavor controls 51% of TKO, and WWE shareholders own a 49% stake.
Wrestlers React to Their Release
Mustafa Ali confirmed on Twitter that he is no longer with WWE. Other released superstars including Elias, Emma, Madcap Moss, and former WWE women’s tag team champion Aliyah also publicly confirmed their releases on social media. More cuts are expected throughout the day, marking a significant shift in the WWE roster in the wake of the merger with UFC.
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