Probably the biggest stories in WWE this year has been the string of releases that has seen dozens of wrestlers leaving the company. That is not the kind of thing you usually expect to see, as WWE has not been releasing huge numbers of wrestlers in recent years, and even then they never came close to doing it like this. Some of these releases have been more surprising than others, but not all of them are the worst changes.
This week we’re going to take a look at some of the releases and go into why some of them were both necessary and long overdue. I’m not going to break them down and go over them one by one, as not only has that been done to death already but I think you can get the idea with the majority of them. There are a few that stand out though, and a lot of those names have an underlying theme. First off though, it’s back to the Attitude Era.
Back in 1999, the British Bulldog made one final return to the WWF, lasting from September 1999 until May 2000. He was wrestling in jeans this time and even won the Hardcore and European Titles while also chasing the WWF Title. As you might have guessed, it didn’t work out in the end though and Smith left the promotion for good in mid-May 2000, after which he retired from wrestling again.
At some point in a place I wish I could find, Jim Ross summed up the issues with Bulldog’s final run: how many ways can you repackage the British Bulldog? It might sound harsh, but it is exactly right. The Bulldog was a very talented wrestler but he wasn’t exactly a complex character. Here’s pretty much all there is to know about the Bulldog: he is muscular, he is from England, he used to have a dog mascot, and he can work as a good guy or a bad guy. Other than listing things he has done and people he has wrestled, what else is there really to say about him? This isn’t just a Bulldog problem, and that is where we are going today.
If you look at a lot of the wrestlers WWE released this year, especially some of the most recent batch, you will see a couple of common things. In this case, the two names that we are going to look at from the most recent batch are Tyler Breeze and Fandango (or Breezango, collectively, thanks to that brilliant WWE wordplay), both of whom were let go from the company on June 25. These were easily the two biggest names released and arguably the least surprising.
Quick note before we get into this: Breeze and Fandango are both very talented guys. Breeze was a bright spot in early NXT and I still find myself humming Mmm Gorgeous. Fandango is someone who found something with the dance and WWE just left him out there to dry for the better part of ever. The Fashion Files were hilarious and I wanted to see what they were going to do next every week. This is absolutely not meant as a knock on them, because they are both very talented guys.
The biggest problem that I see with these two is that they have been around forever. You might not realize it, but Breeze debuted on WWE TV (counting NXT) in 2012 and Fandango had been with the company (including developmental) for nearly fifteen years. To put this in perspective, if Fandango signed with WWE the day Hulk Hogan won the WWF Title for the first time, he would have been around until around the time the Rock was joining the Corporation in a reenactment of the Montreal Screwjob.
Breezango teamed together for about five years (granted with Fandango missing a lot of time due to injuries) and by the end of their run, they were little more than the team who wore funny themed costumes to the ring. They won the NXT Tag Team Titles but it felt more like a thank you win than anything else, which is rarely a good sign. Other than that, they were just kind of there, as WWE stopped letting them do anything new or fresh, which is where we get back to the Bulldog.
As has been the case with a lot of wrestlers this year, WWE did not think there was anything else to do with Fandango and Breeze and let them go, much like they did with Bulldog twenty one years ago. They had been successes before (and could have been again under different circumstances) but instead the decision was made to add their names to a rapidly growing list.
Breeze and Fandango have been around WWE for a very long time now and there are only so many ways to use them in their final forms. Long term fans had seen the two of them for years now and neither of them were going to be breaking out anytime soon. It wasn’t about their talent or abilities, but rather the fact that WWE was not letting them do anything other than one idea.
With no other options available, the impact that the two of them could have went through the floor. They were just two people making money while having almost no chance of moving up the ladder. As a result, there was very little reason to keep them around. That is about as big of a target as you can get on your back when it comes to cut season and that is exactly what happened. In other words, when asked a similar question as Ross asked about Bulldog, WWE decided there was nothing left for the two of them to do.
At the end of the day, if WWE has given up on pushing you and has no intent on trying anything else in the way of a fresh idea, your career is all but over. That was the case with these two and it really is not that surprising. I can imagine the two of them having several ideas of how to do something new, but it isn’t going to matter if WWE is not interested in trying any of them out. Instead, WWE left them sitting there with nothing else going on and it was all but over for the two of them.
Look at some of the other names who were released in the most recent batch. You had a bunch of guys who were never given the chance to do anything beyond 205 Live, or who had been on 205 Live for a very long time in the first place. People like Tony Nese and Ariya Daivari have been great hands on their show but WWE did not seem to think they could do anything else. As a result, Nick Khan pulled the plug on them and they were the latest names let go from the company.
Like almost any other wrestling promotion, or company for that matter, an employee is only going to stay around as long as the company sees value in them. That might be entirely different from what the fans or customers think of them, but ultimately it can lead to employees, or in this case wrestlers, being let go. WWE did not see anything else in wrestlers like Fandango and Breeze because they did not seem to think they were worth the investment. Your individual tastes may vary (mine certainly do), but ultimate WWE is going to cut away, even though it might mean cutting off more and more fans.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
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