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Where Next For WWE’s Released Stars?

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WWE’s Released Stars

There are more established stars on the ‘free agent’ scene in professional wrestling than there have been for quite a while. WWE has been in a ratings war with rival promotion AEW on Wednesday nights for quite some time, and that war is likely to intensify now several former WWE stars are now available for hire. Will AEW pick them all up, though, or are we more likely to see these fallen stars appear elsewhere? Will some of them leave the wrestling business completely? Let’s take a closer look and see if we can work out who will go where.

One thing we can say with confidence is that not all of them will go to AEW. The last thing AEW wants to be seen as is a place that’s full of cast-off WWE wrestlers. It’s true to say that a wrestling show is only as good as its lineup, but just like anyone who’s ever played slots knows, not every lineup is a winner. By the time some players realize that, they’ve already sunk too much money into an online slots game to have any realistic prospect of making that money back. AEW doesn’t mind a gamble – it’s proven that in the past by using a casino and online slots theme for its ‘Double or Nothing’ Pay Per View event, but it only gambles when it makes sense to do so. Picking up a whole raft of recently-released WWE talent probably doesn’t.

Let’s start off with the best-known and most surprising of all the releases, and work from there.

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson

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Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson

Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson

Gallows and Anderson are multiple-time WWE tag team champions, and until their release, they were part of ‘The Original Club’ on television with AJ Styles. They even had a role in the well-received ‘Boneyard Match’ between Styles and the Undertaker at WrestleMania 36. It was a surprise to see them released when you consider their name value, but perhaps not so much when you consider the financial side of the situation. Both men signed huge new contracts – believed to be worth $750,000 per year each – with the company last year to avoid the risk of them walking out when their current deals expired. The objective of the WWE releases was to save money, and so if they weren’t going to be used in a featured position, it probably makes more sense to let them go. We don’t think AEW is their likely destination for now, though – if AEW picks up a tag team, it will be The Revival. Gallows and Anderson were a huge deal in Japan before they arrived in WWE, and that’s where they’re likely to return to.

EC3

If WWE offered voluntary redundancy to any of the released performers, EC3 probably accepted it before Vince McMahon had even finished speaking. It’s been an open secret that he’s wanted out of his deal for a long time, and he was never used correctly on the main roster. He’s already started releasing promotional videos for his new character on Twitter and is understood to be in high demand on the indie scene and by every other promotion you could mention. He has a ready-made feud waiting with MJF in AEW, though, and we’d be surprised if he signed anywhere else.

Drake Maverick

Drake Maverick

Drake Maverick

We’re going to call WWE’s bluff on this release. Drake Maverick released a tearful video on social media after his release while still wearing a WWE t-shirt. He mentioned that he was being permitted to complete his scheduled cruiserweight tournament matches before his departure, and his video became a talking point on WWE NXT before his first tournament match was aired last week. There’s been a groundswell of support for Maverick ever since he released the video, and the smart money says that WWE will have a change of heart about letting him go. We think he’ll end up with a new contract, and he’ll stay put.

Sarah Logan

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The release of Sarah Logan wasn’t really a shock. Aside from being used as cannon fodder in the ‘Riott Squad’ stable, she hasn’t done anything of note since signing a WWE deal. She was, however, immensely popular backstage. She’s also the wife of Raymond Rowe, who is one half of the Viking Raiders and wrestles under the ring name ‘Erik.’ Firing one half of a married couple while keeping the other isn’t really the WWE way, and several industry websites have suggested that a number of people have gone to bat for Logan since she was let go. We think that she, too, will be hurriedly re-signed to a new deal.

Lio Rush

This might be it for Lio Rush when it comes to wrestling, and that would be a huge shame. He’s made no secret of the fact that he’s lost his passion for performing as a wrestler during his WWE run, and he could never seem to stay out of trouble backstage. These days he’s far more interested in making music, and he can’t pursue that full time while under wrestling contract in WWE or anywhere else. As gifted as he clearly is in the ring, he’s always been limited by both his size and his attitude, and so we might have seen him work in the ring for the last time.

Heath Slater

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Heath Slater has been one of WWE’s most consistent mid-card workers for more than a decade. He’s also a former member of the ‘Three Man Band’ stable – and there’s an interesting story to be told there. The other two members of the stable were Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre – both of whom have been released by the company in the past, worked hard on the independent scene, and then returned to the company in much better physical shape and won the WWE Championship. Slater, at 36, is still young enough to do that if he wants to. That might limit his options, though. If he signs with AEW, he can kiss goodbye to any dreams of coming back to WWE in the future, and so he’ll have to choose wisely. A stint with the NWA, Ring of Honor, or Impact Wrestling wouldn’t harm him. Impact might be the best bet of the three.

Zack Ryder

The biggest crime Zack Ryder ever committed in WWE was to get over without assistance from the head office. His YouTube channel made him popular with fans and briefly saw him elevated from jobber status to solid midcarder. Ryder has been a US Champion, an Intercontinental Champion, and, more recently, a tag team champion with Curt Hawkins. He’s a big guy with a great look and a lot of charisma, and he could be an asset to the right company. More importantly than all of that, he’s a very close friend of Cody Rhodes – and Cody is the guy who makes the majority of hiring decisions in AEW. He’s going to AEW, and we’re more certain about this call than we are with any of the others. He might even be able to get Curt Hawkins a job there at the same time.

As for the rest – time will tell. Rusev is the biggest name among the releases, but he’s understood to have had some sort of issue that’s kept him off television for three months already. Without knowing what that issue is, it’s impossible to say what his next move might be. Eric Young, Epico, and Primo were likely close to retirement anyway, and Mike and Maria Kanellis can breeze straight back into Impact Wrestling any time they like. It’s never nice to lose your job – but for these wrestlers, a lost job means a whole new set of opportunities.

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