Report: Vince McMahon Was Working on WWE Roster Cuts Before WrestleMania 36

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2020

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 16: Vince McMahon attends a press conference to announce that WWE Wrestlemania 29 will be held at MetLife Stadium in 2013 at MetLife Stadium on February 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images)
Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images

Additional details regarding WWE's post-WrestleMania 36 roster cuts came to light as part of an ESPN article about the XFL's rise and fall on Tuesday.

According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was planning a number of releases and furloughs ahead of WrestleMania in anticipation of the company having lower-than-expected revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The cost-cutting measures were officially announced April 15, as WWE furloughed several producers and employees from other departments while releasing roughly 20 Superstars who were under contract as on-screen performers.

Wrestlers Rusev, Drake Maverick, Zack Ryder, Curt Hawkins, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, Heath Slater, Eric Young, Erick Rowan, Sarah Logan, No Way Jose, Mike Kanellis, Maria Kanellis, EC3, Lio Rush, Primo and Epico were all released.

WWE also parted ways with announcer Aiden English, referee Mike Chioda and WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle, who was working as a producer at the time of his release.

Of the aforementioned names, Maverick has since been re-signed and joined the NXT brand, while Angle has made a couple of appearances, including as a special guest referee for the Fight Pit match between Matt Riddle and Timothy Thatcher in NXT.

COVID-19 has impacted WWE significantly, but unlike essentially all major sports leagues in the United States and across the world, WWE never stopped producing shows.

While fans have been unable to attend shows since March, WWE has run episodes of Raw, SmackDown and NXT plus pay-per-views from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. There was initially nobody in the crowd, but WWE has used Performance Center trainees as fans in recent weeks.

Also, on Monday's Raw, WWE allowed some friends and family members of those involved with the company to sit in as fans.

Although the coronavirus has resulted in WWE losing all potential gate revenue from live events, the company has remained profitable because of its massive television contracts with Fox and NBCUniversal. Both contracts are reportedly five years in length and worth in excess of $1 billion apiece.

In April, WWE reported strong earnings for the first quarter of 2020, as it made $26.2 million in net income largely because of the TV deals. WWE also predicted that it would remain profitable during the pandemic as a result of the television money and the cutbacks that were made to offset some potential losses.

Most of those who were released on April 15 have been out of the spotlight because of the 90-day non-compete clauses in their contracts that prevent them from appearing for other companies until July.

Since those restrictions are set to run out soon and more and more wrestling companies are getting back to running shows, there could be a major influx of talent into competing companies in the near future.

Meanwhile, WWE still boasts a stacked roster in its own right, which speaks to how much depth it had in terms of in-ring performers before the April 15 cuts.

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