Projecting What's Next for Samoa Joe, Peyton Royce and Each Star Released by WWE
Thursday brought with it another rash of releases from WWE as part of cost-cutting efforts that are becoming an annual affair at this time of year.
Samoa Joe, Peyton Royce, and Billie Kay headline the list of performers suddenly out of jobs but for them, and the rest of the unemployed, today's wrestling landscape provides numerous opportunities for them to enjoy the opportunities they did not in McMahonland.
Looking forward, where might the stars who were handed pink slips Thursday afternoon continue their career to greater success than in WWE once their non-compete clauses are up on July 14?
Find out with this look at each of the competitors released.
Samoa Joe is the most prominent name on the list of releases, a veteran whose work around the globe made him one of the most celebrated wrestlers in the world.
Joe is a badass, submission- and strike-based performer whose aura is undeniable. Even at his advanced age, he very much feels like a wrestler who is destined to whoop the ass of anyone who opposes him. He is a talented talker, as witnessed in his Raw commentary over the last year, and his words carry weight.
One of the most influential indie stars in wrestling history, he had a wealth of knowledge to impart on the stars of any company with which he signs.
Given the limited ring time he has left at this point, his style, and his general badassery, the one and only company Joe should concentrate on is AEW.
The number of dream matches and brawls that would instantly pique the interest of the fans is countless. From the obvious battles with Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley to contests with younger stars like Darby Allin and even Jungle Boy, Joe has ton to offer AEW.
And in return, it can be his last opportunity to star on a grand stage for a national company.
The IIconics (Peyton Royce)
The IIconics are a team that, from day one in NXT, were pigeonholed as a comedic act. Great talkers with solid-enough in-ring ability, they were always the team that talked about how iconic they were, only to shriek and wail as they took a beating at the hands of their opponents.
When they got to the main roster, they experienced success and even won the Women’s Tag Team Championships, but never really achieved the sort of success their talent suggested they were capable of.
Thus, when the team was split up last summer and the decision was made to run with Peyton Royce as a singles star, she faltered. What was her character and how were fans supposed to take her without the comedic edge of The IIconics?
As it turned out, not even creative knew the answer to that.
Billie Kay was able to retain that element of her performance and become one of the bright spots of WWE television entering 2021. Her performance at WrestleMania indicated she was in line for a push as Carmella’s new partner, but her release put an end to that pairing.
It would be easy to suggest Kay and Royce should reunite for a run around the globe as the team that never got its fair shake in WWE, but that would be too easy. They should focus on developing their individual personas. Kay as the funny, personality-driven performer and Royce as someone who can walk that fine line a little straighter.
For Kay, a destination like Impact makes the most sense. Not only does that company have a diverse group of women, it also favors the wacky and fun.
Royce, who could very much play that same role, feels like a performer ready to take the next step in her career. A run with AEW, where she would be with her husband Shawn Spears, would be a logical destination.
Mickie James is one of the greatest women's wrestlers of all time, a legend and future Hall of Famer. She deserved so much better than she got during this last run and her desire to continue wrestling lends itself to any number of promotions that could benefit from her star power.
With the re-emergence of the National Wrestling Alliance under Billy Corgan, James may find herself the biggest fish in a small pond.
What James would mean for that promotion and its roster is a veteran competitor that can help elevate young stars to levels they may never have reached without her star power. That her husband, Nick Aldis, is the world champion there does not hurt matters.
We have also seen AEW welcome veterans into the fold in hopes of elevating its youthful roster. Serena Deeb, Thunder Rosa and Ryo Mizunami are just a few of them. Adding James to the fold would be a major get for that promotion, though one would have to wonder how long it would be before she lacked the reps that would make it worth her time.
A smaller promotion like NWA, Impact, or Ring of Honor would best suit her.
Chelsea Green is a star in waiting and WWE's inability to recognize that and push her as such is indicative of their creative shortcomings.
The Laurel Van Ness character she portrayed in Impact Wrestling was one of those larger-than-life characters tailor-made for WWE. It allowed her to showcase her entertainment ability along with her in-ring skills, making her one of the hotter commodities in the wrestling industry in the first place.
WWE never understood it, stripping all of her personality away from her during her time in NXT, then failing to followup when it was time to call her to the main roster.
Now, Green has the opportunity to pick where she wants to continue her career.
Fiancee Matt Cardona works for the aforementioned Impact and Executive Vice President Scott D'Amore has already voiced interest in bringing her back into the fold.
Cody Rhodes co-signed Cardona's assertion that his significant other is a star, immediately raising eyebrows that AEW might be interested in adding Green to its women's division. She added fuel to that fire by tweeting at Penta El Zero Miedo a GIF of a Canadian Destroyer she delivered to the Lucha Bro back in Lucha Underground.
Other than Samoa Joe, Green very well may be the most sought-after of the free agents, a diverse and multi-talented performer with all the upside in the world. Look for her to make her presence felt as soon as she legally can.
Kalisto is an interesting case in that his initial singles push seemed to indicate the second-coming of Rey Mysterio. He won the United States Championship and appeared to be on a fast track to a big push, only to drop the title to Rusev and descend into mediocrity.
There was Lucha House Party and some shots at tag team gold, but he never again achieved the sort of success he did early on in his main roster run.
Still an immensely talented worker, one of the best on the list of releases, he has potential to be a star elsewhere. His style fits the lightning-quick, high-flying of All Elite Wrestling, but he could very easily head to Mexico and achieve main event stardom there.
Impact and Ring of Honor are options, particularly the latter, they would almost certainly be secondary options for the luchador.
Mojo Rawley's stagnancy in WWE was never for a lack of effort. He always worked hard, he just failed to connect with audiences in any tangible way.
Too often, the hyped character was met with groans while his heel character was a underdeveloped and lasted such a short period of time that he never had the opportunity to grow or evolve it. Another one of those initial NXT call-ups, he is one such star that very much could have used additional time in NXT before he was pushed up to the main roster.
One of wrestling's good guys, an ambassador for WWE who could always be seen right alongside Titus O'Neil and Natalya as they participated in numerous charity efforts, he was an asset to the company.
More so than others on this list, at least immediately, it would not be surprising to see Rawley back with WWE in the near future.
Or, at the very least, starting his own charity or motivational speaking business and giving back to his community.
"Bo Dallas, in my opinion, is maybe the most talented person we have that doesn’t get… I mean, he’s not even being used. I know it’s totally hard, there’s only so much television time. We’ve got so many stories lined up," Sami Zayn told Sportskeeda Wrestling.
"But I was with him in NXT at the time when he was NXT Champion. I know exactly what he’s capable of. I think he’s one of the most talented people we have that’s not getting even an inch. So if I had my way, I’d definitely showcase him a little bit more."
Dallas made the absolute most of a silly inspirational gimmick, only to be stuck in the ludicrous B-Team with Curtis Axel. He never recovered, to the point that he disappeared from television and was not even regularly featured in squash matches, let alone anything of substance.
He was wholly underutilized and cast aside, not only one of the original NXT pillars but a cautionary tale of life on the main roster.
Smart, funny, and with ample in-ring ability, he can go anywhere and become a star. The question is, does he want to?
Sean Ross Sapp of Patreon Select reported Dallas was already looking at other business ventures as his career in WWE went nowhere. Might the experience with the company have burned him out on the industry?
If not, a place like Impact Wrestling, which values Superstars who are able to mesh serious intensity with the occasional comedic brilliance, would be a perfect fit.
Wesley Blake is an interesting case in that he has proven himself a very good tag team worker, but we have never really gotten to see what he is capable of as a singles performer. We know he is fundamentally sound, but what might he be capable of on his own?
A landing spot like Ring of Honor, where he could bask in the spotlight without being overshadowed by a teammate might be the ideal location for him.
If not, and the future holds more opportunities as a tag team competitor or member of a faction, a spot in Impact Wrestling's Violent By Design alongside Deaner, Joe Doering, Rhino, and Eric Young may provide him a platform to shine in ways he was never really allowed to in WWE/NXT.