But while the names included might have been a stunner, the underlying theme is simple: Predictable.
It's oh-so-WWE to undervalue, underuse or completely mishandle Superstars with seemingly unlimited potential before ultimately cutting said talent loose. A sheer lack of creativity and consistency in booking remains the root cause of the issue.
The full list, for context:
- Braun Strowman
- Aleister Black
- Ruby Riott
- Santana Garrett
What's especially perplexing about this round of talent cuts, though, is some of the surrounding elements.
Strowman, as fans are well aware, was one of the most over talents in the company at one point. He took down Goldberg. He was featured internationally in Saudi Arabia. He fought a McMahon at WrestleMania 37 just a few months ago and was just recently a challenger for a top title again. His sticking in a Big Show-type role for the next three decades seemed guaranteed.
Now he's gone.
Ditto for Black, who has the "former NXT talent who got terribly mishandled on the main roster" schtick going for him. He looked like one of the best pure strikers in the ring and one of the best sheer characters on the roster outright.
Some would suggest his supernatural side put him in a position to nicely slot into an Undertaker-esque role for a long time—and WWE just spent weeks building up The Dutch Destroyer in promos for his return as a challenger for Big E.
He's gone too.
Similar themes for the rest of the list as well. It never felt like Ruby Riott got a fair shake, and she's bound to headline in another promotion soon enough; Lana showed off incredible versatility while improving all the time; and it would be hard to find a fan who didn't think Murphy didn't have main event potential.
On paper, it wasn't too hard for WWE to avoid feeling like it had to let these Superstars go, either. Maybe Strowman had reached his ceiling and this was simply the time, sure. But letting him do more than yell and run around the outside of the ring before throwing a shoulder block five nights out of the week might have helped him branch out into something more.
With Riott, Black and Murphy, just letting them spread their wings would have been nice. Put them in engaging stories, not sidelining Riott in tag team purgatory, having Murphy be the weird sidekick without a direction, and Black just sitting in a room brooding for months asking somebody to knock on a door.
Here's the rub with all of this: WWE makes these cuts as if the roster and weekly programming can afford to do it.
But the reality? Strowman's gone and all that means is more yawn-worthy encounters between Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley. It means Big E is now rudderless without direction. A weak women's division, including a bare-bones tag scene, takes a depth hit, too.
At the same time, WWE's direct opposition is bound to reap the benefits. The company is sorely mistaken if it thinks All Elite Wrestling won't leap to sign a monster like Strowman. Think, for just a minute, about the mystique of Black in the same ring with Sting and Darby Allin. Consider the potential for Riott as a title contender elsewhere.
So what's the reason behind the front-facing reasons? Speculation abounds. Maybe WWE gets sold. Maybe it's just the company trying to clear the books a bit before it starts hitting the road on a full-time basis again, which means paying full-time drivers and personnel to make touring possible.
Maybe...just maybe it means a newfound approach to the roster by cutting loose talent the company can't figure out how to use so that they can go flourish elsewhere.
No matter what, fans have been here before. These Superstars will mostly go on to shine elsewhere. WWE will rub fans the wrong way by masking these as budget cuts, only to pay up big dollars for another Goldberg appearance or something similar soon enough.
And given how built up Strowman and Black especially were recently, it's going to be harder than ever to really get invested in characters and storylines; the Superstars could be unemployed in a matter of days.
Maybe this is what WWE wanted when it stopped making top guys after The Rock and John Cena, possibly working with the idea that anyone is replaceable. But if that's the case, moves like this will backfire over the long term, especially if these Superstars go on to realize much greater potential elsewhere.