Breaking Down WWE’s “Black Thursday”
A couple of weeks ago on the Voices of Wrestling podcast, we discussed how the old school WWE blood lettings were a thing of the past. No more post-Mania spring cleanings, no more bi-yearly purging of the soft underbelly of the undercard. The kindler, gentler trend as of late had been to quietly allow contracts to run out, as we recently saw with Ezekial “Production Truck” Jackson.
Welp, apparently we’re back to the mass blood lettings.
Thursday may have been the darkest day for WWE talent since the Signature Pharmacy bust (and subsequent Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and New York Daily News investigations) some seven years ago, which resulted in the suspensions of ten men and the outing of up to seven other active or former WWE wrestlers as clients of the PED supplier. On June 12, nine wrestlers, one referee, and one of whatever Teddy Long is were wished well in their future endeavors on what will forever be known as ‘Black Thursday’.
Why the sudden cuts? Considering at least eight of the eleven cut were either not being used at all lately, or in some cases not being used at all in years, I think it’s a safe assumption that the pressures of a 2014 P&L that will likely show approximately $50M in losses by the end of the year (which would be the biggest one year loss of any wrestling promotion on the planet, ever, aside from WCW’s worst year — take a moment to let that sink in) finally resulted in somebody making the long overdue decision to trim some fat. With the loss of PPV revenue and the Network subscriptions not coming close to the projections promised to investors, this is a company that is no longer in a position to sit around and wait for contracts to come due. And if I’m somebody like Rosa Mendes, Primo, Epico, or one of the seemingly 48 television announcers on payroll (the NXT both resembles the stage at a Wu-Tang Clan concert most weeks), I’m wincing every time my phone rings.
Let’s break down the cuts, with some wacky stats and my projections of where each person goes from here.
The Talent – Yoshi Tatsu
The Stats – 1-5 in 2014. Overall WWE record 144-166-3.
WWE Legacy – Debuted on the main roster in perhaps the most blatantly racist segment in company history, and think about the ground that statement covers. Despite being regarded as a solid worker in New Japan, and a solid veteran hand during his time on the main roster, he was sent back to developmental to where he reportedly worked on complex stuff like hip tosses (I’m not making that up). He was super over in Full Sail, and ironically on the same day he was released his name was chanted on that night’s episode of NXT during the Adrian Neville/Tyson Kidd NXT Title match.
Where Does He Go From Here? – The obvious speculation is that he will head back to New Japan, where he spent the first few years of his career under his real name of Naofumi Yamamoto. He spent some of that time in a tag team with Hiroshi Tanahashi, who Tatsu’s WWE persona was clearly a Dollar Store version of. A stat that may surprise people is that Tatsu had a better record in WWE (144-166-3) than he did in New Japan (134-315-9). Tatsu seems like the nicest man on Earth on Twitter, and it was downright painful to read his tweets about busting his ass to learn English, and his overall super positive attitude, despite being stuck in Florida with no realistic hope of ever going anywhere in the company. It gutted me to learn that he was denied by the company when he asked if he could move to a Japanese heavy community in Texas. He was clearly oblivious that he was doing nothing more than spinning his wheels, and at 36, his time in developmental perfecting his hip tosses was always going to be time wasted that could have been used to make a real go of it in a hot New Japan promotion or someplace else. He’ll probably end up back in New Japan, but I really don’t see an obvious place for him on the card, with people like Tetsuya Naito already lost on the undercard and Tomoaki Honma unable to get past a jobber role. He’d probably stand a better chance of moving up the card in a place like W-1 or All Japan, but his history and connections are in New Japan, and aside from New Japan and Dragon Gate (which rarely takes in outsiders) everybody else is struggling in Japan these days, so an undercard role where he started his career might be the best financial decision anyway.
The Talent – Evan Bourne
The Stats – 0-0 in 2014. 0-0 in 2013. Hasn’t stepped into a ring since early 2012 (7-3), and his last full time year was 2011. Overall WWE record 288-151.
WWE Legacy – Busted for smoking synthetic marijuana. Presumably smoked a lot of real marijuana while the company paid him to basically do nothing for the last three years.
Where Does He Go From Here? – Anywhere he wants. The former Matt Sydal was one of the hottest indie names around when he signed with WWE, and presuming he’s healthy (and alive), he’ll truly be in the drivers seat because every promoter in North America will be lined up around the block to book him. If ROH or TNA don’t appeal to him, I’m sure Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force or the new AAA USA promotions would love to have him. He also has Japan options, as he could potentially land in Dragon Gate, where he arguably did the best work of his career, and where the style fits him like a glove (his brother Mike Sydal recently completed a 90-day learning excursion in Dragon Gate, so the family connection still exists). I’d be shocked if New Japan was not interested. If I were him, I’d do a solid six-month free agent indie run, where a million fresh matches exist with guys who were not yet names when he was last on the scene (2007), and when that well runs dry, let ROH, TNA, Jarrett, and AAA get into a bidding war. Take the best deal that also allows for Japan tours, and he’s a guy who would likely end up making more money outside of WWE than he did inside making nothing but his downside. He’s in a better position than any of the other ten cuts to ultimately land on his feet.
The Talent – Teddy Long
The Stats – His 3-2 all time WWE record is the third best Won-Loss record among all of the released talent.
WWE Legacy – Informing unfortunate playas that later on tonight, they will have to go one on one… with THE UNDAHTAKAH!
Where Does He Go From Here? – The 66-year old Long probably heads off into the sunset (and the autograph convention loop), but holla holla holla, I’ve got a money idea. Long needs to get a hold of the Dark City Fight Club, dig a couple of old Ron Simmons & Butch Reed masks out of his attic, and bring Doom 2.0 to every indie in the country. Of course, this will never happen, but if it did it would be the coolest thing Jon Davis & Kory Chavis would ever do, and would help to revive their careers. When the criminally under utilized Jack Swagger gets cut, and I find my money mark, I’m building my promotion around Jake Hagar the wrestling machine, and DOOM managed by Teddy Long. This will draw dozens of dollars, but hey, it’s my vanity promotion so I can do what I want, playa.
The Talent – Drew McIntyre
The Stats – 1-56-2 in 2014. 9-113 in 2013. Lost an astounding 454 matches in his WWE career (189-454-20). To put that in perspective, Daniel Bryan, who has similar tenure in WWE, and spent plenty of time both under pushed & as a heel who always lost on the road, has lost 275 matches.
WWE Legacy – Participated in the greatest Superstars match ever, and possibly the greatest B-show match in history, vs Chris Masters. For reasons I will never understand, within the company he was considered a blue chip prospect for many years.
Where Does He Go From Here? – I don’t know, but what he should do is spend some time back in Europe (where there is an emerging indie scene) to wash off the stink of being a television jobber for so long. Personally I find him dry as sand, but he’s still young enough (29) to make another go of it down the line, and he obviously had major allies in the office in the not so distant past so I could see WWE giving him another chance at some point. For that reason alone, he should probably avoid TNA, although the prospect of bumping into his ex-wife Taryn Terrell may be reason enough.
The Talent – Jinder Mahal
The Stats – 1-51-2 in 2014. 7-105 in 2013. Overall WWE record of 86-295-3. His lone win this year was a singles match victory over Brodus Clay in Italy. His 3MB partner, Drew McIntyre, can not claim a singles win this year (McIntyre’s lone win was a tag match w/Heath Slater over Los Matadores).
WWE Legacy – The guy with the turban in 3MB. I’ve got nothing.
Where Does He Go From Here? – He seems like a fit for the Northest indie promotions that love to use former WWE names (Pro Wresting Syndicate, National Wrestling Superstars, House of Hardcore, etc), but with that said he was never really a big enough WWE name to where I would think those type of places would have a ton of interest. I can’t see him on the “workrate” indie scene. If he wants to continue in wrestling, I’m sure TNA or Jarrett will find a place for him. It’s actually not the worst time for him to be a free agent, with plenty of new options cropping up later this year.
The Talent – Camacho
The Stats – 2-8 in 2014. Overall 11-59 in his WWE career.
WWE Legacy – Hitched a ride on Hunico’s bicycle as his barrio sidekick until Hunico took over the Mistico mask. Found himself without a role, and had a short NXT program as a lemon to Adam Rose. Took part in one of the worst WWE matches I’ve ever seen vs Corey Graves.
Where Does He Go From Here? – Look, we saw the writing on the wall with this one for months. I’ve been telling anybody who would listen on our podcast and Twitter feed that this man, the son of Haku and the brother of the New Japan’s Tama Tonga, was destined for the Bullet Club from the moment Hunico mysteriously disappeared. I’d be shocked if he’s not taking the fall in Bullet Club 8-man tags as soon as he is legally allowed to start up with New Japan. Book it.
The Talent – Marc Harris
The Stats – He was a ref.
WWE Legacy – Black Ref II, not to be confused with Black Ref I, who was cut a couple of years back. Every time you saw him on screen, you thought to yourself “Hey, it’s black ref.”
Where Does He Go From Here? – Doesn’t matter. You will forget his name roughly eight seconds after you close this page. I forgot his name already. The lesson here, is that the black ref gimmick does not have a very long shelf life in WWE.
The Talent – Curt Hawkins
The Stats – Winless in 2014 (0-6). Winless in 2013 (0-25-1). Overall he went 62-215-5 in his WWE career.
WWE Legacy – One half of the Edge Geeks with Zack Ryder (who is afraid to turn on his phone right now). Every time he appeared on NXT, even during 1:00 squashes, the announcers managed to squeeze in that he was a former WWE Tag Team Champion. Little known fact, he nearly replaced Heath Slater in 3MB on two separate occasions.
Where Does He Go From Here? – He immediately picked up tons of bookings literally minutes after being let go. As reported by Voices of Wrestling, Hawkins had been telling friends for months that he suspected this was coming, and in between his grueling schedule of six matches this year, he found the time to open up a wrestling school on Long Island. Before being released, he lobbied to get air time doing jobs on NXT, figuring since he was expecting to be let go, he could hit the ground running fresh off of TV. Hawkins is tight with Pat Buck and the PWS crew, and as expected he’s already been announced for not only the next PWS show, but will work all PWS shows from this point forward. Look for Hawkins to use PWS as his home base, with random indie bookings in between while he runs his school. Even with the prospect of new national promotions cropping up, he may not be a guy who is interested in that at this stage of his career. He’s also currently embroiled in Twitter feud with Mark Henry after taking offense to a Henry tweet on Black Thursday having to do with Henry being with the company for 18 years. Hawkins took that as a badly timed brag coming on the day eleven people were fired, and had some choice words from him. Henry did not take kindly to that, noting in one tweet that he knows where Hawkins lives, and in another that he will gladly “take care of business” if he doesn’t apologize. There could be a wig splitting in Hawkins future, but the smart money is on a bunch of level heads and deleted tweets by the time anybody reads this.
— Brian Myers (@TheCurtHawkins) June 12, 2014
The Talent – Aksana
The Stats – 5-53 in 2014. 1-48 all time vs Layla. An incredible 14-179 overall.
WWE Legacy – You’ve got me. Her 80’s movie sex scene saxophone theme? Maybe her team with Alicia Fox, which when you think about it is a pretty rare role, being in a women’s jobber tag team (6-55 as a team)? Probably that she appeared on the all-female NXT season that was essentially nothing more than a giant rib on Michael Cole. Or the viewers. Or the wrestlers. Or somebody. Hopefully.
Where Does She Go From Here? – She’s already 32, which is like 50 in Diva years, and she’s also pretty terrible, so I don’t see any sort of future for her. Born as the unpronounceable Zivile Raudoniene, she was once billed as ‘Olga’, which is about as sexy as a shit stain, so ‘Aksana’ was actually an upgrade. I really don’t have much to add here. I thought she was the same person as Maxine before I wrote any of this. Let’s move on.
The Talent – Brodus Clay
The Stats – A lousy 3-21-1 in 2014, but overall he was one of three people cut (along with Evan Bourne and Teddy Long) to have an overall winning record with the company (294-113-3).
WWE Legacy – Was used to help get over the Funkadactyl girls (similar to how Los Matadores are essentially a prop for El Torito), but at one time was viewed as a draw with kids, as evidence by his inclusion in the Scooby Doo movie, frequent appearances on Saturday Morning Slam, and being one of the few chosen to have a wrestling buddy made in his image.
Where Does He Go From Here? – Already booked for PWS in September. He should do well on that ex-WWE circuit, and if this were 2004 I’d say he was a lock for All Japan as a member of Voo Doo Murders or RO&D. I see him bouncing around the Northeast indies for a while, until he figures out there’s more money and less stress in being your own boss with bodyguard gigs (which is what he was doing pre-WWE). Like just about everybody else on this list, there is always the possibility of Jarrett, AAA USA, or TNA scooping him up. If nothing else he has a very unique look and a history of appealing to kids.
The Talent – JTG
The Stats – No matches in 2014. 0-19 in 2013. 1-56 in 2012. That’s good for an incredible run of futility over three years of 1-75. His last match was 9/16/13. His last win was on 5/8/2012. From 2011 on, he went 8-141. He ended his WWE career on a 50-match losing streak. WWE total career record was 191-274-3.
WWE Legacy – He will forever be best known for the “Why does JTG still have a job?” meme. Even on Black Thursday, JTG’s name was not initially included with the other ten, with several hours of “Oh, c’mon. This is getting ridiculous, how the hell is this dude still employed?” Tweets/posts/texts/confused mutterings among wrestling fans until WWE had their fill of trolling and made it official, a few minutes after JTG himself broke the news with an amusing self deprecating tweet that read “Damn! Why I pick up my phone?”.
Damn ! Why I pick up my phone !
— JTG (@Jtg1284) June 12, 2014
Where Does He Go From Here? – He seems like the type of guy who would jump at the chance to work in TNA or for Jarrett, to show his former employer that he can still bring something to the table. Surprisingly, he’s still only 29 years old, debuting with WWE when he was 21. The Cryme Tyme act was at one-time very much over, so I’m sure some indie promoter(s) will find a way to put the team back together for a reunion. With that said, Cryme Tyme didn’t get a ton of indie bookings when they were released from WWE the first time around. He along with Brodus Clay might benefit the most of all from a couple of new North American promotions needing talent as they start up later this year. In a weird way, the “Why is this guy employed?” thing may work in his favor, as he’s become a cult icon of sorts.