WWE has released more than a dozen NXT superstars, including former North American Champion Bronson Reed and former Undisputed Era member Bobby Fish, but the company’s 2021 firing spree may not stop there.
Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com was the first to report the news of WWE’s latest mass release, which brings the total number of stars the company has let go in 2021 to nearly 50 and the total number of stars WWE has axed since last April to more than 100. Fellow NXT star Desmond Troy would later be added to the list of “future endeavored” stars, and Mat Men podcast’s Andrew Zarian adds that even more releases are expected:
WWE’s latest mass release continues the company’s trend of cutting superstars on a regular basis, a pattern that first began in April 2020. Since then, WWE has axed a boatload of top stars, including the likes of Braun Strowman and Bray Wyatt, while also cleaning house in NXT, which serves both as a developmental territory and a third brand.
There has been rampant speculation that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon has been releasing so many superstars in order to cut costs in preparation for a potential sale of the company. But Wrestlenomics’ Brandon Thurston (h/t Comic Book) revealed back in June that many WWE investors were not under the impression that McMahon would be selling WWE: “I talked with 5 people in the WWE investor community in the last 24 hours about the notion that the company’s recent actions indicate they’re preparing for a sale. Not one of them thought so.”
According to PWInsider (h/t WrestlingNews.co), the NXT releases are more so related to a planned overhaul of the NXT brand as a whole: “PWInsider noted on their audio show this week that there has been talk of major changes coming for the NXT brand. Those changes would include a new logo, new lighting, and a focus on younger talent along with a different format to the show. The housecleaning appears to be part of the changes for the brand.”
Once the best-booked brand in WWE, NXT hasn’t been the same over the past year or so. The yellow brand lost the “Wednesday Night War” to AEW Dynamite and has since moved to Tuesday nights, but ever since it jumped to the USA Network in 2019, it has steadily decreased in quality as many of the brand’s biggest names—including the likes of Keith Lee, Bianca Belair and Finn Balor—have moved to the main roster.
As NXT’s aura has diminished and the show has morphed into another cog in the money-making WWE machine, viewership for the show has remained lackluster at the same time that AEW has hit a ratings hot streak. There’s little doubt that AEW’s success is playing a role in the potential changes coming to NXT or that WWE is having buyer’s remorse after spending several years stockpiling talent in order to prevent them from going elsewhere.
WrestlingNews.co adds, “Officials in the company realize that the NXT brand has gotten stale and the look and feel of the show needed to change.” WWE releasing so many NXT superstars indeed feels like a way to start a makeover of the brand, even though that—from a financial perspective—is an unnecessary move.
The company remains incredibly profitable, and given its lucrative TV deals for Raw and SmackDown as well as the WWE Network’s recent move to Peacock, there is little cause for concern about the company’s financial future. However, that hasn’t prevented WWE from making a habit out of cleaning house, with mass releases becoming a common occurrence as even some of the company’s biggest stars—like Strowman and Wyatt—have been unable to avoid the ax.
Now, NXT has been hit hard by WWE’s release spree frenzy, and many of the newly released stars will likely end up making a huge splash elsewhere.