Well, it was only a matter of time before WWE’s annual spring cleaning of talent came around. It’s a little odd that they intentionally have so many roster cuts this time of year, but this time it’s a little different. With all of the new talent flooding in, WWE does need to make some room. Think of it as cutting down the old, dead vegetation so more sunlight can reach the younger plants, so they can grow and flourish. Just like that one, weird Rush song, but with less political implications.
So, who got slashed and burned this year? Some were more expected than others. First of all, I didn’t even know that Hornswoggle was still under contract. Yes, the beloved by some, ignored by many, leprechaun laureate of the WWE has been released. With easily the longest tenure of a little person in WWE history (next to maybe Mini Vader?), it’s kind of sad to see him go. But he will go down in history as the most written for dwarf, as I believe he was both Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son AND the anonymous General Manager. Funny how they never bring up those cute, cop out storylines they so love to paint themselves into a corner with. Alas, I wouldn’t count out potential appearances on the WWE Network by Hornswoggle, along with fellow spring cleaning victim Santino Marella.
Marella was always one of the more legitimately funny personalities in WWE, so it’s sad to see him go. However, this was fairly expected, as he hasn’t been cleared to wrestle for years due to injury, and he was only seldom used for selling merch and other product placement ads. But hey, don’t be shocked if some sort of Santino Marella Show comes to the Network. They owe him at least that much. Those sumamaguns!
WWE must not be looking to recreate Smackdown’s Junior Division anytime soon, because El Torito was also cut from the Roster. The little bull companion to Los Matadores was let go likely due to the fact that a dwarf dressed as a bull can’t stand alone as an individual superstar. As Los Matadores are being repackaged once more as their true identities, Primo and Epico, they’ll have little use for the miniature minotaur.
The first noticeable misstep in my opinion was the release of Zeb Coulter. Granted, they weren’t using him very well, and his “MexAmerica” schtick with Alberto Del Rio was a tremendous flop; but that’s not to say that he isn’t a talented manager. Especially now that the tone of WWE is swinging back to being more in-ring based with all of the tremendous new indie talent, as guy like Zeb could serve as a useful mouthpiece and coach for some of the weaker mic guys. In fact, the art of the manager seems to be a major factor that’s lost in today’s wrestling. Just look at what Paul Heyman has done for Brock Lesnar. If this is truly the end of Zeb Coulter in WWE, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dutch Mantel get a Hall of Fame nod soon.
Another potential Hall of Famer who is speculated to have little interest in resigning with the company is Mark Henry. This could either be a step toward retirement or the World’s Strongest power play, but since Henry has always been a company guy, a Hall of Fame induction wouldn’t be too far down the line. Now, many fans might not think that Sexual Chocolate is HoF caliber, but his career and longevity is matched by very few superstars in history.
This year’s spring cleaning was marked by a couple more superstars who got out ahead of it by not resigning their contracts. Wade Barrett put in his notice months ago, but was working with the League of Nations up until very recently, so it’s possible that he is on good terms with the company and could potentially return. The League of Nations was also unsuccessful in gaining any notoriety, and Barrett was clearly unhappy with how he was being utilized. I always thought that the “Bad News” gimmick worked extraordinarily well for him, and was popular with fans. When he won the King of the Ring and became King Barrett, it seemed like they scrapped something that was already working in exchange for a weaker character. Did we really need another King? I feel like at any given time there are at least three “kings” on the roster. Between King Barrett; Jerry “The King” Lawler; and the King of Kings, Triple H, there are four “kings” between the three of them. Best to just let Bad News be.
The other superstar who couldn’t come to terms on a new contract is Ryback. A notoriously unsafe worker, Ryback felt he was being underutilized as well. I will say that Ryback had made a compelling argument on a blog post after Raw last Monday. Apparently, he was scheduled to take part in the U.S. Championship battle royal last week, but was sent home due to his creative differences. Even though he isn’t officially released yet, Ryback wrote about how winning wrestlers are paid more, even though it’s a pre-determined show. Since he has been inching closer and closer to being viewed as enhancement talent, The Big Guy is making less money. He feels that since he is doing a job exactly as he’s being told to do it, he shouldn’t be penalized just because a fake win wasn’t written into the script. Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of Ryback, but he makes a great point. Why would a fictional victory yield higher pay, and an obedient worker be paid less for losing? It doesn’t make much sense, and maybe Ryback will start a conversation about this outdated policy.
There were a couple of NXT releases, as well. Even though they were former members of the main roster, Cameron and Alex Riley were demoted to NXT and were trying to work their ways back up. Cameron is no surprise. The former Funkadactyl and Total Divas star doesn’t have much of a place in the new era of WWE. Although very nice to look at, she could never really hack it in the ring, and only got by on attitude.
Riley, however, is a bit of a surprise. On last week’s NXT, he cut a pretty damn good heel promo on Shinsuke Nakamura. It would seem that this feud wasn’t meant to be since Riley was cut shortly after it aired. Perhaps that was Alex Riley’s last ditch effort to convince management that he was worth his paycheck, but it was all for not. Life is tough when you’re The Miz’s former lackey.
And finally, the biggest letdown of this year’s spring cleaning is the release of Damien Sandow. This man has excelled in every single god awful gimmick he was given. He is arguably the most entertaining man on the mic that they’ve had the pleasure of employing in many years. He came in as the Intellectual Savior of the Masses; a Lanny Poffo, Genius-like gimmick, and went over huge as a heel. Then he was placed in a meaningless tag team with Cody Rhodes as Team Rhodes Scholars. First off, most tag team names that begin with “Team” probably shouldn’t be a team (Team Hell No being the exception). He would later win the Money in the Bank briefcase and competed for the World Heavyweight Championship on Smackdown against Rhodes, unsuccessfully. Then he was stuck with a stupid impersonator gimmick where he dressed up as different characters from pop culture, and somehow made that work. This led to him teaming with The Miz as his stunt double, which, incredibly, he was able to make entertaining, and quickly became a fan favorite again.
But of course, they hijacked his popularity, doing away with Mizdow and leaving him with no gimmick or anything resembling his original character. Finally, they stuck him with Curtis Axel’s “Axelmania” character, as Macho Mandow in a mock Mega Powers revival: The Meta Powers. It was...okay, but Hulk Hogan’s sex tape scandal put an end to the team as WWE tried to distance themselves from any likeness of the Hulkster. So Sandow was left to his own devices once again. And as much as fans wanted to see the cocky, brilliant heel we loved once again, he wasn’t given his just due. Damien Sandow is someone who could make anything work, and although I’m sure he’ll do just fine wherever he ends up, I have a feeling that the WWE Universe will loudly protest this decision and bring him back to save the unwashed masses from themselves. You’re welcome!