A year to the day of Black Wednesday, when in 2020 WWE released 20 on-air and backstage staff, the same fate was handed down to some of the squared circle’s top stars. What was reportedly a decision made due to “budget cuts,” ended a wave of cuts that included Samoa Joe, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Mickie James, Chelsea Green, Tucker, Kalisto, Bo Dallas and Wesley Blake.
I'm told John Laurinaitis has been making the calls to talent and citing budget cuts as the reason for the WWE releases
— Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com (@SeanRossSapp) April 15, 2021
There’s never a good time for cuts, but Wednesday’s announcement comes on the heels of WrestleMania, where from the outside it appeared fans were going to be blessed with the in-ring return of Joe. Joe spent the last year behind the announce desk — including at WrestleMania 37 — but had been pulled off of color commentator duties on Monday. That led to plenty of speculation that he’d made his grand return to competition only for fans to be stunned at his release. Most notably, Joe has spent much of the last year working with the WWE medical staff to get back in the ring. Here’s what he told Uproxx in February:
“I think right now, we’ve learned a lot medically about concussions and recovery and we’re taking the safest and the best approach and I appreciate it,” Joe said. “WWE medical, they’ve been great and understanding and wonderful. So I think at this time we’re just taking the best course of action and obviously some things have been delayed just because of the pandemic and medical availability and liability of being in places and traveling to get evaluations and stuff. So, I mean, there’s been some technical holdups as well as just a very careful approach to my return and recovery and I appreciate it. And I’m all aboard, you know? I would rather take this time and miss a large considerable amount of time than potentially this getting more serious. It took (WWE) a lot to talk me down. But after seeing medically, you know, what I’ve seen, I agree with them. And we’re just taking our time with it and trying to do right.”
As for the other stars, there may not have been anyone hurt more by the inability to house fans over the last year than Billie Kay. After breaking up the IIconics and sending Kay and Peyton Royce on their own paths, Kay was a breakout star, making the most of the little time WWE did give her. That resulted in an unexpected spot on the ‘Mania card alongside Carmella in a makeshift tag team. But if there was any one instance of Kay’s main roster run that represented her brilliance, her final appearances summed it up perfectly: comedic, spotlight stealing and a true star in every sense of the word among the women involved in the Tag Team Gauntlet. If there were fans, it’s hard to imagine the reaction she’d get placing her in any spot other than the main event.
While it’s too early to tell where many of these stars land (they’ll have to wait out WWE’s 100 day no-compete clause), there’s no question these talented individuals will turn up more motivated than ever at their respective next spots.