WWE’s recent slate of talent releases once again took pro wrestling fandom by surprise. This time, a batch of 13 NXT workers are out and are undoubtedly receiving best wishes in their personal endeavors.
Of course, those endeavors will also likely include business. Speculation is already underway that many, if not all, of the former NXT stars are headed to other companies, possibly AEW, Impact Wrestling or New Japan Pro Wrestling. But as fans digest this latest bit of news, WWE is moving forward. They also happen to be moving forward with a new executive addition.
Trent Wilfinger is the new Senior Vice President of Talent ID and Development for WWE. Wilfinger shared his status on social media, leaving the WWE faithful wondering what all of this means for the company and the product itself.
Excited to share that I will be joining the WWE as their new SVP of Talent ID & Development. I look forward to working side by side @jamesrkimball under the leadership of @TripleH to help bring to life a game changing vision and strategy. #WWE #NXT pic.twitter.com/RR0HI7DCWs
— Trent Wilfinger (@TrentWilfinger) August 6, 2021
Wilfinger’s statement on Twitter seems professional enough. Indeed, his words are clear and straight to the point. But it’s interesting that on his LinkedIN page, Wilfinger added a closing line to the announcement that does not appear on his Tweet.
“It’s time to go find, support, and develop the next wave of WWE Superstars.”
Chances are, this line was left out due to the 280-character count restriction on Twitter. Of course that’s probably a good thing because at first glance, the remark seems to have the potential to become a powder keg.
Find, Support, Develop
To say that the time has come to “find” and “support” implies that perhaps WWE wasn’t doing that in the first place. While that may not be a fair assessment, the truth is that many of the NXT stars released on August 6 appeared to be doing just fine. Bronson Reed, Bobby Fish and Mercedes Martinez, all had prime spots on TV at any given time. In fact, Reed was recently NXT North American champion and was a regularly featured part of the program.
While this round of cuts was just the latest in a trend that began in April, the truth is that WWE has been unloading talents for quite some time now. This was also true in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other companies like AEW made no such moves and New Japan executives actually took pay cuts to avoid the need to release any of their stars.
But WWE, often citing budgetary reasons, continues to release men and women from its talent rosters. Avid WWE supporters are likely defending these releases, based on the idea that there’s only so much spotlight to go around. After all, if space is cleared, then fresh faces can be signed and truth be told, the company wasn’t doing much with many of those that were released. Pro wrestling is a business and these were business moves, right?
However, critics of the talent releases are quick to point out that WWE had no business loading up on talent to begin with. As AEW came into existence nearly two years ago and began to make waves, WWE began hoarding talent from all over the country. Longtime fans recognized the move as it happened and knew that eventually, the other shoe would fall.
Now that it’s fallen, the question is what will actually change moving forward? The third important word in Wilfinger’s remark is “develop.” Has WWE suddenly become any more capable of developing talent now than before? What makes today different from yesterday? More importantly, how many of the men and women released from the company over the past few months actually had the benefit of real development along the way?
The notion that one individual can come in with the laser focus of finding WWE’s next big stars, stay true to the mission and actually find success, is intriguing. But when paired with the knowledge that at the end of the day, all of the decision making ultimately rests with Vince McMahon, the idea falls flat. This new hire surely has the best of intentions and he’s undoubtedly ready for the challenge. But what difference will it make?
It’s much too early to know how all of this will play out. But if past events are any indication, then fans are all too familiar with what could happen next. It’s a song that plays on repeat all the time in that company. The only problem is that many tend to forget this and when WWE suddenly does something unexpected, outrage follows.
At this point, nothing should come as a surprise. The fact is that one man controls WWE. That man is responsible for the company’s greatest hits and also its inexplicable misses. Fans can point the finger at the executives, the writers, even the talent themselves.
But when one individual calls all the shots, can change direction midstream, recycle old ideas and release talents for seemingly no good reason, then there is no fighting it. WWE will continue going through the motions as a publicly traded company and their corporate power structure will do the same. However in the end, it’s the product that fans care about the most. Whether that product is good or bad, is always up for debate.
Tom Clark is a Senior Pro Wrestling Analyst and Featured Columnist for Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Audible, Spotify, YouTube and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live