Black Friday came one day early this week as WWE enters the TKO era. Sadly, those initials took on a double-meaning in the last two weeks for WWE staffers.
One week after a massive wave of releases was drowned out by The Rock’s return on SmackDown, WWE’s TKO/Endeavor Era took its cleavers to the talent roster. Dolph Ziggler was among the big names released Thursday, ending a near-20-year run with the company for the former world champion. The latest round of roster cuts also reportedly include Rick Boogs, Aliyah, Top Dolla, Emma, Riddick Moss and Mustafa Ali, who confirmed the news on Twitter.
“I am [no] longer working with WWE. I look forward to the future. Thank you,” stated Ali.
Shelton Benjamin also announced his release. Benjamin signed with WWE in 2000 before being released in 2010. Benjamin returned in 2017.
“I have been released from my wwe contract,” said Benjamin. “I thank @wwe staff , talent, and of course the fans for Everything. Something ends, something new Begins. Looking forward to my next Chapter.”
WWE Releases On September 21, 2023 Amid New TV Deal
- Mustafa Ali
- Rick Boogs
- Top Dolla of Hit Row
- Riddick Moss
- Shelton Benjamin
- Dolph Ziggler
In addition to the cost-cutting moves, WWE’s profits will be further bolstered by a forthcoming TV deal with NBCUniversal. CNBC and the Wall Street Journal reported WWE’s Friday Night SmackDown will return to USA in October 2024 as part of a five-year deal valued at $287 million per year, representing a 40% increase. WWE’s previous TV deal to air SmackDown on Fox was worth $205 million per year. Though an impressive number for a TV deal, the increase is a far cry from the bullish 150% increase WWE CEO Nick Khan projected.
Shares of TKO dropped 14% upon the announcement.
WWE’s cost-cutting measures had become par for the course throughout the pandemic and leading up to WWE’s sale. Once the merger was announced, unfortunately this meant more cost cuts to come as Endeavor looks to pay off its $3.2 billion debt. Last week, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Wrestling Inc) reported TKO was looking to cut $50 million to $100 million in costs to increase profitability.