Thoughts on the 13 NXT Releases

Image: WWE

The bloodshed continues as WWE released 13 NXT talents Friday night during SmackDown. Many of the names on this list were currently on television, while others wrestled sparingly. What does this mean for the future of NXT and WWE? What about Triple H and Vince McMahon’s eye for talent? Bronson Reed is the prominent name on the list that includes:

  • Bobby Fish
  • Mercedes Martinez
  • Leon Ruff
  • Tyler Rust
  • Jake Atlas
  • Ari Sterling
  • Kona Reeves
  • Zechariah Smith
  • Asher Hale
  • Giant Zanjeer 
  • Stephon Smith (Referee)
  • Denzel Dejournette

The volume and frequency of these releases are as soul-crushing as they are perplexing to NXT, showing no concern for the ongoing storylines. Bronson Reed, 32, was the North American Champion 3 weeks ago and worked some dark matches on the main roster. Bobby Fish, 44, was a member of the Undisputed Era faction, and Tyler Rust, 34, debuted 6 weeks ago as a member of the new Diamond Mine stable.

Leon Ruff, 25, was a regular on NXT television for 10 months and put into some high-profile matches, including a North American title run. Mercedes Martinez, 40, was a big get for the women’s division and was in the middle of a program with Xia Li. Jake Atlas, 26, is a talented worker with a lot of potential and appeared on Undercover Boss with Stephanie McMahon two years before he signed and won $25,000 for a down payment on a house.

WWE has released 42 wrestlers in 2021, with a lot of them coming from NXT. However, this batch of releases and rumors of a reboot for the brand poses an important question.

Has Triple H failed as the head of NXT?

Triple H knows a good wrestler when he sees one, but his views on who has star potential are different from his father-in-law. WWE is looking for younger stars, which is evident by the age of some of the releases. Several young wrestlers were also let go, meaning the company didn’t see them as worthy investments.

The youth aspect of the releases could mean good news for someone like Carmelo Hayes. The former New England wrestling standout recently turned 27 years old and is currently featured in NXT’s Breakout Tournament. If he’s retained past the end of the tournament, it means WWE sees him as a genuine prospect.

Perhaps, other things led to the release of some of these names. Reportedly, Mercedes Martinez rejected her call up to the main roster after one week as a member of the Retribution stable. While that gimmick was trash, WWE doesn’t like their ideas questioned.

A quiet rumor hitting the streets pertains to Jake Atlas not listening to the trainers when told not to do certain moves and kept doing them anyway. Again, this is only a rumor. However, I’ve seen way too many wrestlers on the Indies prioritize doing cool flippy moves to get themselves over instead of telling a good story in the ring.

Filtering through all the mess, rumors, and loss of employment, it boils down to one thing. Hoarders eventually dispose of items they never wanted in the first place.

WWE signed any wrestler with a microcosm of name recognition over the past two years in an attempt to stop AEW before it began. When that didn’t work, NXT was immediately transitioned from developmental programming to a third main roster…adjacent brand to kill AEW with one swift black and gold stroke.

80 weeks later, WWE lost the Wednesday Night War.

Hoarding talent didn’t hinder AEW and NXT failed to accomplish something it was never designed to do. Vince McMahon realizes that AEW is not going anywhere; therefore, there is no reason to keep all those wrestlers on payroll.

WWE never genuinely wanted most of the talent they released. Besides maybe Bronson Reed, none of the names from Friday’s firings scream “AEW MUST SIGN.” We’ve enjoyed the fantasy aspect of various wrestlers going to different promotions to start anew.

NXT can revert back to it’s original intent of developing the stars of tomorrow. As for today, we could end up seeing a sadder side of affairs, where contracted jobs in wrestling start going from good and plenty to few and far between.

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