The annual post WrestleMania roster cuts focused on NXT as ten names; eight wrestlers, one manager, and one referee were released on Friday.
Dakota Kai, Malcolm Bivens, Harland, Dexter Lumis, Persia Pirotta, Draco Anthony, Blair Baldwin (referee), Vish Kanya, Mila Milani, and Raelyn DIvine.
All of the wrestlers have a 30-day non-compete clause.
Kai, Bivens, Pirotta, and Lumis are the most notable names on the list. All were involved in storylines on television. Fightful.com reported that Bivens turned down a new contract offer in February and was under a short-term extension, while Kai saw her release coming and indicated to WWE that she was not planning on resigning.
Kai worked several matches on Main Event and booked in several dark matches. Such moves are indicators of a call-up to the main roster. Apparently, in the case of Kai, the decision was made not to move forward with the 33-year-old New Zealand native.
Bivens was the manager of Diamond Mine, and WWE must have felt there was no reason to keep him if he wasn’t going to stay with the company.
Dexter Lumis was married to Indi Hartwell on television as their union (InDex) was consistently one of the more entertaining aspects of NXT. However, at 38 years old, he’s the polar opposite of the younger wrestlers WWE wants to promote.
Lumis’ post-WWE career will be interesting to see unfold. While he was used similarly in TNA as Samuel Shaw, he didn’t work many independent dates before NXT. Lumis is a better character than he is a wrestler, and most of the top-tier indy promotions book people that can go in the ring. Maybe a return to TNA/Impact is in the cards.
On the surface, Harland (Parker Boudreaux) was a surprising name on the list. His look alone excited many with comparisons to Brock Lesnar. While Harland was booked on TV as Joe Gacy’s heavy, word on the street is he was not progressing fast enough in the ring.
There was a report last year that WWE adopted a sink or swim mentality with new recruits. Therefore, not giving talent as much time to improve as they did in the past. Harland’s release is proof of concept.
Draco Anthony, who was also released, wrestled a handful of matches on television. However, his work in the ring made it clear that he was too green for prime time, which is a sign of the real problem with WWE’s current wdevelopmental practice.
Besides a wrestler here and a developmental project there, you had to know how work to be on TV. Yes, while NXT is a developmental system, most of the roster now is the blind leading the blind with talent booked for television faster than ever before. For every batch of Creed Brothers, there is a Lash Legend and Draco Anthony.
Odds are, the latter wouldn’t be on television if Triple H still ran things in Orlando. There is also the argument that we would never have seen them at all since Triple H favored those who were ready-made to order on the Indy’s.
Scanning over the remains of the NXT roster, Cameron Grimes, Alba Frye, Io Shirai, Roderick Strong, and Santos Escobar are the only experienced hands left. Everyone else is at various stages of development regarding main roster potential.
Carmelo Hayes is considered a 2.0 guy despite being signed at the tail end of the black and gold era. He is super close, if not ready to receive the call.
While expert hands are a must to help talent improve, the experienced wrestlers mentioned above didn’t sign with WWE to be player-coaches. They signed a developmental deal to work Raw or SmackDown eventually.
However, WWE recently solved that problem by booking main roster veterans to work with the stars of tomorrow. Dolph Ziggler feuded with Bron Breakker and got an NXT Title run out of it. Natalya is working with the less experienced wrestlers on the female side, and the Viking Raiders are set to work with the Creed Brothers.
The careers of main roster stars working NXT have more time behind them than ahead of them. Natalya gets to be booked like a big deal, which never occurred on the main roster.
WWE is looking for wrestlers who can fill any role at a moment’s notice instead of being locked into a specific character or can only work effectively as a heel or babyface. This latest round of releases due to “budget cuts” show, more than others, the “what have you done for me lately” mentality of show business.
NXT currently resembles Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) in the early 2000s. Nick Dinsmore was OVW’s prize stallion before being called up to the main roster as Eugene. He spent years becoming the best wrestler he could be and had to reverse course and learn how to not be a good wrestler to fit the gimmick.
“We have them until we don’t.” It’s a wrestling promoter’s philosophy regarding talent. WWE could have kept Dakota Kai and Malcolm Bivens until their contracts expired in 2023. I’m sure they would have appreciated the paycheck, and the hopefuls WWE is training from scratch would have benefited.
WWE is less concerned with cultivation and focused on talent who “get it” quickly and can learn along the way. Unless someone had something unique to offer, the Vince McMahon of old wouldn’t allow half of the wrestlers in NXT near a video camera, much less filmed on one for television so prematurely.
All of the cuts over the last couple of years while attempting to rapidly churning through candidates means WWE is in a hurry to produce as many new stars as possible. The more stars WWE has, the easier it is to, oh, maybe sell the company?