Creative Frustration or just good business? Why Dean Ambrose, Sasha Banks, Luke Harper and others may be abandoning the WWE ship.
By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor
Boy, they are just dropping like flies, aren’t they?
The purported exodus started a couple months ago. When it was announced – by WWE, no less – that Dean Ambrose was not renewing his contract this month, the online chatter went into overdrive. The thought that Ambrose would be a free man right when another big company was hitting the scene was the biggest news of the year. But we were just getting started.
Fast forward to WrestleMania when Sasha banks threw a temper tantrum over losing the Women’s Tag Team Championship. Losing the titles seemed to be the final straw over a two-year period of frustration for Banks. Whatever the reasons, the news was out and the fan base was abuzz with news of another high-profile performer potentially leaving.
And if two people leaving WWE within months of each other seemed to be big news, you can imagine how internet damn near lit on fire when two more immediately joined them:
— Luke Harper of WWE (@LukeHarperWWE) April 16, 2019
— Alexander Wolf[e] (@TheWWEWolfe) April 17, 2019
The first thing many people are pointing at is how awful it must be to work the biggest wrestling company in the world. If that many people are jumping off the ship, then the ship must be sinking, right?
Probably not, but there are definite signs that there’s a hole in the boat that should probably be fixed.
While wanting to quit over losing a title seems a bit immature, it points to being a symptom of a bigger problem. Vegas would lay even odds that the call to have the IIconics become the champions was not made before that day.
There are many things that have been reportedly changed on the fly. It has been discussed how the storytelling leaving up to WrestleMania was and utter mess. People got upset when it was pointed out that Charlotte winning the SmackDown Women’s Championship made no sense. Those feelings came from a place of wanting a performer to enjoy their success. Which is understandable – if the writing had not been on the wall that she would lose it a week and a half later because the creative powers that be cannot make up their minds.
Sasha Banks apparently became a victim of that same haphazard creative process. It has been going on for a while and have been pointed out for a while. Wrestling fans are known for bitching online, but it’s not too difficult to see that, through all that noise, there is some truth to what has been said all along.
However, in some cases it may not be a matter of being frustrated with a company that cannot make a plan and stick to it.
Or Just Good Business?
It has also been discussed that there is another company debuting in a little over a month from now. A company that reportedly has a television deal in place, ready to go. In other words, WWE potentially has on its radar the biggest competition it has had since WCW.
Back during the Monday night wars, performers we’re scoring some of the best contracts any athlete in any profession could hope to gain. With the money that the Khans have in their pockets, there’s every reason to think that could happen again.
Or does the appearance of possibly jumping to #AEW give them a little more negotiating room (AKA Monday Night Bidding Wars Redux)?
— Michael Melchor (@MMelchor) April 17, 2019
So, what better way to drive up your value (or at the very least test the waters) then to threaten to leave? If the company wants you to stick around, they will demonstrate that with a nice fat pay increase. If it doesn’t? Then that nice fat pay increase will come from the other guys.
For someone like Harper, this could be good news. Cody Rhodes has recently said that All Elite Wrestling is on a “hoss hunt.” Having bigger guys on their roster would benefit them, for sure – and apparently one just became available from WWE in the form of Luke Harper.
However, this is also a double-edged sword because Rhodes also said on that same show that AEW isn’t necessarily looking to stock up on ex-WWE talent. Those same performers may want to be careful, then. If the opportunity isn’t there, then they’ve done themselves more harm than good.
Either way, it can’t hurt these performers – male and female – to at least attempt to increase their security along with their bank accounts. Testing those waters is simply good business for any independent contractor.
How Will All This Play Out?
Whatever the reasons may be – whether these performers are frustrated at their stagnation, whether they realize that it’s no longer a single player game, or both – chances are that Ambrose, Banks, Harper, and Wolfe are only the tip of the iceberg.
Of course, that iceberg will not sink the biggest ship in the industry. But there are already holes in the hull that WWE may want to repair before a lot more of their talent start reaching for the life preservers.