So much for the “publicly asking for release” strategy...
According to the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, WWE not only doesn’t plan to honor Luke Harper’s public request to be let go from his contract - they’ll be adding time to it. It’s believed Harper’s deal was due to end in November, but since the company can say it was “frozen” while he was out for wrist surgery last year, WWE’s position is he can’t leave until shortly before WrestleMania 36.
The mechanism by which they add time to a contract for dates a performer is unable/unwilling to work is reportedly how Neville/PAC was kept in limbo for so long after walking out in 2017. It’s also been mentioned as a possible tactic WWE will use in their “stalemate” with Sasha Banks.
Word has been Vince McMahon doesn’t want it to appear his contractors want out, but they’re also not interested in adding to the pool of talent available to AEW, ROH, New Japan, and others.
Blocking a well-liked wrestler from leaving isn’t a great public or worker relations move. But it should help squash the notion among wrestlers that posting a release request online will automatically get you free (after Ronnie “Tye Dillinger” Arneill got his that way). And - especially after online anger about things like Hulk Hogan’s reinstatement, the Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia, and John Oliver’s report for HBO on how they handle talent didn’t seem to impact their bottom line - WWE likely believes it can weather a little bad PR.