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Bryan Danielson on WWE firing people to cut budget: ‘I just don’t think that’s right’

He also says the way Tony Khan manages the end of wrestlers’ contracts was one of the things that made him want to sign with AEW.

Bryan Danielson was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani over on our sister site MMAFighting this afternoon (Nov. 10). The two talked a lot about mixed martial arts, of course, and promoted both Danielson’s matches with Rocky Romero on Dynamite tonight and against Miro at Full Gear on Saturday.

It was in talking about the wrestler formerly known as Rusev that Helwani asked Danielson for his thoughts on WWE’s practice of releasing wrestlers, as they did with Miro in April of 2020, and they just did with 18 more talents last week. Bryan strikes an understanding tone, and mentions (not for the first time in the interview) his many ties to the company he worked for until a couple months ago. But for the most part he’s critical, and for many of the same reasons others are:

“In some ways I get it. In some ways I feel like it’s not right. And it’s hard because my father-in-law [John Laurinaitis, who is Brie Bella’s step-father] is the head of talent relations there, he’s the one who has to call all of them... One of the things I’ve always had a hard time with — and I’ve been fired from WWE twice, so I kind of get this — is it’s one thing if somebody does something bad. But if like for example you’re under contract with WWE and you’re not happy, or you’re not happy with the company, or whatever it is... if they can fire you and give you 90 days, you should be able to give them 90 days to be released from your contract. I just think that that’s fair.

“But on the flip side, if they’re only firing you because of budget cuts when they’re more profitable than ever, I just don’t think that that’s right, and they should — cause they signed a lot of people to high-end contracts when AEW kind of started to keep people from going to AEW or whatever it is. But then they realized like, ‘Oh, AEW can’t sign all these people.’ So now the people who have too many high-end contracts or whatever it is are — if they feel like they’re getting paid more than they should be getting paid, they’ll let them go. But you offered them a contract to be with you for three years or whatever. It was your — if you overpaid them, that’s your bad. And you’re still a very profitable company.

“So that’s kind of my take on it. I wish they wouldn’t, but I also understand that’s business in America. Profits tend to be the most important thing for companies a lot of times, and you can even talk to the people within the companies. Like, I love Vince McMahon. I do. I’ve learned so much from him, but companies are not people — they’ve taken on this whole, legally they’re their own people, corporations. But for whatever reason, even good people make decisions that benefit a company that actually hurt the people who’ve worked so hard for the company. That’s hard on me mentally, but that’s also kind of the system that’s been rewarded financially here in the United States.”

Danielson also credits his current employer for showing him, and the business at large, that it doesn’t have to be that way:

“I kind of just accepted it that that’s what it was, except for now I work for AEW. And Tony Khan, I think he’s only let go of three people since the pandemic started and they were all for disciplinary reasons. And other people who are no longer with the company, if he didn’t want them - okay, their contract expired, and okay we’ve chosen not to re-sign you. And then you kind of know. But that’s how he kind of approaches it, and until I kind of saw that and dealt with that... I always kind of thought it was unfair, but ‘Aw, that’s just the way wrestling is, and that’s the way the wrestling business works.’ Except for Tony Khan came in and he doesn’t do that... and AEW from a money standpoint makes way less money than WWE... there were some things like that too that led me to want to go to AEW as well.”

It’s been said before that Bryan’s jump to AEW is the most telling, because unlike Jon Moxley, or CM Punk, or Andrade El Ídolo, he was happy at WWE - and he chose to leave anyway because Tony Khan’s company was more appealing to him. These comments are more evidence of that, and you have to wonder if Danielson’s example won’t lead to wrestlers with no experience with either company choosing AEW over WWE.

Let us know what you think.