Lots of fans had questions about RETRIBUTION, one of the gimmicks unveiled on Raw a few months into the pandemic amid flagging ratings.
For one thing, the company never seemed committed to doing anything meaningful with the faction. They were slow introducing members, slower revealing the leader, didn’t define a clear goal, and never really let RETRIBUTION do anything toward their vague one of “destroying WWE”.
More serious concerns were raised about debuting a group of hoodie-wearing vandals during a time when some powerful people were trying to label everyone protesting racial injustice and police brutality as anarchist terrorists.
One of the people who had some questions was Vanessa Borne. We’d heard reports that Borne (real name is Danielle Kamela) was brought to the main roster in the first half of 2020. But like fellow NXT wrestlers Chelsea Green and Santana Garrett, there was never a plan to debut her on television. Borne was eventually released this May, a move she says shocked her.
The former cheerleader & dancer recently gave a more in-depth interview to PWInsider. She explained that since her lease in Orlando came up around the time she was told she was going to the main roster, she moved to Arizona shortly before COVID lockdowns began. That put her in limbo with WWE still operating out of Florida. Borne confirmed rumors that there’d been talks of creating a women’s faction with her, Green & Garrett that never got off the ground.
Borne also revealed she was at one point slated for a role in RETRIBUTION. But when she asked those questions, she was sent back to NXT a short time later:
“I wanted to know what the group was about and how I fit in. I had some concerns because, during this time, there was stuff around the country with violence and we’re watching this unfold and it’s not pretty. I wanted to know if the group was mimicking that. I expressed those concerns, but ultimately, I wanted to do what I was told and tried to figure out how I could help. Within the week, I got a call from Mark Carrano saying, ‘We’re not going to have you as part of RETRIBUTION and we’re going to pull your contract. You’re getting sent back to NXT.’“
“It felt like I got kicked in the gut. I would never want them to think that I didn’t think an idea wasn’t good or that I didn’t want to participate. I would do anything and had done everything to that point. After we talked, I sent him a text that said, ‘I’m so sorry if I came across not wanting to be part of anything. I’m here to work. I’m willing to do whatever.’ He just said, ‘This is where we’re at.’ I still think back and kick myself and think I should have sat there, nodded, and been happy. I was happy, I might have just given the wrong impression. Lesson learned. Sometimes I tend to be blunt and I don’t know if that’s what came across when it came to asking questions or having concerns. Maybe that isn’t the reason and it’s something totally different, it just happened to fall in line with how everything went down. I put those two things together.”
Mercedes Martinez had a similar experience with RETRIBUTION - although the veteran made it to the point of appearing on-screen in the group’s signature masks before veto-ing the move and eventually going back to NXT. Not smiling,nodding and taking the booking may have helped seal Borne’s fate, but there were other factors. Another was that when she was finally brought back to Orlando, she contracted COVID a short time later.
“That was the last time I was at the PC because it rolled right into the holidays. This year rolled around and I hadn’t heard anything, so I needed to figure things out. I texted Triple H because I hadn’t spoken to anyone and no one had spoken to me. He connected me with a writer at NXT and we were going back and forth with ideas to get me involved. We had ideas that would work, but when you have other characters and storylines, it’s a giant puzzle. We never came to a final plan or anything. The last message I had sent over, I didn’t get a reply, and a week later I was released.”
During her talk with Mike Johnson of PWInsider, Borne says she’d like to see WWE improve communication between talent and management. There are a lot of facets to her story, but that one seems like a no-brainer.
Other than that, it’s our latest confirmation that RETRIBUTION was a bad idea pretty much all the way around. And not one the folks who came up with it wanted to have to answer questions about.