As part of his remarks about AEW on WWE’s July 29 investor call, Chairman Vince McMahon closed by saying (h/t Wrestling Observer):
“I’m not so sure what their investments are as far as their talent is concerned... but perhaps we can give them some more (inaudible).”
The initial impression many got was that McMahon was joking that his company could release more wrestlers for Tony Khan to sign. That take led to wrestlers who have been cut over the past couple years to react.
Maria Kanellis-Bennett, released last April and currently working for Ring of Honor, tweeted:
“Wow. To think of human beings as pawns on a chessboard. That must be one of the most elitist things I’ve heard in a while. I could never think of mothers, children, fathers, people in that way. People are people. Playing with peoples lives is cruel.”
Karl Anderson, who was also let go after WrestleMania 36, commented:
“The amount of unhappy texts I get from people there, well, the whole professional wrestling world is waiting for ya..”
The Impact, AEW & New Japan star also tagged each of the companies he currently works with, and closed with a tease that he and Doc Gallows would discuss McMahon’s words more on their Talk’n Shop podcast.
If their interpretation of Vince’s remark is correct, they have every right to be upset... even if in at least one case they’re also using that reaction as part of a little good old fashioned pro wrestling self-promotion.
But there’s some confusion about whether the Chairman was joking about releases, or just passing the baton back to WWE President Nick Khan to say more about the question he’d been asked. In that interpretation, the “we” is McMahon and Nick Khan, the WWE representatives on the call, and the “they” is the investors listening to them.
None of this changes the basic truths of the situation. WWE did cut talent to make their bottom line look better, as most corporations do. They also had more wrestlers on their roster they knew what to do with, and many - including Kanellis-Bennett and Anderson - have found themselves in situations where they may not be getting paid as much, but at least they’re performing in prominent roles for other companies.
So what Vince did or didn’t say or mean is probably much ado about nothing. But you could say that about pretty much everything on Al Gore’s internet.