Expect TNA to do some more hiring real soon.
WWE did some major house cleaning today, as it announced on its web site the releases of six superstars and Divas.
Here’s the list and some quick thoughts on each of their releases:
1. Mickie James: This one may come as the biggest surprise to most fans, as James has been, arguably, the centerpiece babyface of its women’s division – as well as WWE’s best female worker – for some time now. I don’t know what the back story to release is, other than ProWrestling.net’s reporting that James had some backstage heat that may have gotten worse during the recent European tour. It’s a big loss for WWE, as its women’s division was already the one area in which it lagged behind TNA. James was the one distinctive and charismatic personality in an otherwise bland lot of attractive but interchangable ladies. TNA would be crazy not to try to pick her up.
2. Shelton Benjamin: The Gold Standard is the biggest name among the men to be released. I wish I could say that WWE made a mistake here, but the truth is that it’s been apparent for years now that Benjamin is going nowhere. He may indeed be the best all-around athlete in WWE, but he’s never shown the drive to be anything more than lower-mid-card player. He hasn’t improved an ounce over his eight years in the company, and instead has fallen backward – even when given many chances to prove he had the tools to become a top player. It’s a shame he didn’t do more with the gifts that he has. Money in the Bank will never be the same again. If I were TNA, I’d think long and hard before hiring Shelton. Yes, he’s a talented worker, but he’s also been defined for years as a bit player in WWE, and TNA already has a reputation as a WWE scrap heap.
3. Kung Fu Naki: Like Val Venis was for so long, Funaki became the one wrestler that made all fans wonder, “What does he have on the McMahons?” He’s hardly been featured at all for years on TV or at house shows, and when he has it’s been at the very bottom of the card. And yet he’s managed to remain gainfully employed in the biggest wrestling promotion in the world for years – even after being suspended for a wellness policy violation. I guess whatever he knew about Vince has come out already. I can’t imagine that TNA, or any other major promotion, would be interested in him. Maybe that’s OK with him.
4. Jimmy Wang Yang: Like Benjamin, Yang has a lot of tools in the ring, but had never exhibited the attitude or determination to make the most out of them. It didn’t help that he was saddled with one of the single worst WWE gimmicks of the last decade. TNA may be interested in bringing him in for an occasional X-division appearance, similar to Brian Kendrick. He also worked with ROH before coming in to WWE, but was never terribly over there. Perhaps a full time career as a cattle rancher is beckoning.
5. Katie Lea Burchill: The writing was on the wall when WWE released her “brother” Paul recently. With her European flavor, Katie Lea brought something a little different to the table than most other Divas, but never recovered from being packaged in the lame brother-sister act from the outset. She could make an OK addition to the TNA Knockouts, but should expect a serious pay cut.
6. Jam Master Jay: Am I alone in having gotten a big kick out of his hip-hop wannabe character? I guess so - as the former “Jessie” was hardly featured at all after wrestling his first match in his new gimmick. As a second generation star (his father was the late Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy) there may have been potential along the way to do something with him and Legacy, but WWE chose not to go that route, perhaps because Gordy was never a major WWE star outside his forgettable 1996 stint as “The Executioner.” The X-Division awaits.