How Do the Recent Releases at WWE Change the Landscape?

Vince McMahon didn't "get" Aleister Black

As reported by Scott Edwards, today WWE announced the following recent releases at WWE: Lana, Ruby Riott, Murphy, Aleister Black, Santana Garrett, and Braun Strowman. The surprising cuts come just a month after a wave of releases that included Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Samoa Joe, and Mickie James. The reaction of those released is still pouring in. Black expressed his surprise, having only recently returned to the ring-airing a series of intricately plotted animated vignettes debuting his Dark Father storyline, and interfering in Big E’s fatal four-way against Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Apollo Crews on the May 21 SmackDown. Strowman’s reaction was brief and equanimous, tweeting, “What a chapter in life. Thank you!”

Whether gobsmacked or grateful, these former Superstars have been wished the customary luck in future endeavors. Now, the recent releases at WWE will now be seeking their fortune elsewhere. How will their departures change the landscape they are leaving behind?

Braun Strowman: “The Monster Among Men,” a former Universal Champion, cuts a formidable figure on any stage, but has floundered for a storyline in recent months. A retread of his Wyatt Family days was cut short by Bray Wyatt’s storyline heat shifting to Randy Orton, and then Wyatt’s conspicuous absence in recent weeks. With this detour, Strowman was then thrown into a lackluster comic feud with Shane McMahon, which culminated in a steel cage match at Wrestlemania 37. On recent episodes of Raw, he was positioned as the other contender alongside Drew McIntyre for Bobby Lashley’s WWE Championship. This role, however, has been supplanted by Kofi Kingston.

With Strowman off the roster and no return in sight for Keith Lee, the red brand is lacking a hard-hitting heavyweight that can go toe to toe with strongmen like McIntyre and Lashley. Of course, there is Omos, but he lacks Strowman’s experience and is currently in a tag team. Strowman is a former champion, so any story centered around a battle for a championship would reasonably include him. With Strowman out, McIntyre, Kingston, and Lashley are surrounded by a skeleton crew, with few players to serve as a natural spoiler-with the exception of Orton. If Finn Balor is indeed returning to Raw, perhaps the one-day Universal Champion could be tapped into this role.

Another member of the Raw roster among the recent releases at WWE is Lana. She began as a manager to Rusev, now known in AEW as Miro, and has struggled to find her footing as a wrestler. This gimmick was stretched rather far, with Lana joining tag team partners like Natalya and Naomi, and being bullied by Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax. Despite showing recent improvement, she seems to be another casualty of the winnowing of the women’s division. This leaves Naomi without a partner, and the fan favorite’s following surely wondering when there will ever, truly, be #JusticeForNaomi.

Another female tag team athlete left without a partner is Liv Morgan, with the release of Ruby Riott. In her 2020 WWE documentary “Liv Forever,” Morgan was candid about how poor booking practices in the WWE have stalled her career and frustrated her. The release of partner Riott could be the final strike in a death by a thousand cuts to Morgan’s WWE career, or pave the way for a meaningful singles push for Morgan-only time will tell if she will be utilized as a solo performer now that the Riott Squad is no more.

Black, as noted above, had only recently returned to active duty after a long absence. He has spent the afternoon elucidating the details of his release to fans via wife Thea Trinidad’s (formerly known as Zelina Vega) Twitch page. Black, or rather Tom Budgen, says that his release was to do with budget cuts, and he will be releasing new original music soon. His interference in the May 21 fatal four-way match for Apollo Crews’ Intercontinental Championship seemed to point towards Black being in contention for the IC belt himself. However, now we will never know what cruel tutelage of the Dark Father Black had to impart on the SmackDown roster.

Murphy and Santana Garrett were two NXT call-ups who failed to find a footing on the main roster. Murphy’s most impactful storyline was as the follower of Seth Rollins’s “Monday Night Messiah,” who later reformed for love of Aliyah Mysterio. The callups of Rhea Ripley and Damien Priest have been handled similarly lukewarm on Raw, begging the question of whether NXT’s performers would be better served by contributing their talents to building the black-and-gold brand into its own impactful tentpole of the WWE universe, rather than transitioning into smaller roles on a bigger stage.

Today’s recent releases at WWE changed the landscape, discontinuing storylines, breaking up tag teams, and surely leaving many shaken up about what the future holds.

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