Yesterday, WWE announced they would be making cutbacks to their talent roster because of the coronavirus pandemic. Since the announcement, 23 Superstars have been released by the company including Rusev, EC3, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, and Drake Maverick. Nine producers were also furloughed while Kurt Angle was let go.
Many have wondered why WWE chose to release their Superstars en masse, especially since smaller companies like IMPACT Wrestling, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, NWA, and Ring Of Honor have not let any of their wrestlers go despite being in a worse financial position than WWE.
Shortly after Superstars started to be released, Brandon Thurston at Wrestlenomics shared a possible reason for the cutbacks on Twitter, as he wrote: "Unless WWE is expecting or is already missing TV rights payments, cost-cutting probably isn't a matter of keeping the company profitable, it's probably a matter of maintaining pre-COVID19 profit projections."
Thurston published a report back on March 31 in which he investigated the financial impact the coronavirus pandemic would have on WWE. He ultimately concluded that even if the wrestling behemoth could not hold live events for the rest of the year, they would still make record profits of $121 million with an annual revenue of $927 million. This would be a $4.5 million increase on the company's profits in 2019 of $116.5 million.
The report states: "Even without considering possible cost cutting, WWE remains profitable, even if there are no live events through the rest of 2020. Expected operating income is down from an estimated $163 million for the year (in the event there was no COVID19 crisis) to $121 million — breaking last year's record operating income of $116.5 million. Again, $121 million is an estimate for the full year of 2020 in the case that there are no live events through December 31."
Dave Meltzer supported Thurston's findings on the latest episode of Wrestling Observer Radio. He said WWE released 23 Superstars because they want to "keep their profits high." All Elite Wrestling's situation also had an impact on WWE's decision. The company has adopted a strategy of stockpiling talent to stop them from signing with rival promotions, but because AEW will lack the funds to "pick up a ton of guys," WWE decided they could risk releasing the Superstars without greatly strengthening the opposition.
Meltzer said: "Right now, everything's changed with AEW in the sense of it's not like they're going to be able to pick up a ton of guys. It wouldn't shock me for them to pick up a couple of guys but they're not going to pick up a lot of guys and WWE was looking to make cuts to improve their profits for this year, to keep their profits high. So, it was a combination of those two things."