WWE’s Bizarre Day Headlined By Releases, Stephanie McMahon’s Keynote & Mark Henry’s Tweet

One of the most exciting things about my career as a pro wrestling journalist is I literally have no idea what I’m going to write from one day to the next. I go as the news goes. My responsibility of providing the public with information is always there, however, often times, I’m unsure of what that information will be.

Sometimes, I get to cover fun pieces like John Cena doing something awesome for a child that idolizes him. Every day, I get to serve my inquisitive readers with Ask WNW. While these are some of the more fun things of my job, there’s also a more somber side.

That side includes the unfortunate responsibility of passing along the news that someone has died or, as I was tasked with on Thursday morning, the responsibility to write that someone has lost their job. For as much as I love to focus on the good things, or the insider things, I equally hate the somber.

My first major story as a full-time pro wrestling journalist was the Chris Benoit family tragedy. For weeks, I stepped out of the cartoon fun-loving world of professional wrestling and into the dark world of double homicide and suicide. It was miserable and it wasn’t what I signed up for.

Luckily for me, most days are good days and I would categorize my job as enjoyable. I get to do cool things like examine shows, answer questions and expose contrived storylines. However, sometimes there are bad days. Thursday was a bad day.

While I’ll be the first to admit none of the 10 reported WWE releases were surprising — we could even say the majority were expected — it’s never easy to talk about someone losing their ability to collect a paycheck. Losing one’s job is a serious matter and one I never like to see happen. Even if there is a logical explanation for the person getting released and even if it could be the best thing for both parties, it’s not a fun thing to write about.

WWE — especially in a post-Benoit world under a PG setting — is known for being a company that emphasizes good public relations above all else. They make very careful and calculated efforts to downplay negative publicity and overplay good publicity to set forth a good example to investors and to the world. In fact, it was this very strategy that had Triple H refusing to make mass cuts because he didn’t like the way it made the company look.

On Thursday, everything changed. Almost as if we had stepped into another world, WWE began announcing main roster releases shortly after 11 AM ET. It started with 5, went to 8, grew to 9 and concluded at 10. 10 people in total fell victim to the company’s largest round of public main roster cuts in several years.

Again, none were surprising and some were even expected. First the news, then the fallout.

One of the more respected names in the business (at least from the fans’ perspective) — Mark Henry — oddly decides to celebrate his upcoming 18th anniversary with the company that just fired 10 of his co-workers. Henry Tweeted:

This didn’t set well with Curt Hawkins, a victim of the releases, who lashed out at the World’s Strongest Man.

I’ll admit I was surprised at the Public Relations breakdown and questioned when Adam Hopkins and Joe Villa – WWE’s in-house publicists – would be teaching the PR class.

As I tried to move to my next task of the work day (a story that will hopefully be online shortly after this goes online), I noticed another bizarre Public Relations blunder. I saw the aforementioned WWE PR general Joe Villa Tweet this:

Sure enough, Stephanie McMahon gave a keynote speech at the 2014 Event & Arena Marketing Conference in NOLA on Thursday. A big event where Stephanie spoke about leading up WWE’s efforts to further “brand reputation among key constituencies including advertisers, media, business partners and investors.”

Stop right there. So at the same time WWE is announcing their largest round of main roster cuts in recent years, Stephanie is delivering a speech about enhancing the company’s brand reputation?

She posted the following photo on Instagram:

At around the same time WWE was announcing mass roster cuts on their official website — their Chief Brand Officer — posted a smiling photo on Instagram.

Am I missing something here?

This is WWE, right?

These are the people that would rather be accused of misleading investors than saying anything negative. Remember, they refused to even discuss the disappointing TV distribution deal with NBCUniversal with investors before it was announced after nearly a year of essentially “guaranteeing” double or triple the amount of revenue in TV licensing fees.

As some of my faithful critics have mentioned, Stephanie’s speech and appearance was planned far in advance so why would WWE announce roster cuts on the same day? Further, why would they allow for Stephanie — of all people — to post a smiling photo on Instagram when her company was announcing 10 releases?

Perhaps she wasn’t aware the cuts were going to be announced today. Maybe the wires were crossed and the people at dot com weren’t communicating with the people handling Stephanie’s appearance.

Regardless of what happened — the fact is it did happen — and it doesn’t look good.

We live in a society where perception is everything and the perception that is given is that Stephanie McMahon is apathetic to her company cutting 10 high-profile contracts. I say high profile because anyone featured on WWE TV has considerable brand awareness and that’s more than evident by examining follower count on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Even a referee such as Marc Harris boasts more than 39,000 followers. That’s high-profile.

All and all, today was a bad day. The news wasn’t earth shattering or even surprising but as mentioned, it’s never easy to see someone else lose their job. However, I am absolutely astonished at the Public Relations missteps from WWE.

From one of their most respected veterans boasting about his lengthy career to Stephanie McMahon giving a Keynote about brand reputation and posting a smiling photo on Instagram – all in the midst of a somber day where 10 people lost their jobs.

At the end of the day, people get fired. This is a business. And Stephanie McMahon is one of many tasked with high profile appearances. However, for a company as protective and paranoid about their reputation to allow for such missteps is bizarre. Especially a company that elevates their image to the public above all else. No, I don’t expect this to hurt WWE or even rattle investor confidence but I don’t like the message it sends and there’s no way it doesn’t hurt locker room morale.

Timing is everything and the timing of these releases, Mark Henry’s celebratory Tweet, Stephanie’s smiling Instagram photo and high-profile Keynote address made for a bad mix on a bad day.

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  • Eddie Edwards

    How can some people really think Mark Henry didn’t know about the releases? Do you really think it’s a coincidence he tweeted about being in the company 18 years the day 10 people got fired?

  • qbraggio

    Richard you started sounding like Bo Dallas

    • http://www.wrestlingnewsworld.com/ Richard Gray

      I am a BOliever. Rotunda’s boys are the truth.

  • Cubed56

    People need to have thicker skin. These days society is so god damn sensitive its becoming unbearable. You can’t say anything or do anything remotely negative without backlash coming from some group of people, organization, or god knows who else being offended or pissed off. We all at one point or another have seen people be laid off or fired from our places of employment for a number of various different reasons. In this case the money being paid to these performers far exceed the money they are bringing in for WWE. Essentially all these men/women were of no value to the WWE anymore, so why keep them on the payroll when you can allocate those funds elsewhere that is of more value to the company? I’m not saying I don’t feel bad for all the talents released today, cause I do, I would never wish anyone to lose their job or any other type of ill-will, but this stuff happens everyday to millions of other people. Does it suck? Yes. Is it always fair or justified? Probably not. However such is life, suck it up and move on.

    • http://www.wrestlingnewsworld.com/ Richard Gray

      Every point you made, I made. My point is today was very un-WWE like. A company so concerned with public image it’s borderline paranoia. Yet the principles they’ve built for the last 7 years — in a post-Benoit world — saw a swift reversal today. For us not to cover it would be naive.

      • Cubed56

        I hope you didn’t take my post as a shot at you Richard? That certainly was not my intention. I was just simply stating my take on the matter, which is pretty much the exact same take you have on it. Of course you should cover this, its your way of making a living, and myself and many others appreciate this information and all the other information you supply us with. I am kinda confused as to how this is un-WWE like though. They’ve only recently started the no release thing if I’m not mistaken, before this they would release people around this time of year every year. Sure it may never have been this many at once, but it could just be a matter of they have more people at this time that they deem non-productive for the company then they have in the past. I don’t really see this a bad public relations, they were simply relieving themselves of “dead money”. Sure it sucks, but like I said it happens all the time and is the way of today’s world, this hardly qualifies as a black eye or anything negative for the WWE in my opinion.

        • Bob’s Diner

          I think Richard’s point is valid – very un-WWE. It isn’t about the releases, it is how they have handled things around them. They protect their image in every way possible and then go out and do careless things like this – Stephanie looks happy they just fired 10 people

          • Cubed56

            I highly doubt shes smiling cause they just released 11 workers. I look at it this way, when your favorite sports team releases players, is it a bad pr move? Do they always handle it the absolute correct way? Thaey pretty much do it the same way as this. They release players that are underperforming or cannot contribute enough that will help them win. Its no different then what WWE just did today. Its a business and this is business related, there in my opinion nothing wrong in how WWE handled any of this.

          • Bob’s Diner

            Again I think you are missing the point; let’s say I have a large company and fire 10 people that weren’t very good. That is understandable. But let’s say as I’m announcing they are being fired, one of my employees starts bragging to everyone that he is still employed. Then I go make a speech about how great my business is and how I am building jobs.

            The firing people isn’t the bad look – that happens in business.
            It is the smiling and such that is just weird. They should have made the announcements tomorrow. Or last week. Today was just weird timing

          • Cubed56

            Ok, the timing is a bit odd, I agree with that, but if thats the worst thing from this then so be it. Like I said people losing their job sucks, but in reality they were all dead money to the company. I hope everything works out for those individuals, but this happens everyday. It goes back to my original point, people are becoming to damn sensitive in todays world.

          • Matt

            Where did she say they create jobs? I missed that part.

  • King James

    I love Curt, but he’d never call Henry an idiot to his face. Cowardly move. I get he’s upset, but he could’ve gone without throwing a childish remark to Mark.

    • David F

      he just lost his job and Henry did make a dumb tweet. With today’s social media you have to be careful what you post and while I respect Henry his tweet was very foolish. Look at Washington Redskins and how social media is impacting them negatively. Someone needs to teach social media lessons to WWE roster

  • K!NG

    So everyone needs to be tight lipped today because a bunch of guys who were not making it in wwe got let go. I could see if the undertaker was released but just look at who got axed. Congrats to mark henry for 18 years in wwe considering how many people wanted him gone including jim ross. Plus Richard Stephanie fires people on tv all the time whether its scripted or not.

  • Tom Mayer

    Who gets demoted to JTG’s position now? I vote Great Khali

    • K!NG

      Prlly Ziggler or ryder

      • Tom Mayer

        I am sure that someone who was left go today will make a big stink of Ziggler talking trash in public and not getting fired.

        • Tom Mayer

          let go*

  • Scottyo614

    Richard, this isn’t meant to be negative or too critical, but I like these recent articles where you give full thoughts a lot more than the twitter snapshots.

  • Ty

    Personally, this is my own opinion, I think it’s being blown up way more that it should be. People lose jobs everyday but the work/show goes on. I don’t see any problem whatsoever of Stephanie McMahon posting a picture whether she’s smiling or not.

  • Kevin Taylor

    These articles you’ve been writing the last few days (this one, rise and fall of even bourne, etc, etc) have been fantastic. Keep these coming Richard.

  • jason witten 82

    I usually don’t care about these things but now that tna isn’t much of an option, well my heart goes out to the 11 of ya. Is it bad the Stephanie thing don’t bother me though? I have a bigger problem with the mark henry tweet

  • ldb

    Richard, I know this is a bad day for those that lost jobs today, but I feel like it opens the door for them and JJ with Global. These guys have a chance maybe now to grow in the business they love and start a new beginning for a new company and they could say they helped build that. I know its still a step down but I hope they all find work quick and can take care of their families. Best to all on a sad day.

    • Bob’s Diner

      I actually see it as the opposite; a lot of these guys just lost their best chance to make a living in pro-wrestling and will probably move on to something else. Brodus Clay is already talking about doing things outside of wrestling. And why? Because they’ll never make the kind of money they were making in WWE by working for TNA or this imaginary Global Fail Wrestling.

  • Matt

    Sweet baby Jesus. This might be the most self indulgent “article” ever written on this site. I’d be more critical from a business perspective if they kept these guys on the roster and continued to pay them for doing absolutely nothing. If the company isn’t using them, why would they keep them? WWE has a homerun business model in NXT. They can test workers, stables, and gimmicks and pretty much find out what will be over before it goes mainstream on Raw or Smackdown. This is a cost cutting move and probably a smart one, the only story here is that Triple H hadn’t wanted to do this previously. Things change. Who the hell is complaining about Stephanie smiling in a tweet? Should she post a photo of herself crying?

    • Bob’s Diner

      I think you missed the entire point of the article

      • mijespa

        No he didn’t, he’s right. People will be released. It happens, not everyone can make it, and why should wwe pay for underused talent. Let them go and try to find another place, or career before its too late.

        • Bob’s Diner

          And again, you have missed the point of the article. No one is questioning people released. What is in question is that WWE protect their corporate image in a very strict way, yet follow up the announcement of these with an appearance at a conference where they touted their success and then one of their most veteran employees bragged on twitter that he is still employed.

          No one is attacking WWE or complaining they fired people.

          Firing people for under-performing is normal.
          This day has not been normal.

      • Matt

        So everyone who disagrees with you “misses the point”? The only point of this artical was to make a mountain out of a molehill, and create imaginary PR “blunders” that didn’t happen, at least mot on the part of the WWE. The Mark Henry thing is a different story.

  • mike

    Did you ever stop to think that maybe they needed some happy good pr like smiles and notes of longevity because they didn’t want to much focus on the layoffs? I don’t get why everyone’s so upset, grow a pair, people lose jobs and companys keep on running. Should everyone walk around crying and sad because some people lost jobs? No not at all…it happens, they can find work just like the rest of us.