STAMFORD, Conn. — WWE started releasing professional wrestlers Wednesday in budget cuts related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The moves came even with the company allowed to continue to run live TV shows in Florida after Gov. Ron DeSantis deemed WWE an essential business.
Pro sports were added to a list of businesses permitted to stay open in Florida in an April 9 memorandum to include “employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience ... only if the location is closed to the general public.”
The amendment allows World Wrestling Entertainment, run by CEO Vince McMahon in the Orlando area, to continue putting on shows without fans. WWE live shows returned this week out of the company’s performance center in Orlando.
DeSantis, a Republican, said at a news conference Tuesday that people are “champing at the bit” for new entertainment to boost morale while housebound.
WWE announced Wednesday it made various moves to cut costs and improve cash flow, including reducing the salaries of executives and board members; decreasing operating expenses; cutting talent expenses, third-party staffing and consulting; and deferring spending on the construction of the company’s new headquarters for at least six months.
WWE cut a slew of performers, including ones known professionally as Karl Anderson (real name Chad Allegra) and Luke Gallows (real name Drew Hankinson). Anderson and Gallows were involved in the WrestleMania card this month that originally had been scheduled for Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium but was moved to Orlando because of the coronavirus and largely included taped matches in an empty arena.
Also released, Sports Illustrated reported, were wrestlers known professionally as Drake Maverick, Zack Ryder, Curt Hawkins, Heath Slater, Eric Young, Rowan, Sarah Logan, No Way Jose, Mike Kanellis, Maria Kanellis, EC3, Lio Rush, Primo and Epico. WWE also announced it is letting go Kurt Angle, a retired wrestler and backstage producer; Aiden English, who has not wrestled since 2019 but has recently done commentary, and referee Mike Chioda.
“I’m very fortunate that WWE is still allowing me to compete in the NXT interim cruiserweight title tournament, but it’s very likely that those will be the last matches I ever have,” Maverick said through tears in a video posted on Twitter. “There’s a lot of people I’m not going to get a chance to say goodbye to that I really loved and I really cared about. They made me a better person."
WWE also said it is temporarily furloughing some employees. Asked for details on how many employees are being furloughed, a WWE spokesman directed the New York Daily News to a press release it issued, which did not include that information.
WWE believes the cuts will save roughly $4 million monthly and improve cash flow by $140 million, primarily due to the paused construction funding, Sports Illustrated reported.
Despite coronavirus-related challenges, WWE said it “has substantial financial resources, both available cash and debt capacity” to weather the crisis.