To say I was shocked at this news release would be an understatement. Literally moments ago, the WWE released a statement to confirm the release of 6 talents. While I alluded to more talent releases when the first batch came out a month ago, some of the names on this list were not exactly the names I envisioned getting their walking papers. With that in mind, let's take a look at each talent, examine why they may have been "future endeavored", and what the future holds for each of them.
Mickie James - This was shocking to say the least. The longest tenured and most accomplished WWE diva was atop the list, much to the chagrin of yours truly. I have always enjoyed Mickie's work and found her very easy on the eyes. However, recent concerns over her emotions and weight led to her being traded to Smackdown, where she was berated on air about her weight. Perhaps the storyline ended up being positive, but many believed it started as a jab to James for putting on a little weight over her years with the WWE. While all these factors could have led to Mickie falling out of favor with the WWE, I think this release was more monetarily related, as WWE probably did not want to pay James while she took time off to promote her debut country album. Along with the album, the Virginia native has always talked about running a horse farm when she retires, so that could be in her immediate future as well. It wouldn't surprise me to see James return to the WWE when her country music duties are finished, but it might be a more realistic career path for her to go to TNA and work a limited schedule to allow for her to involve herself in her music and horses. We shall see what the future holds for Mickie James, but for now, I am saddened that I won't be able to see her on WWE TV every week, at least for now.
Shelton Benjamin - This one was pretty shocking as well. It can be argued that since ECW closed its doors, the former Golden Gopher has been featured too sparingly, but he has always been a consistent worker. Therein lies the problem though, as his workrate never really changed throughout his tenure in WWE. Many fans have pushed for this in ring technician to get pushes at different times, but his inability to improve on the mic and sell a feud have severely hindered his progress. With a plethora of up and coming talent suited to take his place as yearly spot monkey in the Money in the Bank Match, it was finally time to cut ties with "the Gold Standard". His former partner, Charlie Haas, has been hoping for this moment, and one would think that the duo will be reunited somewhere in the wrestling world. Will it be in TNA? I wouldn't put it past them. Given the lack of focus on the tag division lately, I'm not sure how they'd be pushed, but it's television work, and Shelton has always been best suited in tag teams where his lack of verbal skills can be hidden.
Kung Fu Naki - The former Funaki and Sho Funaki has been with the WWE since the late 90's and has worked behind the scenes as an agent over the past couple of years. He is apparently very well liked and a tremendous worker, but on screen, his character is quite a joke. It seemed unlikely he'd get released though, as his behind the scenes work has been invaluable to young talent, but when budget cuts come, sometimes even the well liked get the boot. I think he can make a decent living working the independents and perhaps going back to Japan to work for New Japan or All Japan, but he isn't a spring chicken anymore, and doesn't have great name value to justify his hiring. Expect to see him work where he can, but not near the top of any card.
Katie Lea Burchill - First her on screen brother, and now her. Unfortunately, the pairing of Katie Lea to "the ripper" may have been the worst thing to happen to her career, as Paul was going nowhere when the pairing was made. Katie Lea is a 2 time OVW women's champ who never got a chance to shine on the big leagues. She is a talented worker who's unique look never really fit the WWE mold, which is a true shame. She's young enough to latch on basically anywhere, be it SHIMMER, Wrestlicious, Ring of Honor, or TNA. As much as I'd like to see her in TNA because I enjoy her as a talent, TNA seems to be going a different direction with their knockout division and I'm not sure Katie Lea will fit. However, a team with Daffney would be absolutely perfect!
Slam Master J - Formerly known as Jesse of Jesse and Festus, the song of the Legendary Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy never truly got a chance to shine. Perhaps it was his lack of size that held him back, but being a comedic talent his entire career certainly didn't help matters. Given he lacks a comedic presence like Santino Marella, his marketability is severely hindered. Perhaps his lineage could have been played off stronger, but at some point, every talent must stand on their own 2 feet, and he could not. Considering he was nothing more than a jobber with the WWE, I can't imagine him getting pushed anywhere else, but he is the song of a legend and is a decent worker, so I think he can find work on the independent scene on his family name alone. Don't expect him to show up in TNA or ROH though. To say nobody cares would be an understatement.
Jimmy Wang Yang - Speaking of nobody cares, enter Jimmy Wang Yang. The only time he was remotely relevant was in his tag team with Shannon Moore, and even then they were a momentarily blip on the radar screen. Wang is a nice enhancement talent, but ultimately has very little value to the company. This was a release that everyone pegged as likely, and now it has come to fruition. He's a decent worker, and can probably secure work someplace he merely has to work matches, but again, don't expect him to light the world on fire in the wrestling world.
MouthoftheSouthShore.com would like to wish all these talents good luck with their future and would like to say thank you to each and every one of them for their contributions to the WWE, no matter how big or small. Hopefully this is not the end!