Mark Yeaton and Alberto Del Rio highlight week of major WWE cuts
There is certainly no shortage of major news items to discuss in the world of professional wrestling. Within the last week we’ve seen WWE:
-announce a disappointing 700,000 network subscribers
-layoff 7% of its staff
-officially cease its magazine division
-release WWE and NXT star Ricardo Rodriguez
-release longtime timekeeper Mark Yeaton
-release former world champion Alberto Del Rio
Yeaton’s departure was notable since he had been employed with the company for over 30 years. I would consider anyone with that kind of tenure as being bulletproof. Yeaton’s release was taken as a sign that no one is safe during these cutbacks.
In addition to his timekeeper role Yeaton was responsible for ordering and maintaining materials WWE used for their rings and other logistics. He was also the guy who threw Steve Austin his beers.
Del Rio’s release was a genuine shocker. I’d rank it as the most unlikely release of a WWE performer this year. According to WWE.com, he was fired due to unprofessional conduct during an altercation with another employee.
Despite being a lukewarm character for the last several months, Del Rio had always been pushed at a respectable level even at times when it appeared he hadn’t done anything to deserve it.
Del Rio was pushed as a top heel almost from the moment he debuted on SmackDown in 2010. The long-term direction was for him to turn babyface and replace Rey Mysterio as the company’s top Hispanic star. The only problem is that Del Rio was a natural heel. His face turn in early 2013 was so poorly received that he quickly went back heel, thus flattening his character.
Over the duration of his WWE run Del Rio won four world championships (twice holding the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championships), the Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank ladder match.
While Del Rio was fired for disciplinary reasons, I believe that the current state of the company’s financials made it a much easier decision.
Update- The following report from SEScoops sheds more light on the incident:
The story going around this morning is that the whole incident started when someone in catering asked WWE’s Social Media Manager to clean off his plate. The social media manager allegedly responded, “That’s Del Rio’s job.”
Word got back to Del Rio, who later confronted the social media manager and demanded an apology. Instead of apologizing he smirked at Del Rio, which led to Del Rio getting physical.
Exclusive coverage of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest
Last week I had the pleasure of attending my second Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte, NC. The four-day extravaganza, honoring the rich legacy of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, was packed with numerous activities such as autograph signings, live matches, karaoke, Q&A sessions, and roundtable discussions featuring some of the industry’s biggest legends.
Once upon a time, the professional wrestling industry was governed under a territorial system. Instead of one giant promotion such as WWE, there were several regional promotions that functioned under the umbrella of the National Wrestling Alliance.
One of the most well-known territories of that era was Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling run by Jim Crockett Sr (his son Jim Crockett Jr. ran the promotion after his passing). The territory, running the bulk of its operations throughout the Carolinas and Virginias, lasted from 1931-1988.
Since 2004, the Mid-Atlantic Fanfest has served as a means for fans, old and new, to pay homage to the stars of yesteryear. This year’s was billed as the tenth anniversary and final one.
Some of the biggest names in wrestling from over the last three decades were present including: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Jimmy Snuka, Lex Luger, Jimmy Valiant, Sabu, Barry Windham, Bobby Heenan, Gerald Brisco, Vader, Magnum TA, Dusty Rhodes, Shane Douglas, Tommy Dreamer, Jim Duggan, Paul Orndorff, and Larry Zbyszko.
Instead of writing a straightforward recap, I’d like to share a few observations:
-Upon my arrival to the hotel, people were discussing Ole Anderson making a scene in the lobby. Ole is best known as one of the founding members of the Four Horsemen and was part of the legendary Minnesota Wrecking Crew alongside Gene Anderson. Anyone familiar with Ole knows that he is one of the more outspoken personalities in wrestling. Whether right or wrong, he is not afraid to step on anyone’s toes.
-This year’s Fanfest marked my first time meeting Arn Anderson and Ricky Steamboat. Both were extremely polite. As I was getting an autograph from Steamboat, I bought up how big of an influence he made on Chris Jericho’s career. He replied that Jericho is a great guy.
-Several of the wrestlers enjoyed viewing my copy of Legends of Pro Wrestling: 150 Years of Headlocks, Body Slams, and Piledrivers by Tim Hornbaker. The book profiles the biggest stars in wrestling from the late 1800s all the way to the current era. In addition to being a great reference tool, it also serves as a nice autograph book for occasions such as this. Both Rocky Johnson and Kevin Sullivan remarked that they had never seen it before. Sullivan was so impressed that he took a few moments to read the entry chronicling his career, thus bringing a temporary halt to the autograph line.
-The Hall of Heroes ceremony is the highlight of Fanfest. Think of it as a scaled down version of the WWE Hall of Fame, with the major difference being that fans are able to sit with the wrestlers being honored while enjoying a scrumptious buffet meal. This year’s inductees included the Poffo Family (Randy, Lanny and Angelo), Danny Miller, J.J.Dillon, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Tommy Young, and Boris Malenko. Former Mid-Atlantic announcer David Crockett made a surprise appearance. Shane “Hurricane” Helms hosted the proceedings.
-J.J. Dillon is one of my favorite people in all of wrestling. I enjoyed listening to his stories during a revealing roundtable discussion on the career of Dusty Rhodes. He also gave one of the best speeches of anyone inducted in the Hall of Heroes. One thing that stood out to me was his admiration for the late Eddie Graham, the longtime promoter of Championship Wrestling from Florida. I always heard that Eddie was a booking genius. My conversations over the weekend with J.J. and Jim Cornette confirmed just that.
-No topic was off limits during Cornette’s Q&A session. In addition to answering questions from his followers on social media and members of the live audience, Cornette brought Lance Storm, Shane Helms, Dr. Tom Pritchard, and Les Thatcher onstage to partake in the discussion.
-The last two nights featured live wrestling matches using local indy talent as well as current and former TNA wrestlers such as Chris Sabin, Wes Brisco, and The American Wolves. Amazing Kong (formerly Kharma in WWE and Awesome Kong in TNA) also competed.
-The best part about Fanfest is spending an entire weekend surrounded by fellow wrestling enthusiasts. It’s truly a family atmosphere. If this was indeed the final installment then at least I can say they went out with a bang.