4 days before their annual roster shuffle, aka the draft lottery, World Wrestling Entertainment released a half-dozen wrestlers earlier today, ostensibly to clear roster space for "rookies" graduating from NXT or for other reasons. The severed six are:
Shoichi Funaki, aka "Kung Fu Naki". Of the 6 cut, Funaki was with the company the longest, debuting in March 1998 as a member of Kaientai. Funaki was given a gig as a backstage reporter on Smackdown for a few years, then was given an even bigger reward as a "good soldier" with a brief run as cruiserweight champion in 2005.
Shelton Benjamin. Benjamin may be best remembered not for his 3 Intercontinental titles, 2 tag titles (w/Charlie Haas), or his US title run last year, but rather for his highlight reel performances in the Money in the Bank ladder matches at Wrestlemania 5 of the last 6 years, including this year. After nearly 8 years with the company, the former 2-sport star at Minnesota, four months removed from a show-stealing ladder match vs. Christian at TLC, is out. There are already rumors that he may be headed for TNA and reform his team with Haas.
Mickie James. The last few months have not been kind to this Virginia vixen. Reports say that management had been upset with Ms. James in recent months, which might explain the derogatory "Piggy James" angle done with current women's champ Michelle McCool over the winter. Mickie was screwed out of the title on the February 26 Smackdown, but her likely next destination won't be TNA, where she toiled for a couple of years as Alexis Laree, but rather a concert stage. Mickie released her debut country CD, "Strangers & Angels", last month, but WWE refused to support the album, likely because of whatever issues existed behind the scenes.
Coincidentally, another ex-WWE diva, Maria Kanellis, currently appearing on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice and HDNet's Inside MMA, is also moonlighting as a singer, and just released an EP, "Seven Sins". Yep, WWE wouldn't support that effort, either. Maybe now Mickie & Maria can go on tour together.......
Jimmy Wang Yang. On his 2nd go-round with WWE (he was Akio from 2003-05), Yang managed to hang on for 3 years in the role of an Asian cowboy from Georgia, but has mostly been used as a TV jobber in recent months. He's likely heading for a 2nd tour of duty with TNA, for whom he worked in 2002.
Slam Master J. Ray Gordy, son of the late Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy of the legendary Fabulous Freebirds, had gone to a white rapper gimmick he previously used at Deep South Wrestling, but opportunities to wrestle came fewer and fewer over the last few months. Despite Freebird captain Michael Hayes being the head writer of Smackdown, Gordy was at the bottom of the ladder, never given a real chance to shine. I see him heading for TNA under his own name before the end of the year.
Katie Lea. 2-3 years ago, some genius decided that Katie would be cast as the sister of countryman Paul Burchill, who was cut a few weeks ago, and that gimmick became an anchor that bound Katie to the floor, if you will. After the dissolution of ECW in late February, Katie had appeared sporadically, and for some strange reason wasn't showcased on the recent European tour. She had potential to be a champion, and yet WWE's creative team dropped the ball with her, as they have with so many others, such as Benjamin & Gordy.
WWE's losses will obviously benefit not only TNA, but also Ring of Honor and other promotions, but it also speaks volumes of the irresponsibility of the creative team, who can't devote enough time to the people at the bottom of the ladder to make viewers care about them. In some cases, the wrong people are being favored, such as Vickie Guerrero, widow of former champion Eddie Guerrero. Vickie learned absolutely nothing of note from Eddie on in-ring conditioning, and is drawing go-away heat from this desk, if not also from other fans.
Vince McMahon may have taken himself off television after losing at Wrestlemania, but his character's influence is still felt in some of the writing. To paraphrase John Mayer, we're waiting for WWE to change, but it's a long wait.