The WWE roster is thinning out following a new television rights announcement in the aftermath of a major merger. Matt Riddle, Dolph Ziggler, Shelton Benjamin and Mustafa Ali are among the WWE superstars that have been released following the company’s announcement of a TV deal for SmackDown, according to multiple reports.
Riddle, a one-time UFC fighter who won multiple titles in WWE, announced his release Friday: “Just wanted to inform everyone that I’m no longer with WWE. Thank you for the memories and opportunities also thank you to all the fans for the support and love you give me every time I go out to the ring. See you all soon.”
A five-year stint with WWE began in NXT where Riddle became a fast-rising star who earned promotion to the main roster. His greatest success came teaming with Randy Orton as RK-Bro, an odd couple babyface tag team that twice won the Raw tag team championship. Riddle also held the United States title and NXT tag team championship (with Pete Dunne). However, multiple behavioral issues — including a recent public outburst at a New York airport — made him a liability for WWE.
Ziggler is a former two-time world heavyweight champion and Money in the Bank winner who was coming up on 20 years with the company. Benjamin was a multi-time titleholder who confirmed announced his release. Elias shared a tweet reflecting on his WWE journey.
Mustafa Ali, Emma, Madcap Moss and former WWE women’s tag team champion Aliyah were among superstars who publicly confirmed their releases on social media. Ali’s release was arguably the most surprising considering he was scheduled to face Dominik Mysterio for the NXT North American championship at the No Mercy event on Sept. 30. More cuts are expected throughout the day. Below is a list of all the confirmed and reported superstar releases that will be updated as news emerges.
WWE superstars released this week
- Matt Riddle
- Dolph Ziggler
- Shelton Benjamin
- Mustafa Ali
- Riddick Moss
- Top Dolla
- Rick Boogs
- Dana Brooke
- Dabba Kato
- Ikemen Jiro
- Yulisa Leon
- Quincy Elliott
- Bryson Montana
- Kevin Ventura-Cortez
- Daniel McArthur
- Alexis Gray
- Brooklyn Barlow
- Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald
WWE announced Thursday morning that SmackDown would move from Fox to USA Network beginning October 2024 as part of a five-year deal between WWE and NBCUniversal. WWE will also host four NBC primetime network specials as part of the arrangement. USA Network currently airs Monday Night Raw and NXT on Tuesdays, both of which will reportedly move off of the network, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The latest string of releases comes after the. TKO is a media conglomerate created by Endeavor, which merged WWE and UFC parent company Zuffa. WWE and UFC continue to operate as separate entities but do so under the banner of TKO. The new company officially launched on Sept. 12 with a valuation of $21.4 billion. Endeavor controls 51% of TKO and WWE shareholders own a 49% stake.
More than 100 employees, most of whom were off-camera WWE staff, were laid off earlier this month as part of budget cuts, according to PW Insider.