WWE released a number of wrestlers from their contracts on Thursday, the biggest name being Dolph Ziggler, real name Nic Nemeth.
The move comes amid news that WWE’s “Friday Night SmackDown” show will move from Fox to USA Network next year, and it’s been just over a week since the company merged with UFC under Endeavor ownership and TKO Group Holdings founded.
Wrestlers released Thursday include: Mustafa Ali (Adeel Alam), Aliyah (Nhooph Al-Areebi), Shelton BenjaminRick Boogs (Eric Bugenhagen), Dana Brooke, Elias (Jeffrey Sciullo), Emma (Tenille Dashwood), Mansoor, Riddick “Madcap” Moss (Mike Rallis), Shanky (Dilsher Shanky) and Top Dolla (AJ Francis), according to wrestling news outlet Fightful.
TheWrap has reached out to WWE and members of the roster for comment.
Other wrestlers expressed their admiration for several of the released stars, including crossover stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena, both of whom notably posted about Ziggler’s release on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter).
Ali, Aliyah, Benjamin, Elias, Mansoor, Moss and Shanky confirmed their own departures on social media.
Ali publicly requested a release from WWE under the current management structure back in January 2022, but his request was rejected at the time. He just appeared on WWE’s NXT program on Tuesday and was scheduled to face Dominik Mysterio on the upcoming NXT No Mercy special on Peacock.
TKO stock fell Thursday morning after news that “Smackdown” is leaving television. Some observers have speculated that the releases were made to counteract the impact on the stock price.
The releases also follow dozens of layoffs of WWE office staff over the past week, particularly in departments where UFC already had its own employees. Both those within the company and observers did not expect that there would be significant cuts in the squad so soon.
Hulu too confirmed on Thursday that WWE programming will be leaving the streaming platform and episodes will be removed on Monday and Tuesday next week. The majority of WWE programming is currently available on NBCUniversal’s streaming platform Peacock.
Emma announced earlier in the day her excitement about WWE’s Elimination Chamber traveling to her home country of Australia in February, but later said she had been released.