Take the title convention in the spirit in which it is intended here. That being to slightly poke fun at an odd take that’s been particularly prevalent in the last few years.
Since the dawn of a major North American alternative in 2019, WWE hardcores have been increasingly noisy about the supposed ownership of talents that – by wrestling’s historic broken practices – are independent contractors rather than employees anyway.
One of the very first bad faith criticisms of All Elite Wrestling was the use of “ex-WWE” talents, as if the performers were supposed to work for Vince McMahon until they retired. Or he did, depending on which he came first, and the latter never felt likely. In Dynamite’s early days, it was ill-judged on those terms, but within six months of AEW’s existence it was simply untrue.
Not only did the company not “just” rely on those that had worked for WWE, but the examples were stacking up of those doing something completely different and creatively more engrossing since they’d left. This wasn’t TNA marking out over picking up the latest released name to go over AJ Styles, nor the weekend show near your house promoting a “WWE TV Star” to win the territory’s title for the night.
This was a wrestling company giving independent contractors a different or more fulfilling outlet to ply their trade, exactly as McMahon himself has done for decades.
Fans still unable to grasp that need only look back through the company history for countless examples …
As of this writing in early 2022, WWE has spent much of the prior two years doing away with around 150 contracts to make “budget cuts” arm-in-arm with record profits.
Talent impacted by this capitalist skullduggery need only look to the 80s, 90s and now should they want to vent their spleens on podcasts, Q&A evenings or – where they still even exist – low budget shoot interviews.
As that cottage industry boomed with the birth of tape trading and the internet at large in the mid-1990s, so did the prevalence of stories that had only been shared in the likes of the Wrestling Observer before then. The majority of famous names from wrestling had been either side of WWE and WCW’s revolving doors by then, and those that wished to were able to share their tales of tumult with the tape rolling.
The New Age Outlaws did just that, sh * tting from every height onto Triple H specifically for how their relatively short but hugely profitable runs hit the skids. Those promos were popular enough that TNA made them Impact canon – Voodoo Kin Mafia existed to neg WWE and DX before remotely concentrating on getting their own house in order.
Time heals all wrestling wounds that aren’t fatal – Road Dogg and Billy Gunn were both back in the fold (and wearing gold!) by 2014.