WWE Releases Numerous Wrestlers Following Smackdown TV Deal Announcement, Stock Decline

Dolph Ziggler, among others, is released a week after the company merged with the UFC under Hollywood agency Endeavor

A pro wrestler wears a blazer and holds up a gold title belt. He has blonde hair.
Dolph Ziggler (Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

WWE released a number of wrestlers from their contracts on Thursday, with the biggest name being Dolph Ziggler, real name Nic Nemeth.

The move comes amid news that WWE’s “Friday Night SmackDown” show will be moving from Fox to USA Network next year, as well as it being just over a week since the company merged with UFC under Endeavor ownership to form TKO Group Holdings.

Wrestlers released Thursday include Mustafa Ali (Adeel Alam), Aliyah (Nhooph Al-Areebi), Shelton Benjamin, Rick 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 shared their admiration for several of the stars who were let go, including crossover stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and John Cena both posting about Ziggler’s release in particular 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 previous management structure back in January 2022, but his request was denied at the time. He appeared on WWE’s NXT program as recently as Tuesday and was set to wrestle Dominik Mysterio at the upcoming NXT No Mercy special on Peacock.

TKO’s stock fell Thursday morning following the news of “Smackdown” leaving broadcast TV. Some observers have speculated that the releases were made to counter the effect on the stock price.

The releases also follow dozens of layoffs of WWE office staff last week, particularly in divisions where UFC had its own staff already in place. Both those inside the company and observers weren’t expecting significant roster cuts to come so soon.

Hulu also confirmed Thursday that WWE’s programming will be leaving the streaming platform, with episodes set to be removed next week on Monday and Tuesday. Most of WWE’s programming is currently available on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform.

Emma announced her excitement earlier in the day that WWE’s “Elimination Chamber” is headed to her native Australia in February, but she later said she had been released.