Originally Published: January 24, 2004
Torch Newsletter #794
Brian "Spanky" Kendrick asked to be released from his WWE contract prior to the January 13 Smackdown tapings. After discussing the situation with Kendrick, WWE officials granted his request.
Over the past few months, Kendrick has been miserable in WWE. After receiving a flavor-of-the-month style push early in his run with the company, Kendrick became just another forgotten cruiserweight in the Smackdown locker room. He was paired with another forgotten cruiserweight, Paul London, in hopes that the duo would connect with fans as a teeny-bopper tag team. WWE officials never got behind the gimmick, and the team worked most of their televised matches on Velocity.
In fact, the only time Kendrick and London ever appeared together on Smackdown was when WWE first came up with the idea of using them as a tag team. It was obvious from the beginning that WWE didn't have big things planned for them, as they were squashed in a handicap battle by Brock Lesnar. Most WWE followers expected Kendrick and London to return to Smackdown as a team at some point, but that never happened.
Even before he was paired with London, Kendrick became very frustrated with his lack of a push in WWE. Friends described him as being miserable with his situation, even paranoid that he would be released from his contract. Last month, a rumor broke out that WWE officials were on the verge of making roster cuts. The rumor became so widespread that some wrestling websites published a list of wrestlers who were supposedly going to be released from their WWE contracts. Kendrick's name was on this list, and there is some talk that this may have triggered his decision to take the initiative to ask for his release.
In the not-so-distant past, some wrestlers welcomed the opportunity to get paid for sitting at home. While some of these wrestlers would have preferred to be on the road full-time so that they could make more money, most wouldn't have even considered the option of asking for a contractual release unless they believed they could make more money working elsewhere. This practice was especially prevalent in WCW, where contracts were guaranteed, meaning the wrestlers made the same amount of money for sitting at home as they would if they were on the road every night.
Today, the vast majority of WWE wrestlers do not have such sweet deals. WWE works under downside guarantee deals, which establish the least amount of money a wrestler can make each year, yet make it possible for the wrestlers to make more money through incentives. Basically, if the company is drawing well at house shows and on pay-per-view, the wrestlers will earn more than their downside guarantee. However, that's only if they stay healthy, and if the office books them for house show and pay-per-view matches.
In Kendrick's case, even though he was healthy, he did not work a full slate of house shows and was not booked for pay-per-view matches. And even if he had worked a full-time schedule and appeared on every Smackdown pay-per-view, there's still a good chance that he would not have exceeded his downside guarantee, which is believed to have been the standard undercard figure of $75,000 per year. WWE isn't drawing well so few wrestlers�even those booked for all house shows and PPVs�exceeded their downside figures by much, if anything, last year.
Given the business slump, if a veteran WWE wrestler sitting at home or working part-time is making as much money as his full-time colleagues, he's not going to go out of his way to persuade management to put him back on the road full-time. Maybe he would if his contract was set to expire and he felt he could impress management enough to earn a new deal, but otherwise, in most cases, the wrestler is going to sit at home and take the easy money.
Believe me, this approach isn't exclusive to the old days of WCW's guaranteed contracts. There are current WWE veteran wrestlers working limited schedules who wince whenever their phones ring in fear that someone from the office is calling to inform them that their schedule is being increased. Not only have these wrestlers lost faith in the company to draw well enough to help them earn more than their downside guarantee pays, but they don't believe management will give them a real opportunity to move up the cards and into higher pay slots.
Brian Kendrick could have taken that same approach. He could have ridden out the part-time schedule for his downside pay while hoping that management would get behind him and London. At the very worst, the office could have enacted the 90-day review clause in his contract and terminated his deal. Even then, he would have been paid to sit home for another 90 days and he probably would have received more in severance pay. Once he was contractually free from WWE, he could have returned to work on the indy scene where he would have commanded just as much money as he will now that he's asked to be released from his contract. In other words, there was no obvious financial motivation that led Kendrick to ask for his release. He was simply frustrated with his lack of a push and didn't like sitting home when he could have been bettering himself as a professional wrestler.
As much as I can understand the position of the frustrated veteran wrestlers who sit home without a desire to return to work until the financial climate improves, it's refreshing to see a young wrestler such as Kendrick take the path that he did. And just as there is more than one veteran wrestler sitting home, there are other young WWE wrestlers who are considering the idea of making a move similar to Kendrick's.
Although the old WCW wrestler mindset of making as much money as you can for doing as little as possible still exists in some cases, younger wrestlers don't seem to be adopting that approach. The younger wrestlers of today have a real desire to perform and work as often as possible. Whether this will change as these wrestlers make their way around the block a few times and become veterans themselves is certainly possible. Still, it's nice to see that a young wrestler such as Kendrick who took the fast track to WWE realizes that there's more to life than Vince McMahon. Some wrestlers in Kendrick's position would and have come away from their WWE experiences completely demoralized. And while Kendrick probably went through a period of feeling that way, he is leaving the company on his own terms with the belief that he can make a go of it as an independent wrestler.
Considering the money Kendrick was believed to be making in WWE, there's no reason to believe that he can't make just as much, if not more, on the indy scene. As long as NWA-TNA, Ring of Honor, and Major League Wrestling stay in business, there is a real alternative for Kendrick and the other disgruntled WWE undercard wrestlers. None of these indy promotions can offer the stability WWE can in terms of knowing whether the company will be in business five years from now, but then again WWE isn't offering its undercard wrestlers the stability of knowing whether they are going to be employed 90 days from now either.
Kendrick's move is further proof that WWE is losing its stigma as the "be all and end all" with some wrestlers. Many of the top independent wrestlers today are undersized by WWE standards, and they see literally dozens of examples, Kendrick included, of how the company has misused some of the most talented undersized performers in the history of the business. WWE is still the only place to go if you have stars in your eyes and believe you have what it takes to become a multi-millionaire superstar like The Rock. However, smaller wrestlers are starting to realize that they won't be afforded the same opportunities for success as the larger wrestlers.
Two years ago, A.J. Styles did what was then considered the unthinkable by turning down a WWE developmental contract. He became the butt of jokes in some wrestling circles for "ruining his career" by being "stupid enough to turn down Vince McMahon." In retrospect, Styles's move doesn't seem the least bit foolish. Most estimates of Styles's TNA pay fall between $1,000 and $1,500 per week. Using the higher figure and assuming he works 45 dates for TNA per year, he could make $67,000 this year�not bad for one night a week. While that's still below the standard $75,000 downside guarantee that most WWE undercard wrestlers have, that's without factoring in the indy bookings he's free to work every weekend.
Not every indy wrestler will make out as well as Styles has, and the lack of security the indy scene provides must also be taken into consideration. Just ask Amazing Red, who was one of the hottest commodities on the indy scene one minute, and trying to scrape up the money for major knee surgery the next. Yet for wrestlers who are willing to take the risk and smart enough to plan ahead for the future, the indy scene is once again becoming a legitimate alternative to WWE.
Will the gamble Kendrick took by asking for his release pay off? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: There will be plenty of wrestlers watching his career closely and pulling for him to make it.
Brian "Spanky" Kendrick rolls the dice that life is better outside of WWE (4 Years Ago)
Posted in: Powell Editorials
By By Jason Powell
Jan 2, 2008 - 11:31 PM
Jan 2, 2008 - 11:31 PM
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