Does latest WWE release signal the end of house shows?

WWE (Photo by Marc Pfitzenreuter/Getty Images)
WWE (Photo by Marc Pfitzenreuter/Getty Images) /

WWE has released another group of employees, but the loss of one behind the scenes figure could signal the end of WWE’s house shows.

We’ve seen an unprecedented amount of layoffs from WWE at every level since the ongoing global pandemic began, despite the fact that WWE is still on track for record profits this year. Another report has emerged, and the release of one behind the scenes figure could all but confirm the end of WWE doing house shows for the foreseeable future.

According to Mike Johnson of PWInsider, as many as 15 logistical and behind the scenes employees have been released by WWE with this latest round of cuts. While most of the focus has been on the loss of longtime beloved ring announcer Tony Chimel, it’s the removal of Derek Casselman that tells us about their plan for non-televised house shows.

Mike Johnson reported Casselman’s release was “most shocking,” based on the sources he spoke to. Casselman had been the Director of Venue Merchandise and Remote Operations with WWE and has been with the company for over 27 years, according to his LinkedIn Profile.

If WWE considers that position expendable, it could mean they don’t plan to need someone to coordinate merchandise sales or remote operations at multiple locations any time soon. While this move is key, it comes with plenty of other indications that have built to this moment.

WWE was already planning on cutting back on house shows before the pandemic

Back in February, before the impact of the global pandemic, there were already reports from Dave Meltzer and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter [H/T WhatCulture] that WWE was planning to cut back significantly on house shows due to declines in live event attendance and revenue from those shows.

WWE hasn’t run an event outside of Orlando since March 13, and has been presenting the ThunderDome inside the Amway Center since August. However, according to Mike Johnson of PWInsider and confirming a report by WrestleVotes, WWE will be out of the Amway Center in early December.

WrestleVotes went on to say that WWE is looking for a newer arena, potentially in North Carolina, Texas, or Illinois, keeping in mind they’ll need something that can handle the power requirements and weight of the ThunderDome setup. With the company looking for a more permanent home for their ThunderDome, rather than looking to return to regularly attended events, that further signals they’ll not be back on the road any time soon.

Finally, going back to October 15, WrestleVotes reported that the company’s typical weekly live event loop that includes house shows on Saturdays and Sundays won’t be returning to the schedule until at least 2022. With all of this news coming together, house shows seem to be all but confirmed as a thing of the past.

Could WWE’s future house shows be more like Starrcade specials?

While it’s difficult to say WWE would never return to hosting non-televised live events, especially down the road when the global pandemic is under control, this scenario seems to have forced them to see the writing on the wall about how unprofitable they had become. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t have fans at events until 2022.

WrestleVotes also reported that, while the ThunderDome is expected to last until at least February, WWE is looking at “something different” for the 2021 Royal Rumble and hopes to have fans at the event. Even when things return to something resembling normalcy, this might become the company’s new normal.

Rather than having multiple non-televised live events, WWE could instead put their focus on attendance for pay-per-views and televised shows. Should they bring back house shows, it seems more likely they’d do events like Starrcade, which was originally revived in 2017 as a special house show.

While the events haven’t seen the same kinds of attendance or success in recent years, longtime fans who have had the chance to go to one will understand why this is a significant loss. Fewer events will help the wrestlers take care of their bodies and not be so overworked, but they’ll also lose reps and a chance to try things out without the pressure and control of television.

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There are stories going back years of wrestlers who have had more fun, done more creative things, and really given the crown an enjoyable show at house shows because they weren’t constrained by the way things needed to be done for TV. Losing that removes something fun for fans, and ultimately seems to further tighten WWE’s control over every little thing their independent contractors do.