Do you remember when all of those WWE superstars were suddenly released from their contracts in April this year? It already seems like it was a very long time ago, but it’s only been two months. We said goodbye to Luke Gallows and his tag team partner Karl Anderson, Mike and Maria Kanellis, Zack Ryder, Heath Slater, Sarah Logan, Rusev, EC3, and several more. One of the lesser-known performers who fell under the ‘several more’ category was Drake Maverick, a British cruiserweight who was better known as a manager and a comedy performer than an in-ring talent.
Getting to WWE was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Maverick, who’s better known to fans of Impact Wrestling as Rockstar Spud. The pint-sized, Birmingham-born performer is hardly likely to win world championships with a height of 5ft 4 and a weight of less than 160lbs, but he connects with fans and has always been popular with his fellow wrestlers. Initially brought into WWE as the ‘General Manager’ of the mostly-unwatched 205 Live brand, he graduated into an on-screen manager for the “Authors of Pain” tag team, and an occasional wrestler in the comedy-orientated 24/7 Championship division. It wasn’t the most prominent spot on the roster, but it was still a regular TV gig.
Everybody – Maverick included – knows that he was never going to be in the main event of a major pay per view. He’s not destined to be one of WWE’s marquee attractions. Put it this way; WWE has a range of Online Slots UK coming out later this year. Legends of the past will have online slots of their own, like John Cena, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, and The Undertaker. Some of the bigger names of the present will also have their own online slots, including Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch. Drave Maverick is not going to get his own online slots game. He rarely gets his own action figures. He’s yet to appear as a playable character in any WWE video games. He’s not a headline act – and yet when he was seemingly released by the company, he attracted more attention than some of the better-known names who had been cut from the roster.
Using his innate ability to connect with the audience through a camera screen, Maverick filmed a tearful video immediately after he got a call from WWE head office to tell him he’d been let go, and then posted that video to social media. The video was retweeted tens of thousands of times and attracted mainstream publicity from the type of outlets that never typically report on the ‘fake’ world of professional wrestling. What happened at this point is anyone’s guess, but there are two schools of thought. One of them is that WWE believed that Maverick’s video was making them look heartless. The other is that unlike the other wrestlers who’d been cut, Maverick hadn’t truly been ‘released’ at all. This was all a big angle to sell his return to the roster and draw in viewers in the process.
The second possibility sounds almost too corny even for the over-the-top world of professional wrestling, but there was always something different about the way Maverick was handled post-release. Every other released wrestler disappeared from television immediately, with barely a namecheck given to them. Maverick confirmed in his famous video that he’d been given permission to stay and compete in the forthcoming cruiserweight championship tournament, which he’d already been entered into. WWE didn’t have to do that. The company, even after that spate of releases, is not short of cruiserweights. The tournament was yet to start. They could have pulled Maverick out and replaced him with any other wrestler, and the competition wouldn’t have been affected in any way. The fact that they didn’t do so led some people to declare that this was a ‘work’ after all.
We’re now two months down the line, and the cynics who smelled a rat from the beginning appear to have been right. Maverick was always treated like a comedy wrestler every time he got in the ring on WWE’s main roster, but in this tournament, he fought tooth and nail, picking up victories over opponents who ought to have trounced him, and making it all the way to the final. Last week, in the final match, he came up short and lost. Just as everything seemed to be over for Drake Maverick, as he walked to the back with tears in his eyes, WWE executive Triple H walked out with a contract in his hands and told him that he could stay as a full-time member of the NXT roster. Maverick didn’t even look at the contract; he accepted it blindly and hugged Triple H. He was officially back in the WWE fold.
There are only two possibilities here. One is that WWE let a disgruntled man, working without a contract, appear on live television for weeks with a live microphone, and then ‘surprised him’ at the end of his final appearance with a brand new contract. The other is that Maverick always knew he wasn’t really being let go and played along for the sake of courting publicity and selling a ‘Cinderella’ story on television. If that’s true, it’s disrespectful on two fronts. It’s disrespectful to his fans and his audience, who believed him when he released his video and felt genuine sympathy for him, and it’s also disrespectful to his colleagues who were released at the same time as him. The majority of them are yet to find alternative employment in the wrestling world. All of them are likely to work again, but they were genuinely fired and had their stories relegated to a byline because everyone was focused on Drake Maverick’s apparent grief.
WWE has been known to run the occasional tasteless storyline. They’re doing it right now with an angle based around Jeff Hardy’s history of drink-driving convictions. To play both their fans and their former wrestlers a tune about Maverick fighting on while out of contract only to reveal that he was actually under contract the whole time, though, would be just another sign that the company is increasingly out of touch with its audience.