When Cody Rhodes walked out of the WWE, many people thought he was nuts. Sure, he might not have been utilized the way he would have liked, but he had a cushy gig with a guaranteed paycheque and there was always the chance WWE might smarten up and use him properly. Still, Rhodes didn't want to waste valuable years of his career waiting, so he took a gamble on himself and it paid off. He's now the Ring of Honor (ROH) Champion and recently signed a lucrative multi-year deal with the promotion. He became an example of independent success to a lot of wrestlers.
The other day, Neville walked out of WWE. There is still some confusion about exactly what's going on with the "King of the Cruiserweights", but it doesn't look like he's departed the WWE under ideal circumstances and popular belief is that he's not coming back.
These two are not the only ones leaving on their own accord. Austin Aries has removed himself from the WWE picture and independent stars like Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks seem to want nothing to do with WWE.
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The concern for the WWE is that this might become a pattern. While WWE is still the biggest game in the wrestling industry, it's clear that wrestlers are starting to look at other options. In fact, so much so, wrestlers are rumored to be reaching out to talents like Cody Rhodes for advice.
Joe Lanza mentioned during the opening moments of the Voices Of Wrestling Flagship podcast that several WWE talents (names are unclear at this point) are asking just how Cody got the WWE to release him from his contract. They view what Rhodes did as motivating and want to know if that option exists for them.
Part of the issue stems from both misuse of talent and the WWE's insistence to target some of the members of a very close-knit group of talents in the wrestling community. Jimmy Jacobs (a writer for WWE) was recently released because he took a picture with the Bullet Club as they invaded the parking lot of a Raw taping. The Young Bucks were sent cease and desist letters for their use of the DX Chops and "Too Sweet" hand gestures. The wrestlers are finding that the company they work for is going beyond what is reasonable in terms of their business ethics.
This could be a bad scene for all parties involved. When Rhodes left, the WWE was not terribly concerned over one mid-card guy. If word is that a large group of wrestlers plan to leave, WWE may halt things in their tracks and hold talents to their contracts. This is bound to create an awkward environment.
So too, Rhodes is not in a position to know how WWE will react. Should he tell people to ask for their releases he could be opening floodgates to talents being told no and then punished as a result.
This is definitely a story worth keeping an eye on. If it's accurate, it could become a large problem in a hurry. Not everyone wants to leave the biggest wrestling company in the world and the WWE will survive regardless of who they let go, but the reputation of a company amongst the wrestling community is what's at stake here.