Mickie James, Shelton Benjamin among six released by WWE
WWE released six wrestlers today, the most surprising of which are Mickie James and Shelton Benjamin.
The others let go are Katie Lea Burchill, Jimmy Wang Yang, Slam Master J and Kung Fu Naki.
James (left), a six-time women’s champion in WWE (second only to Trish Stratus’ seven reigns), was the company’s most popular babyface and one of its top female workers and talkers. However, there have been reports in the past that there she had heat backstage for various attitude issues. According to pwinsider.com, she was considered to be on thin ice for unprofessional conduct during the recent European tour, including arriving late for the bus and holding up travel.
It also had been reported that WWE was not happy with her weight, an issue that was turned into a story line. The fact that James made no secret about her aspirations to branch out in the entertainment field beyond WWE – her debut country music CD is scheduled to be released next month – probably didn’t do her any favors either.
If James is still interested in wrestling fulltime, there is little doubt that TNA would be interested in her. She previously worked for company in 2002 and 2003 as Alexis Laree. One benefit she will have is that she can continue to perform as Mickie James, since that is her real name.
Benjamin has been viewed for years as an underachiever who never was able to form a strong connection with the audience despite his vast athleticism. Clearly, the stop-and-start pushes that he received in WWE didn’t help him his cause – nor did his less-than-spectacular promo ability – but there also were reports that he was satisfied with his mid-card spot and did not have a burning desire to become a main-eventer.
The biggest push of his career came in 2004, when he scored multiple pinfall victories over Triple H and also defeated Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental title. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Benjamin reunite with former tag team partner Charlie Haas, possibly in TNA.
Burchill had a unique look and can wrestle, but she never received the push in WWE that her talent warranted.
Yang and Slam Master J (formerly known as Jesse, the tag team partner of Festus), who were both used as enhancement talent, are good workers who almost always had solid matches and made their opponents look good.
Amazingly, Fu Naki had been with the company since 1998. He’s been virtually invisible for years, and the only surprise about his release is that it didn’t happen years ago.
Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam