2019 has seen several WWE Superstars ask for their release, but the news of Dean Ambrose's upcoming departure is the loudest data point in a worrisome trend. And apparently, WWE has launched an effort to assuage their locker room.
Mike Johnson of PWInsider says that WWE approached a number of Superstars whose contracts are set to expire in the next few years and proactively discussed extensions.
"After the Dean Ambrose news came out late Monday / early Tuesday, there was a buzz of backstage activity at SmackDown as anyone who had a contract that was coming up in the next year or two was pulled into rooms and spoken by management about signing longer form deals, "said Johnson." All the wrestlers were sitting around looking at each other and going 'Would you look at this? this is crazy! '"
There is a bit of an exodus to tend to as WWE has already reportedly denied The Revival and Mike and Maria Kanellis release while giving the Hideo Itami's exit. But the news of Ambrose wanting to leave when his contract expires in April may have got WWE's attention. Especially with brand new, well-funded, All Elite Wrestling ready to spread its wings.
"There definitely was the realization that people might potentially leave to go to AEW. WWE may have been paying attention to it and monitoring it as Triple H said but there was definitely a cause and effect between Dean Ambrose making the decision that he is leaving and that news coming out and everyone buzzing about it and then yesterday at SmackDown people being spoken to about deals, "said Johnson.
For almost two decades, WWE has enjoyed a monopoly of professional wrestling. While there were other places where talent could land, true prosperity was only available inside the walls of Vince McMahon's. But that's not the case in 2019. Chris Jericho apparently landed a lucrative deal with AEW and he could be the first of several big names Cody Rhodes and Co. snag from WWE. Ambrose joining their forces would further legitimize the promotion and would likely swing the door open for more disgruntled WWE stars to make a jump.
So, Johnson's story adds up. While WWE will never be really threatened by AEW, they definitely do not want to be leaking talent to other promotions. In the name of sealing its borders, WWE initiating contract negations with superstars make a lot of sense. However, if Ambrose lands in AEW and finds success, then WWE may not be able to offer enough to keep some Superstars from hunting a similar fate.[H/T WrestlingNews.co]