Invading factions are nothing new in wrestling. From Nexus crashing the main WWE roster, to the nWo being built around former WWF guys on WCW Nitro, to DX arriving outside WCW arena shows or the Radicalz popping up on WWF television. There were even mini-shockwaves when performers from Smoky Mountain Wrestling started showing up at WWF shows back in the early to mid 90s.
As a matter of fact, there have been so many factions that the themes of those groups have started repeating themselves. Want a biker faction? No problem – here’s Aces and Eights or the Disciples of Apocalypse. Fancy something satanic? How about the Ministry of Darkness or the Brood? Want a three-man faction? Step forward the Freebirds, Demolition, or Shield.
So this latest group to band together and cause a ruckus on our favourite wrestling shows has got plenty of rich history to be inspired by, to repackage, reuse or maybe, just maybe, reinvent – but who are Retribution?
Well, the dictionary definition of “retribution” is that it’s a “punishment inflicted on someone as vengeance for a wrong or criminal act.” So clearly we’re dealing with a collection of talent who feel they’ve been wronged. Against that backdrop, here’s our best educated guesses.
Recently released WWE wrestlers with a grudge
Covid-19 has rather cruelly taken whatever the hell it wanted during 2020. It’s taken lives, it has forced companies to go under and it’s changed what our daily existence looks and feels like. Many companies were forced to make cuts to reduce running costs during the pandemic, simply to stay afloat and continue as a viable business.
Indeed, back in April 2020, a month or so into the near-global lockdown, WWE made some cuts of their own – releasing more than more than 20 contracted in-ring talents, plus members of the creative and road crews. Surely some of those guys could be coming back to take a swipe at the company that let them go?
Well… maybe. The thing is, the vast majority of them have already popped up elsewhere.
Here’s who we can discount immediately: Drake Maverick staged something of a comeback after an impassioned video statement on social media. The Good Brothers, EC3 and Eric Young have already emerged on Impact. Likewise Brian Myers (Curt Hawkins) and Heath (Heath Slater). Deonna Purrazzo has perhaps had the quickest bounce back, currently holding the Impact Knockouts championship with the promotion.
Matthew Cardona (Zack Ryder) made his debut in AEW with a run-in save on Cody recently. Sarah Rowe (Sarah Logan) is pregnant. Rusev has seemingly hung up his boots – or at the very least is out of action for a while following a Covid-19 diagnosis.
Lio Rush has indicated that he’s back with Global Change Wrestling for the long haul. Mike and Maria Kanellis have hinted that Ring of Honor is their next wrestling home.
Edwin Carlos Colón and Orlando Tito Colón Nieves (Primo and Epico) are both signed to the Puerto Rico based World Wrestling Council.
In fact, when you cut through the list of released talent to see who could make up the five strong Retribution, you’re left with… five names.
Aiden English. Kurt Angle. Rowan. No Way Jose. Aleksandar Jaksic.
We can’t be seeing these guys together… can we?
Well, the short answer is no. There’s at least two females in Retribution if recent footage is to be believed. So if not stars who had been wished well in their future endeavors, then what about currently signed guys who are unhappy with their spot?
NXT talent angry at how they get treated on the main roster
Picture the scene. You’re flying high in NXT. You’ve worked hard to build up a real buzz about your character, your in-ring ability is second to none, you work your way up to make it to the main roster and then… nothing.
Countless NXT stars that seemed destined for historic heights on Raw or Smackdown have fallen somewhat short of expectations. Be it poor booking, a lack of understanding of what to do with their characters, botched introductions or clunky storylines, the number of NXT stars to really continue their upward trajectory to headline the Red or Blue brands (Roman, Seth, Dean, Charlotte and Finn immediately spring to mind) is massively outnumbered by those that didn’t.
Neville left the company. Sami grabbed the IC title for a brief run, but hasn’t broken through to main event status yet. Shinsuke won a Royal Rumble and seemed destined for a world title run before getting lost in the shuffle. The longest running streak in modern wrestling quickly ended once Asuka moved over. The Ascension didn’t quite ascend. The War Raiders even got repacked as the Viking Experience, for crying out loud. Bobby Roode didn’t capture that same lightning in a bottle he had in NXT. Neither did Ember Moon. Or Bo Dallas.
So is it such a huge leap to think that current NXT stars, rather than dreaming of the day they move up to the big leagues, are secretly dreading it? Perhaps far from waiting to be invited in, a select group have decided to make their own future, arrive their own way, and seek retribution for their peers that came before.
With the incredibly talented pool of stars over on NXT – men and women who can really shine in the ring and on the mic – this is perhaps the most exciting possibility of all. Especially if, at some point down the line, we find that the actions of this rogue group of NXT stars wasn’t something that simply happened as a result of hushed locker room chatter, but was actually orchestrated by someone high up in NXT who couldn’t sit back and see his protégés get misused any more…
Indie wrestlers who never got a chance
There’s a seemingly endless pool of talent in the wider independent scene that may equal parts covet and resent the presence of the WWE. Sure, it sits there on a hill like some promised land that all wrestlers must strive to reach, but it also often scoops up the best independent stars and plucks them away from the promotions that made them.
WWE has taken slow and tentative steps over the years to acknowledge that yes, there are / were other providers of wrestling in the world, so perhaps rather than Retribution being a collection of faces previously seen on WWE television, maybe we have a genuine outsiders invasion on our hands. Of course, there’s one specific group of indie wrestlers who might have more reason than most to want retribution from the WWE…
The 11-year-old federation had something of an interesting history with WWE. It provided more than it’s fair share of talent to Vince’s company (WWE Champ Drew McIntyre, NXT’s Johnny Gargano and Keith Lee, former NXT Tag Team Champions Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, NXT alumni Matt Riddle and Ricochet, plus the currently suspended Austin Theory, to name just a few) during the time it was an official feeder promotion for WWE.
The relationship grew further from that initial partnership back in 2015. EVOLVE became the only active non-WWE promotion to be broadcast on the WWE Network, with their 10th Anniversary show being streamed on the platform in July 2019, before it was ultimately purchased by WWE in 2020.
However, while the WWE have secured rights to all the archive footage of the brand and the EVOLVE name, the contracts of the wrestlers on the roster (some 30 or so performers at the time of purchase) wasn’t part of the deal.
That’s 30 potential grudge holding wrestlers who could have a legitimate issue with the WWE. If you need another potential link to the indie brand, WWE.com have started stylising the Retribution name as all capital letters – just like EVOLVE did…
NXT UK wrestlers
Somewhat unlikely since the accents you could hear when Retribution invaded Smackdown were decidedly un-British, but what better way to introduce the wider roster of NXT UK than have them rock up on the red and blue brands and cause some good old fashioned anarchy?
Admittedly, there’s that small detail of a global pandemic and a general lack of international travel that makes this seem doubtful, but a little part of us likes the idea of UK stars getting their moment in the sun.
Someone else entirely
The truth is, Retribution could be any of the above, a combination of all of them, or simply a collection of wrestlers we’ve not even considered yet.
What we do know is to make a mark on the history of wrestling, they’ll need to capture our imagination, do memorable things and (eventually) reveal their identities to us. Handled right, and we’ve got ourselves a new New World Order. Handled badly, and we’ve got a shorter lived Los Boricuas.
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