WWE released many NXT talents on August 6, none of which were more shocking than Bronson Reed.
Reed had just finished a short stint as the NXT North American Champion and seemed to be headed for the main roster after working a couple of dark matches.
Speaking on his JONAHDROME podcast, Reed (Jonah Rock) looked back on the months leading up to his release.
"I thought I was a made man," Reed said when discussing his NXT North American Title win. "In speaking to Hunter after the match, I shook his hand, hugged him, and he said, 'Bronson, you are money.' From there, I thought I was a made man. Everything moved so quickly. I was champion for a few weeks, I got put into some different storylines, and I thought I was going onto more singles-based storylines as North American Champion. Speaking upon creative, it seemed to me from creative that I was going to be North American Champion for a long time, at least until the end of this year. Then things, all of a sudden, changed."
Reed continued by saying, "I got asked to come do a dark match for Vince McMahon at SmackDown. I wasn't 100% sure why, but all the rumblings and talk backstage was that, 'they are going to call you up.' When I arrived backstage at SmackDown, I won't name shame anyone, but some of the boys were like, 'Why are you doing a dark match when they can just log onto Peacock and see you are a current champion in NXT.'"
Reed worked his first dark match on the June 18 episode of WWE SmackDown against Robert Roode. Reed praised Roode, thought the match was pretty good, and also complimented Shane Helms, who was the producer for the match.
"Overall, the experience was great. My only feedback was that I needed to smile more. I was like, 'If that's all I need to do, everything else is good, I can definitely smile more.' All of a sudden, over the weekend that week, they had me come back to Raw," he recalled.
Later in the podcast, Reed revealed he had a meeting with Vince McMahon following his dark match against Roode.
"I had a meeting with Vince McMahon. The first dark match I had, I got pulled aside by John Laurinaitis and he said, 'Come to Vince's office. Vince wants to meet you and have a chat.' I waited outside of Vince's office, went inside, and he was a lovely guy. He's a little scary. When you meet these sort of people...I'm a little bit more used to it now that I've met some of the best of the business, so it's not so much of a thing where I get starstruck. It's just, 'Hey, this is the big boss.' I met him, spoke to him about Australian wrestling, and it was a good chat. I thought everything went well and that was that," he said.
Reed would defeat Drew Gulak on the June 21 taping of WWE Main Event.
"Again, no real feedback, Johnny Ace was backstage. Drew said to me, 'let's wait to see what Vince says.' We waited for Vince, Raw is going on, he's a very busy man. He said, 'Good work,' and that was it. I thought I did a pretty good job. I didn't get told anything. Never got told that my work wasn't good. All it was, was, 'you need to smile more.' In my Main Event match, I made sure to smile. Laurinaitis mentioned about my tattoo, that maybe I needed to cover it up, which I think it pretty silly," he said, noting that he has a "Paige" tattoo to honor his wife and fans may confuse her with WWE's Paige.
Reed said that everyone he talked to from talent to producers said he would be getting called up. He was told he would be losing the NXT North American Title to Isaiah "Swerve" Scott, which shocked him as he was previously told he would be having a long reign, but also gave more credence to being called up.
Reed didn't hear anything about a call up for weeks and during that time was told by Shawn Michaels that he'd be "NXT for life" if he wasn't called to Raw or SmackDown.
He returned to NXT to face Adam Cole on the July 21 episode of NXT.
Finally, on August 6, he received a phone call he wasn't expecting.
"I'm sitting at home, watching SmackDown," he recalled. "I always try to watch the product. I try to watch as much wrestling as possible; WWE, AEW, IMPACT, New Japan, current Indies. I was watching SmackDown, I get a call on my phone and see it's Connecticut. I answer the phone very confidently and very happy. It is John Laurinaitis, here I am expecting, 'Come to Raw on Monday' or 'Next week, come to SmackDown.' Instead, he goes, 'Bronson, I just need to let you know, we are exercising our right to release you from your WWE contract.' I was gobsmacked. I made sure to ask, 'Why?' He went on to say, 'No, it's just a no at this time. Keep working and the door is always open.'"
WWE has often cited "budget cuts" during releases.
While Reed was not given an official reason, he said about his release, "I have no clue why they would release me other than it has something to do with look. I 100% think it has to do with body image or the fact that I was an Indie wrestler and had been wrestling for fourteen years and they are going in this new direction of hiring young talent that are athletes outside of wrestling."
Reed said he had no ill will towards WWE and that many of his friends and peers, including Shawn Michaels reached out to him following his release.
Reed is currently a free agent but is in talks to wrestle again.
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