Two weekends ago, at EVOLVE 72, Joey Styles made an off-color joke, referencing President-Elect Donald Trump's quote from the "Access Hollywood" video. After the event, he was immediately fired backstage by EVOLVE boss Gabe Sapolsky. Later, Styles was fired by two other promotions that he was involved with, Beyond and CHIKARA. Many assumed this was because the joke referenced Trump, and the firing was for "political" reasons, in more ways than one.
But Fightful's own Matt Riddle, who wrestled at EVOLVE 72 and was backstage at the time of Styles' remark, said during our weekly podcast with him that he believes the firing was for an entirely different reason.
"I think there’s a big misconception, or a big miscommunication of why Joey was fired," Riddle said. "I like Joey, I’m a fan, I’m a friend, Joey wasn’t fired for what he said, it’s not like the joke he said, it’s what we were told not to say before the event started, in an e-mail that Friday, and then his delivery of what he said, he literally said “I know we were told not to say this,” and then said something, and it’s like 'BRO.' I was literally right behind the curtain, and I was like ‘This is outrageous.’ Gabe was not too happy. ... I would say visibly angry was an understatement."
The reason for the warning e-mail was evident to Riddle. “You know, the election just happened, we don’t want to play into either side," he said. "Wrestling is like a fun escape … (A joke) is not worth the cheap pop or the cheap heat. … That was in the e-mail. Like I said, it had nothing to do with Joey Styles’s political views, or freedom of speech; you can say anything you want for the most part, but at the same time it’s a show, you’ve gotta run it by the boss."
Riddle also thinks there's another possible reason for the firing, and it has to do with EVOLVE's new partner, as well as it's biggest partner. "Another big thing is it was FloSlam’s first LiveStream of the program, and we still have a working relationship with the WWE, like (NXT General Manager William) Regal was there the next day, and no disrespect to Joey Styles because I like him, but you don’t need anybody that isn’t going to listen to the rules. It's kind of a liability."
When asked about Beyond and CHIKARA also ending their relationship with Styles. He believes they fired him for the same reason EVOLVE did: For not obeying the rules. "Honestly, I don’t disagree with either promotion, that’s their business," he said. "If they choose to sever ties with somebody because they didn’t follow the rules, to me that’s smart, because that’s a liability."
Matt Riddle does a podcast with Fightful Managing Editor Sean Ross Sapp every Thursday that is exclusive to Fightful members only. You can register for a free Fightful.com account by using our 'log in' button.