Steve Maclin is going to make sure his career outside of WWE isn't forgotten, and he's not sweeping his career inside of it under the rug.
On February 4, Maclin's seven-plus year run in the WWE came to an end. Although he never got the momentum he'd quite hoped for, he didn't see it coming. Pretty quickly, word had emerged that Maclin had been released after attending a New Year's Party. Speaking with Fightful for the first time after his release, Maclin opened up about the release and the party that may have led to it.
"It was just more shocking than anything just ‘cause I did not expect that from what was being said to me and then also not being said to me as well. Part of me is like, ‘Oh, okay. Now I’m looking back at things and alright it does make sense.’ So, for my side of the story, which everybody plays the game of telephone in the wrestling universe, so my side of the story is New Year’s Eve, go to a party with friends that I was around with throughout COVID who were constantly tested. We all know because we’re constantly tested together. So, it’s a small knit group that we have. We have a New Year’s party, and there’s multiple New Year’s parties and that’s where the mix-up came from somehow, I don’t know, higher. Doesn’t nearly mean anything now. We had the New Year’s party. Next day I go to TV, I test negative. Work TV, Blake and I work there with Corbin. We do our thing. Monday I find out one of the friends that we had there tested positive. So, Deonna and I went out and got tested like we should do, like anybody should have done, like the right minded and I came back negative. That was that Monday. So, okay cool. No symptoms. Nothing happening. Go to TV Friday and I test positive for the nose swab at WWE TV at Tropicana Field. I’m like, ‘Okay, what do I do?’ Get on the hotline with doctors, talk, we find out what’s going on and they say, ‘Yep, just quarantine.’ Okay, cool. Talk to the writers, everything’s cool and then Blake tested negative. So, he stayed," Maclin recalled.
Things weren't cool. At all. Specifically with Vince McMahon, the Chairman of WWE. After Maclin went home, he started to get word that things weren't going over so smoothly back at the Thunderdome.
"I’m on my way home and then here I am getting texts from Blake. Get a phone call, ‘Hey, do you have heat? Like for something you have done?’ I’m like, ‘I dunno. Why?’ He goes, ‘Ah, somebody’s kind of pissed and a few people said in a meeting that Vince wanted to fire you at that moment,’ and I had a few friends that were in that meeting as well. I was like, ‘Huh. Okay. That’s good. So, of course, I send a message to Mark Carrano saying, ‘Hey, I don’t know what’s going on or what’s being thrown around, if there’s anything you need to talk to me about, please call me, text me, let me know what’s up.’ No answer. That’s how I found out, pretty much, I had COVID that day, quarantine for the next week. Kept in contact with writers. Still no answer back from higher of writer team and creative team. Yeah. What a time. So, it’s just one of those moments of loss," Maclin said.
Weeks passed, and no firing came. At least until February. Maclin was in the dark, but was even told by a member of the writing team that he was likely safe. Maclin recounted how things went down when he was finally given the call.
"One of the writers we kept in touch with said, ‘No, you guys are fine. You guys were brought up in creative as well.’ Okay, cool. Then weeks go by. Weeks go by again. I know Vince McMahon wasn’t at TV for a while ‘cause his brother passed and condolences for that. So, we knew obviously we’re not getting an answer ‘cause the boss isn’t there. Makes sense. So, in the meantime I got in touch with Mark Carrano because Otis reached out to me, ‘Hey, brother, you mind coming around? Like rolling around with the big man class (at the Performance Center)? Could use some help.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, definitely.’ It gets me in the ring, keeps me in shape, I get to actually be in a good ring at the PC and I know everybody and I can bump around and I know how Otis works. We’ve worked together for years. So, that day I’m in there, it’s producer Adam Pearce, myself, Drew Gulak, Babatunde and then Big Jordan / Omos. We’re all just rolling around, and I get done in the ring and I have a text from Mark Carrano. He says, ‘Hey, Steve. When you get a chance, give me a call.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, cool. It’s just about, maybe, some creative.’ Text him back, I’m like, ‘Hey. I’m just leaving the PC now. Can you call now?’ He says, ‘Oh, I’m getting on a flight to Tampa. I can get back to you in a little bit.’ Okay, no problem. Few hours go by, get home. Eating dinner, it’s around 7:30 and then I get the call from Carrano saying, ‘Hey, Steve.’ ‘Oh, hey, Mark. How is everything?’ ‘Good. I don’t like making these calls, but—’ Obviously. Instantly it just clicked. ‘Ah. I’m getting fired. Awesome.’ Looked at (Deonna). She’s like, ‘What’s the matter?’ I’m just like, ‘Ah, well I’m getting fired.’ ‘Lo and behold it’s the exact same timeframe kind of close to when she was let go. But, it was just one of those things."
In the minutes and days following the loss of a dream job, one is typically heated. Maclin wanted to clear the air regarding his decision to attend a party that likely led to his release, and had the benefit of hindsight to do so.
"A phone call was just more upsetting because just to say creative had nothing for us was kind of, ‘No, I got fired because I had heat for COVID.’ I know people will say, ‘Well, that’s your own fault.’ Yeah, maybe it is. But, at the same time I took my own precautions. I live in the state of Florida. It’s an open state of policies on anything COVID related. I wear my mask when I’m out. I do what I’m supposed to. But, then when I’m around friends who I know are tested, I try to take care of that myself and surround myself who I know that we’re good with and if it happens like we did, I got tested. It was just being told creative had nothing for us and I called B.S. right away on that. I let him have his piece. I was like, ‘Well, if creative has nothing for us, why do we have merchandise? Why are we being told we’re going to be in this storyline?’ I was like, ‘I was told our storyline with the Mysterios was scrapped because when they contracted COVID, that took us off of TV and scrapped that story for a little bit. Then they tried to go back to it and then Murphy got COVID.’ It just kept building up, building up," Maclin said.
Maclin has had time to reflect, and still doesn't look favorably upon the reasoning given by WWE about his release. He says that he sees through it, because the excuse provided just doesn't add up.
"If creative had nothing for me, then for the last year since we’ve been off TV, Blake and I, because of the Twitter situation with Ryker, how do you have nothing for me when I pitched ideas almost every week?’ That was also, ‘Hey, everything that you’re saying, there’s nothing wrong with what you’re saying. But, creative had nothing for [you].’ So, to end it on that, I know I did everything on my end, that I could, as a company guy, and also for my love of the company and of the business in general that I could on my end. But, now, like I said, I get to create, I get to be me and that’s the one thing now I love the most is I don’t really have anybody to tell me no like always," Maclin said.
Creative did have something for Maclin and his tag team partner -- the also recently released Wesley Blake -- when they were called up in spring 2020 to the Smackdown brand. They were joined in their trio by Jaxson Ryker, an outspoken TNA Wrestling veteran. Being outspoken ended up getting The Forgotten Sons as they were called off television.
In the wake of continued racial discrimination in the United States, Ryker complimented President Donald Trump. More than that, older Ryker tweets criticizing Black Lives Matter, among other things emerged. Cutler, who had worked six years to get a WWE call up, remembers it all unfolding.
"Listen, everybody has their opinion. Everybody’s allowed to have their opinion. That’s the point of social media. Obviously there’s a two sided coin to everything on how you feel and how you view things. Feel how you want to feel. Say what you want to say. That’s your business, not mine. I’m out walking the dogs with D and I get a bunch of texts. My phone starts blowing up, ‘Hey, what the hell?’ I’m just looking, it’s just screenshots of the tweet. I’m just like, ‘Oh, come on.’ I’m like, ‘I’m doing nothing I’m literally at home walking my dogs.’ Then it just instilled from there on how everything unfolded and that happened," Maclin recalled.
Fightful had spoken to numerous talent within WWE who said that both Maclin and Blake showed up quickly to try to make amends and separate themselves from the situation. Those that we spoke to said there was no heat on those two, but they were caught up in the situation. Ryker, however, did not do the same, as Maclin confirmed.
"We reached out to the office and we went to the Performance Center where Smackdown was taping still at that time, so was RAW. So, Blake and I went in that next day ‘cause Ryker was living in North Carolina at this time. He moved out of Florida about that time. So, Blake and I went in, sat down with Mark Carrano. ‘Hey, you guys are good. Don’t worry about it. Everything’s going to be fine. Just give it a week. It’ll kind of blow over.’ Okay. But, we’ve seen this before. We know the way the company works. Alright, we’re just kind of getting the smoke blown up to us. Everybody talked to us. Big E, Kofi, we just sat and we talked. They were like, ‘You guys are fine. Listen, it’s fine.’ It’s just the way things are type of thing. It’s a shitty situation. ‘Cause it’s just a different time in the world and it’s just shitty because we don’t want to be involved in it because it’s not our business. It’s our business to care for one another, but just keep your words to yourself at this time. Just stick to wrestling in that aspect. But, then again, like I said, you’re allowed to have your opinion. Then, I think, what was worse than the tweet was what resurfaced afterwards, but that’s his business, not ours. That’s where we were like, ‘Listen, this is how we distance ourselves. This is how we feel. This is us.’ Especially me in general, I wanted to distance myself as quick as possible because that’s just because not how I think."
Maclin had been at the WWE Performance Center for 85 percent of his pro wrestling career by the time he was called up. The Forgotten Sons story was actually based in part on the fact that he and Blake had spent so much time there. He looked back at his call-up, which unfortunately ended the way that it did.
"That’s the shitty part of the situation, because we were called up about a month before Mania. We got told it was our last match against Grizzled Young Vets in NXT. That’s where Hunter pulled us aside before hand and said, ‘Hey. We’re calling you guys up. We just need you guys to make them look good before you leave.’ We were like, ‘No problem. Thank you very much. I want to go make some money.’ But, it’s just one of those things where it was off to the races, we were booked strong. (When we were called up) We were working with New Day, who is just so damn good. So damn entertaining. It was just so fun. It stinks the way it happened. But, you can’t really reflect on it now. I try not to look back on it so much. I’ve learned from it and now I know, if I’m in a team, everything you do or say reflects on everyone. Just like anything in any business, like NFL, NBA. How you act and how you reflect is going to reflect on everybody else. Gotta look at everything from a business standpoint," Maclin closed.
Maclin is officially a free agent on May 5, and will be available for bookings at [email protected]
You can see our full, one hour interview with Steve Maclin at the top of the page.