Here on WrestleCrap, we don’t like to date our inductions with references to recent or ongoing events in the wrestling world. A reader should be able to pick any induction at random and be able to jump right in. Granted, any articles written before 2016 involving Donald Trump are going to be glaringly outdated, but for the most part, we try to keep things timeless.
That said, it’s not always easy to discuss certain angles, like the subject of this week’s induction, without referencing big news in the wrestling world. In this case, it’s the massive wave of talent cuts by WWE.
Okay, I could stand to be more specific for my future readers: I’m referring to the shocking set of talent releases WWE conducted during a global pandemic after posting record profits.
Uh, the ones in 2021.
November 2021. November 4th, 2021.
Like the slew of talent just let go by WWE, Erick Rowan was also unceremoniously released after failing to grab that famously elusive brass ring Vince McMahon loves talking about.
In Rowan’s case, his last role in the company was as the main character in a poorly thought-out angle.
Coming off a major but baffling angle involving a body double and an attempt on Roman Reign’s life…
…Rowan reunited with his Bludgeon Brothers tag team partner, Luke Harper, who was returning from injury.
However, as WWE was in the process of screwing around with Luke Harper for requesting his release earlier that year…
…the friends were split up again by the draft less than a month later.
Now a solo act on Raw, Rowan began carrying around an animal cage covered in burlap. Fans were introduced to this new gimmick when Rowan spoke baby-talk to his new companion from the other side of a wire mesh.
The mystery was on: What was in Rowan’s cage? Besides a television camera, obviously?
Every week, Rowan would carry the cage to the ring, pull the ring steps away from the ring post, and set his cage down gingerly before destroying a jobber.
Rowan sometimes referred to himself as “Daddy” while talking to his little companion, leading Jerry Lawler to speculate that it was Rowan’s literal offspring.
I feel like King should know better.
Eventually, the jobbers started trying to take a peek under the burlap sack…
…only to get destroyed by an angry Rowan.
After a member of No Way José’s conga line pulled the same stunt, Rowan steamrolled several of the extras before directing his grievances at José himself.
“…Tell them not to touch my THINGS!!!”
All this secrecy just fueled more curiosity about Erick Rowan’s stuff, not to mention his things. Rowan’s response? Mind your business!
But the real reason for Rowan’s strict secrecy was that he had no idea what was in the cage, either. In post-WWE interviews, Rowan would share that WWE hadn’t decided what would be in the cage.
Rowan himself had a rat in mind during his backstage promos…
…but he also pitched the world’s smallest woman, Jyoti Amge, the idea being that he was protecting her from the cruel outside world that would want to judge her, hurt her, and probably put her in a storyline romance with The Great Khali.
If that were the case, then local competitor Trent Newman would be guilty of kidnapping, running off with the cage in a failed attempt to distract Rowan and pick up a countout victory.
Erick Rowan let Mojo Rawley be the first person to look inside the cage. Whatever he saw must have spooked him good, as he would keep the shocking truth to himself. Not that anyone ever asked him. Hell, Jerry Lawler couldn’t even remember his name.
That same night, Rowan shoved KJ Orso’s face against the cage, where he was sprayed with a caustic red liquid.
The enhancement talent ran off in a panic, his face so scarred that he would don a mask and wrestle as AEW’s Fuego Del Sol.
The next week, Rowan stuck his hand into the cage, only for it to be bitten and bloodied.
The next week, Rowan stuck his hand into the cage, only for it to be bitten and bloodied. Again.
This time, he picked up the cage and smashed it repeatedly against the ring steps, yelling that the thing inside was “bad”. As the saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy. Twice bitten, now I’m really pissed off.”
Major credit goes to the referee for donning the rubber gloves for Rowan’s bloody hand. To this day, no one is sure whether the cut was legit.
By now, it was February, and Rowan had been lugging around and talking to the cage for three months with no reveal in sight. What was taking so long? Well, the original plan was for a certain babyface to accidentally crush the cage, driving Rowan mad and leading to a feud.
Unfortunately, whoever that babyface was, WWE apparently turned him heel, nixing the program but leaving Rowan holding the bag.
With back-to-school season long over, there was no hope of a Raw GM putting his foot down and making Rowan reveal the contents of the burlap sack…
…so the big man just kept carrying his mystery cage to the ring for every match. On the plus side, Rowan had been on a winning streak during those three months, but only against the very bottom rung of WWE talent.
Even that silver lining evaporated when Rowan went head to head with Aleister Black; The Guy Sitting in the Dark beat The Guy Carrying a Cage two weeks in a row.
Finally, on March 2nd, Rowan showed his little friend to the world, scaring No Way José’s entire conga line with…
…a big toy spider.
It was a big toy spider, everyone. Even worse, it was a big toy spider that was supposed to be real. And according to Rowan, WWE’s props department had been working on this mechanical spider for a long time, meaning that this reveal had been a long time in the making.
As if to drive home how not-alive it was, Byron Saxton remarked, “I think it’s alive”. Normally, such an observation about a pet that had twice bitten its owner would be so obvious as to border on idiotic.
If the fake spider had instead been a dog dressed up as spider, it would have no less scary (and much cuter).
But this couldn’t be it, right? Nearly four months of teases just to pay it off with a fake tarantula? Rowan didn’t think so. Trying to salvage the disappointing reveal, Rowan pitched the idea that there wasn’t one particular thing in the cage, but that whoever looked inside would see his biggest fear.
No Way José and company were afraid of spiders, so they saw a spider.
AJ Styles might see a globe.
Sabu might see Taz.
WWE Creative took this idea under careful consideration and had Drew McIntyre destroy the cage the next week.
The next week, Raw was filmed at the Performance Center due to the pandemic, and Rowan was taken off TV for the next month.
Drew McIntyre won the WWE title at Wrestlemania, which was good news for Rowan, who could have a ready-made feud with the new champion. Instead, ten days later, WWE cut Erick Rowan and over thirty other wrestlers from their roster.
If WWE wanted to cut costs, they could have started by not paying someone to build an elaborate toy spider they were only going to use once.